Interview with Charlotte McConaghy (Part 3)


Sadly, this is the last installment of Charlotte’s interview. If you’ve enjoyed reading what she has to say, why not pop over to her website to check out what she’s up to, before she gets too popular to answer your questions or hear about how much you’re enjoying her novels. If you have a niece (or nephew), daughter, sister, roommate who is craving something now that Twilight is done, I highly recommend Miss McConaghy’s writing. It might just fill the hole left by Edward and Bella. I know it’s a big hole to fill, but still…

Miss McConaghy, do you find that your young age is an advantage or a disadvantage to your ‘author’ status?

I think the thing about writing for a particular audience is… to not write for a particular audience. I don’t set out to write for teens – I just write what I love, and hope that there are people who enjoy it – of course because I’m so young my books naturally fall into the category of young adult readers. I think that a lot of literature for kids really underestimates its target audience because everyone’s so focused on writing for teens, instead of just writing an awesome story for whoever likes it. And yes, I definitely have trouble getting taken seriously in the writing world because I’m almost a teenager myself, but I don’t really mind so much. ‘Status’ isn’t something you can really hope for anyway if your passion is for writing – it’s kind of a hermit’s job – unless you’re JK of course.

Who knows what the future holds! Any authors or books in particular that influenced your writing?

I really love Isobelle Carmody, Melina Marchetta, Guy Gavriel Kay, and have recently just fallen in love with Maggie Stiefvater because of her book Shiver.

What’s the absolute best thing about being published yourself?

Seeing my books in the bookshop, or hearing from people who’ve read either of them and really enjoyed them. That just makes my day.

Best advice for budding writers?

I know its super cliched but don’t ever give up! Finish something! Even if you get to the end and don’t like it, its a really good exercise in discipline to actually finish something you’ve started. Once you’ve got a draft done, make sure its as good as it can be, and then start sending it out. Rejections are an inevitability, but you also never know who might read your stuff and love it. Don’t get disheartened. And the big rule: don’t write something just because it happens to be popular at the time. Write about what you love, and what you’re passionate about. If you stick to that rule, its the most rewarding job in the world. I plan to be doing it for the rest of my life.

So since you’re sticking with writing – what’s in the works for you in the near future?

At the moment I’m working on finishing Book 3, then I’ll get straight into Book 4. Beyond that I’ve also got a few other stand-alone novels which I’d like to publish and release – the more the better! I love working on several things at once so I can jump between them depending on my mood. And of course, the more books I release, the closer I’ll come to being able to live off them. I’m sick of my clothes shop job!

And finally, if you had wings for a day, what would you do with them?

I’d use them to seduce a really cute boy. Wings are irresistible. 😉

Haha, good to know there’s still a bit of the everyday teen in the famous author. Thanks to Charlotte – ’twas a pleasure, and a special thanks to Black Dog Books as well.

Interview with Charlotte McConaghy (Part 1)

As I said a couple of posts back, Aussie girls are flying the flag for YA angel fiction. I was lucky enough to score an indepth chat with the brilliant (and incredibly youthful) Charlotte McConaghy recently, where she weighed in on her Strangers of Paragor series, and why wings are just so. darn. HOT.

Big fan of the Strangers of Paragor series, right here. But in 25 words or less, describe what the trilogy is really about, as if to someone who’s never heard of it before:

The series is about six teenagers from Earth who find a portal into a world called Paragor. There they find a world in crisis – a violent conqueror has taken over, and the people need help defeating him. The books are very romantic adventure epics with a whole host of characters – good and bad.

What made you decide to vary the perspectives of the six main characters, rather than simply have one main protagonist?

Varying the perspective allows us to have a much wider vision of Paragor on the whole. We meet more characters, go on more adventures and experience different aspects of the world and its inhabitants. I wanted each of the characters to have their own voice in order to enrich the story. I love having lots of characters and plot-lines to sink my teeth into. That way when they converge at the end it makes for a big finale!

So come on then, which character is you?

Honestly – none of them! I can’t write myself into any books, nor do I base characters on people I know. They’re all completely and totally made up – its the only way I can make them interesting enough. 😉

I totally know what you’re saying – all my friends are boring too (ha!). Anyways, the world of Paragor is quite intricate. What did you draw on as inspiration for your world-building?

Well first I started with my map. I drew it out and decided on how many countries I wanted to have, and the differences between them. Then I figured out how many characters I wanted, their names, and a few little traits for each. I knew I wanted the world to be medieval in style, so I based my guidelines around that. Then all the little bits and pieces just sort of happened when i started writing the story. To be honest I don’t spend a whole lot of time world-building – I like to just put in what the story needs, and then let the reader imagine the rest, otherwise it can be a bit of an information overload.

So, when you first had the idea for Arrival, did you expect it to branch out into a trilogy from the very beginning?

Actually, I always had in mind that it would be a trilogy, but now that I’ve finished writing the third book, I’ve realised that I can’t possibly fit it all into three, so I’m trying to convince my publishers to let me do four books… here’s hoping!

