Barry Jonsberg

Barry Jonsberg is a multi-award winning author who lives in Darwin with his wife, children and two dogs. His books have been published in the USA, the UK, France, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Turkey, Brazil and China.

Barry Jonsberg's young adult novels, The Whole Business with Kiffo and the Pitbull and It's Not All About YOU, Calma! were short-listed for the CBCA Book of the Year, Older Readers. It's Not All About YOU, Calma! also won the Adelaide Festival Award for Children's Literature, Dreamrider was short-listed in the NSW Premier's Awards for the Ethel Turner prize and Cassie (Girlfriend Fiction) was short-listed for the Children's Peace Literature Award. Being Here won the QLD Premier's Young Adult Book Award 2011 and was shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Award 2012. My Life as an Alphabet won the 2013 Gold Inky, the Children's Peace Literature Award and the 2014 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards and was short-listed for the 2014 CBCA Awards, The Prime Ministers Literary Awards,  the WA Premier's Literary Awards and the 2014 Adelaide Festival Awards.

When did you start writing?
I never really found time for writing when I lived in England. Maybe it’s something to do with the air in Australia, but I started writing in 2001 after I moved to Darwin. I finished a novel called Nativity which interested Allen & Unwin, but was not publishable in its original form. In the meantime, I had started The Whole Business with Kiffo and the Pitbull, in which I developed a minor character from Nativity. This was published in 2004 and, since then, I have completed nine books for Young Adults and younger readers. So it took me a long time to start writing but now I can’t seem to stop, even though my publishers beg me to!

Which writers do you admire?
I admire all writers because I know the hard work and dedication required to finish a book. But I am always immensely impressed with the rich array of Australian talent within the Young Adult field. I’m not sure if many people know this, but we are the envy of the world as far as new and exciting Young Adult fiction is concerned. Think of writers like John Marsden, Sonia Hartnett, Phil Gwynne, Ursula Dubosarsky, Michael Bauer, Margo Lanagan, Markus Zusak, Garth Nix... the list goes on and on.

How do you make up your stories?
The American horror writer, Stephen King, once said that stories are always ‘found’ by writers, not made up. I understand this, because most of my stories come from very small beginnings – an image, a sentence I like, a place I visited. For example, one of my books, The Dog That Dumped On My Doona, started because I had an opening sentence running through my head for no apparent reason. That sentence was, “I woke up to find a dog having a dump on my doona.” I had no idea where I was going with this, or if I was going anywhere at all. But I followed the idea to see where it would take me. As it turned out it took me to a strange place that I couldn’t have ‘made up’ by just thinking about it. I ‘found’ the story, almost as if it had been there all along waiting to be discovered.

When you're not writing, what do you do?
I teach a couple of days a week. And then there are festivals around the country and school visits... For relaxation I do the normal things – watch films, read (and then read some more), walk the dogs on the beach with my wife, cook, tell my children to tidy their rooms, open up the odd bottle of wine. I’m good at relaxing and I’m also a firm believer that one should stick to what one is good at.

Where do you do your writing?
I really believe that the writing space is extremely important. I have a study with a steam-driven computer. I shut the door, put a CD in the computer, stick the headphones on and then write (I’m doing exactly that at this moment). For some reason, I play the same CD on a loop until I have finished a book which means I get to hear it hundreds and hundreds of times. It’s become a routine that I don’t like to change. The music blocks everything out and allows me to focus on what is happening with the words on the screen. My study is cluttered and messy, like my head, so I feel comfortable there.

What are the best and worst things about being a writer?
The best thing, by far, is getting lost in whatever world I have created. It is an amazing feeling to be in a place that doesn’t exist until you put down the words that bring it into existence. I also love meeting my readers and hanging out with writers whose work I have always admired. Some of these people are now my friends! Probably the worst part is the isolation of writing. There is no short cut. You have to spend hundreds of hours getting the story down, one word at a  time. And sometimes those words don’t do what you want them to do. But overall, I think being a writer is just about the best job in the world.

