Felicity Pulman is... Morgana, shapeshifter extraordinnaire!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Australian author of historical fiction 9amongst other genres) for teenagers, Felicity Pulman was kind enough to be interviewed here on Hey, Teenager of the Year, from whence no sane author has ever returned. Read a very interesting About Felicity on her website - she grew up in Africa! Aspiring writers, check out her writing tips.

1. List the books you've written. Which one are you most proud of? Which was the hardest to write?

I loved writing the Shalott trilogy and working with those archetypal characters from Arthurian legend - and those books were the hardest to write because when I started I knew nothing about medieval time and very little about the legend. I just started with the question: what if it's possible to go back in time and save the life of 'the Lady of Shalott' and so change the fate of Camelot? I also love best what I'm currently working on: in this case the Janna Mysteries.
In order of publication: Three's a Crowd - teen romance for the Dolly Fiction imprint. The next three are for younger readers:
Wally the Water Dragon - about a head-banging water dragon that's taken up residence in our garden (younger readers)
Surfing the Future - When Haley sees a dead girl lying on a beach, can he change the future?
Ghost Boy - a time slip adventure invoking the grisly history of the Quarantine Station in Sydney: a novel about identity, belonging and having the courage to face your fears. (There's a special Ghost Boy tour up at the QS for schools studying the novel. What a huge thrill to see my book 'come to life'!)
The Shalott trilogy: a timeslip to the court of Arthur at Camelot - and five teenagers who try to change a legend but rewrite their own destiny instead.
Guinevere Jones, Books 2 & 3 - based on the TV series which invoke the legend of King Arthur and Merlin.
The Janna Mysteries: Y/A medieval crime/romance. Janna goes in search of her unknown father hoping to avenge her mother's death and bring a killer to justice - and finds crimes, mysteries and true love along her journey.

2. What three words would you use to describe yourself? (Don’t use the words ‘nice’, ‘pretty’ or ‘good’ because your Grade Six teacher will read this and be very disappointed)

Stubborn, ambitious, loving - and also nice, pretty and good (I wish!)

3. Complete this sentence: My teenage years were...

spent incarcerated in a draconian boarding school at the beginning, and making the most of my freedom once I came out. I was a wild child: but I learned a lot from my mistakes!

4. Have you always wanted to write for young people? Or did you set out to become a brain surgeon and wind up stumbling down this path? Was the road to publication rocky for you?

I always wanted to be a famous something: dancer, musician, doctor - it varied depending on my age. Even though I've always written stories, I never thought of it as a 'real career' until I had a mid-life crisis and went back to school to do the HSC and then on to do a communications degree. (Yes, life really can begin at 40!)

5. Who were your biggest inspirations and idols growing up and today?

In my teen years we thought Elvis Presley & then the Beatles were the greatest (although I secretly preferred classical music. Sssh - I still do.) The people who inspire me today are those who work selflessly for the benefit of others, helping eg street kids and the homeless, and also those musicians, singers, writers and other artistes who bring beauty and pleasure to our world and who encourage us to question the true nature of things..

6. Who are your favourite authors and what novels do you love best?

I loved Enid Blyton as a child, and I think JK Rowling has taken on her mantle - writing fantastic page-turning stories that people love to read. My favourite books are two timeslip fantasies: Connie Willis' The Doomsday Book and Stephen Rivelle's A Booke of Days. But I also really admire writers like Helen Garner and Jodi Picoult, for their courage in writing about difficult topics; I loved The Book Thief and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (and I won't go and see the movie - it's much too clear already in my head.) And The Golden Compass trilogy by Philip Pullman (no relation!) And I read heaps of crime novels by a variety of English, American and Australian authors. I am a bookaholic!

7. If you were in a novel (any one you’ve read), who would you be?

Elizabeth Bennett, so long as Colin Firth was Mr Darcy.

8. Did you have an imaginary friend as a child? (Or today? Don’t worry; we won’t call the men in white coats on you)

Yes, I did. His name was Julian and he was much braver than I was (this is pre-women's lib!) Now, my imaginary friends are all the characters in my novels - I talk to them and they talk to me. And sometimes they're more real to me than my own family!

9. Complete this sentence: My life outside of writing is...

very full. I have a loving relationship with my husband, two children and three grandchildren -with another on the way. I have a great group of friends both inside and outside the writing world. I enjoy doing lots of different things: reading, listening to music, surfing, snorkeling, bush walking, holidays, dining out - I feel very lucky and very blessed.

10. If you were a superhero, what would be your name, power and costume?

I LOVE this question! I've given it a great deal of thought and I think I'd like to be called Morgana (based on my writing of Morgan le Fay in my Shalott trilogy.) I would look like any noble woman in medieval time except I would have the power to change my appearance (young beauty / old hag) and also be able to shapeshift (anything from a robin to a wolf - or even a tree if necessary) and even to vanish. I would be able to speak to creatures, and have a healing touch. I would also like the power to sing my enemies to death!

11. Xena Warrior Princess or Sabrina the Teenage Witch?

Morgana: see above.

12. Have you read Twilight? Did you enjoy it? Do you secretly believe your own books are better? (I know you do, don’t try to lie…)

I tried, I really did, but I couldn't get into it. So yes, while there's plenty of action and adventure and romance in my novels, there are other layers too. My central characters are mostly strong women who act independently and with courage to fulfil their destiny (a bit of wish fulfilment going on here!) The Shalott trilogy and the Janna Mysteries are very much 'coming of age' novels in which the characters learn much about the world and about themselves, so I'm raising questions of identity, morality - how to live your life to the best of your ability, and faith - in yourself, your community, a higher being? All those big questions: why am I here, where do I come from, what is my purpose ...? Even though my novels might be set in other times and other worlds, I think every teenager's journey follows a similar path to my own characters.

Thank you, Felicity!

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