Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare, author of ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series, answers a few questions…


What would you put on a shelf-talker for your book?

This prequel to ‘The Mortal Instruments’ contains a brave heroine, a magical, gaslit London, romance, automatons, handsome Shadowhunters, Magnus Bane, a vampire ball, and has been known to cure Demon Pox.

If you had to spend the rest of your life on a book tour, where would you go?

I want to say Australia to earn brownie points but I’ve never been there yet! I would say Italy because the food is so good.

What is the silliest question you’ve ever been asked on a book tour?

Someone asked if they could smell my neck.

And the most profound?

Someone once asked me if I would prefer that people take away answers from my books, or take away questions. I thought that was a nice way of putting it. I would say questions.

What are you reading right now?

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown).

What was your favourite book of the past year?

White Cat by Holly Black (Victor Gollancz).

What was the defining book of your childhood?

Five Children and It by E Nesbit (Random House).

Which is your favourite bookstore?

I couldn’t pick! If you’re a bookstore, you’re automatically my favourite kind of store.

Who would you like to challenge to a literary spat?

Lord Byron! He famously boxed, but I think I could take him.

Facebook or Twitter?

Twitter—it’s the best way to get news out, and these days one of the best ways to pick up on news. It’s how I found out Prince William got engaged!

If I were a literary character I’d be …

I would want to be Lyra from ‘His Dark Materials’ but would probably end up being a girl Adrian Mole.

In 50 years’ time books will be …

Absolutely relevant, just as they are today. Even if they’re digital.

Cassandra Clare is the author of ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series and its prequel ‘The Infernal Devices’ series (all published by Walker Books). She is a guest at the Sydney Writers Festival and the Auckland Readers & Writers Festival in May. This questionnaire first appeared in the March issue of Junior Bookseller+Publisher magazine. Sign up for the free fortnightly Junior Bookseller+Publisher newsletter here.


REbecca Stead

Rebecca Stead, author of First Light (Text) answers a few questions…

 What would you put on a shelf-talker for your book?

An end-of-childhood story that won’t read the same way twice.

If you had to spend the rest of your life on a book tour, where would you go?

Ouch, painful thought. The US, I suppose—plenty of variety, and I could see my kids.

What is the silliest question you’ve ever been asked on a book tour?

‘Where do you do your grocery shopping?’

And the most profound?

‘What is the nature of time?’

What are you reading right now?

The Best American Short Stories 2010 (ed by Richard Russo, Mariner Books).

Adult: Let the Great World Spin (Colum McCann, Bloomsbury); Children’s/YA: Dreamhunter (Elizabeth Knox, Fourth Estate).

What was the defining book of your childhood?

‘Defining’ is an interesting word. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee, various imprints).

Which is your favourite bookstore?

Bank Street Books, my neighborhood indie [in New York City]. Because the booksellers there read books and care about them.

Who would you like to challenge to a literary spat?

No one. I worked ‘confrontational’ out of my system when I was a criminal defense lawyer. Now I’d rather bond.

Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook. Twitter requires too much babysitting.

If I were a literary character I’d be …

A sister in a family of sisters. Elizabeth Bennett, maybe.

In 50 years’ time books will be …

More precious than they are today.

Rebecca Stead is the author of First Light (Text). She is touring Melbourne and Sydney in May.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Zoe Thurner on ‘Dress Rehearsal’ (Fremantle Press)

Zoe Thurner

Drama teacher Zoe Thurner tells Amelia Vahtrick about her debut novel Dress Rehearsal (Fremantle Press).

The story is framed by a Year 12 theatre production, which provides a lot of the drama between Lara and the other students. What effect do you think theatre can have on teenagers?

Theatre is visceral, immediate and invites people to connect. In a world dominated by virtual relationships I think theatre can bring young people together in a meaningful way. As a drama teacher I have scripted, directed and assisted in the production of youth theatre, which is often highly innovative and can bring out new qualities in students. Last year I wrote a script in the form of a cabaret set in Berlin of the 1930s. We cast a rather isolated boy as the MC, where he shone, and had a burly footballer happily dancing the waltz. These kids were united in a group task that required them to negotiate, give freely and be part of something larger than themselves. And the youth audience loved it. Ultimately, whether they choose to watch theatre or produce it I think theatre has a very uplifting effect on teenagers. That’s one of the things I tried to get across when I was writing Dress Rehearsal.

