Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell & Fiona Wood

Take Three Girls (Pan Macmillan Australia) is a brilliant new novel written by three prominent Australian YA authors, Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood, each the creator of their own notable, highly acclaimed novels.

Fiona Wood, Simmone Howell, Cath Crowley Photo: Jake Nowakowski Herald Sun Weekend

I’m thrilled that all three authors join us on the blog. 

How did you meet and could you tell us something that surprises you about your co-authors?

CATH: I met Simmone on a road trip to a Lowther Hall writing camp. I didn’t have a car, and she gave me a lift. We talked all the way. I met Fiona when Pan Macmillan published the brilliant Six Impossible Things.

I am not surprised by their talent, but I’m in awe of it. I’m always surprised by their descriptions in writing. I read them and wonder how they came up with such beautiful sentences.

SIMMONE: Fiona and I met when we were both working on TV show The Secret Life of Us. I was Script Coordinator, she was writing an episode. I really liked her episode. Also, she shared her sandwich with me!

FIONA: Simmone introduced me to Cath, and she also suggested I show my manuscript for Six Impossible Things to her publisher, Pan Macmillan. I’m not exactly surprised any more but still impressed that both Cath and Simmone are such lateral creative thinkers. I’m much more inclined to choose a path and stay on it, while Cath and Simmone will more readily take a detour or write a new section of the map – so I love that; I need more of that in my writing practice.

Whose idea was the book and how could you consider putting aside writing time that could have been used for your own books to write Take Three Girls together?

CATH: We all wanted to write together. (At least, that’s how I remember it.) I was thrilled to be writing with two of my favourite authors. Take Three Girls took a long time because we were always able to put aside the joint book to work on our own projects.

SIMMONE: I can’t even remember which of us said we should write the book. I think we all laughed and then had a moment of, wait, YES! It was good to work on the book because it was contracted, and because it was fun. When I’m mid-way through writing a novel (as I always seem to be) any distraction will do. The writing of Take Three Girls was much easier than my current WIP maybe because the investment was split three ways.

FIONA: It was lovely to break from the usual solitude of writing. We agreed that we’d never put pressure on each other to put this project first – it had to fit around our other writing deadlines. If you build that in as a condition of the collaboration, then delays are not a problem. And we also said that our friendship comes first: if it stops being enjoyable, or it causes any friction, then we drop it. You do hear the occasional horror story of collaborations going wrong, but we weren’t going to let that happen.

It seems that this novel has been a long time coming. I first heard of its existence through the Leading Edge Books conference several years ago and have been waiting with great (and completely fulfilled) expectation. Why has it taken until now to reach us?

CATH: It has taken a long time! We agreed to let each other work on individual projects. (So Words in Deep Blue slowed us down!) But also, it takes time to write in collaboration. There’s a lot more talk, planning, juggling, rewriting.

SIMMONE: None of us stopped writing on other projects. It wasn’t like we could rip six months out of the calendar and work exclusively on the book. We refused to let it be a stressful exercise because that would have defeated the purpose, which was in some to give us each some relief from our own personal book hells.

FIONA: It definitely took longer than we had originally anticipated, but that has ended up being a strength. We had longer to develop and live with and get to know our characters, and the story itself evolved in ways it probably wouldn’t have if we’d had a clear run at writing it and finishing it more quickly. It took just as long to write as an individual novel because it’s not just a matter of dividing the work three ways, rather, you are engaging in an extended creative process of listening and responding to two other writers as you shape a world and story and themes together.


Where does the title come from?

SIMMONE: Just a little bit inspired by the 1960s UK TV show. The book was originally called Friends Anonymous, but then we found a dating website with the same name so had a rethink and did a bit of a poll.

Probably like all your readers, I was trying to guess who wrote which character – Clem, Kate and Ady – while I was reading (and I occasionally wondered if you were trying to put us off track by using some of each other’s signature traits). And the warmth and understanding makes me think you also have fallen in love with each other’s characters. Maybe you each wrote one character and then added to the other characters…

How did you collaborate on the writing process? Are you going to reveal who wrote what? 

SIMMONE: Ha! I don’t know about Cath and Fiona but I can’t really write like anyone but myself. I think we are pretty simpatico writers though … I wrote Clem, Cath wrote Kate, Fiona wrote Ady.