Books by Barry Jonsberg

A Little Spark

Published: August 2022

From the bestselling multi-award-winning author of My Life as an Alphabet and A Song Only I Can Hear comes another wonderful middle fiction novel that is warm, upbeat, intriguing and wholly absorbing.

Catch Me If I Fall

Published: November 2020

Ashleigh and Aiden are thirteen-year-old twins who promise to always look out for each other. Aiden is more dedicated to the task than Ashleigh, but when it comes to matters of life and death, they both exhibit a fierce protectiveness that will change the course of their lives.

H is for Happiness

Published: January 2020

Film tie-in edition of My Life as an Alphabet which is now the major Australian film, H is for Happiness. A delightful story of an unusual girl who goes to great lengths to bring love and laughter into the lives of everyone she cares about.

A Song Only I Can Hear

Published: June 2018

Rob has a huge crush on the new girl at school. But Rob is painfully shy and suffers severe panic attacks. How is her heart to be won? Another wonderful and heart-warming comedy drama from the award-winning author of My Life as an Alphabet.

Game Theory

Published: May 2016

Jamie's sister has been kidnapped. And Jamie is convinced he can save her using the principles of game theory. But is strategy the best option when his little sister's life is at stake? A hugely compelling YA thriller.

Pandora Jones: Reckoning

Published: April 2015

Pandora Jones knows the truth, but she is alone and seemingly powerless against the might of The School. The stunning conclusion to the Pandora Jones trilogy.

Pandora Jones: Deception

Published: September 2014

Pandora and her team are already two members down. The survival of humanity in the post-plague world depends on them. But who can she trust? Book two in the thrilling, action-packed Pandora Jones series.

Pandora Jones: Admission

Published: April 2014

Pandora Jones wakes in a changed world at The School - a sanctuary for survivors of a plague pandemic. Haunted by terrible dreams, surrounded by traumatic events, Pandora must trust her instincts if she is to stay safe. And her instincts suggest that The School is hiding secrets. The first book in a brilliant YA series by a multi-award-winning author.

My Life As an Alphabet

Published: January 2013

Candice Phee wants to bring light and laughter to those around her, and somehow she succeeds despite the bizarre mix-ups and the confusion she effortlessly creates. An uplifting comedy-drama from award-winning author, Barry Jonsberg.

Being Here

Published: February 2011

The bittersweet story of a girl and a boy, and a secret that was too real to hide. From the bestselling author of The Whole Business with Kiffo and the Pitbull.

Blacky Blasts Back

Published: January 2010

A third wacky adventure with Blacky the farting dog. Blacky's sending Marcus and Dylan to the Tasmanian wilderness on a mission. But between giant bully boys, unintelligible Scottish camp instructors and the need for thermal underwear - will they find the last remaining Tasmanian tiger?

Croc Called Capone

Published: March 2009

A free trip to the Northern Territory! Sounds good, thinks Marcus ('Mucus' to his sister Rose). But when his best friend Dylan joins the family holiday, mayhem is not far away. Fast-paced comedy-adventure from award-winning author Barry Jonsberg.

The Dog that Dumped on my Doona

Published: August 2008

What's an eleven-year-old boy to do when an ugly dog called Blacky appears on his bed and tells him he has been given the mission to rescue God? This is a 'fast and funny book' from CBCA-shortlisted author Barry Jonsberg.


Published: June 2008

A compelling novel about a powerful relationship between a troubled teenager and his grandfather, set in the Tasmanian Wilderness. 'A great read for all teenagers.' - Robert, 16


Published: June 2006

From the author of The Whole Business with Kiffo and the Pitbull and It's not all about YOU, Calma comes an intense, confronting, unforgettable novel to challenge our assumptions about bullying, coping strategies and mental health.

It's not all about YOU, Calma

Published: September 2005

The sequel to the hilarious yet poignant The Whole Business with Kiffo and the Pitbull. Laugh-out-loud humour with a strong beating heart and a sting in the tail.

The Whole Business with Kiffo and the Pitbull

Published: April 2004

Part quirky journal, part detective fiction, this wild and witty novel is a laugh-out-loud comedy about two unlikely friends who are drawn into a dramatic series of events through their mutual mistrust of their new English teacher.

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