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Q&A with Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell, and Fiona Wood

Three much loved, award-winning Australian YA authors have collaborated to write Take Three Girls, a novel about friendship, feminism, identity, and belonging.

The authors Cath, Simmone, and Fiona were kind enough to answer some questions for our blog!

Which book changed your life as a child?
CATH: It was the Trixie Belden series. She was popular, smart, a detective – and she had red hair. It changed my life in that I saw myself (a little) in the character. But really, I saw who I wanted to be – brave. Also, it showed me that books were places of escape and wonder and excitement.
 
Who was your favourite author as a child? 
SIMMONE: I loved Judy Blume, before I grew too self-aware I loved Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers books. Also Robin Klein and Dr Seuss.
 
What is your favourite childhood book?
FIONA: Anne of Green Gables.
SIMMONE: The Hobbit.
CATH: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.
 
At what age do you recall discovering the life-changing magic of reading?
SIMMONE: I was an early reader because I had two older sisters I was desperate to catch up to. In our family we were usually given books as presents and then we’d pass those around.
CATH: It was early, because I lived in the country, and there wasn’t much to do. Reading was escape. I had a best friend who always found the most exciting books. She’d pass on to me and I’d read the book and then we’d imagine ourselves into the story line.
 
How has reading changed your life?
SIMMONE: Reading has been the one constant in my life. And every book I read invariably leads to others. I love the Ben Okri poem about how everyone has a secret trail of books. I often try to map how one led to another. I think, if anything, reading has led me to be a hopeful person, because I know that anything can change so if I’m stuck in a tricky situation I remind myself that it’s not going to be like that forever.
 
How do you hope your books will make your readers feel?
FIONA: Entertained, challenged, engaged, and understood.
SIMMONE: Curious and inspired, thoughtful, accepted.
CATH: What they said – and hopeful.
 
What advice would you give your child-self about writing? 
CATH: I’d tell my child self to enjoy herself, to let her imagination run wild. I’d tell her to take the time she has (she’ll never have all that time again) and write and read as much as she likes without worrying what other people might say. 
SIMMONE: I’d tell my child-self that it’s okay to write something that’s just for herself, and that writing takes practice, but that practice can be fun. And that if she doesn’t like how it’s going she should just keep saying, What if?
 
What’s one book you think every Aussie kid should read before they leave primary school? 
SIMMONE: Of recent books: I think Wonder by R.J Palacio is a terrific reminder of how difference adds to the world, not subtracts. Trace Balla’s Rivertime is a gentle, inspiring story about how people can enjoy and respect the natural world. All of Shaun Tan’s books should be on the curriculum!
 
What’s the best creative advice you’ve ever been given?
CATH: There are two pieces of advice that I like. Fiona gave me one piece – just finish it. Great advice. And the other piece of advice came from Rebecca Solnit. ‘The road is made entirely out of words’, which I take to mean I should write as much as I can. I must admit, I take the advice the suits me.
SIMMONE: I read an essay by Anne Tyler called ‘Still Busy Writing’ that made me think about writing not in terms of ‘career’ but as a continuum. If I’m struggling it always helps to step back, or go for a walk, or look at the sky.
 
What is the most surprising thing (in your experience) about being an author?
CATH: That a story arrives in my head, when I think I am empty and idea-less. That, despite not always paying the bills, I find it to be the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. 
 
What’s your top tip to get kids reading?
FIONA: To me there are three ideal conditions to get kids reading. One is to model reading at home. If kids see parents and siblings reading, they do it automatically - it’s life. Another is to keep reading to students in the classroom; I’d love shared reading to continue into secondary school. The third is to have a librarian who helps kids find what they want to read. This is really important. Everyone is a potential reader if they just have the right book recommended to them.
 
If I peeked into your writing room what would I see?
CATH: Boxes! We’ve yet to unpack. But you would also see a small sticky note with the message – Writing Takes The Time it Takes.
SIMMONE - I’m here right now so I will tell you: pictures, postcards, notes, random words on pieces of paper the point of which I’ve forgotten, a Barbapapa bearing flowers, mugs that need cleaning, books, crystals, driftwood, photos, a paperweight that is a dandelion in resin, tampons, headphones, and a prayer card for St Jude the patron saint of hopeless cases.
 
What are you reading now?
CATH: Anne Patchett’s State of Wonder (I’m loving it.)
FIONA: Anaesthesia by Kate Cole-Adams – it’s brilliant.
SIMMONE: The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer
 
What is the best Australian book (from picture book to young adult book) that you’ve read so far in 2017?
FIONA: There are SO many wonderful YA books out this year, and more on the way, but one of my absolute favourites has been My Life as a Hashtag by Gab Williams.
SIMMONE: I loved Martine Murray’s Marsh and Me.
CATH: I loved My Life as a Hashtag (I’m with Fiona!).
 
What is the number one 2017 book release (from picture book to young adult book) that you think everyone should read?
SIMMONE: This in unanswerable. I think everyone should read more than one book. Everyone should read all the books!
CATH: Yes! Although I’ve just read the new picture book by Margo Lanagan, illustrated by Rovina Cai and it’s divine! Read that – plus all the books.
  
Can you let us know a little bit about your recent book/s?
FIONA: Take Three Girls was so much fun to write. We each created and wrote a character, and we plotted the story together. It’s entertaining and also gives readers plenty to chew on, covering thematic areas such as first love, friendship, feminism and online bullying. 

We're so excited to see Take Three Girls on our shelves now!
 
 

Posted by Global Administrator on 01/09/2017