Riley and the Curious Koala Blog Tour with Tania McCartney

He has just landed.

Yes, Riley from the new children’s’ book, Riley and the Curious Koala: A Journey around Sydney, has just flown in, bringing his author, Tania McCartney.  It must have been a smooth flight, as Tania doesn’t have a hair out of place.

They have kindly dropped by as part of their busy blog tour which started on Monday 15 November and concludes on Sunday 21 November with their book launch party.

Tania has been flown in by Riley to give us an insight in TRAVEL, BOOKS AND CHILDREN while Riley settles into a chair to have a glass of juice after his flight.

So without further ado, I welcome Tania to my blog. And of course, Riley.

Welcome Tania

Thanks Helen, it is so exciting to be here. And yes you are right, it was a smooth flight. Riley is a great aviator.

Tania, can I just ask you a couple of questions before you talk TRAVEL, BOOKS AND CHILDREN?

Of course.

Could you tell me about the inspiration behind Riley and the Curious Koala?

I was living in China, on post with my family, and unexpectedly fell in love with the place. No, it wasn’t because I had a maid and cook (well, ok, that was part of it) but because of the culture, history and amazing people and experiences we had every single day of our four (4) years in Beijing. I had begun writing and editing for several English language expat magazines and had dabbled in children’s book manuscripts for years (I have always had a kids book obsession) and I wrote Riley and the Sleeping Dragon as sort of a memento for my kids and their time in Beijing (the book features black and white photos of Beijing throughout). A friend encouraged me to publish it and seeing as though I had the time and wherewithal to self-publish (printing in China is so cheap), I thought I’d give it a go. The book became an overnight bestseller and still sells strongly in several Chinese cities. It has also done very well back here in Australia, appearing in the ASA’s Kids Reading Guide 2009/2010.

Because the first book did so well and because I loved the process so much, I decided to self-publish book two, Riley and the Dancing Lion, set in Hong Kong. Then, of course, the natural progression for book three was an Australian city – and Sydney got first dibs with Riley and the Curious Koala. I do plan to do a book for every Australian capital now, and Riley will also see more of the world. I always inject a little culture and metaphors and history into my books… to me, the koala is not only an iconic Australian symbol, it is an adorable creature kids are drawn to and I wanted to play up on its eucalyptus-kooky, drink-shunning ways. Being a city of waterways (and I also make it rain in the story), Sydney was a perfect setting in contrast to the koala’s camel-like existence.

Yes, it can be amazing how one story idea can germinate and then bloom into a beautiful book, sprouting other stories.

How long did it take you to write your third book, Riley and the Curious Koala ie. from idea to completion of ms?

The idea was sown about a year before publication, ie: when the last book in the Riley series came out. I began sketching out the storyline in February 2010 and sort of picked away at it through to June. Because I work directly with my illustrator, and he has a very busy full time job, we started getting really serious about putting the book pages together by July and it was a relatively slow process, only because Kieron had limited time to produce pictures. I never finish a Riley story until a few weeks before the last illustration is due. I always know what’s going to happen but never have it completely finished. I let things unfold naturally and they always work out well. I have faith!

Thanks Tania for that insight, and I’ll just make you a well earned cuppa (after your flight) while you tell us about TRAVEL, BOOKS AND CHILDREN.

Thanks Helen

There’s something mystical about the travel bug. It bites and it’s all over. There’s nothing you can do about it. No tonic. No vaccine. No old time remedy that will cure all ills. It’s permanent, probably terminal and boy oh boy does it feel good (if not occasionally agonising – but only when you can’t pack a bag and satisfy its urges).

I will shamefully admit that I exposed my own children to the travel bug early in life. Yes. It was deliberate. Plotted, even. At the ages of 7 and 10, both kids are now poised to set foot in their ninth country and oh what a shame… husband and I have to chaperone them. Rats. But I suppose someone has to sign the passport applications.

In 2005, we were actually horrified to learn we’d be spending the next four years living in China. Of course, the moment we landed in Beijing, all horrors went out the window and fast-forward four years to a glass of wine and musings with friends over four of the most incredible years of our family’s life.

So why were we initially horrified? Well, Riley was 18 months old and Ella was four when we received the news. Neither child had yet been out of the country, and previous travels had involved comfort, cleanliness, English, bread, breakfast cereal and the Known.

China, on the other hand, may or may not have any or all of these things. Hence, horrification.

Although I was well-travelled by the time we learned of our upcoming years in Beijing, I must admit, I had always been in control of where I’d travelled and what I’d done. Moving to Beijing was going to upend that – and essentially dump us in a squat toilet. Not such a bad thing for parents – but kids? I quickly ordered 10 cases of wet wipes. 

You know what they say, though. When you’re sent a challenge, it’s how you deal with it that matters and we wholeheartedly embraced our time in Beijing, not to mention the many places we got to visit during our four years in the Chinese capital. Hence, we had a ball, and my only regret is not begging for another four (-ty) years.

It was during our time in China that I was inspired, finally, after 20 years of bit-part freelancing, to write full time. Having an acute addiction to kids books, I dreamed of giving my first picture book a go – and so Riley and the Sleeping Dragon: A journey around Beijing was launched just three months before the end of our posting.

Initially written as a sort of memento for my own kids of their time in Beijing, the book was an unanticipated success. I sold almost 2000 copies in Beijing in three months (and the book is still selling strongly in several Chinese cities) and the book surprised me even further when we came home to Australia in January 2009. It surprised me because it did well, and continues to do well, and has spawned a series (with the third book – Riley and the Curious Koala: A journey around Sydney due for release next week) that is also doing well.

