Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Interview with Cecily Paterson

Today we are fortunate to have the author of Invisible with us to answer a few questions.  I am thrilled that she agreed to talk about her wonderful book with us.

How did you decide to have a deaf heroine?
Making Jaz deaf was actually driven by the plot. In order to have the 'big
reveal' at the end, I needed her to not understand how her father died. Most
kids pick these sorts of things up, but if she couldn't actually hear anyone
around the time of his death (she lost her hearing aids in the confusion)
she would have a much smaller chance of understanding exactly what was going

You seem to know a lot about deafness. How did you learn so much?
Here I have to acknowledge that I probably appear to know more than I
actually do. I've known a few people who've had to wear hearing aids,
although only one of them was deaf to the same extent as Jazmine. I spoke to
an audiologist friend of mine who specialises in hearing aids for children
and gained some knowledge that way, but the rest of it was just trying to
imagine how life would be if you couldn't hear a lot of what was going on
around you.

Did you know that Jaz was going to be ok when you started writing or did
that just evolve as you wrote?
Yeah, I knew she'd be okay. She had to be!
She has strength inside her. It just needed to find its way out. Besides, I
write to a plan. I always have the end in mind when I start.

Shalini is a bully in every sense.  Were you ever bullied in school?
Again, yes. I went to boarding school when I was 11 and had a terrible first
year. The girls weren't as obviously tough and mean as Shalini and her crew,
but they didn't have to be to make my life miserable. It's worse at boarding
because your enemies have access to you day and night. Class time actually
felt like a break for me. The real hassles came after meals and on weekends.
Girls can be pretty mean. And when it goes on all the time, with no real
let-up, it can give you a lot of internal stress.

I loved the dynamic among Liam's group of friends.  Did you have a group
like that when you were in school?

I would have loved to, but sadly no. Because of the bullying in Grade 6, I
spent a lot of my school years feeling that I was 'tolerated' rather than
'liked'. I gained more confidence after school when I realised that I could
actually be myself and hang out with people who were being themselves as
well. Liam's group is more like the awesome people I hung around with at

I liked the contrast between Jaz and Gabby's adjustment to school life. Tell
us a little about that.

Jazmine sat on the edges, watching and waiting. She inched in, taking
painfully slow steps, constantly battling her own doubts. Gabby, on the
other hand, bounced in with her arms open wide and claimed people as her
instant friends. (I once was friends with a girl called Rachel who did
exactly the same thing. All of a sudden we were besties and I hardly knew
how it had happened!) Jazmine and Gabby are incredibly different, but in one
way, they're exactly the same: neither of them show other people their real
selves. They just use different self-defence mechanisms.

Tell us a little about your writing process. Do you write every day?
I have two designated writing times per week for my novels - both when my
three year old is at preschool, but I do 'work' at the computer every day,
either blogging (www.cecilypaterson.com), answering readers' letters, doing
social media or trying to promote my books in some way. I have to be totally
alone and quiet to write my books. My husband is not allowed in the room and
I can't bear music or the radio.

How did your characters come into your life?
I'm actually pretty hopeless at making up people from scratch. I do best
when I can base the person on someone I know or have seen in real life.
Jazmine came from a girl I know called Mollie. She was so shy that when her
mum told me that she loved drama and 'came to life on the stage' I couldn't
believe it. 'There's my story,' I thought, and the seeds for Invisible were
planted. Coco and Charlie Franks in my new book, Love and Muddy Puddles, are
based on more real-life people - twins who moved from Sydney to the country.
And the book I'm working on at the moment is based on a trio of year 6 girls
I spied in a choir performance. Their body language was so intriguing that I
thought, "I bet there's a story about who's boss in that little group," and
Abby Smart was born.
By the way, there are some photographs of my real life inspirations on my
website at www.cecilypaterson.com.

Tell us about your most recent book
Love and Muddy Puddles is quite different from Invisible. To be honest, I
needed a break from all the intensity of Jazmine's life, so I wrote
something that made me laugh a little more.

Coco Franks is a trying to make a name for herself away from her twin
sister, Charlie, who is better than Coco at, well, everything. Coco decides
that fashion and popularity can be her specialty and works hard to get into
the popular clique at her school. When her dad decides on the spur of the
moment to move the whole family to the country, Coco is devastated. Her life
is about to be ruined
and no one seems to be listening to her.

Love and Muddy Puddles is about real friends, real beauty and real ways to
fall off horses and break your ankles. I enjoyed putting Coco into some
pretty hair-raising and icky situations (think leeches on her bottom and a
lot of horse poo) and I loved seeing how her eyes were opened up to get a
much better picture of herself at the end.

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