Charlotte is interviewed by Bec Stafford. Bec is currently completing her MA at the University of Queensland.
In Fury, the population loses their ability to feel anger, thanks to a vaccine developed by their government. How did this concept take shape initially? If you could create a vaccine for anything at all, what would it be?
The concept for this book took a very long time to come to me. Initially, I wrote a story about a girl whose childhood trauma had caused her to believe that she was transforming into a monster. This idea was inspired by a true story I read of a poor man who had been through something so horrific that he actually believed he was a werewolf. It was such an interesting idea to me: that your mind could make you believe your body was physically morphing. But the character on her own didn’t feel big enough—it wasn’t engaging me on a large enough scale, the stakes weren’t high enough, and the story basically just felt too small. So I challenged myself to think about the world, and about Josephine, and it occurred to me that she was the type of person who lived completely in her emotions. She allowed them, good or bad, to fill her up and guide her. Which then made me question the world, and how it is now, and how frightened we are of extreme emotion. This led me to question: what if we continue this way? What if we get to a point where it’s easier for everyone if we just don’t feel so much? That seemed like a tragedy to me, but it gave birth to the world of Fury.
If I could create a vaccine for anything, it would be… Oh gosh, I don’t know! I can’t choose an emotion, or any element of a person’s behaviour, because that’s the entire point of my book! But maybe—disease? That’s a bit of a cop out. Everyone wants to vaccinate against disease. But that’s got to be it.
I read that the idea for your first adult novel, Avery, came to you in a dream. How important are dreams to you and your work? Do you keep a journal by the bed so you can jot down flashes of inspiration that strike you as you wake?
I actually don’t keep a dream journal. I dream very weird and strange things—I often have really epic adventure dreams (the other night I dreamt I was surviving in a zombie apocalypse and it was awesome)—but I don’t write them down, which is a bit stupid, I suppose. I guess I let them inspire me, and keep my mind working on a big, exciting level. They’re exercise for me, practice for storytelling. It’s unusual that I will want to use anything from my dreams—I mostly find them either too disturbing or too garbled or too boring. But the morning I woke up to the idea of Avery (I had dreamt, in incredible detail, the scene that is now the prologue of the book) I knew I had to turn it into a novel and immediately sat down to start writing it.
As its title suggests, Fury deals with anger. Josephine, your central character, is consumed by her fury. What did you do to get yourself in the mood to write from that perspective? Did you listen to certain music, or surround yourself with particular imagery, for example?
I did both of those things! Music is extremely important to me when writing. It really controls my mood. If I’m writing a happy scene I’ll have to have something lively on, but if it accidentally switches to something moody and melancholy, there’s goes the tone of the scene—my characters will be struck by an overwhelming shift in their moods. I let this happen though, because I feel like that’s the natural state of human emotions. They’re ever-changing, morphing and completely unpredictable. We feel a million things at once, more often than not. And we never have any idea what’s going to shift our mood from one minute to the next. Happiness is the lick of an ice-cream or the glimpse of a beautiful bird flying overhead. It’s not a permanent state, just as no emotion is—particularly not fury.
So Josephine’s anger was a complicated thing to try and shape. I definitely listened to moody music when writing her scenes. And I tried an exercise I learnt in my screenwriting degree, which was to gather images and put them into a slide show to a piece of music—this was called a character overture. It allows you to sink into your character in a really tactile way. You start finding peculiar and abstract ideas that shed light on the pieces you never glimpsed. When I started to gather these images that represented Josi’s state of mind, or her inner turmoil, I discovered that her anger was sustainable because it was coming from a very simple place: she was lonely. And that’s what this book is really about. Despite appearances, it’s not about fury. It’s about loneliness.
Which of your fictional characters Burns Brightest in your mind and why?
Well, it may just be because I’ve recently edited and released Fury, or because I’m currently writing its sequel, but I have to say that both Josephine and Luke from The Cure series are extremely forefront in my mind right now. They’re both flawed in very different ways, struggle to keep their heads above water a lot of the time, but are both really determined to see the beauty and the humour in their bleak world. I like that Josephine has a photographic memory, as this is something that has always intrigued me. Luke, as I am, is synaesthetic, so that was a fun thing to write into his head. I like the dynamic they have together—for me that’s the most important thing in the series, as I’m all about writing relationships.
I have another character from an unpublished novel whose name is Henry. He’s a very damaged abalone diver responsible for his little brother’s death at sea, and he often pops into my head as a really important character for me. Perhaps it’s the burden he carries every day. The way his guilt has shifted into cruelty. His rabid need to be the biggest, the strongest, the bravest—when in fact he’s still a scared little boy inside.
It sounds odd, but I never feel like I’ve made any of them up. They really, truly feel like real people who have passed through my life and I’ve been able to spy on them in their lives. That sounds a bit creepy when I say it out loud! Maybe that’s what writers are—voyeurs.
Charlotte grew up with her nose in a book and her head in the clouds. At fourteen, her English teacher told her that the short story she’d submitted was wildly romantic, so she decided to write a novel. Thus began her foray into epic fantasy and dystopian sci-fi, with sweeping romances, heroic adventures, and as much juicy drama as she could possibly squeeze in.
Her first novel, Arrival, was published at age seventeen, and was followed by Descent, which launched The Strangers of Paragor series, an adventure fantasy for teenagers.
She then wrote her first adult fantasy novel, Avery, the prologue of which came to her in a very vivid dream. Her second adult novel, Fury, is the first in a romantic science-fiction series called The Cure, set in a dystopian future.
Charlotte currently lives in Sydney, having just finished a Masters in Screenwriting from the Australian Film, Television & Radio School. With her television pilot script, she won the Australian Writer’s Guild Award for Best Unproduced Screenplay of 2013. She will, however, always be a novelist at heart, still unable to get her nose out of the books.