But why should it surprise me that a book on travel would sell well in Australia? Aussie kids are some of the world’s most well-travelled children. Not only internationally but domestically. We are a country of contrasts and nomads, that’s for sure – and we have an inherent love of and interest in the cultures and sites of the world beyond our own home – it’s utterly inspiring.

So for kids and adults to pounce on and enjoy a pictorial journey (via black and white photos) around Beijing in my first Riley book – well, it was just a joy to me – not only because of my inherent love of travel, but also because I poured my soul into these books. And a trip around Hong Kong in book two was equally as enjoyed – and now it feels glorious to finally bring Riley home to Australia where he will tour around Sydney and its stunning harbour, beaches and hot spots, searching for a very curious koala.

One of the highlights for any author is how their book is received by children. Positive marketplace reception is also nice! but it’s the reception from children that touches the heart. Seeing kids sit in wide-eyed wonder as I read my books, listening to their thoughtful questions, watching them react in all the places I had hoped they would – and most importantly – witnessing their desire to visit the very place the book is set in – there’s not much better than that.

While I’m still travelling, and while my own kids continue to enjoy the wider world, the Riley series will continue to offer an armchair accompaniment to the literal journeys and adventures of children. I personally feel that travel and books are some of the most highly educational and soul-enhancing experiences children can dive into. Blending them into one has been a life-changing journey for me and one I’m keen to continue riding.

Now excuse me. I have some bags to pack.

I told you they were on a busy schedule.  So as Riley takes off with Tania let’s find out a little more about Tania latest book, Riley and the Curious Koala.

Riley and the Curious Koala: A journey around Sydney

Riley and the Curious Koala is the third in the Riley travelogue series of picture books, taking young children on a journey to far flung destinations. Riley’s first adventure began in Beijing with Riley and the Sleeping Dragon, continued on through Hong Kong with Riley and the Dancing Lion, and now enters home turf, with a fun-filled adventure through the beautiful city of Sydney.

Will Riley find this terribly elusive and quite curious fluffy creature amongst the gorgeous watery vistas of one of the world’s most beautiful cities? Panda, Dragon and Lion from earlier books join this little aviator on his sensational Sydney search… and their discovery is a curious (and funny!) one, indeed. 

Using stunning black and white photos, pictures of a real life tin aeroplane and hilarious illustrations by illustrator Kieron Pratt, Riley and the Curious Koala is perfect for experienced travellers, armchair travellers or for those wanting a fuzzy little adventure.

Part of the profits for Riley and the Curious Koala will go to the Australian Koala Foundation

Available Australia-wide from 22 November 2010. 

Tania McCartney is an author, editor, publisher, blogger, book reviewer and mango devourer who loves writing, celebrating and supporting children’s literature – and literacy. She is the author of the Riley series of travelogue picture books, as well as several published and self-published books. Tania is also an experienced magazine writer and editor, is the founder of Kids Book Review http://kids-bookreview. com and is a Senior Editor at Australian Women Online She lives in Canberra with a husband, two kids and a mountain of books.

See for more.

Well, I am just so delighted that Tania and Riley were able to pop in. Luckily my husband and I have a fairly large backyard for Riley to have been able to touch down.  And while you have a look below at the rest of Tania’s Riley and the Curious Koala Blog Tour schedule, I am also off to pack my bags.  Tania has inspired me to start travelling again.


Riley and the Curious Koala Blog Tour Schedule

Updated Schedule  

Monday 15 November
Writing Out Loud Blog

Monday 15 November
The Book Chook

Monday 15 November
Handmade Canberra Blog
BOOK GIVEAWAY! Win Riley and the Curious Koala! Run!

Tuesday 16 November
Dee Scribe

Tuesday 16 November
Reading Upside Down

Tuesday 16 November
Australian Women Online

Wednesday 17 November
Little People Books

Wednesday 17 November
Miss Helen Writes

Thursday 18 November
Soup Blog

Thursday 18 November
Bernadette Kelly’s Blog

Thursday 18 November
Posie Patchwork: The Blog

Friday 19 November
Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children Blog

 Saturday 20 November

Sue Whiting’s Blog


Saturday 20 November

Sheryl Gwyther’s Blog


Saturday 20 November

Kids Book Review


The conversation will take place all day long – just post a question and Tania will answer.

Sunday 21 November

Sandy Fussell’s Stories are Light Blog


Sunday 21 November

Kids Book Review


Sunday 21 November, in the evening

Tania McCartney Blog


Join Tania as she takes you through her book launch party, held at Dalton’s Bookstore in Canberra City. There will be photos, stories about the launch and lots of fun!

Tania McCartney Blog

Don’t forget to leave a comment so Tania and Riley know that you have dropped by.

About Helen Ross

Welcome to my creative world. I have many passions; some of which I write about in my blog posts. I have a quirky sense of humour, and dance to the beat of my own drum. Thanks for dropping by and hope you visit again soon. I always have tea, coffee, wine and cake.
This entry was posted in All my posts, Australian children's books, book marketing, children's books, Independent Australian Authors, Independent publishing, independently published Australian books, Interviews, Interviews-successful Independently published Australian authors, Marketing, Miss Helen Writes, Motivational, Reviews of independently published books, Self publishing, Self publishing children's books, Writer/poet/children's author, Writing, Writing is a business and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Riley and the Curious Koala Blog Tour with Tania McCartney

  1. Pingback: Launch of Tania McCartney’s new book. « Helen Ross writes

  2. Pingback: Riley and the Grumpy Wombat BLOG TOUR! | Helen Ross writes

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