'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 14 August 2018

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Caroline Magerl

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I left home at a very early age and went to work as a pot scrubber in the bowels of an old hotel in Brisbane. At night, I used to read the Larousse Gastronomique, which a chef had lent to me. I dreamed of creating extraordinary desserts.
Eventually, I was offered an apprenticeship as a chef, but they had taken too long, because the art bug had bitten hard in the meantime ... this was soon followed by the writing bug. I can however do a crazy croquembouche.

2. What is your nickname? 
It used to be Mr Magoo, because of my surname and thick glasses. Later, it was Ragdoll, because of my clothes, which I made myself. I disapprove of nicknames.

3. What is your greatest fear? 
Acquiring another nickname.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words. 
Lyrical, brief, considered, humorous, with a love of magical realism.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
Tenacious, light-hearted, warm, sensory, caffeinated.

6. What book character would you be, and why? 
Arthur Dent - I want to travel the universe in my dressing gown. On reflection, I now see how I might have earned the nickname Ragdoll. On the bright side, I would be in space, so, as my Uncle Reinhard liked to say when travelling mishaps happened, 'It’s OK, they don’t know me around here!'.

7. If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why? 
I would travel to 1969 to attend Woodstock. I want to listen to Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin in my dressing gown.

8. What would your 10-year-old self say to you now? 
Nothing! My 10-year-old self had an abiding suspicion of anyone over 10. As a child, I became convinced that much was being hidden from me. Around the age of five, I had formed a conspiracy theory around the colour registration marks that I espied on printed bus tickets, newspapers and packaging. Once I had begun to look for these little marks, I began to see them everywhere, hidden under flaps and in margins. This was the secret code of the adult world, and I had found it. It did me no good though; the adults never cracked.

9. Who is your greatest influence? 
John Steinbeck. I read his better known works, such as Grapes of Wrath, but loved Cannery Row, which I read over and over, along with his short stories. I loved The Short Reign of King Pippin the IV and his non-fiction works, Travels with Charley and The Log from the Sea of Cortez.
Last year, I finally got to see the coast where Steinbeck spent his early years and which formed the landscape of much of his work. I spent the night near Los Lobos National Park, and after a whole day exploring the headland, I just could not sleep. Being in the place he described so well was deeply moving.

10. What/who made you start writing? 
I wrote as a child, mostly because I liked to read, but stopped when I was a teenager. It was the birth of our daughter which made me really want to write again.

11. What is your favourite word and why? 
Fussel. A German word for ‘a bit of fluff’ ... it is indispensable!

12. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be? 
That is an impossible question to answer, so I will go with Calvin and Hobbes — much to be learnt there. 

Caroline Magerl was born near Frankfurt, in Germany, and came to Australia when she was two. She lived on the yacht her family built until she was 14. In 2001, Caroline won the Children's Book Council of Australia Crichton Award for new talent in children's book illustration for her picture book Grandma's Shoes (written by Libby Hathorn). Since then she has been awarded a May Gibbs Fellowship and received an ASA children's picture book grant to work on her book Hasel and Rose. Nowadays she is a full-time artist, illustrator and printmaker. Maya and Cat is Caroline's latest picture book. For more information, see www.carolinemagerl.com.