An interview with Laurine Croasdale

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Laurine Croasdale lives in Sydney, Australia. She has published three fiction titles for University of Queensland Press (Trivia Man, Red Golf Balls, What Truly Counts), two books for Pan Macmillan (Surf School and Surf Sisters) and a range of non-fiction titles for the ABC and Simon & Schuster. She was also a script writer on the first season of Hi 5 and regularly reviews books on ABC radio. You can find out more about Laurine here and check out her website for more about her latest novels, Surf School and Surf Sisters.

Laurine was lovely enough to answer my interview questions (and be very honest and funny).

1. List the books you've written. Which one are you most proud of? Which was the hardest to write?
The Pocket Guide to Sydney
The Play School Party Book
The ABC Favourite Fun Book I and II
The ABC Big Book of Board Games
Trevor in TV Land
Trivia Man
Red Golf Balls
What Truly Counts
Surf School
Surf Sisters
My first and last YA novels were the toughest. Trivia Man, my first one, was tough because I had no idea what I was doing and was also the moment when I had to try and realise my dream (or shut up about it for eva!) and the last book, Surf Sisters was hard because I’d never written a sequel before and discovered that it was a whole new bag of tricks.

I love all my books, they are good children who sit tidily on my shelf and smile at me on days when I am trying to work. Red Golf Balls is probably the closest story to things that happened in my life. It is about a brother and sister caught up in a bushfire. My parents have nearly lost their house twice in bushfires and my brother’s house was burnt down in a bushfire a few years ago. The people in the street where I grew up (and who all lived through the fire in Red Golf Balls) loved the fact that I wrote their stories and they keep a copy of my book in their ‘Street Archive’. I’m proud that they see themselves in those terrible days and feel my story did them justice.

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)
Loyal, funny, impatient

3. Complete this sentence: My teenage years were...
when I fried myself on the beach like a chip, fell in love with the ocean and a boy (one lasted the other didn’t), slept with four girls in a double bed at my friend’s house at the beach every weekend, and learnt to drive a car, drink really bad wine, sing too loudly at parties and dance around my handbag at the pub.

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?
Being a brain surgeon was always the obvious path for me as I was good with a drill and saw and had a free twenty years to study. Unfortunately I lacked the attention span required and thought that being a struggling, poor writer would be so much more fun. And I was right. I think! There were always stories buzzing around inside of me like bees in a jar but it took me a long time to believe in myself enough to put something out there for publication. You can learn a lot of the technical skills for writing but self belief can be a struggle, as can the discipline.

5. Who were your biggest inspirations and idols growing up and today?
I have had some great writing teachers and read many, many pieces of writing that make me want to grab a pen and start my next book but for the long haul the people who inspire me most are my family, friends and the writing community. Kid’s lit writers in Australia are a really supportive bunch and they all inspire me the way they keep at it and even when things are tough for them they have a kind word for someone else or the generosity to praise someone else’s success.

6. Who are your favourite authors and what novels do you love best?
This question wants me to lie down with a wet towel over my forehead! I have MANY favourite novels and I often love them for different reasons, and sometimes it’s because they have one perfect sentence. But here are a few -
Wind in the Willows is a book I love. The language is beautiful it is made to be read aloud. I loved Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants because it was a fresh concept and the friendship aspect is often overlooked between girls.
Others who deserve a mention are: Dosteovsky, Katherine Mansfield, Henry James, Willa Catha, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Gary Paulson, Jessica Anderson, Elizabeth Gilbert, Alison McGhee, Sarah Dessen, Jennifer Johnston, Ann Patchett, Glen David Gold, Caroline B Cooney.
Oz writers: Cath Crowley, Margo Lanagan, Felicity Pulman, Simmone Howell, Margaret Wild, Emily Rodda, Scott Westerfeld, Anthony Eaton, Jacqueline McKenzie, Tara June Winch, Maureen McCarthy.

This is a pretty random selection and would change next week.

7. If you were in a novel (any one you’ve read), who would you be?
There are plenty of people I would like to be. Stories are always a good way to walk in someone else’s shoes. One story I read last year that really appealed to me is called Apache by Tanya Landman. I love the traditional life, art and culture of native north Americans and the Apache people were one of the most inspiring. Siki, the young woman in this story is strong, independent and courageous and I liked that about her. It would be great to step into her shoes during a bountiful summer in Apache country when peace reigned and I had already learnt to ride a horse…

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)

No, no imaginary friends but it’s never too late!

9. Complete this sentence: My life outside of writing is...
busy, full of joy and learning new things.

10. If you were a superhero, what would be your name, power and costume?
Well absolutely NOTHING in lycra that’s for sure.
I think I would be a massive tree - that way I could move around the world offering shade, shelter and food where it’s needed and calling in the rain clouds for the desert regions. I also loved The Magic Faraway Tree’s slippery dip so I am thinking there would be one of those inside my trunk including the exploding sherbet biscuits I’m still trying to find the recipe for.

11. Xena Warrior Princess or Sabrina the Teenage Witch?
Let me see… would I like to be running through damp forests vac packed into a leather netball tunic having sword fights with ogres or live with a talking cat mixing the boundaries of the real and magic worlds? Hmmm, definitely the latter, although I am not sure about being a teenager again.

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 to read Twilight but kept getting distracted by other books. Not sure if it is a story for me but all power to Stephanie Meyer for revamping the vampire and making pointy teeth sexy again.
As a writer you always want your books to be loved and read, nothing gives you more pleasure but I see that as Secret Reader/Writer Business not a competition between writers.

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