'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Author Interview - Cath Crowley

We hope you enjoy this fabulous, insightful interview with Cath Crowley, author of young adult fiction and many other books...

Tell us a little bit about you... I live in Yarraville. The flat I rent was once an old dentist’s waiting room – it has two rooms and I write in the one that was the dentist’s surgery. I share a garden with the owner and sometimes I write out there.

I don’t have any pets or children. But I have lots of nieces and nephews and I love spending time with them and their pets. I’m also thinking about buying a fish this year.

What did you do before you became an author? Before I became an author I did a lot of things: waitressing, cleaning, cooking and teaching. I like writing the best of all the jobs I’ve had.

Did you always want to be an author? I’ve been an author for about ten years. I quit my teaching job when I was twenty-eight and enrolled for a course in professional writing at RMIT. As soon as I started to write I knew it was what I wanted to do for a career.

Can you remember the first book you ever wrote? The first book I ever wrote was The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain. It’s partly about a girl who plays soccer on an all-boy soccer team. And partly about how she copes when one of her best friends, Jane, moves away. Life gets pretty messy and confusing.

What made you decide to pen books for young adults? I like writing for this genre but I don’t think about teenagers so much as I think about people when I work. How do we all react to things like grief and friendship and love? I know I have the same reactions to these things now that I did when I was younger; it’s just that when I was a teenager the emotion was raw because it was happening for the first time. I like writing about those ‘firsts’: first love, first love disaster, first loss, first friendship.

What else have you written? I’ve only written articles and short stories for adults. They feel easier to me but that’s because they’re shorter pieces. I think writing novels is difficult, whether the audience is adults, young adults or children. The stories and the characters have to be believable and compelling. (Cath's first Aussie Bites book for kids - Rosie Staples’ Minor Magical Misunderstanding - will be out soon.)

What do you love most about producing books for young people? I love making up characters and writing dialogue. I love it when I get that first line of the character’s voice – like Shadow in Graffiti Moon when he thinks about the first things he ever painted: doorways on brick walls. I had a great time writing what he and Lucy talk about during the night when the novel is set.

What is the hardest thing about writing books? The hardest thing for me always is plot. I start from character and so I have to be patient and wait for them to tell me what the story is about. And I’m not a patient person so I don’t always enjoy that part of the process.

Why do you write? My book is the first thing I think about when I get up in the morning and often it’s what I dream about. I want to see what happens with my characters and I want to hear what they say to each other and I want to use language in an interesting way. I write because I couldn’t not write.

Your new book, Graffiti Moon came out in August. What inspired you to write it? Graffiti Moon is a story about a group of teenagers who are outsiders. They spend one night together, out in the city, and it changes things for them. They don’t work out who they are – that would be hard in one night – but they work out that it’s okay to be different.

Shadow and Lucy, the main characters, connect through art. So the conversations they have are inspired by the artists I love - Mark Rothko, Sam Leach, Rosemary Laing, Jeffrey Smart, Pablo Picasso, Johannes Vermeer, Michael Zavros, Rosalie Gascoigne, Bethany Wheeler, Ghostpatrol and Miso. I wanted to write about two people who speak through images as well as words.

Poet is my favourite character. He mostly comes from my imagination, but he’s partly inspired by all the teenagers I’ve worked with who say they can’t write and then they produce these amazing lines.

The inspiration for Shadow and Lucy’s love story was the painting The Lovers by Magritte; it’s of two people kissing through sheets. I thought that first dates might be easier if people couldn’t see each other.

Which of your books is your favourite and why? Graffiti Moon is my favourite. But I always like the one I’ve just written the best, probably because I feel closest to those characters. I do like the images of art in Graffiti Moon, and I like that it’s a quirky love story.

What do you think comprises great YA fiction? I look for a character with an original voice and interesting motivation. I love writers who use language and dialogue in ways I don’t expect. And I love books that leave me thinking about the bigger questions.

What are the greatest blocks or obstacles you have experienced on your book writing journey? It takes me a long time to find the story. I feel like I’m in the wilderness for months and then all of a sudden I find the thread and I can follow it and plot the narrative. This is my greatest obstacle every time.


Describe a typical writing day. I’m at my most creative from about five in the morning to about twelve in the afternoon. I try to be up early so I can make the most of that time. But really, if I’m excited about a book I can write all day and night. I make time to see films and read and look at art and visit friends and family.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be? I’d be an astronomer.

What books did you read as a child? That’s hard – but these are the ones that come to mind:

The Famous Five by Enid Blyton
Trixie Beldon by Kathryn Kenny and Julie Campbell
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
I loved these old boarding school books that my mum gave me. I can’t remember the names, but I read them over and over.

What do you love to do? Reading, writing, film, politics, art.

What five words best sum you up? Curious, shy, a bit quirky.

What’s next for Cath Crowley? I’m editing Graffiti Moon for the US market. It comes out there in 2012. I’m working on a new novel that’s called The Howling Boy. It’s a mystery.

Check out Cath's website for more cathcrowley.com.au.

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