There’s a pretty scary scene in the book where Lara and two other girls get into a car with some drunken boys. Did you write this as a warning for teenage readers, or were you merely interested in depicting something that does happen?

Like parents and teachers everywhere, I feel acutely aware of the dangers young people face in making quick, poor decisions. I have discovered this from my students, my kids and my own early mistakes. This scene was based on an experience I had as a girl, when I hitched a ride with some boys up the coast and had to escape by jumping out of a moving car. Very scary. But the scene also stands there for boys. Some years ago I worked on a drama project with the Head Injured Society and sadly met young men in wheelchairs as a result of drink-driving accidents. I think learning from life is important but our kids have to choose their lessons carefully.

Lara is a fabulous, larger-than-life character, whether she’s fighting with her mum, flirting with one boy after another, or taking to her bed in dramatic fashion when things go wrong. Did you have fun writing her? More fun than you would have had writing a more perfect heroine?

Writing Lara Pearlman was like writing a very long dramatic monologue. It propelled me into the chaotic world of Lara’s thoughts and desires, which was wild and pretty intense. It is true that Lara is not a classic heroine. She does not save her friends and cannot change the bad things that happen to them. But I think that Lara and some of the other characters in Dress Rehearsal slowly come to terms with life as it stands in all its imperfection and I think that process takes some honesty and a special kind of courage. So while Lara is chasing around after other people she learns a lot about what she really values and she finds that the best life she can live is her own.

Dress Rehearsal is published by Fremantle Press

I love the way people can be highly contradictory and also capable of great adaptation and change and so first impressions are really just a starting point. I am interested in how a person’s story evolves and how all the contradictory elements are revealed and held together. In Dress Rehearsal Lara is not analytic. She can’t stand back and work people out, the way Nathan might. Instead she throws herself into tough situations to discover the truth. She is often shocked as she pieces conflicting bits together but finally arrives at a richer understanding of the people around her. I volunteer as a telephone counsellor and have to stay open to the subtle and shifting clues given in the course of the conversation which often ends in a very different impression of the caller.

Dress Rehearsal is published by Fremantle Press. This interview first appeared in the March issue of Junior Bookseller+Publisher magazine. Sign up to the free monthly Junior Bookseller+Publisher Newsletter here.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Randa Abdel-Fattah on ‘The Friendship Matchmaker’ (Omnibus)

In the March issue of Junior Bookseller+Publisher reviewer Natalie Crawford spoke to author Randa Abdel-Fattah about her most recent book.

This is your first foray into junior fiction. What interested you in writing for younger readers and how did you have to adapt your writing for this different audience?

I have vivid memories of primary school and can recall with excruciating detail the agonies and joys of making and keeping friends. Writing for a younger audience has been an absolute joy for me because I feel as though I’m turning back time, diving into my own memories and experiences to share the stories and adventures that have stayed with me all these years. It’s not that my writing is autobiographical, more that I am tapping into the emotional rollercoaster of pre-adolescence that I remember so well. Writing for this audience, and from the point of view of a girl in Grade 5, came very naturally to me—which proves to me that I haven’t really grown up all that much! Perhaps it also means that the insecurities and conflicts we experience as children never really change—that the emotions that drive us to crave other people’s approval and admiration as adults are the same as those we experience as children, only the setting and circumstances change.

The issue of friendship is central to The Friendship Matchmaker. Were you nervous about portraying the concerns of your characters in a realistic way?

Every writer worries that their characters’ voices might not ring true. As a writer, I am always conscious that I will lose my readers and compromise my own creative integrity if my characters are not authentic. The editing process was the best way to determine whether my characters were acting or speaking in ways that were contrived. But I rarely found this to be a problem as I tend to start writing with the main characters’ voices already quite clear in my head.

The use of narrative and inclusion of Lara’s Friendship Matchmaker Manual gives the reader two different points of view. Did you always intend to include the Manual in telling Lara’s story?

The FMM Manual was delicious fun to create. It was always my intention to have it running in the background, as an insight into Lara’s thinking, strategy and motivation.Although the book is a first-hand narrative, the manual is an even deeper, yet playful, insight into Lara’s mind and heart.

Was it fun or nerve-wracking having to immerse yourself in the world of a 10-year-old again?

It was terrific fun! I dived back into the world of friendship trios, playground spats and the emotional turbulence that comes with picking a friend to sit next to on a bus or play sports with. When I write ‘as a 10-year-old’ I find myself writing with two voices in my head: my adult voice and my voice as a 10-year-old. The product is a fusion of both levels of consciousness. It is that process and tension between young and old that I find most exhilarating.

