Catriona McKeown is the author of Memphis Grace and The Boy in the Hoodie.
1) Who is your favourite character in Memphis Grace?
Traditional answer to the question, who is my favourite character, would be Graceland (the main character). She has a strength and determination that I wish I’d had myself as a teenager. But in reality, I can’t move past the character of Jack. Jack’s innocent way of seeing the world, and his willingness to live in his own world rather than compromise even for a moment, makes him most endearing. I just love him. Of all the characters I’ve ever written before, Jack is definitely up there with my most beloved
2) How did you come up with your main character, Graceland?
Characters grow, they brew in my mind, for months before I begin to put them down on paper. Graceland, I guess, has a lot of me as a teenager in her; but I gave her the wisdom that comes from reflection, and allowed her to walk a different path to the one I experienced. She has the strength and presence of mind I wished I’d had as a teen, and that I hope I’m instilling in my own daughters
3) How many books have you written/published?
I have written many books; Memphis Grace is my second published novel. The first “book” I ever wrote, when I was about 21, was a revolting piece of so-called fantasy literature. I think my husband was the only one to ever read it. I don’t even have a copy of it any more. But it still needs to be counted; after all, they’re all part of the journey, even those we cringe about.
4) When did you first start writing? What inspired you?
If you ask my Grade 4 teacher, Mr Waldow, he’ll tell you I used to regularly hand him pages and pages of dull, long-winded stories. I don’t know how the poor man coped with me! I guess I always loved to write, but never really believed in myself as a writer. In 2012 my young family and I moved to a remote community (in outback WA) and I had a dreadful time of it. In order to remain connected to my community back home, and to evaluate what was happening in my life, I began blogging. Unexpectedly, I had positive feedback from friends and family who started encouraging me to write. So, I picked up the hobby again. However, it was only when I got involved with a community of writers online that I realised just how much I had to learn about the art, and began the long journey in realistically pursuing getting published
5) Tell us three interesting things about yourself.
- I’m not very good at anything. I’m a good all-rounder – always have been. I’m just naturally kind-of-good at most things I try. So, to become good at something such as writing, I had to put a lot of time, effort and yes, money, into it. I had to do a lot of writing and open myself up to feedback from others better at it than me. And that is what has led me to success. Patience, practice, and an awful lot of very hard work.
- I’m a teacher. An English teacher. But I’m a terrible speller. It is something I tried to hide about myself at first, but now, I’m very open about it in my classes. I tell my students that you can still achieve your goals – I teach English, I’m a published author, I am two subjects away from having a Master’s degree – while having an Achille’s heel.
- Whenever I say, I’ll never, I end up doing it, so I don’t say it anymore. I said I’d never have three children (it’ll be two or four, but not three!), I said I’d never study again (hello, Master’s degree…). I said I’d never have a cat (somehow, I currently have two?). Perhaps I haven’t changed that much since I was a flighty teenager, *insert nervous laugh*… but at least the directions I’m being influenced into are more positive these days.