FIONA: One of the things that made our process very writer-friendly was that we each created a character – and wrote that character, and did all the plotting together. And we divided up the Wellness work sheets and PSST posts. So we developed an initial overall narrative outline and talked through our character arcs at a weekend away, then we would do further plotting and planning, chapter by chapter, go away and write our own characters, come together and read, talk, rethink, refine, replot. I think our writing styles do sit comfortably together, and we loved spending time with these three characters. And yes, I absolutely fell in love with Clem and Kate.

One of the characters, Kate, plays cello. How do you know so much about cello and loop-based performance?

CATH: I had some help! My niece, Esther, plays the cello. She told me about the double stops. ☺ But I adore Zoe Keating. If I could have any talent, I would be able to play like her. She stops my heart.

Ady is regarded as ‘Queen Bitch, according to school folklore’. She is much more than she seems (like the other girls) and is surprisingly perceptive about others. How do you show this?

FIONA: Because Ady is an artist, it felt natural to give her that perceptive quality: she really looks, really notices. I show that in her thoughts, and we offer the reader a dislocation between what Ady is thinking, and how others perceive her. Because our structure includes Wellness journal entries for each character this allowed me to give readers extra glimpses of how Ady’s understanding of Kate and Clem changes over the course of the narrative, for example.

Clem recognises that most girls are trying to be perfect. Why is she able to step away from looking svelte from swimming?

SIMMONE: I think she has a moment where she realises that she will never look how she wants to look, or how she thinks she’s supposed to look, and that there has to be more to her, and that there is more to her.

I love when the girls talk about their perfect days late in the novel. Kate’s is ‘writing music and playing music’, Ady’s is ‘playing with fabrics, dreaming up clothes that don’t look like other stuff’ and then Max cuts in to say her thousand perfect days ‘all involve books and movies and music’.

What are your perfect days?

CATH: My perfect day is filled with nothing – so there’s space to dream and write.

SIMMONE: My perfect days sees me far away, maybe seeing in real life something I’ve only read about.

FIONA: Mine would include a long sleep-in, a walk, some writing, some reading, some food, some solitude, and some family and friends time.

Thank you all for this wondrous YA novel about surprising friendship.

SIMMONE: You’re welcome!

FIONA: Thanks, Joy.

Australian YA Fiction: Meet Nova Weetman, author of Frankie and Joely

 

Frankie and JoelyMy upcoming YA column for the Weekend Australian profiles four new novels by Australian women. One of the books I selected for the column is Frankie and Joely (UQP) by Nova Weetman. Nova gives some fascinating insights into her work in the following interview.

What’s your background in books, Nova?

My first YA novel The Haunting of Lily Frost came out last year. I also published two books in the Choose Your Own Ever After series last year. Before I started writing YA and middle grade, I published lots of short stories for adults and worked as a children’s television writer.

Your new novel Frankie and Joely is about both the city and country. Have you lived in both and where are you based now?Nova

I grew up in Wonga Park, a tiny spot of a town up the Yarra from Warrandyte. My childhood was all about riding horses, catching yabbies in the dam and canoeing. Of course I fled that life when I turned 18 and moved to the heart of Melbourne. Now I live in Brunswick, a busy inner-city suburb with my kids and partner. But I still go camping a lot because I love the Australian bush.

Are you more like Frankie or Joely? Tell us why.

That’s a hard one. I think maybe I started out like Joely as a teenager. I was a bit insecure and emotionally needy, and possibly I’ve become more like Frankie as I’ve got older – less competitive, kinder, more loyal. But I’ll always have Joely’s pale, sunburn-prone skin!

What would your ideal friend be like?

A lot like Frankie. She’s loyal, loving, generous, kind and Joely is the centre of her world. Occasionally she loses herself around boys, but she is very emotionally insightful and I like how thoughtful she is about other people.

I love how Frankie carries her novel around and how she re-reads it ‘studying each sentence so that she can try to understand the author. Sometimes she imagines how the story would read if she wrote it.’ Is this what you do as a reader?

When I was fifteen, the same age as Frankie, all I wanted was to be an author. I used to rewrite my favourite Agatha Christie novels on an old black typewriter. I had a suitcase of props – a horseshoe, a deck of cards, and a piece of green velvet. All the things I imagined Agatha Christie would have in her arsenal. She was such a mystery that I wanted to understand her.

Picnic at Hanging RockFrankie’s obsession with Picnic at Hanging Rock is borrowed from my own. It was, and still is, one of my favourite novels. But I never wanted to be the author of it; I wanted to be one of the girls in it. My grandparents lived near Hanging Rock and I grew up thinking the story was true. I still remember the day I found out that it wasn’t. It was worse than being told Santa didn’t exist.

