The Way We Work: Dave Hartley and Scott Prince
Drawing on their indigenous heritage, a rugby league star and a deputy principal have teamed up to write a children’s book series, Deadly D & Justice Jones. Dave Hartley tells us how it all came about.
Scott and I knew we had a story that would connect with young readers but we were becoming increasingly disheartened that we’d never find the right publisher. Fortunately, it’s not in our natures to give up. Then we received a call to attend a meeting with the organisers of The State Library of Queensland’s Black and Write competition. We’d sent in our manuscript three months earlier and part of the prize was having the story published by Magabala Books. Were we finally about to become published authors?
A rugby league star and a deputy principal might sound like an odd couple for a writing team, but the chemistry was a winner. Scott and I were awarded the first ever Kuril Dhagun award and we suddenly had our first deadline. The pressure was on to have the manuscript to a publishable standard, but the thrill of finally making it was exhilarating.
Both Scott and I are proud of our indigenous heritage. Scott, a proud Kalkadoon man and my people being Barunggam, we felt it important to have a young Aboriginal boy feature as the main role in our story. As rugby league plays such an important part of the book, it made sense to have Dylan, the lead character, to mirror some of Scott’s experiences growing up in Mount Isa and moving to the city to play football.
Equally important for our readership was to include Justice Jones, a young Maori boy, to play the role of Dylan’s best friend. Being a deputy principal in Logan, Queensland, I recognised the opportunity to include both sets of cultural groups into the story. Both groups are innately blessed with the skills and ability to play the world’s greatest game, so engaging children through rugby league made total sense. Magabala Books and The State Library of Queensland got it. They understood what Scott and I were trying to do.
The highlight of our writing journey without doubt has been seeing young readers pick up our book and enjoy the story. The feedback for book one has been extremely positive and we love hearing which parts the readers like best. “I like it when Dylan turns into Deadly D under the jetty,” one kid told us the other day. His mate standing next to him disagreed: “Nah, I like it when the dog farts under the dinner table.“ We have two daughters each who road-test the stories. They’re very honest and will tell us which parts don’t make sense and which bits hit the right note.
Scott’s recent retirement from the NRL as a grand final winner and a respected champion of the game has been integral for the success of the book. The first question that I get asked about our partnership is how Scott and I started writing together. Over four years ago, I worked at a school where Scott’s eldest daughter, Taliah, attended at the time. I had already written the first two chapters of Deadly D and I was excited about the direction of the story. It was clear to me that including someone who had played football at the highest level and was a positive role model for children would be important for the success of the book so I gave the first two printed chapters to Taliah and asked her to give them to her dad. It was a cheeky move on my behalf, but within two days Scott had called me and the writing process started the week after.
Writing together became something we both really looked forward to. Not only because we transformed into two little boys laughing at our own rude jokes to include in the story, but also because there was food involved. There were a few restaurants and cafes on the Gold Coast that profited well from our writing sessions.
Scott and I developed a friendship that has extended to weekly fitness sessions and him pushing me to finish the fifth hill sprint up one of the steepest streets in Currumbin. Scott only commented the other day about how good it was being able to write together, but also ‘killing the fitness together’. To be honest, I’m not sure how much I’m contributing to ‘killing it’, but I am confident I have worked off the numerous sticky date puddings consumed during our writing sessions.
In our second book, Rising Star, Dylan faces his toughest challenge yet. We’ve taken more risks this time. It’s important that this story includes the same humour and fun of the first book, but we are really setting up some important complications for Dylan and Justice that will lead into subsequent storylines.
The journey has been fun so far, but we have a long way to go with these characters. We hope you come on the journey with us, and enjoy reading the books as much as we do writing them.