There are some very peculiar characters in the book. Are any of them based on people you actually knew at school?

I had terrific fun in trying to balance between the comic and farcical when writing such characters as Omar (who only speaks in rhyme as training for being a rap artist one day) and David (who speaks to his basketball as though it were his best friend). None of the characters, with the exception of Chris the Bully, were based on people I knew at school. However, I still try to maintain a healthy respect for even my most ‘peculiar’ characters, humanising them despite the comic potential their various idiosyncracies offer. While some of my characters exhibit ‘odd’ habits and quirks, I still consider that my young readers will identify with these characters’ dreams, fears and insecurities.

Would you consider writing for a younger audience again?

Most definitely. Lara will not leave me alone. After all, she can be quite bossy and dominating! I can’t resist writing a story with her again so I’m writing a sequel. I’m also releasing my first ‘Aussie Mates’ title, Buzz Off in May 2011. It’s a story about a boy who has, well, a special connection with flies—he can hear them talk. Once again I had delightful fun throwing myself into the world of a young boy.

The Friendship Matchmaker is published by Omnibus. This interview first appeared in the March issue of Junior Bookseller+Publisher. Sign up for the free monthly Junior Bookseller+Publisher Newsletter here.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: S J Watson on ‘Before I Go to Sleep’ (Text Publishing)

Andrea Hanke spoke to S J Watson about his experience as a pupil in the Faber Academy’s first novel-writing course in the UKand the resulting novel Before I Go to Sleep, out this month from Text Publishing.


S J Watson doesn’t have a conventional background as a writer, if indeed such a thing exists. The UK physics graduate worked for many years for the National Health Service in London while dabbling with writing on the side, until he decided ‘that to be truly happy in myself I would need to stop thinking of my writing as a hobby and give it the space and time that increasingly I thought it deserved’.

In 2008 Watson was accepted into the Faber Academy’s first six-month-long ‘Writing a Novel’ Course, a program that covers all aspects of the novel-writing process, and offers guest seminars by well-known writers, agents and publishers. The program is due to begin in Australia this year.

‘I loved every moment of being on the course, and really can’t praise it highly enough! I met, and learned from, some wonderful writers, and I made some lifelong friends. I learned so much—everything from how to capture the essence of a character to how to write a synopsis and pitch your book to an agent—but it was also incredible just to be surrounded by people who took their writing as seriously as I did, and who understood what the writing life involves.’

On the last night of the Faber course Watson was introduced to literary agent Clare Conville (of Conville & Walsh in London), who had been invited to speak to the class on what she looked for in a manuscript. ‘We chatted afterwards and Clare asked me what my book was about. Luckily we’d been working that week on a “25-word pitch” to use in just such a situation! Mine was, “My book is about a woman with no memory who has to rediscover her past every day …” (There was more, but I don’t want to give away the plot!) She said she’d like to read it, and so when I finished I sent it straight to her. She liked it and, after a few more weeks editing, sent it out to publishers she thought might be interested.’

The amnesiac character is a familiar trope in soap operas, the source of mirth in the romantic comedy 50 First Dates and the subject of the psychological thriller Memento, which bears the closest resemblance to Watson’s novel. But Watson says his story came to him after reading the obituary of a man who had undergone surgery for epilepsy in 1953, which left him incapable of forming new memories, living constantly in the past.

‘I wondered how it must feel to look at oneself in a mirror in 2008, expecting to see the same person as 55 years earlier, and straight away the character of Christine came to me. After that, it was just a case of working out her story, and how a woman in her position might tell it.’

Before I Go to Sleep has made headlines for the Faber graduate after it was sold into over 30 languages and acquired for film by Ridley Scott’s production company, ‘an absolute dream come true,’ says Watson. ‘I met with the producer and writer/director and straight away could see that they understood the heart of the book and would make a film that reflected that. It’s going to be weird to see my book on the big screen, but I can’t wait!’

Andrea Hanke is editor of Bookseller+Publisher magazine. This interview first appeared in the April issue.

INTERVIEW: Elizabeth Stead on ‘The Sparrows of Edward Street’ (UQP)

Bookseller+Publisher reviewer Chris Harrington speaks to Elizabeth Stead about her new novel The Sparrows of Edward Street (UQP).

Many Australian families were adversely affected by the economic disruption after the WWII. What brought the plight of camp residents to your attention?

