Where did the idea for Girls in Boys' Cars come from?
FC: There is such a long tradition of male road stories – think Jack Kerouac’s On The Road (which I loved as a teenager!) but there are so few stories about women and girls. Boys on the road are looking for adventure, women always seem to be running away and driving themselves over cliffs like Thelma and Louise. I wanted to write something where girls get to be the agents of their own kind of road story even if it’s complicated and everyone else is always getting in the way.
Can you tell us about Rosa and Asheeka?
FC: I wanted to explore a really complicated friendship as most friendships are. They love and care for each other deeply but also can’t stand each other at the same time. They have different levels of privilege, different relationships with their families, boys and their own status as girls but they also come from the same place. I wanted to show how different we can be even within our own geographical communities and I also wanted to show that struggle-and failure- to completely understand someone else even when the intention is genuine. I also really wanted to write young women who are funny. They have their fair share of dark days but they are also really witty and see a lot of the black humour of things.
The story starts in juvenile gaol – what kind of research did you do for this book?
FC: I’ve spent a lot of time teaching in juvenile gaols and have people close to me who have spent time in there as well so a lot of the anecdotes in the book like the fact that the TVs are made of clear plastic so that you can’t hide things in them or that people strip aluminium off dinner trays and stick it in the electric socket to light their cigarettes are just stories that I’ve been told by people over the years. When I did do more formal research on the effects of incarceration on young people what kept coming up was their frustration at not feeling like their personal story had been heard or taken seriously by anyone at any level of the justice system, from the courts to social workers, to those working on the inside: That was something that really affected my book at a deeper level – I wanted a lot of it to be about the frustration of not quite knowing how to convey your story and not feeling like anyone was interested in listening to it anyway. I think ultimately that’s what drives everything that Asheeka and Rosa do.
Parramatta seems very central to your work, what draws you to locate so many of your stories there?
FC: I have lived and worked here for over twenty years, I spend a lot of time walking the neighbourhood and making art here so a lot of my world is here. It’s Australia’s third largest city after Sydney and Melbourne and I think it’s a place that is so deeply representative of contemporary Australia – a rapidly urbanising, diverse area with a large youth population that is still trying to find its own unique voice. I’m endlessly fascinated by all those small things that define local places and I’m really interested in the way that a place shapes your characters and your plot. Part of what I was interested in doing with Girls in Boys' Cars was taking two very urban girls and seeing what would happen when they go on a road trip through regional Australia. I think we all come from very local places with their own specific cultures, for Rosa and Asheeka leaving the city is a bit like going to the moon.
You turned your book The Incredible Here and Now into a play, can you see Girls in Boys' Cars having a page-to-stage transformation?
FC: Actually I know that Girls in Boys' Cars will have a page-to-stage transformation because The National Theatre of Parramatta have bought the stage rights. I’m hugely excited because it’s going to be directed by Priscilla Jackman who has written and/or directed so many dynamic works including White Pearl and Still Point Turning. I can’t wait to see these characters come to life in her hands.
Girls in Boys' Cars by Felicity Castagna is available in store and online now.