ABC's James O'Loghlin wins Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Award

The winning novel, <i>The Adventures of Sir Roderick the Not-Very Brave</i>, by James O'Loghlin.
The winning novel, The Adventures of Sir Roderick the Not-Very Brave, by James O'Loghlin. Photo: Supplied

James O'Loghlin has won the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Award for 2014, for his debut children's novel The Adventures of Sir Roderick the Not-Very Brave.

O'Loghlin, who hosts Sunday Evenings on ABC radio, said he was chuffed to receive the award.

"It's my first novel for kids and there were some pretty impressive writers on the list, so I'm very excited about it," said O'Loghlin, who found out about his win before it became public.

Radio host and author James O'Loghlin.
Radio host and author James O'Loghlin. Photo: Supplied

"I had to stay mum about that; I told the kids because I couldn't contain myself but happily they could keep the secret," said the author.

O'Loghlin's first children's novel is a story about a knight who is also a coward.

He's sent on a quest by the Queen, and must overcome a series of obstacles and conflicts that threaten the very welfare of the kingdom.

Speech Pathology Australia said of the winning novel, "the plot's twists and turns keep the reader enthralled throughout."

Appropriate for girls and boys, the book also has "wonderful imagery … [and] allows the reader to explore the theme of family ties and secrets against a humourous backdrop."

There's also a funny talking bear.

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Former host of ABC's New Inventors and the author of four adult books, O'Loghlin said the main inspiration for writing a kid's book was his three children.

"I've got 3 children myself, ages 6, 9, and 11, and two advantages [of writing kids stories] is it's something they could read, and they're also there to act as a test audience," said O'Loghlin.

He said his kids are critical, encouraging, and honest when he tests new work on them.

"When I read out chapters, they tell me when it's interesting or when it isn't. Some of my early drafts, my middle daughter described as 'snore-worthy', which is better to hear from the children than my editors," said O'Loghlin.

Initially embarrassed to have their dad visit school to read and talk to their classmates, O'Loghlin said they were quite happy about it in the end.

"I'd pick them up from school and they'd tell me 'oh one of my friends is reading your book'. The great thing about kids is they're all very honest unlike us, they'd say I read the first 15 pages and then I stopped. But when I pick my kids up from school other kids come up to say they liked it which is great."

The Adventures of Sir Roderick the Not-Very Brave is just the start of O'Loghlin's children's fiction adventures, with two more books already in the works.

O'Loghlin's second book, Daisy Malone and the Blue Glowing Stone will be available in April next year. Set in the real world, it's about a girl who has all sorts of adventures after finding a blue stone in her attic.

His third children's novel is still being written, and he said it will be set in a similar world to that of Sir Roderick.

While O'Loghlin has clearly warmed to writing fiction for kids, he said it's certainly not getting easy.

"It's slightly less hard; writing children's fiction is the hardest thing I've ever done, but every time you learn a bit and it gets a bit easier," said O'Loghlin.

"The most valuable thing I've learnt is if you start and keep not stopping eventually it gets finished."

O'Loghlin said when he started out, he thought children's fiction was much more simple than it actually is.

"The plot of Sir Roderick is quite complex, but there was no point in the process when the publisher said this is too complicated. I've learnt you don't have to treat children like children."

The father of three said he loves the surprises and humour and twists you can put into children's fiction, but it's definitely hard work.

"There's also 20 times a day when you think 'this is too hard', but if you keep not stopping you get there in the end," said O'Loghlin.