Being there! Though not in the year written in the novel. The Sparrows of Edward Street is a work of fiction because I had trouble remembering all of it. Some memories have been erased so I hope former inmates will forgive omissions—and additions—about camp life!

Your book details life in one particular camp in Sydney. Were there many similar camps in other states? ow long were housing campsWhen were these camps finally closed?

Sparrows is based on the NSW Housing Commission camp at Bradfield Park, Lindfield, NSW.  There were similar camps I believe in other states but they were mainly for migrants.   

Where did you do your research? Are there many documents still available on life in the housing camps?

Research was difficult. The NSW government was no help! The camp has remained an embarrassment to the state government. The local council historian, Joan Rowland, and my cousin Dorothy Basili were a great help. Documents were practically non-existent. I have a few photos and one or two letters written by former camp-dwellers that inspired certain characters and passages. 

Aria is a very special character, both as the voice of the Sparrow family and as the ‘protector’ of Hanora and Margaret Rose. How did you develop her character?

Aria Sparrow and I are joined at the hip…  We have both survived. I had no trouble developing her character and she would have had less trouble developing mine! And may I say, we are still as feisty as ever.

Both Hanora and Margaret Rose are rather overwhelmed by the events that overtake the Sparrow family, yet Aria is able to retain her sense of humour throughout. Did the use of humour in the book make it easier to tell the story of such difficult times?

Aria usually found humour in even the darkest days, and still does. To find humour in a long and arduous life has fortunately not been difficult for me. And yes, it did make the novel easier to write although I confess to a few ‘old tears’ during some passages. Age! Old people cry if you look at them sideways!

What was the last book you read and loved?

American writer John Cheever’s Collected Stories and Other Writings. After reading The Journals of John Cheever many years ago, I learned the importance of the courage to write the truth.

The Sparrows of Edward Street is published this month by UQP. Chris Harrington reviewed the novel in the March issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine, now available online here.

INTERVIEW: Lloyd Jones on ‘Hand Me Down World’ (Text Publishing)

Matthia Dempsey spoke to Lloyd Jones about his new novel Hand Me Down World (Text Publishing).

Mister Pip was shortlisted for the Booker and won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, obviously earning you a whole new readership—and making this next book an eagerly awaited one. What would you tell a reader who appreciated Mister Pip about Hand Me Down World—where are the differences and what do the books have in common?

Mister Pip, among other things, concerns itself about mistaken identity. The identity of Dickens, Mr Watts, even the book Great Expectations doesn’t settle into one version or another. Identity is one of the constant riffs in Hand Me Down World. No-one turns out to be who we thought they were, especially so in the case of Ines who swims ashore in Sicily to begin her quest to hunt down the whereabouts of her boy. This book can’t really be compared with Mister Pip. It is a different beast altogether. Whereas Mister Pip had a single narrator, Hand Me Down World has a multiplicity of voices and offers a bigger bite of the world.

You’ve said the conception of Mister Pip began with the image of Grace being pulled along on her cart. Was there a similar starting point— an image—for Hand Me Down World? If not, what was its genesis? And how long did the book take you to write?

I don’t think it had any one starting point or eureka moment. I had been reading about the African boat people, thinking about lung fish and the Antarctic; I was in Berlin, and much of the landscape of the book was part of my daily beat. As often happens with fiction, these disparate things eventually found one another, and from there the novel emerged. The character of Ines holds the book together. I have no idea where she sprung from. But I’m glad she did— and I do remember writing by a desk lamp in the gloom of a Berlin November about a woman swimming ashore in Europe and feeling—Yes, this is interesting. This is vital. I began writing the book in Berlin over 2007-2008 and finished it in the early part of 2010.

Apart from the setting, how did your time in Germany influence the content of your writing?

Had I not spent the time that I did in Berlin I would not have felt sufficiently confident for it to be the landscape for much of the story. On the other hand, had I not been in Berlin I probably wouldn’t have written this particular novel. I don’t think that the style of the novel is influenced by place as much as a desire to find a form that would release the story.

Mister Pip had the strong voice of Matilda taking readers through the story, whereas Hand Me Down World has many voices. Did this make writing harder or easier? And how did you choose your characters?

I couldn’t begin to say how I chose the characters. I’m not sure the question will lead to the explanation you are after. Generally, I go with voice—I am led by what I hear, and I go from there, and gradually the ‘character’ emerges through incident and to some extent willed into existence. In Hand Me Down World the story of Ines is shared around. The characters, for most part, live in the margin of one another’s lives.

