Animal instincts inspire new career

Animal instincts inspire new career

A lawyer turned her back on boredom to live her dream as a children's author

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Former lawyer Sarah Brennan is the author of children's novels based on the animals of the Chinese calendar. The latest is 'The Tale of Rhonda Rabbit'.
Former lawyer Sarah Brennan is the author of children's novels based on the animals of the Chinese calendar. The latest is 'The Tale of Rhonda Rabbit'.
Photo: Edmond So
In the story The Tale of Rhonda Rabbit, Rhonda is a mischievous bunny that cares little about the law; she raids the vegetable patch of mighty Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang - leaving him in rage and despair.

"The characters in my books are all bold, with a sense of black humour. They're not girly; they're in your face," says author Sarah Brennan. "I am a strong person and I think we should live boldly."

The Australian has a bright cheerful voice and a down-to-earth personality - someone with whom you can enjoy a really great laugh. Born and raised in Tasmania, she grew up around animals, including peacocks, turkeys and goats, and dreamed of being a writer or an actress. But, she says, "My parents thought I should get a practical degree. So I studied law and became a lawyer. But I hated it.

"If I'd wanted to be rich, I would've stayed in the job, but I'd have become rich and unhappy. I believe we should do what makes us happy. And my job was too rigid and boring. I can't stand boredom in life - I always try to make something happen."

Brennan quit her job and went travelling in Europe.

In 1998, she came to Hong Kong with her husband and began writing for a local parenting magazine. She published her first children's book, A Dirty Story, in 2004. Further books followed before she decided to set up her own publishing company in 2007. She says: "Writing is a magical thing. When I get an idea in the night, I have to get up and put it down. When I write, time disappears. Five hours become 10 minutes."

Brennan is passionate about writing for children, but believes it's important to embrace the culture of her adopted home and feature things that are relevant to Chinese children and eye-opening for the non-Chinese.

"There aren't a lot of books about China written in English. Many expatriate families here must want to know more about Chinese culture."

She has now written five books, including Rhonda Rabbit, with characters based on animals in the Chinese calendars. She plans to cover all 12 zodiac signs.

Although she enjoys writing for younger readers, she doesn't see this as a reason not to make her books challenging. "We should keep our rich language. Don't impoverish it, because it is our culture. Lose the language and you'll lose the culture, too," she says. "I want children to love reading." Brennan's books are all illustrated by SCMP cartoonist Harry Harrison. The Tale of Rhonda Rabbit will be officially launched in London in February. Visit www.sarah-brennan.com for details.

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