I’d love an extra book in the series! You can never have too much fantasy. What is it about the fantasy genre that appeals to your writing instinct?

Fantasy, for me, is the perfect canvas for expressing human emotions. You can create these wild situations that push the characters to feel and act in ways they wouldn’t otherwise. And it allows us to escape into a world that’s completely different to our own, where anything can happen and there are no rules to what we can imagine.

Why, in your view, do you think angels are so interesting to a YA audience in particular?

A creature that is quintessentially perfect and good in every way becomes really captivating when it shows its flaws. That’s why a ‘dark angel’ is so interesting – there’s something exciting about the idea of power and conflict within an unearthly being. And when a creature like that is interested in a simple human, it’s even more exciting, because it raises the idea of love that is beyond what mortals can experience – love that goes against what they’re supposed to feel.

Put more simply – I reckon a person with wings is super sexy.

***

Charlotte, it’s like we’re twins. But I’m the less talented one.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my chat with Charlotte, where we focus on her second book, Descent, and she pretty much steals all my favourite movies for her own.

Angels in YA Literature (Part 2) – Closer to Godliness

An article in The Guardian, published April 2010, discusses Philip Pullman as a possible trendsetter for the current onslaught of angels in YA fiction. One of the voices of the article claims that “on the ladder that goes up from the mushroom to God, angels are one rung above us”– angels are seen as superior to vampires because they are superior to humans and thus, are “more fertile ground” for the inspired author and the greedy YA reader.

In the second book of the His Dark Materials trilogy, Pullman introduces a pair of supernatural lovers in the form of homosexual angels, who meet with the tween protagonists in one of the parallel worlds featuring prominently in the trilogy. Whilst the angels are not major characters in the series, their presence is significant not only for the connotations to Milton’s Paradise Lost (Pullman cites the story as one of his major inspirations), but also because their description is a massive departure from previous religion connotations of winged beings. The ‘nouveau angels’ from Pullman’s books in their own unusual manner and description express a need for companionship, and feelings of desire and love – previously human-only traits.

Angels in YA literature, as touched on in Part 1 have become like teen humans, hormones-a-racing and usually with something to prove. It should come as no surprise then, that teen protagonists in these supernatural novels are now being written by their contemporaries – teens themselves.

On the homefront, Alexandra Adornetto, at the tender age of 17 has three books to her name from when she signed a publishing deal with publishing giants HarperCollins, and is now embarking on an entirely different journey with Halo, due for release later this year. The twist lies in the way the angels in this book are portrayed – they’re not the tortured, dark supernaturals we’ve come to expect, but rather have their own more ‘heavenly’ reasons for investing themselves in earth’s affairs.

But Alexandra’s not the only teen Aussie on the brink of international angel fiction fame. When I first picked up Charlotte McConaghy’s Arrival (Book 1, Strangers of Paragor) mid-2009, I’ll admit it was total cover lust, and not much else. It was only when I’d finished reading, and completely fallen in love with the characters and the world-building of Paragor, that I discovered the author finished writing the book when she was 16! The heavily-anticipated second book in the series by Miss McConaghy, aptly titled Descent, has been released this month. While angels play a fairly small part in Arrival, there’s the promise of more angel action in the later books, portraying angels as the hero messengers – not so far from its original religious context as one would expect from a teen growing up in the age of Twilight, Hush,Hush and Fallen.

The overwhelming feeling one garners from these books is that new Australian YA angels in fiction don’t fit the Edward Cullen mould. They seem, strangely, to be moving away from the tortured and tragic Byronic teen love interest. With Aussie teens themselves weighing in on the heavenly side of the angel craze, the character of the angel in literature lends itself to a new interpretation – is the craving for angel fiction in YA circles not in fact a generation looking for the new vampire, but rather the evolving natural rebellion of a generation in need of a character closer to God?

A touch of magic

The magical world of Enid Blyton has been reimagined for a new generation with the ‘Enchanted World’ series (from February). Hardie Grant Egmont’s marketing manager, Natasha Besliev, says: ‘This is not just a new fairy series. The classic Blyton magic, solid storylines, well-rounded characters and strong elements of friendship are the perfect recipe for a new collectable series on which both parents and children can agree.’

A comic adventure story of a reluctant knight, a fantastical zoo, and a sorcerer’s assistant is The Zoo of Magical and Mythological Creatures by Sam Bowring (Pan, March). Also in March from The Five Mile Press is a companion to the bestselling Dragonology called Dragon Diary (Dougald A Steer).

A&U is ‘very excited’ to welcome Justine Larbalestier with the ‘hilarious, original, enchanting’ How to Ditch your Fairy—‘urban teenage humour at its best’.

Maryann Ballytyne from Black Dog Books says ‘We have the beginnings of a fantasy trilogy—“The Strangers of Paragor”. The first book is Arrival (March). The trilogy is written by an extremely talented young woman Charlotte McConaghy and is really pushing all the fantasy genre buttons.’