The book seems very carefully structured. Did it require detailed planning or did the structure and plot emerge as you wrote?

There was no planning. The voices came to me in quick succession, and after the third or fourth one I realised that this was the perfect structure for a story that is handed on. In terms of the book’s structure I like to think of it a system of echoes.

In both Mister Pip and Hand Me Down World you render in fiction the lives of characters without powerful voices in the world. Do you think fiction/long form can broadcast these marginalised voices better than journalism (where it might be harder to build the reader’s empathy)?

The opportunity to inhabit the other is fiction’s great attraction. Whereas, the extent to which the ‘other’ can be inhabited is a thorny and contentious area for conventional journalism. Having said that I don’t like to subscribe to hard and fast rules.

What’s next?

It’s too early to say. Except to say, I hope there is a ‘next’.

Matthia Dempsey is editor-in-chief of Bookseller+Publisher magazine. This interview and her review of Hand Me Down World first appeared in the October 2010 issue of Bookseller+Publisher.

INTERVIEW: Trent Jamieson on ‘Managing Death’ (Orbit)

Chris McDonough thought Trent Jamieson’s urban fantasy trilogy got darker and pacier in book two. He spoke to the author.

Your familiarity with the city of Brisbane is a strong element in the ‘Death Works’ series. Have you based some of the characters on familiar people too?

Well, that would be telling! But yes, I think you learn about human nature from the people around you. I think every character you write about has elements of yourself and those people you know best, they just tend to be mixed up and reconstituted in a book. So the best qualities of the characters in the book are based on my friends—the worst are probably based on me.

The series looks at what happens to humans after they die. Are your beliefs anything like those in the books?

No. But the idea of an afterlife fascinates me, how that might function, what rules it would follow, and how you might bend them. I really don’t think there is an afterlife, but I’m happy to be proven wrong—as long as it’s not the abylonian version of the Underworld, which is like hell, only worse. No, really.

The pacing of the second book felt faster than the first. Was it easier to write?

Wow, I’m so glad it felt faster! I was worried that it might be slower. No, it definitely wasn’t easier to write. Second books are so hard, you feel a real obligation to the first book. A second book has to count, and I think I went into it feeling fairly self-conscious. It was a long hard slog of an edit, but I think I learnt a lot about my limits as a writer, and even grew a bit. Well, I hope so.

There have been a lot of labels thrown around for the recent spate of supernatural novels with current settings. How would you define your series? What kinds of books were you inspired by?

Urban fantasy, without a doubt. It fits comfortably in the genre, I think. But then again, what do authors know about their own stuff? It’s firmly grounded in the urban spaces of Brisbane, and without that setting the tone would be utterly different. As for inspiration, a bit of Nick Earls, a touch of John Birmingham and a rather large splash of Fritz Leiber’s novels (any of them), Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and 30-odd years of reading fantasy and science fiction of all sorts. These novels are about love and the city of Brisbane, but they’re my love song to the spec-fic genre as well.

Read the full interview in the November issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

INTERVIEW: Kate Holden on ‘The Romantic’ (Text)

Andrea Hanke talks to Kate Holden about her new memoir The Romantic, a follow-up to In My Skin.

I read that The Romantic originally started out as a novel. How did it evolve and how do you think this has influenced the style of the book—for example, the decision to write it in the third person?

The memoir was originally going to be the last third of a tripartite novella work, but soon took on the dimensions of a full-length book which put paid to that idea. Even after the first full draft I was considering how to fictionalise the protagonist, give ‘her’ a different character and borrow the real-life events for a narrative contrived on the themes of my real experience. But it wouldn’t work: skewing even one element threw the whole thing out of balance, particularly the emotional truth. However the third-person perspective remains and presents a critical distancing which is, I’m told, unusual in a memoir.

In The Romantic you travel to Europe to discover yourself—a rite of passage for many Australians. Do you think this experience—which can often be a lonely one, so far away from family and friends—is an effective way for people to gain a better understanding of themselves? Do you think you could have made the same discoveries about yourself living in Melbourne?

In In My Skin I was alone in Melbourne, and often fugitive—in Italy I was alone too, still looking for a safe place. I needed freedom from the humiliation I’d felt as an addict, and a chance to re-make myself. The amnesiac anonymity of overseas is attractive to many travelers.But it is frightening also. I do think solitude is clarifying, though it reminds us all the time of how much we need other people. Travel is a test as well as a solace, but one well worth taking.

