Wendy Orr

Wendy Orr grew up in Canada, France, USA and UK before moving to Australia when she was twenty-one. Wendy was a compulsive reader from an early age and wrote stories throughout her childhood. In 1993 she resigned from her position as an occupational therapist to become a full-time writer, and an hour later heard that her novel Leaving It To You had been shortlisted in the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Awards. Ark in the Park won the award two years later, followed by an Honour Book Award and overseas success for Peeling the Onion. Wendy now lives in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, and, along with her husband, is busy trying to restore their few acres of bush to its natural state as a home for wildlife.

When did you start writing?
‘When I was seven years old – but a serious attempt at publication waited until 1986.’

What are you reading at the moment?
Uranus, by Marcel Aymé, a brilliant novel that I just happened to pick up at a white elephant stall, simply because it was in French. (I learned to read in French before English, and still enjoy reading it when I can find books.) Uranus was written and set in France immediately after WWII. It’s a horrendous time, and the novel is very much about hypocrisy, but the acute observation of humanity keeps it from being depressing. Before that I read The Help, also truly wonderful, and in between I revisited Anna Fienberg’s glorious picture book, The Hottest Boy who ever Lived, illustrated by Kim Gamble. Next on my list is Parallel Visions, a YA ebook by Canadian writer Cheryl Rainfield. I guess you could say I read eclectically, but really it’s just whatever happens my way.’

What are best and worst things about being a writer?
‘Best: the fun of making a living by doing what you want and living out stories in your imagination. Worst: the sheer terror of wondering whether you’re going to make a living by doing what you want next year.’

When you’re not writing, what do you do?
‘Sometimes it seems that there’s almost no time when I’m not writing (or talking about it at a school or festival – always a lot of fun). I’m trying to set a new rule that I don’t have to work on weekends, but so far there’s always been a reason to break it. However my dog ensures that we go out for a walk twice a day, and on the weekends one of those walks is usually on the beach. I do tai chi, sing with a community choir, and try to make sure I catch up with friends for coffee every couple of weeks.'

What inspires you?
‘The human spirit and our capacity for forgiveness and regeneration.’

The success of the film of Nim’s Island has just been followed up by Return to Nim’s Island, inspired by Nim at Sea and starring Bindi Irwin. What's that been like for you?
‘The whole Nim journey has been amazing. It’s taken me around the world, from India to the USA, and in another sense, into that even more foreign world of Hollywood and film. I couldn’t have asked for better book to film experiences. And it’s even better with Return to Nim’s Island being an Australian film, because I couldn’t have dreamed up anyone more suited to play Nim than Bindi Irwin. It’s also fun that this time I’ll be in Australia when it opens and be able to enjoy seeing it with enthusiastic friends.

What is your proudest moment?
‘After giving birth to my children, hearing that my first book was to be published – though I’d have to say that walking Nim’s Hollywood Red Carpet at the Graumann’s Chinese Theater, with Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler and Abigail Breslin, was the most overwhelmingly exciting moment of my professional life. But on a daily basis, it’s the letters I get from readers, telling me that one of my books has inspired them or got them through a dark part of their lives. It moves me to tears, every time.’

Books by Wendy Orr

Cuckoo's Flight

Published: March 2021

When Clio's town in Bronze Age Crete is threatened by seafaring raiders, she faces the greatest sacrifice of all. Can Clio, her herd of horses and a new young friend find a way to change their destinies? Another wonderfully engaging historical middle fiction adventure from the author of Dragonfly Song and Nim's Island.

The Complete Adventures on Nim's Island

Published: May 2020

All three Nim novels - Nim's Island, Nim at Sea and Rescue on Nim's Island - collected in one edition to celebrate the 21st Anniversary of the original publication of Nim's Island.

Swallow's Dance

Published: June 2018

Leira's family flee to the island of Crete just before a huge volcanic eruption destroys their island and sends a tsunami to where they thought they had found safety. Another thrilling adventure by acclaimed author Wendy Orr.

Dragonfly Song

Published: June 2016

Abandoned by the priestess of the island at birth, Aissa is an outcast, surviving by her wits - until she joins the acrobatic bull dancers who are sent away to compete on the island of the Bull King. A gripping and powerful adventure by acclaimed author Wendy Orr.

Rescue on Nim's Island

Published: June 2014

In her third gripping adventure, Nim unearths an amazing opalised fossil, but this discovery puts her island in terrible danger.

The Nim Stories

Published: March 2013

A bind-up edition of two exciting adventure stories by Wendy Orr - Nim's Island and Nim at Sea. Nim's Island was a major international movie, and now there's a second action-packed movie inspired by Nim at Sea, called Return to Nim's Island, starring Bindi Irwin.

Rainbow Street Pets

Published: June 2012

Six tail-wagging, melt-your-heart stories of loyal, lost, playful and cuddly pets from the author of Nim's Island.

Raven's Mountain

Published: February 2011

A gripping wilderness-adventure by the author of Nim's Island. Raven's sister and step-father are trapped under rocks on the mountain top, and their lives depend on Raven making it down the mountain to get help. But can she find the way?

Nim's Island

Published: April 2008

An irresistible adventure fantasy about Nim - a young girl alone on a tropical island except for her three amazing friends: an iguana, a sea-lion and a turtle. When a hurricane strikes, Nim becomes a hero in a single-handed sea rescue. Now a major feature film starring Jodie Foster, Abigail Breslin ('Little Miss Sunshine') and Gerard Butler ('300').

Nim at Sea

Published: June 2007

A sequel to the popular Nim's Island (now a major film). When Selkie the sea lion is kidnapped, Nim has to leave her island paradise, stow away on board a cruise ship, and work out how to rescue Selkie and all the captive animals in the ship's zoo. She also needs to reunite her family. Luckily she has Fred, her funny marine iguana, and two new ship-board friends, to help her.

Peeling the Onion

Published: October 2006

An eye-catching new edition of this popular, inspirational novel about a teenage girl re-making her life after a car accident. A deeply moving, unsentimental story of pain and love and self-discovery.

Spook's Shack

Published: February 2003

Finn discovers Jack Henry, a ghost, and his ghost-dog Nipper, in an old bush shack. They team up to outwit Boris Banks, who has plans for a gold mine that would destroy the bushland and leave the wild animals homeless. Illustrated junior novel.

The House at Evelyn's Pond

Published: January 2003

A warm, wonderful novel to curl up with. More than a love story, it's a treat for readers who enjoy Anne Tyler, Maeve Binchy, or Mary Wesley.

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