Joining a long line-up of talented Australians who’ve relocated to Queenstown is a children’s author who’s sold more than two million books in her home country alone. Jacqueline Harvey tells PHILIP CHANDLER why she’s made the move, and how a rogue Jack’s Point sheep has inspired three picture books
Who knew Queenstown’s home to one of Australia’s top children’s authors?
Jacqueline Harvey and her hubby, Ian, shifted from Sydney to their new home here in 2019 and, apart from 15 months locked across the ditch due to Covid, have since made Queenstown their main address.
As for her back story, Harvey took the ‘‘scary’’ move to become a fulltime writer 10 years ago, after a 20-year teaching career.
She’d published four children’s books earlier but then took ‘‘a walk in the writing wilderness’’.
What changed was writing about a ‘‘perpetually-positive’’ seven-and-a-quarter-year-old, Alice-Miranda — the first book’s spawned a 20-book series with rights sold all over the world and two movies.
All up, Harvey’s published 52 books, with seven more on the way next year, sold more than two million copies in Australia and won numerous awards.
Her books have been exported in English, or translated, in some 90 countries.
Last year she was Australia’s sixth-highest-selling children’s author.
She’s also narrated about 18 of her books for audio books.
As a fiction writer, she says ‘‘you just basically get to make stuff up for a living, you get to live in your imagination — it’s a great gift to be able to do that’’.
‘‘I still get to work with kids because I’m in schools talking to kids — I love their energy and their feedback.’’
As to how Queenstown came on the horizon, she and Ian had separately holidayed here then, after they met, started visiting during summers about 20 years ago.
‘‘We thought we would maybe buy a house at Millbrook and we didn’t, and we forever regretted it because obviously the prices went through the roof.’’
While holidaying here in 2016, they met real estate agent Pieter Werbrouck while playing golf at Millbrook, who then showed them a Jack’s Point section they subsequently bought.
Back in Queenstown about five months later, they met David Reid Homes franchisees Abi and Fraser Mackenzie, who built their home and have subsequently become great friends.
‘‘We love the mountains, we love the climate here, and Sydney is very hot and humid in summer,’’ Harvey says.
‘‘It’s great for us to go fishing, we both love skiing and we both play golf, so this is the best place in the world for us.’’
Having direct air links to Sydney also makes it easy to return for book launches and festivals and the like.
Harvey’s also happy to get involved with local schools.
As patron of Australia’s Somerset Storyfest, she recently brought the event to Queenstown, visiting all the local primary schools and hosting a parents’ event.
Queenstown’s also started popping into her books.
In her spy series, Kensy and Max, on their ninth adventure the main characters come here on a mission.
‘‘It was great to write that book because I could basically look out my office window at the mountains and picture where the kids would be.’’
Hearing from Abi about their chicken going missing, she called it Gloria, inspiring an upcoming book, The Daring Tale of Gloria the Great.
Looking out her window at sheep running around, she noticed one left behind whom she called Kevin — he’s going to star in three picture books.
Queenstown, she notes, is ‘‘a very inspiring place to write’’.
She concedes it’s sometimes harder these days to get kids to read, and advises parents, ‘‘you’ve just got to help your kids find a book that really gets them to become a reader’’.
‘‘There’s nothing more rewarding than when a child will write to me and say, ‘I didn’t like reading books until I discovered your books’.’’
Ironically, Harvey, 53, is childless — ‘‘but I feel like I have millions of children’’.