I think now as a reader I love losing myself in other people’s books. Sometimes, if they are completely brilliant, then I wish I’d written them myself.

Which other literary friendships have made an impression on you?

I’ve always liked unlikely literary friendships, like the one between Miranda and Sara in Picnic at Hanging Rock because Sara is so waifish and lost. The tragic friendship between Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby still intrigues me. And a great contemporary female friendship is the one between Skylark Martin and Nancy in Simmone Howell’s book, Girl Defective.Girl Defective

(I reviewed Girl Defective  in the Weekend Australian here.)

What other books have you enjoyed reading?

I love reading, and I enjoy a really wide range of books. I read a lot of Australian YA. Authors like Pip Harry, Claire Zorn, Simmone Howell, Melissa Keil and Ellie Marney to name a few. But I also enjoy reading adult fiction, particularly anything written by AM Homes. One of my favourite adult novels I read last year was John Williams’ book Stoner.

Lily FrostI really enjoyed your 2014 YA novel, The Haunting of Lily Frost. It’s contemporary realism tinged with a ghost story. Could you tell us why you wrote it like that?

My mum was very ill when I wrote Lily Frost, and I think looking back, I was trying to grapple with the prospect of her dying, but in a very removed way. Ghosts let you talk about death, and let you examine it from a distance. The book starts with Lily recounting the time she almost died as a child and this sense of her imminent death is then played out through the narrative. Lily has to imagine how it feels to die and that’s what I was doing around that time.

All the best with your new book and thanks very much, Nova.

Thanks for the interview Joy!

One of my favourite blurbs

I’ve been thinking about one of my all-time favourites (Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell) a lot recently, I don’t know why. Probably because I’ve been reading her blog a bit recently… Anyway, most of my thinkings have centred around why I love Everything Beautiful so much. It isn’t particularly ground-breaking, I’ve only read it once, and I really wasn’t much of a fan of the lead – but I love it so much that when I had a signed copy to give away on Boomerang last year, I seriously considered keeping it for myself and claiming it got lost in the post between the publisher’s office and my house.

I thought back to the first day I held my copy, and then I remembered:

It was the blurb.

Yes, I loved her debut, Notes From the Teenage Underground, but that was just one novel, I hadn’t exactly invested in a career. I could’ve ignored Everything Beautiful and everything else Simmone ever wrote and not feel too bad. But, then I read the blurb.

Calling a novel Everything Beautiful sets the expectations pretty high (says the author working on his novel, titled Magnum Opus sigh), and the blurb sold me not only on the book’s beauty, but on Simmone as an artist who I’d invest in beyond her debut.

I believe in Chloe and chocolate.
I believe the best part is always before.
I believe that most girls are shifty and most guys are dumb.
I believe the more you spill, the less you are.
I don’t believe in life after death or diuretics or happy endings.
I don’t believe anything good will come of this.

I challenge you to tell me that ain’t some fine writing. Those six sentences shaped my entire reading of the novel, their simple beauty took my breath away. And I’m saying this as a male reading a book with a big love heart on the front cover. Whenever I think about Everything Beautiful, my mind instantly goes to those six hauntingly resonant lines, some of the best YA I’ve read in my lifetime.

CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: Sandy Fussell

White Crane “…Why don’t you write proper books?” I’m often asked by friends.

I write on the frontier of Australian story telling. It’s a wild and woolly place. A little bit dangerous even. There are Dragonkeepers and Ranger’s Apprentices. A Book Thief and a Bugalugs Bum Thief. You can go Hunting Elephants or into the Teenage Underground. There’s even a Pencil of Doom and my own Samurai Kids.

I’m a children’s author.

We’re raising the imagination stakes, encouraging a love of reading and opening the door to critical thinking. We’re always entertaining, sometimes educating and often making our readers laugh.

Children and young adults are not easy to write for. They won’t tolerate a story that doesn’t immediately engage their attention nor will they read a tale with an overt lesson. Their own ideas rival the most fantastic of storylines. They have widely ranging reading abilities, life experiences and interests. The youngest of readers need to be handled with care and the older readers exposed to new thought. It’s an enormous challenge and a lot of fun.

When I write for children, I get to tell the stories I want to hear. Another children’s author once told me you write for the age you are inside. So I’m somewhere between ten and fourteen on any given day. I think that’s about right. I also enjoy being able to regularly interact with my readers in their classrooms, the library and the wider community. Children want to meet their authors and listen to their stories. There are no barriers or pretensions. I know from experience kids will ask almost anything!

