Welcome to my website
I am an author of children's books and, under the name Jenny Spence, of adult fiction.
My children's books are Mr Shy's Shoes (1992), The Tunnels of Tarcoola (2012) and Crooked Leg Road (April 2014).
If you wonder why there's such a big gap between the first two, it's because in between I had a whole career writing computer manuals. When you write manuals it's very important that everything is true and correct; but my real love is making things up, so I'd rather be a storyteller.
My big news this month is the launch of Crooked Leg Road. Crooked Leg Road is the second adventure of Andrea, Martin, David and Kitty set in Balmain, the old Sydney suburb where I live; but in this story the friends have to venture further afield.Click here to find out more about Crooked Leg Road on the Allen & Unwin website. You can also follow the My books link on this website for more information.
The first book in this series, The Tunnels of Tarcoola, won the 2013 Davitt Award in the Children's and YA category. The Davitt Awards are for mystery/crime books written by women, and I was thrilled to be considered, let alone to win. You can click here to find out more about The Tunnels of Tarcoola on the Allen & Unwin website. You can also follow the My books link on this website for more information.
Past and present
Many years ago, I published a fantasy for younger readers - about 8-10 years old - about a shoe library. It was called Mr Shy's Shoes. In this story, a boy called Tim accidentally borrows a pair of shoes from a shoe library. As you would expect when a library is involved, there is a story connected to the shoes, and when he returns them and borrows different shoes he becomes caught up in different stories, some of them familiar and some of them very dangerous.
After a long period working out there in the real world, I returned thankfully to children's adventure with The Tunnels of Tarcoola, which was published by Allen & Unwin in 2012.
I have written a few more books since Tunnels, but I found I didn't want to say goodbe to Martin, Kitty, David and Andrea. I thought long and hard about where they might all be up to in their lives about six months after the events of Tunnels and what other trouble they might get themselves into. Eventally I came up with a plot for another adventure. It's called Crooked Leg Road. In it, Andrea gets a fright, David is feeling pretty pleased with life because he doesn't know he's in danger, Martin is persisting in his friendship with Samantha, although no-one else likes her, and Kitty has started a new school, where she meets a mysterious boy called Skender.
Meanwhile, I am working on two more adult books and thinking about what might happen in a third Tarcoola book.
The Davitt Award
In September 2013 I was presented with the 2013 Davitt Award (Children/Young Adults) from Sisters in Crime for The Tunnels of Tarcoola.The presentation dinner at the Thornbury Theatre in Melbourne was very exciting, and I got to talk to several other writers of crime fiction and mystery stories for adults and children.
Here I am being presented with my award by New Zealand’s Queen of Crime Vanda Symon
I had just got back the day before from Sweden, where I had been to the wedding of my son Tom to the beautiful Klara. If you look closely you will see that I wore the same dress. Everyone at the wedding dressed very carefully in their best clothes, as you can see.
There were some nice reviews of The Tunnels of Tarcoola, and I did some personal appearances, courtesy of the good people at Shearer's Bookshop. I have to confess I really hate seeing myself on the screen, but if you want to you can watch an interview with me on YouTube by clicking on the image below. If you notice my look of horror, it's because I thought I was just getting my photo taken, then realised I was actually being interviewed.
Things that interest me
I like reading, mysteries, puzzles, playing around with computers and figuring out how things work. I like making things - all sorts of things - and working out how to make things. Although I live in the inner city - Balmain, in Sydney - I love the countryside. Up until 2012 we had a beautiful place on the Central Coast, near Macmasters Beach, with numerous birds and reptiles. I miss it, but we still share a hundred hectares in the bush in Central Victoria with several other people. A few years ago we agreed to protect our land there with a covenant, which is a legal agreement to preserve it as a wildlife habitat forever. I love animals, even snakes, though I don't get too close to them. At home we have an elderly tortoiseshell cat whose real name is Natasha, but we call her Puss.
Since giving up our country place we have bought a very, very old stone house in Balmain and we are restoring it. When it's finished we are going to plant a garden with lots of native trees and flowers, hoping to attract birds and, if we are lucky, lizards.