What is the Isobelle Carmody story?
I am a story teller, but it’s funny that I always find I am not keen on telling my own story. Maybe it is because it is real, and I have already lived it.
What’s the best thing about being a children’s author?
I don’t really think of myself as a kid’s author- I didn’t write my first book Obernewtyn for kids – I was 14 when I wrote it so I was a kid. Nor did I actually write it for anyone else. I didn’t think of it beng published- I didn’t imagine anyone but me would ever rad it- I wrote it for myself and it was like a delicious secret place I went for years because someone asked if I had ever thought of publishing ‘that stuff I kept writing’. I had not thought of it – then I did. It was accepted by the first publisher I sent it to – Penguin.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I was a very keen reader- we didn’t have books at home to own. I borrowed extensively from the library and I am still a big library user- they were actually a refuge from the bullies that beat weird kids like me up, so I spent a lot of time in them. I loved anything with magic or fantasy in them. I loved the Narnia and Dr Doolittle books, I loved Enid Byton’s Magic Faraway Tree and especially her Land of Far Beyond. I loved The Earthsea books and Ursula Le Guin is still my favorite author in all the world. I am actually in contact with her now for my PhD, which is very exciting. I loved Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series and more recently Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials series.
How do you come up with your story ideas?
Every book has its own back story- Darkfall came about when I was thinking of my sister saying I had never written about sisters as I was driving down the Great Ocean Road and thinking how dark the clouds got and then suddenly it was night. The title came to me then and naming is so important to me that it is often the name that comes first. Sometimes I just have the name of a story for a really long time, before I the story comes to it. The other main ingredient is that I am puzzled or worring or troubled about some aspect of the world and the story will be my way of trying to work out the answer.
What prompted you to sit down and write your first story?
I was left to look after my brothers and sisters, and we didn’t have a tv so I told them stories – I first wrote stuff down so I’d remember what I was telling them – the moment I did though, the seductions of the page, the possibility of honing words written down and the strange intimacy of writing caught me. Writing was a much more private activity that telling stories aloud, but I certainly learned how to tell stories from telling them.
What five words best describe you?
Optimistic, cheerful, driven, inner- directed and yearning.
Is there any part of the creative process you don’t like?
No. That is not to say it is not sometimes hard. But I love the hard bits too. I love being tested and troubled and a bit tormented. I love having to fret and fiddle and dig deeper.
Are you a plotter or a panster?
I think pantser is a revolting and belittling term that suggests desperation, greed and haste- I am Panther – I stalk my story, I grab it by the throat and run with it. Sometimes there is blood.
What excites you about the future of children’s books?
Well, I think there will always be kids like me, who read and devour books, and those kids will always grow up and then read to and give books to their kids, and also if you think about it, if kids are reading your books, you are part of the humans they are becoming, so in a way, children’s literature just might be the most important literature of all.
What’s next from Isobelle Carmody?
I have revisited and re edited Alyzon Whitestarr which is only just out with a gorgeous new cover. That is my daughter’s favorite book and it is an important book to me because it focuses on things that are even more relevant today than they were back when I first wrote it. As for the next thing I’ll work on, the next two things are the final Billy Thunder book The Firecat’s Dream and the next book in The Kingdom of the Lost series, The Ice Maze.
Isobelle’s website: isobellecarmody.net.au