Bec Stafford interviews Kate Gordon on the release of her new book.
Clementine Darcy, the central character of your new book, Writing Clementine, is experiencing a range of problems that teens tend to face: winning the acceptance of peers, a tricky home life, needing someone to talk to in the midst of people who seem too busy to listen. Where did the inspiration for Clem come from initially, and what was being a teenager like for you?
Being a teenager was a world of extremes, as it is for most people, as it is for Clementine! I had beautiful friends – friends who are still my best mates today. We had sleepovers, watched trashy rom coms, ate Top Deck chocolate, danced to bad nineties pop and laughed until we cried. I’ll always look back on those times with extreme fondness. On the other hand, I suffered from shocking body image, had rotten health at times, went through some pretty bad bullying experiences and some nasty experiences with boys, like the ones Clementine experiences. I also never felt like I fit in anywhere. I always felt awkward and uncomfortable and shy and wrong. All. The. Time. All of this was my inspiration for Clem. She is more me than any other character in any of my books. So it’s a bit terrifying releasing her into the world and hoping people like her!
2. In the book, Clem’s philosophy teacher, Ms Hiller, sets the class an intriguing writing task that seems uninteresting at first, but which Clem really begins to embrace. Through Clem’s entries, she is able to explore her own identity; and, at the same time, your readers gain insight into her motivations and concerns. What are some of your favourite epistolary novels, and has writing always been in your blood?
Oh gosh, too many! I love The Perks of Being a Wallflower so much it hurts. I also love Jaclyn Moriarty’s novels in The Ashbury/Brookfield series. JD Salinger had some great epistolary stories too, which I loved growing up, and I’m an enormous fan of Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow’s Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight. And Bridget Jones. Always and forever Bridget Jones. Writing is as much a part of me as reading is. I’m ninety percent human, ten percent book, I think. And I’ve always thought of writing as penning letters to myself, so it’s interesting you put these two questions together!
3. Kate, since we caught up, you’ve welcomed a little bundle of joy into the world, in the form of your lovely little daughter. (Congrats!) How has being a mum changed your writing activity, if at all, and which books and stories from your own childhood are you looking forward to sharing with your little girl?
I’ve always had to write around other commitments. I worked full-time writing my first novels and had to squeeze in bursts of creativity between hours behind the counter. It’s no different now, other than, while I could shut my mind off from work, I’m never not thinking about Tiger. It also means I take it all a bit less seriously, because she is my focus. That said, I am desperate to keep doing it because I want to show Tiges that you can do anything you dream of, if you work hard enough. I can’t wait to read Roald Dahl with her, and Tamora Pierce, and Thomas Hardy, when she’s older. There is not one book I don’t want to share with her.
4. Which of your fictional characters Burns Brightest in your mind and why?
They’re all my favourites. I’ve heard writers say that their characters are their babies or their friends. Mine are all pieces of me – like the Horcruxes in Harry Potter! They’re all fragments of my soul. But I always love the most recent one the best. And Clementine does hold a special place in my heart, for her bravery, her fragility, her wisdom, and her humour. She is the best parts of me!