An Interview with Sue Lawson

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sue Lawson is an Australian author of wonderful novels for teenagers and children, including Finding Darcy and After, which was published this month by Black Dog Books. I got to review After recently, and you can read that review here. I think After is only to be released here in Aus, but if you're overseas and interested in getting it, you can always order it from one of these websites.

Many thanks to Sue and Kristen at Black Dog Books for the interview.

1. What was the inspiration behind After?
The idea for After was sparked by a newspaper article I read about four years ago. That story stayed with me and sparked a heap of questions, not so much about the incident, but what happens after an incident like that. How does a child/family recover from something like that? What impact does it have on their lives?
Can you live with that secret burning away inside of you?
I'm being evasive deliberately so as not to give away the story line.

2. What's the most rewarding thing about writing?
There's so much to love about writing. I love developing an idea from a series of questions into a story, watching how the characters develop and grow, and becoming lost in that world. There's nothing better, especially when it all comes together.
As well as loving the writing, the feedback from readers is fantastic. It's great to hear their perspective on your story. I'm always blown away by what readers notice and take away from the book - sometimes it's things i haven't considered.

3. You've written a number of novels for teenagers and younger readers, but I think this is your first novel from the perspective of a boy. Do you have to get into a different mindset when you write as a boy, or is it just different with every character?
Actually, this is my fifth novel with a boy protagonist.
My first four books, picture books, Jamie's Star and My Gran's Different and junior novels, Dragon's Tear and Ferret Boy, all have male lead characters.
After my first book with a female character Tessa, I had a run of female characters in the Diva Series, Allie McGregor's True Colours and Finding Darcy.
It doesn't matter if the character is male or female, I find the mindset is different for every character - depending on their background, personality, problem, needs and wants. It's weird, but each of my characters are real to me, to the point I miss them when I finish the book. But let's not tell too many people about that

4. What three words would you use to describe yourself?
Loving, loyal, and honest. (and funny! but not according to my 15 y-o)
And what three words would you use to describe your writing?
Boy! That's tough. Hmmm - honest, compassionate and real.

5. Complete this sentence: My teenage years were...
Turbulent, overweight and filled with self doubt.

6. 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?
Ahh, the career path. I wanted to write, but for a number of reasons, ending up teaching.
After three years as a teacher, I left to work in radio, where I stayed for 12 years (Radio was a complete hoot!). When we moved, I returned to teaching.
Amidst all of that, I also taught swimming, managed a gift shop and worked at the MCG.
The main reason I 'avoided' writing was, and this is tragic, I was scared I wouldn't be any good at it. Pathetic really.
It took a serious illness to make me face my fear and write. It was the best this that ever happened to me and now I'm doing what I absolutely love.
When I visit schools as an author, I urge students to follow their dreams and not let fear stop them from doing what they love.

7. Who were your biggest inspirations and idols growing up and today?
My greatest inspirations were close to home. My paternal grandfather believed in me and made me feel I could do anything, my maternal grandmother was the bravest woman I've known, my husband's aunt taught me about generosity and my husband and daughter's believe in me and support all that I am.
Then there are the teachers who had a huge impact in me - Mr Samuel, Mrs Hocking, Miss Woodburn, Mrs Phillips and Miss Brown.
My 'celebrity' heroes are an eclectic bunch.
John Lennon, Nelson Mandella, Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Jane Austin, Peter Garrett (when he was with Midnight Oil), Tolkien, Johnny Clegg (South Africian songwriter), William Blake and heaps of Collingwood footballers (it's an illness I can't shake!).

8. Who are your favourite authors and which novles are your all-time favourites?
My favourite authors are Tim Winton, Robert Drewe, JRR Tolkien, Amy Tan, Jodi Piccoult, David Metzenthen, John Marsden, James Moloney and Jackie French just to name a few.
And my favourite novels, in no particular order, are A Wrinkle In Time – Madeleine L’Engle, Dirt Music – Tim Winton, To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee, The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton, Catcher In The Rye – JD Salinger and Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

9. Complete this sentence: My life outside of writing is...
...fantastic, but busy - it's driving my daughter from piano to netball to school to netball to friends' houses, laughing, reading, footy, long walks and hot risotto on a winter's night.

10. If you were a superhero, what would be your name, power and costume?
Hmmm, superhero...this is tough!
Well, for one thing my costume wouldn't be made out of lycra! It would be something comfortable, probably purple, black or red, and it wouldn't cling to any part of me.
My super power? Probably talking! I love a chat! But I also like to help out, so I could be a resucer.
Perhaps I could be Chatter Woman, dashing about in my purple, red and black t-shirt and jeans.

Thank you Sue!

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