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The author of Lancelot: The One Armed Kangaroo talks about his book, the real story behind it, the process of creating an audio book, how he got his famous actors, the music, its reception in Germany, and lots more. Interview by Magdalena Ball (www.preschoolentertainment.com)

What inspired you to write Lancelot?

Lancelot is based on a true story but more of that later. Since it was such an amazing and also very emotionally event I had no other choice than to write it down. What stroke me most was how the little poor fellow handled his traumatic experience (he lost his arm in a terrible accident). I then wondered what it means to be physically disabled, how it would change your life and if you actually could turn your "disadvantage" into an "advantage".

Why did you decide to turn it into a talking book?

I love everything involving sound and moreover I love to play with it. Of course Lancelot in the first place was a written piece and originally I wrote it in my native language which is German. I tried to find a publisher in Germany but (like anywhere else) there is a greater chance to hit the jackpot in a lottery than finding a publisher for a children's novel. Since I work as a producer and broadcaster for SBS Radio Melbourne I decided to turn the story into a radio play. It came relatively easy to me because I have the skills to record and edit complex sound files and mix them up with music and sound effects. SBS expressed interest in broadcasting the finished story over a whole week as a series during the school holidays. The feedback was great, the kids and adults loved it. Just out of curiosity I offered it to audio book publishers in Germany and did hit the jackpot. It's been on the German market for nearly three years by now.

What made you self-publish rather than going down the traditional route?

Again, no publisher in Australia showed any interest in producing the audio book. That made my decision easier to do it all myself. I had complete control over the story and the design of the audio book, which was very satisfying.

How did you go about gathering such famous actors to do the recording?

Having been an actor in Australia myself a few years ago it happened that I was in the same play with David Tredinnick. I was always fascinated by his beautiful voice. Back then I already knew that whenever I need a talent for my audio books I would ask him. Anne Phelan I met through my wife who is a costume designer and had worked with her on an ABC television series. Matthew Whittet I met on the set of the movie "Australia". They all were intrigued by the story and agreed without hesitation to be part of the production.

Tell me about the music: were you involved in the composing?

The music was specially composed for Lancelot by a German composer (also a friend of mine) who has written a few hits in Germany. All I gave him was an indication where I would like to have music that reflects the mood of the particular scene.

On your website you say that Lancelot is based on a true story. Tell me more about that.

Lancelot actually is a true story! His mother was hanging dead in a fence, I collected him and raised him at my house in the country. Lancelot loved to hang around with the horses in our neighbour's paddock. All the time I had the suspicion that he actually thought he was a horse. One day after I came back after having been away for a couple of days I found him at the back door, confused and puzzled. He had a broken arm and the only explanation was that he got kicked by a horse. I rushed him to the vet and the only way to save him was to amputate his arm. Soon after he had recovered he left me but came back after a week. I took the bucket off his head, brushed and fed him. He stayed for a day but then went away again. Over the next couple of years two of my neighbours spotted him on three occasions in the nearby bush staying with a mob. What I learned later is that injured male kangaroos are not a threat or considered as competitors to the other males in the mob, so that makes it easy for them to join the mob.

You published Lancelot first in German, but it's such an Aussie story! Has the reception been stronger or weaker overseas than it has here? Why do you think that is?

Germans love everything Australian. And what is more Australian than a kangaroo? The response over there is stronger than here. Kangaroos are far more exotic to German children.

Tell me about the book you're currently working on: Pirate. Are you planning to also do that as an audio book?

"Pirate - The barking Kookaburra" will definitely be another audio book. And Pirate will be number 2 of many more to come. The story: Pirate is growing up in a family that has forgotten how to laugh because everybody is too busy with everyday life. One day Pirate gets lost and finds a temporary home where he befriends the owner's dog. The dog is determined to teach Pirate how to laugh. However since dogs mainly know how to bark Pirate ends up barking which eventually helps him to overcome obstacles on his journey.

What inspired me here again is how someone "fitted with unusual personal attributes" can develop strength and courage which enable him to go unusual ways in finding his goal in life or fulfilling his dream.

About the interviewer: Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader. She is the author of Sleep Before Evening, The Art of Assessment, Quark Soup, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Cherished Pulse and She Wore Emerald Then. She runs a monthly radio program podcast The Compulsive Reader Talks.

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