How did the idea for Slipping the Noose come about and what makes you choose this title?
MC: I'm interested in writing into the gaps and mysteries of history, and the disappearance of Anne Bonny from the history books is fascinating. I keep coming back to it.
I read several theories about what might have befallen her after imprisonment in Jamaica and I couldn't help but think that she would have absolutely hated all of them. So my intent for Slipping the Noose was to write her an alternate ending, and one I hoped she would like.
As for the title, well, I'm usually a bit wretched with them, but my best mate Jenn suggested 'Slipping the Noose' and straight away it fit. After I heard it, no other title could be considered.
How would you describe this book’s ideal reader?
MC: I think any author's hope is that there isn't really an ideal reader for the book: that it might find a wide and diverse audience, that people might be surprised by it and find themselves interested in bookish corners they wouldn't normally visit. But at its heart, Slipping the Noose was written for young people, particularly people who (like Anne Bonny) might not be charting the same courses as everyone else. Anne Bonny speaks out of a part of me that occasionally longs to throw a punch, and I hope my readers might live vicariously through her (as I sometimes do).
What is your favourite scene from this book and who’s your favourite character and why?
MC: My favourite scene is an escape scene towards the beginning of the book, because it was the first Slipping the Noose scene that came to me fully-realised. I was listening to music on the bus (on the way home from working at Dymocks, in fact) and the whole thing played out so clearly. All I had to do was go home and open my computer. It's hardly changed since I wrote it, and it still gives me a wonderful rush to read.
My favourite character is a tough choice. My Anne would be furious with me if I didn't say her (because she is as vain as a cat). Read has a near and dear place in my heart, and I always look to him as the pulse of the book. But the anxious, serious, dutiful Ned Fletcher (who made a very brief appearance in Devil's Ballast) has one of my favourite journeys in the book, and I think I'm proudest of him at the moment. He makes some tough choices, and I love him for that.
What comes to you first, the plot or the characters and why?
MC: First comes the question, or the gap, or the mystery. Then come the characters (especially Anne, who is loud and insistent, and makes herself heard at the most inconvenient times). Then the plot. When reading, characters are always most important to me, and I feel that way in writing as well. Especially when writing about Anne, because she's a contrary sort and has a tendency to go off-script. I really just follow her around with a pen and some hope.
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction for kids/YA?
MC: AJ Betts' marvellous book Hive is utterly unlike any YA book I've read before. My books are rather full of explosions and heists and chases, but Hive somehow manages to be both quiet and dynamic at the same time. Holly Black's Cruel Prince was also very valuable to me when writing Devil's Ballast and Slipping the Noose, as her protagonist Jude is given the space to be vengeful and power-hungry in a way few female characters are in YA fiction.
What is your favourite children's book?
MC: This is such a tough question, so I'm going to put my focus on some Australian releases from the last few years:
Stellarphant by James Foley and How to Make a Bird by Meg McKinlay are my current favourite picture books (they make me cry every time).
I'm wild for Tamara Moss' Lintang and the Pirate Queen, a middle-grade fiction with a truly badass cast of characters.
And Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard, as well as Deep Water by Sarah Epstein, are some really wonderful Australian YA reads. Usually I'm a bit of a fantasy/scifi person, but I'm challenging myself to read more contemporary and crime fiction, so these two opened some wonderful doors in those areas.
To you, what is the most important part of good writing?
MC: Good writing is always, for me, the choice to continue learning. It doesn't matter how many books you've read or written: if you are doing it right, this next one will always be different, and challenging, and frightening. That's a good thing.
Slipping the Noose is available online and at your local Dymocks store.