In her new middle-grade novel, Jerry's Window, Y. K. Willemse uses humour to explore the challenges of family dynamics and the journey to belonging.

What do you love about writing children's books?

Children’s books have a sense of comforting reassurance about them. I’m sure they remind many of us of bedtime stories or snuggling up in our beds with a good book when we were little. I personally believe that we can address the big problems in children’s books and problem solve our way to satisfactory answers. In adult books, it’s different. You’re expected to act nuanced and complicated and leave things more open-ended. Within children’s fiction, there’s still this wonderful ability to crystallise and make sense of the world.

What inspired you to write Jerry's Window?

I wrote the first draft of Jerry’s Window when I was thirteen. My brother and I had been sent to an adjoining church building near our house so that my parents could chat to the adults they had over. We were there for an hour or two and got bored, so I started handwriting this story for him and reading a chapter at a time.

Did you have any personal experiences that contributed to this new book?

I used to see Jerry as quite distinct from me. I think the editing process as an adult has made me more self-aware of things that connect us. Whether it was intentional or not, there were certainly times I felt like a nuisance, growing up. I had an enormous sense of guilt, that the sky was going to fall on my head, or something was going to get me if I couldn’t straighten up. I also felt different from other kids. I was a good kid compared to Jeremy Ronden. But writing stories was certainly a way I expressed how I felt as a young person, and it’s plain to see from the earliest drafts of this book (which I was wrote in childhood) that I saw myself as a rebel. I certainly yearned to believe that my parents were bigger than my biggest problems and capable of saving me, no matter what.

What were some of the challenges of writing this story? How did you overcome them?

The early drafts were not very child appropriate in places (even though they were written by a child). I included some very old school modes of disciplining children that would doubtless be terrifying to kids today! The book basically wrote itself, but the editing was certainly the challenge.

This is a very different story to your high fantasy series, The Fledgling Account. How did the writing process for this book compare to your previous books?

The Fledgling Account was intended to be my magnum opus. Next time, remind me to write a shorter magnum opus so that more people read it. I had to do heaps of planning for The Fledgling Account. Managing a huge and diverse cast of characters over eight books takes a great deal of work. Plot holes can easily open up, and loose ends come along all the time. Jerry’s Window was a romp that I wrote for fun. I always used to think of my Fledgling Account as the serious stuff and Jerry as the silly stuff. I wrote Jerry for a break between epic fantasy drafts.

What do you hope your readers will take away from Jerry's Window?

I hope it will make them laugh. I hope also that kids will find a warm comfort about it – seeing Jerry go from feeling unwanted to wanted, trapped to saved, at odds with his parents to being a part of the family. We all need second chances, even parents.

Do you have any other projects in the works?

At the moment, I’m writing a book about a kid with photographic memory on a journey to find his Mum. I’m not sure what will become of that one – we’ll see in the editing process. I have a couple more Jerry books as well, that I will probably edit to match the quality of the first one and get out into the market some time.