The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone
Six Sharp Questions
1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?
The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone is about a ten-year-old girl named Bronte whose parents have been killed by pirates. They have left behind detailed instructions requiring Bronte to travel the Kingdoms and Empires, delivering gifts to each of her ten aunts. As the instructions are bordered in faery cross-stitch, she must follow them exactly or her hometown will crumble to pieces.
Usually I write for teenagers, and occasionally for adults, but this is my first book for 9 to 12-year-olds. It is exactly the sort of book I always dreamed of writing.
2. Time passes. Things change. What are the best moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?
Writing in my chocolate shop in the winter (it’s not actually my chocolate shop, I just feel possessive about it, especially in the winter when I have hot chocolate); skiing with my sisters and our kids; walking into my hotel room at the Newcastle Writers’ Festival and seeing a window full of ocean; walking into my hotel room at the Canberra Writers’ Festival and seeing a window full of garden (I love hotel rooms); canteen duty at my son’s school (I love playing shops); seeing the illustrations for this book by the extraordinary Kelly Canby; three separate high teas in a single week, one in Melbourne, two in Sydney, with very lovely booksellers and authors (I love high tea); watching my 10-year-old win the 100 m, 200 m, high jump and long jump at his school’s Athletics Carnival (this is just me taking the opportunity to show off); then watching his smile when he got the trophy for boys’ age champion (again); watching my sister Liane on stage at the Emmys (and again); pizza on Friday nights; bicycle rides on the weekends–this is a great question! I could keep going forever!
But will conclude an all-time favourite moment, which was the other day when my editor, Radhiah Chowdhury, presented me with my first copy of The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone. I think it’s the most beautifully designed and presented book ever, and Radhi had packed it in a treasure chest marked with Bronte’s initials, along with a cross-stitched bookmark of my name. (I’m not just saying this as a promotional thing–that honestly was one of the best moments of my year.)
3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.
I can never choose just one thing. Here are some quotes that resonate with me:
‘No iron can stab the heart with such force as a full stop put just at the right place.’ Isaac Babel, Guy de Maupassant.
‘Each had his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart; and his friends could only read the title’, Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room.
‘This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room.’ Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own.
4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.
I am wonderful to live with. A dream.
I live with my 11-year-old son and I’m a bit afraid to ask him to confirm this. One flaw I will admit: when he is describing a particularly complicated sequence of events that has just unfolded in a computer game, I will often take the opportunity to drift away and think about the plot of my novel. I know this is wrong.
I don’t think being a writer should ever be an excuse to be bad-tempered and slam doors. Not that I’m never bad-tempered: I just don’t pretend that this is because I’m an artist.
My days are great—I start by walking across the Harbour Bridge and back, write in a café for the morning, and write at home in the afternoon. Then I collect my son from school, and pretend to listen to him talking about computer games.
5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. How does the marketplace affect your writing?
A few years ago, I was told very firmly that fantasy is not commercially viable and that I should try to write realistic Young Adult fiction. So I came home and wrote a fantastical novel for 9 to 12-year-olds, as well as a novel for adults about a woman who is learning the secret to human flight.
Every now and then I try to think in a commercially sensible way, because I love making my living as a writer and I want to be able to continue doing that–but I seem to have this combination of defiance and optimism that means I just do whatever I like.
6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?
I always get very literal about these kinds of questions and my first thought is that I should track down a book called Civilising Twenty Ill-Educated Adolescents: A Step-by-Step Guide. Then I wonder exactly where we are stranded and why I can’t call someone and get the adolescents back home to their own families? And whether I can’t somehow get access to Wi-Fi and download as many additional books as I like? I think at least one of the twenty ill-educated adolescents would know how to hook up the Wi-Fi? In the meantime, while we are waiting, I would hide away with some of my own favourite books, and let the adolescents sort things out themselves. I’m an optimist and think that, if left alone for long enough, the adolescents will civilise themselves.
(But if I have to choose: Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, Laura Bloom, In the Mood, Tom Stoppard, Squaring the Circle, Emily Dickinson, Complete Works.)
Jaclyn, thank you for playing.
About the Author
Jaclyn Moriarty is an Australian writer of young adult literature. She is the author of several books including The Colours of Madeleine trilogy, Feeling Sorry for Celia, and Finding Cassie Crazy. Her most recent book, The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone is out October 25th 2017.
She studied English at the University of Sydney, and law at Yale University and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where she was awarded a PhD.
She is the younger sister of Liane Moriarty. She currently lives in Sydney with her son, Charlie.
The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone
I was ten years old when my parents were killed by pirates. This did not bother me as much as you might think - I hardly knew my parents.
Bronte Mettlestone's parents ran away to have adventures when she was a baby, leaving her to be raised by her Aunt Isabelle and the Butler. She's had a perfectly pleasant childhood of afternoon teas and riding lessons - and no adventures, thank you very much.
But Bronte's parents have left extremely detailed (and bossy) instructions for Bronte in their will. The instructions...
About the Contributor
Tanaya has been a lover of books for as long as she can remember. Now, her book collection is a little out of control, mostly consisting of YA fiction and pretty hardcovers. When she’s not reading, she spends a lot of her time taking photos of books for her bookstagram account, @prettypagesblog. She also has a love of Disneyland, bullet journaling and cats.
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