Lucas Proudfoot is one of Australia’s most versatile children’s performers, playing guitar, didgeridoo and stomp box to over 120,00 kids each year. He is a multi-platform storyteller, sharing stories through his music, books and live performances.
Following the release of his first book, Shaka Shaka Hawaii, from his five-part adventure book series, The Proud Foots, in 2017, Lucas emerged from an action-packed year of touring across the country to visit and perform as a headline guest at a number of writers’ festivals.
In 2018, Lucas continued his adventure with MTA to bring you the entire five-part book series released in 2019.
The Proud Foots is a five-part book series, which shares carefully crafted stories to include references to Australia’s diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and showcases other remarkable Indigenous cultures from around the world.
The stories are fun and engaging tools, intended to inspire young people to learn more about Indigenous cultures and the diversity and vibrancy they bring to our communities. These imaginative stories keep kids entertained and deliver powerful messages on a range of topics, allowing teachers and parents to continue the conversation in classrooms and homes across the country.
We sat down with author Lucas Proudfoot to celebrate the release of his new book series, The Proud Foots…
- What made you decide to write the Proud Foots books?
For the past ten years I’ve been performing in schools across Australia as a contemporary cultural performer and storyteller. Each year, the demand from teachers asking for more contemporary Indigenous content grew, so I decided that storybooks accompanied by music could be great starting point.
Right from the beginning, I wanted each story to be accessible to young readers right across the country, which is why I like to combine relatable themes, like family and respect, with positive representations of and interactions with Indigenous cultures, both in Australia and beyond.
Overall, it was important to me that the books have a contemporary cultural feel, which hopefully gives teachers the confidence to continue the conversation within the classroom.
- What was your inspiration for the Proud Foots characters?
Touring and performing across Australia has allowed me to experience first-hand the different sights and sounds of each region, including the wildlife.
A few years ago, I remember watching chubby little wombats in country Victoria scampering around in a field which was hilarious. They were play-fighting, having a ball and that’s what sparked the idea for Pat the Wombat.
Pat the Wombat was originally written as a song, but throughout the verses he needed some friends to go surf and eat with, so that’s when Koolaz Koala and Billy Blue-Tongue were introduced. I’ve seen many koalas sitting up high and mighty in school playground trees and I’ve always been intrigued by the laidback nature of blue-tongue lizards.
Next, Pat, Koolaz and Billy needed a place to live, so the setting of Foot Stomp Creek was directly inspired from where I grew up on the Tweed Coast of NSW – Bundjalung country.
I come from a strong saltwater community where everything revolves around the ocean, rivers, creeks, fertile red soil lands and weather. This beautiful environment provided a livelihood for many Aboriginal and Islander families living in the region, especially through fishing practices that were passed down from generation to generation.
Growing up, I surfed, fished and played sport with not only my cousins but also the wider community and knew this setting would be ideal for a storybook series like the Proud Foots.
- Where do the ideas for your stories come from?
My upbringing on the Tweed Coast definitely inspires the stories I write, but I’m also writing about my experiences of travelling the world as a cultural performer and former professional surfer.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to over 25 different countries and so I wanted a way to allow Pat, Koolaz and Billy to travel to the places I’ve been, which is where the idea of the Magic Globe came from. This was how the story world of the Proud Foots came to life, and the adventures that Pat, Koolaz and Billy go on have a basis in my own real life experiences in those places. The many cultural interactions I had around the world are reflected in each story and obviously there is a fun mix of fact and fiction to keep young readers entertained along the way.
- Who would enjoy these books?
I’ve been touring the Proud Foots live show for over two years now in schools, literature festivals and libraries. After over 500 performances, I’ve found that the books have a very broad appeal. From 3 to 12 year olds, both boys and girls can find something in each character to relate to. I wanted the characters to be well-rounded and authentic, for example Pat is always up for an adventure but he’s also the first to get a bit wobbly when it comes to danger! Billy is definitely the class clown (we’re either laughing with him or at him!) and Koolaz Koala’s witty, smart, quick-thinking attitude definitely strikes a chord with young girls and boys alike.
Being a father myself, it was also important to me that these books be enjoyable for adults when reading along with their children. I added some subtle humour and references that will hopefully keep adults and older readers entertained, and I’ve had some great feedback from parents who tell me that they have a quiet chuckle to themselves when they’re reading aloud, which is music to my ears!
Overall the fun, fast-paced nature of each book appeals to even the most reluctant reader as they are not long, intimidating reads but short stories that flow with an exciting adventurous feel.
- What can readers expect from the books?
Each story has multi-layered messaging, as I like to combine many things like action, adventure, culture, comedy, discovery and danger, whilst also slipping in some fun facts. Highlighting the various cultural traditions and iconic landmarks of each country is important as well, e.g. volcanoes in Hawaii, Mount Fuji in Japan, the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and so on. Including these well-known elements from each location helps to make the entry into a new culture more accessible and opens the door to broader ideas and understanding.
The importance of respecting different cultures, nurturing friendships and working as a team will always be an underlying theme in the Proud Foots book series.
- How does your music influence your writing?
The music I create and perform directly fuels my creative process as a writer. As mentioned, Pat the Wombat was originally written as a song but eventually turned into a whole story world around that one character. Writing lyrics for me is the same as writing a draft copy of a story; only it’s in short form. As a writer I’m fortunate enough to try these creative ideas with my reader age group on a regular basis when performing in schools. I usually know within the first few minutes if it’s working and if it is, I will keep refining the idea until it turns into a potential song or story. Ultimately both music and writing go hand in hand for me.
- What is the writing process like?
I like to write with clarity, which equals good coffee! So early mornings work best for me, usually between 4-7am. Sometimes my writing sessions are simply draft copy read-throughs with some minor edits here and there. Other days I’ll write 1500+ words.
I also like to take advantage of when I’m touring interstate, as I have no surprise disruptions from my beautiful 3-year-old daughter who thinks the keyboard is a grand piano!
I’ve tried writing in the evenings but I feel my creative process has somewhat waned due to shows and travel earlier that day.
- What advice would you give to any budding authors?
My advice for aspiring authors is to write about what you’re passionate about. It’s a great starting point and allows you to get at least something down on paper, even if it’s only a few sentences. Often students in my workshops will say they don’t have any stories. I then ask them what they did on the weekend or what their favourite thing to do is. From there they suddenly start telling me all these different stories and we’re off to the races!
Reading as many books as possible is also extremely valuable. It exposes you to different styles of writing, pacing, structure, language and so on. Personally, I find the more I read, the more confidence I have in my writing.
- What does the future hold for the Proud Foots?
Throughout 2019 I’ll be touring the Proud Foots books nationwide with a range of school and festival performances, which is an awesome way to connect with my audience.
You may also see the characters appearing in their own live stage show in the near future as kids are already asking me, ‘Where are the Proud Foots? Why aren’t they on stage with you?’ as well as, ‘Is your last name really Proudfoot?’ (I get that one a lot!).
There are plenty more stories in the vault, so I’m really excited to see what the future holds.
The Proud Foot Adventure Series is exclusively available from MTA