Today I get to share my interview with Melina Marchetta, an acclaimed Australian author who writes brilliant young adult novels. Since reading her debut novel, Looking for Alibrandi (as part of school requirements) I have read all her books. Imagine my excitement when she added a Fantasy series to her extensive list of achievements! The publication of her latest novel in September, Quintana of Charyn, marks the end of that series, and I got to ask her all about it!
1. Congratulations on the publication of the final instalment in the Lumatere Chronicles series, Quintana of Charyn. Could you please introduce the series to those unfamiliar with your Fantasy writings?
The Lumatere Chronicles are about two kingdoms, Lumatere and Charyn. In the first novel, Lumatere is literally divided by the circumstances which took place after the assassination of their royal family at the hands of the Charynites. It’s about the young man and woman who leads them back to unity ten years later. The story continues three years on when the Lumaterans send one of their young assassins, Froi, into Charyn to assassinate the Charyn King, and what happens when Froi works out that the concept of enemy isn’t quite black and white.
2. All your books share a common focus on Identity, both in an individual and community-wide sense. In what ways did you find that writing fantasy differs from writing contemporary fiction?
The biggest difference between fantasy and contemporary for me is the world building. When I write the contemporary novels, especially those set in Sydney, I tend to know the setting and it’s psyche really well. Most of the times they are set in the inner west, which is where I’m from. But with the Lumatere Chronicles I had to travel and get a sense of a place. Landscape is very important when it comes to fantasy. I also feel that in fantasy, the emotions can be more heightened, and I really love that. I love writing stuff where the stakes are so high. But the rest is purely what I know. Family. Community. Dysfunction. Identity. Displacement. Regardless of the genre, the universal themes work anywhere.
3. Some claim that female authors do not write male characters well, and that the same can be said of male authors writing female characters. Your characters, both female and male, are equally strong and integral to the plot, and their voices are clear and ring true. Do you find writing characters of the opposite sex more difficult?
In a way it’s difficult, especially when writing contemporary males like Tom Mackee. But come to think of it, maybe what worries me more is how open to criticism the decision to write the point of view of a young male is, when you’re a much older female writing it. The moment someone doesn’t like something about the novel, they will fall back on the fact that it’s obviously because “she’s not male and didn’t get the voice right.” Thankfully enough people have been happy with Tom’s characterisation. With Finnikin and Froi it was different, because in a way they are such traditional fantasy characters … I actually found it more difficult writing from Isaboe and Quintana’s points of view than Froi and Finnikin’s. The women were more complicated, but then again, women are …
4. Your research into the settings of The Lumatere Chronicles caused you to travel a lot, including trips to Turkey, Italy and France, where I’m sure you had many adventures. Could you share one with us?
Oh my adventures would sound very tame compared to the Skuldenorians. But it did feel like an adventure hiring a car, driving on the other side of the road and travelling across France on my own. What I love about travelling solo is that it teaches me I can look after myself and it’s interesting how many times someone I met along the way, who seemed so together and self-sufficient, would tell me that they could never travel on their own.
There were, of course, moments of total anxiety when I was crossing country during that strange late European twilight around 9pm, knowing it would get dark in an instant and not having found any place to spend the night. I became very friendly with the GPS voice. I called her Miss BBC.
5. What’s next for the inhabitants of Skuldenore? Are there further novels or short stories in store for us?
I’m not thinking that far ahead at the moment. But I’d like to think there’s another Lady Celie novella out there. I’m not finished with her and Banyon and it will give me an opportunity to bring in some of the side characters of the Chronicles.
Rapid Fire Round:
1. Nutella or Vegemite? Vegemite definitely. My mother still calls me the Vegemite kid and I actually think that Nutella is fake chocolate.
2. If you could, where would you choose to live in Skuldenore? I could be girly and say I’d choose to live anywhere Perri lived, but I won’t. I loved the Citavita in Charyn. I loved the place I based it on (Matera Italy). Paladozza comes second.
3. You can choose any two books to give to Finnikin during his exile. What would you choose?
The Female Eunoch by Germaine Greer. Finnikin desperately needs to find the feminists within.
Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery. Because if anyone, at times, needs a slate broken over his head, it’s Finnikin.
About the author:
Melina Marchetta’s first novel Looking For Alibrandi was published in 1992 and was released as a film in 2000 which she also wrote. She taught secondary school English and History for ten years during which time she released her second novel Saving Francesca followed by On the Jellicoe Road. In 2006 she left teaching to become a full-time writer. Her first fantasy novel, Finnikin of the Rock was published in 2008 and in 2010 The Piper’s Son, a companion novel to Saving Francesca was released. She has written a children’s book, The Gorgon in the Gully, as part of the Puffin Pocket Money series.
Her novels have been published in 17 languages. Melina lives in Sydney where she writes full-time.
A huge thank you to Melina for answering my questions for me, she’s been really busy lately attending all sorts of events. I was lucky enough to meet her and hear her talk at the Canberra Reader’s Festival. She’s wonderful and warm and signed my books and it was amazing *star struck*.