I had the privilege of being interviewed by Ann Harth for the July 15, 2014 issue of Buzz Words, a twice monthly e-mag for children’s writers and illustrators. It contains news, reviews, articles, interviews and information on opportunities for writers, including conferences and festivals. Some of Ann’s interview questions delved into my writing process for Racing the Moon, while others touched on my experience as a playwright:
Your ability to make a reader feel the essence of 1930’s Sydney is a gift. You mention in your notes that you were inspired by stories from your uncle who grew up during this time period. This would have been invaluable, but what other kind of research did you have to do to recreate this feeling?
I immersed myself in the period by reading as much as I could (mostly non-fiction), visiting libraries and museums, doing online research, and keeping my eye out for interesting info. I also found old photos, YouTube videos and listening to oral histories very useful, even though what I used in my writing was only a very small amount of what I actually researched.
Are most of the places in your book real or did you use some creative licence for your settings?
Most of the places are real but I used creative licence with St Bart’s, the Farm and Joe’s address: 51 Abbey Rd, none of which exist.
How did you develop these relationships?
The family relationships developed over time with each subsequent edit.
Some of your secondary characters are fascinating. Do these people, or some of their traits, resemble people you know?
I developed my characters by selecting personality traits and behaviours inspired from a range of people that I might have met, read about or seen on TV or in movies.
I felt that you handled Brother Felix’s attraction to boys with great sensitivity. Was he a character that you had always planned on including, or did this situation develop as the story did?
Brother Felix was planned from the start, although he did undergo a couple of name changes. It was also very difficult to come up with the words that Joe uses to describe what was happening.
Did the story develop around the setting or was the story envisaged before the setting?
I had a strong idea at the start as to how the story would develop and then let Joe tell the story. I also reviewed the structure every now and then, making adjustments to build tension, heighten the drama or bring in some humour.
As an experienced playwright, can you name a few differences between writing a stage play and writing a novel?
A play relies on the director’s and actors’ interpretations of the dialogue and stage directions, and is a visual, aural and sensory presentation of the written play. With a novel, you have to create this sensory world through words on a page and there is no intermediary to interpret the script for readers. For me, it is harder to write dialogue for a play, but I also find it challenging to create characters and their world in a novel because of the absence of visual and other sensory cues, everything depends on the language used.
Can you tell us what inspired you to get into playwriting?
I’ve always loved the theatre and discovered writing short plays to be an excellent way to start learning the craft. It’s also a lot of fun working with directors and actors and seeing your own plays performed.
What was the first play you ever wrote? Was it performed?
The first play that I wrote was an adaptation of Oliver Twist when I was in 5th class, and it was performed by the class on the school stage. The first play that I wrote as an adult was Driving Me Crazy, which was performed at the Favorite Shorts Festival in Armidale in 2009.
If you had one day a week when you couldn’t work or write, what would you do?
I’d go for a walk or ride a bike, do yoga, have lunch in a café, go to the movies or read a book, then a BBQ at home on the deck. Bliss!
(Ann Harth, Interview: Michelle Morgan, Buzz Words, July 15, 2014, pp 3-4)
Racing the Moon was also reviewed by Ann Harth in the February 6, 2014 issue of Buzz Words. You can read the review online at http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com/2014/02/racing-moon.html