Hi everyone! I’m pleased to announce today’s interview with Karen Foxlee, one of my favourite Aussie writers. I wrote a review of her first novel, The Anatomy of Wings, here. She writes contemporary YA so far, and the details in her books are what amaze me every time. Seriously a great storyteller. Anyway, enough gushing – on with the interview!
1) Both The Anatomy of Wings and The Midnight Dress have tragedies at their centre. Is there something that draws you to tragedy or can you see yourself writing other types of novels?
I am definitely drawn to tragedy. I’m not sure what that says about me. I like exploring the dual nature of people, what is it about people that tips them over the edge into doing something really wrong, or, as in the case of both The Anatomy of Wings and The Midnight Dress, what leads us to take that one step too close to danger. I have a thing for last moments, for unravelling back from them or forward. Also, the consequences of these events, how they ripple through towns and shatter people and families really.
Having said all that, I don’t think I’ll always have deaths and disappearances of young girls at the centre of my novels though. The YA novel I am working on (although it has been shelved for a little while again at present) seems to have at its heart a story about friendship and possibly mental illness and a little magic realism. No one has died or disappeared yet!!
2) The Midnight Dress is written in third person present. I was dubious about this but grew to love it – what made you decide to write it in this format?
The initial rough drafts of The Midnight Dress were written in first person from the point of view of Rose. They were hideously bad. I could never get the voice right. It was too young, too old, too wrong. So I did what I do best…I gave up, for a while. I went away and wrote Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy (out next year- a wonderful middle grade fantasy novel) in third person. In a way I was practicing…and rekindling my love of writing I think. I came back to The Midnight Dress and started writing in third person present. It felt so right to have the reader right there, immediately in the action, everything unfolding in the present.
3) What tips would you give to other Aussie writers out there who are trying to get published?
Don’t think about getting published. I don’t mean that you are not going to get published, just don’t make that the only reason you write. Think about your stories. Love them and agonise over them and try and work them out and make them the best they can possibly be. Whenever you fail, pick yourself up and try again. Trust your own instincts, write about what you want to write, don’t chase trends.
4) What are your favourite and least favourite parts of writing?
My least favourite part about writing is when I don’t know what happens. When a story is just a collection of ideas and characters and places and objects, but nothing is happening and there is not structure or narrative drive. All my stories start out like that. I love it when it all starts to work. When everything starts to fall into place and I can almost hear the gears grinding to life. When it starts to “operate”. Getting to that point is shocking, after that point it is bliss.
5) I saw a comment on your Facebook page about NaNoWriMo (no stalking, promise). Does that mean there’s another novel in the works?
I am working on another fantasy middle grade novel at the moment. I’m lost and might never find my way out of it (or that’s how it feels). A young adult novel is begging to be completed after that. There’s a queue. There’s an adult novel waiting very patiently at the back.
6) And finally, The Anatomy of Wings is told from a younger perspective, but both it and The Midnight Dress have older tones – what was your purpose for this?
I really didn’t set out consciously to tell the story of Beth in The Anatomy of Wings from the point of view of a ten year old but when I found that voice the whole story just seemed to work. And I grew to love telling that story from that perspective! The idea of exploring those ideas, quite dark and tragic, the downfall of a girl in an outback mining town, through these innocent eyes, seemed the only way it could be told. It softens some of the harshness of that story and makes it sadder… I think.
Again, thanks to Karen Foxlee for letting me interview her!
Karen Foxlee was born in Mount Isa, Queensland, in 1971. She has worked most of her adult life as a registered nurse. She has a Bachelor of Arts with a major in creative writing and lives in Gympie. In 2006, Karen was awarded the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for Best Emerging Author, an award that resulted in the publication of The Anatomy of Wings. Her most recent novel is The Midnight Dress. You can follow her on Facebook here.