Roland Harvey is one of Australia's best-loved illustrators. In 1978, he established Roland Harvey Studios and began designing and producing greeting cards, posters and stationery with a distinctly Australian flavour. Ventures into publishing quickly followed. Some of his best-loved books include My Place in Space (with Joe Levine, Sally Hirst and Robin Hirst), Burke and Wills, The First Fleet, Sick As (with Gael Jennings) and Roland Harvey's Big Book of Christmas. His recent books include The Wombats Go on Camp and, of course, his bestselling family holiday adventure series - At the Beach, In the Bush, In the City, To the Top End, All the Way to W.A. and On the Farm. Roland's brilliant illustrations also feature in the Bonnie and Sam series - The Horses and Ponies of Currawong Creek, in collaboration with Alison Lester.
Roland enjoys watching people at work and at play, mentally sketching them while they go about their business. He has always loved the outdoors and some of the scenes from At the Beach and In the Bush are from real life – Roland really did make kelp sandals (like the ones in At the Beach) for his son, James!
He hopes to assist kids gain a greater sense of self by encouraging them to read critically and analyse what they read.
When did you start writing?
‘As a grubby 8-year-old early one misty winter morning at Sherbrooke Forest I returned to our holiday cottage after watching lyrebirds, and made my first book: a school exercise book crammed with mosses, lichen, fungi, fern and even a whole piece of rotten log were painstakingly taped, poked and otherwise stuck in, together with notes and mis-spelled identifications.’
What was the biggest inspiration for you to become a writer?
‘The urge to draw has always been really powerful. I always had trouble finding stories to illustrate. I started commissioning writers and pestering experts of different sorts to give me something to illustrate, a history story, or something about science.’
Where do you do your writing?
‘Somewhere I can’t see any jobs needing attention, nobody can remind me of the bank account and I can’t hear any chainsaws or television. It doesn’t matter where, but I need a sense of approval and even obligation. Late at night and early morning are productive, I seem to remember. My writing is best when spontaneous. (And it seems strange to say it, but I need something to say!)’
When you’re not writing what do you do?
‘I love physical exercise - in or on the water. I like cooking and often nick off to the market and try something new for dinner. After an intense period of writing or drawing I need to see people and go bush or make music.’
What makes you laugh?
‘I laugh with joy when I’m around my kids. Just doing stuff together. I laugh with exhilaration after wild exercise like skiing or sailboarding; a good tennis shot, or a very bad one.
I laugh at subtlety and really dry humour, and the unexpected. I even find it irresistibly funny when something really disastrous happens, particularly if it happens twice.
I love coincidences. And when a succession of stupid mistakes produces a happy outcome, it’s bliss.’
If you had to recommend everyone to read just one book what would it be?
‘One book! Midnite by Randolph Stowe.’