Most of the sexual encounters you describe in In My Skin were in the context of your profession as a sex worker. Was it harder to write about personal encounters and relationships in The Romantic?

I was terribly, terribly conflicted about portraying my personal relationships, not for my own sake but for that of the privacy of my ex-partners. Fortunately they gave me permission—or at least forgiveness. I am a compulsive over-sharer and already used to having exposed my sexuality in writing but there were moments when I wondered if I should just skip over something truly intimate—and then realised that that instinct meant I should probably share it, because that’s where the good—and empathetic—material is. Everyone’s had relationships so I try to present mine as candidly as possible in the hope that others can relate.

Through your Age column and various public speaking events, you’ve developed a public profile—particularly in Melbourne. How does it feel to encounter strangers who know such intimate details about your life?

Just today I was recognised by my postman! I never know what to say when strangers say they’ve read my work, but I suspect I am more disconcerted than they are, and I try to remember why I chose to be revealing in the first place. Readers seem to be able to separate my writing persona from my real one. And I am always amazed how warmly people respond to my written character. Those who don’t like me don’t bother to say hello. But I am humbled by the sweetness of readers, and how my candour seems to invite their own.

What are you working on now?

I’ve got my Age column to write, and I’m prodding away at a draft of a novel, and making notes on a possible non-fiction book. I’d also like to do more short stories. But right now I’m preparing to do promotion for The Romantic, and I know I’ll have little concentration for writing while that’s on. I feel lucky, excited, and anxious all at the same time!

Andrea Hanke’s review of The Romantic appears in the current issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

INTERVIEW: Monica McInerney on ‘At Home with the Templetons’ (Michael Joseph)

Monica McInerney spent six months researching stage fright, Irish surf schools and much more for her latest novel, she tells Rachel Wilson.

At Home with the Templetons, like all your novels, deals with family dynamics. What particular dynamics were you trying to explore in this novel and how do they differ from your previous books?

Families of all shapes and sizes fascinate me, but in my previous books the story focused on one family each time. What I wanted to do with this novel was bring two very different families—the seven unruly Templetons and the smaller unit of Nina Donovan and her son Tom—into each other’s orbit, with good and bad consequences. I also wanted to touch on issues such as jealousy in its many and damaging forms, the lasting impact of grief, the different aspects of motherhood and marriage, sibling rivalry and sibling loyalty, contrasting parenting styles, family secrets and lies, all against a background as rich in comedy and drama as possible.

It’s been three years since your last novel and I have read that you undertake extensive research before completing each one. Could you describe how you prepared for this book?

The starting point was visiting as many stately homes in Australia, Ireland and the UK as I could to help make my fictional Templeton Hall as authentic as possible. As the writing unfolded, I researched the antiques trade;  homeschooling; the Australian gold rush of the 1850s; architecture, interior design and clothing from that time; Captain Cook; stage fright; selective mutism; alternative therapies; the nanny industry; life as a freelance illustrator and painter; cricket; Irish surf schools; alcoholism and the rehab industry; spinal injuries; yabbying; and children’s television (though my own time working on the Here’s Humphrey children’s TV program in the 1980s helped there). I used the internet or read books or watched films on many of the different subjects but the best source of detail for me was talking to people who had first-hand experience of what I was writing about. It’s those fragments of fact that add the real colour to the story, I always hope. I also visited (or had previously visited) nearly every location mentioned in the book— Castlemaine and the Victorian gold fields, London (including Lord’s Cricket Ground), Melbourne, San Francisco, Chicago and Woodstock, Illinois, Auckland, Whitby in Yorkshire, the Isle of Skye, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Italy, France, Sligo in Ireland …

Could you describe your approach to writing and your working regimen?

I spend about six months plotting in my head before I sit at the computer and start writing. There’s usually an overlap between my books. I had the idea for At Home with the Templetons about three months before I finished Those Faraday Girls. Similarly, I had the idea for what will be my next book halfway through the Templetons. I aim for 2000 words a day minimum in the early stages of writing, getting very attached to the word-count button. A day always comes when the word count is irrelevant, when all I want to do is be at the desk writing. The final six months are usually seven days a week. I edit as I write, and also show the manuscript to two people in the early stages, my husband, who is a journalist, and my younger sister, who is an editor. I completely trust their feedback, and their encouragement keeps me on track until the manuscript is as polished as I can make it before sending it to my publishers. I also love deadlines. They terrify me into finishing. Continue reading