Sometimes I get the big reward. “Your book was the first one I ever liked. I’m going to read another one.” The storytelling frontier is an exciting place where things are growing all the time. As a children’s author, I’m helping to grow enthusiastic readers and maybe writers as well. I love it!

Owl NinjaWant to win copies of the books in Sandy Fussell’s Samurai Kid’s series? All you have to do is email me a review of the last children’s book you read. You could’ve read it last night, last year, or even back when you were a kid. The catch? Your review has to be 20 words or less. In your email’s subject, be sure to write: ‘FICTION NOVELS FOR AGES 10+’

Notes From Everything Twinterview

… See what I did there?

Simmone Howell is made of awesome. I’ll make no attempt to hide my bias. I’m a teenage reader, and I’d place her as equal to Barry Jonsberg in terms of producing some of the greatest Australian YA fiction at the moment. Her debut Notes From The Teenage Underground was an amazing read (but I will say I wasn’t a fan of the last two pages…), but her follow-up, 2008’s Everything Beautiful was perfect. Warm, fun, heart-warming, silly, poignant, funny – Simmone balances it all masterfully. If there’s one notable omission to the CBCA’s Shortlist, it’s this book. One look at the back cover, and you’re sold. There appear the words:

I believe in Chloe and chocolate.
I believe the best part is always before.
I believe that most girls are shifty and most guys are dumb.
I believe the more you spill, the less you are.
I don’t believe in life after death or diuretics or happy endings.
I don’t believe anything good will come of this.

Visitors will know I’ve been hyping up Boomerang Books’ first Twinterview (I won’t say it’s the first ever interview on Twitter, I mean… it can’t be… can it?!?), and earlier this week, Simmone and I both sat down in front of our computers, I delayed doing my uni homework, she delayed prepping dinner, and we had a fun conversation about everything from influences to portable animal farms, shameful childhood stories to Christian camps. She spilled the beans on considering writing a prequel to her first book, Notes From The Teenage Underground, on actually working on the screenplay for its film adaptation, and her work-in-progress teen noir novel.

You can still catch it on Twitter, all you need to do is follow both Simmone (http://www.twitter.com/postteen) and us (http://www.twitter.com/boomerangbooks) and go through your history of stored tweets!

Are you an author? Fancy a Twinterview? Send me an email here and we’ll make it happen.

REMINDER: Simmone Howell Twinterview

Simmone Howell, two books-deep, has proven herself to be a formidable force on the YA market. Her debut, Notes From the Teenage Underground won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Literature 2007, and was brill. Her latest, Everything Beautiful, was my favourite book of last year.

At 5p.m. this evening, I’ll be hopping on Twitter and interviewing her – and I want you there. All you have to do is join Twitter – which is easy enough – then you make sure you’re following both Simmone (www.twitter.com/postteen) and I (www.twitter.com/boomerangbooks), and you can watch our interview as it happens… You can even hurl her a few questions yourself!

We’ll also be giving away a SIGNED copy of Simmone Howell’s magnificent Everything Beautiful some time soon, so watch this space! I have to give it away ASAP to rid myself of the temptation to slot it in my bookshelf and call it my own.

Hope you can stop by. 🙂

UPDATE T’was great fun, transcript coming soon.

William

Upcoming Author Interviews

Just a quick heads-up to say our first two exclusive Boomerang Books author interviews have been scheduled.

Later this week, I’ll be sitting down with Australia’s undisputed Queen of Fantasy, Kate Forsyth, to discuss her latest children’s release, The Puzzle Ring (which is part of our May Giveaway, so don’t forget to enter it HERE).

And this one’s for you, JayTay, a Twittexperiment of sorts. On Tuesday, May 12th, at 5p.m., I’ll be hopping onto Twitter and Twinterviewing (yes, I’m going to do that with all my Twitter-related words, the sooner you come to terms with that, the better) Simmone Howell, who, two books-deep, has proven herself to be a formidable force on the YA market. Her debut, Notes From the Teenage Underground won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Literature 2007, and was brill, and her latest, Everything Beautiful, was my favourite book of last year. How does a Twinterview work? Well, you log onto Twitter at 5p.m., make sure you’re following both Simmone (postteen) and I (boomerangbooks), and you can watch our interview as it happens… You can even hurl her a few questions yourself.

Any authors you want me to hunt down for an interview? Leave a comment, or email me: [email protected].