Interview with Young Writers Magazine, Jill Murphy, January, 2014
Marianne Curley Interview Author of ‘Broken’
What inspired you to write ‘Hidden’ and your new book ‘Broken’?
In 2004, after feeling run down and exhausted, I was diagnosed with aggressive Myeliofibrosis (bone marrow cancer). I had only a few weeks to live, but a stem-cell bone marrow transplant using my sister’s cells saved my life. I spent twenty weeks in hospital in an isolation ward where I endured some very dark and seemingly endless days and nights. But when I returned home I felt that I had been given a second chance and it was wonderful to be alive. My illness was the catalyst for writing The Avena Series. As my concentration gradually returned and I started to think about writing again, by then I knew that I would write a paranormal love story about angels and second chances.
Is being an author all you expected it to be?
Being an author is not like a regular 9 to 5 job. Being a writer is a lifestyle that can sometimes be amazing and sometimes hard and disappointing. But I consider myself extremely lucky to be doing it at all, let alone have six books published with many international translations. In my world, the benefits far outweigh the negatives, and I couldn’t be happier. My life as an author has definitely lived up to my expectations. Writing has put me in the position where I enjoy what I’m doing every day. My hard work is recognised, and when I pull that first copy of my new book out of the box, I’m rewarded with a sense of achievement I doubt I could get doing anything else.
What advice would you give to a young author?
The most important thing a young author should know is that books are about people and what they do to solve their problems. So knowing your characters is a vital first step. To do this effectively, a writer has to spend time with their characters, learn how they will react in certain situations, what they’re capable of doing, whether it’s climbing Mount Everest in bare feet or committing the crime of the century. Your characters are never all good or all bad. Know their loves as much as you know their faults and figure out what drives them to act the way they do in your story. A good idea is to create character profiles that are as detailed as you can make them from physical appearances to their inner demons. These notes will come in handy later when you forget the colour of a character’s eyes, or the reason she catches the late train home every Friday. Remember to give your characters backgrounds that include such things as siblings, where they live now, where they grew up, are their parents still alive, who treats her well and who doesn’t, what his dreams for his future are, who does he see in the way of achieving them. This will help you create realistic characters who will drive your story all the way to an editor’s desk.
Are any of the characters in both of your books based on anyone you know or have known?
At the start of a book, I don’t set out to base my characters on real people or people I know in my own life, other than perhaps the shape of a character’s eyes or the colour of his or her hair. But the people around me definitely have an influence on my life in general and it is quite possible I might inadvertently use an aspect of their personality, incorporating it into one of my characters to make the character more charming, or funny, or simply more realistic.
You have written many books, such as The Named, The Dark and The Key, to only name a few. Out of all of your publications which one did you most enjoy writing and why?
Of the first four books I have written, the book I enjoyed writing the most was The Key. This was because by the time I came to write the third book of the trilogy, I knew my characters so well it was an absolute joy to write the ending of their story. The same thing is happening all over again with Book 3 of The Avena Series. I’ve become attached to Ebony, Nathaneal and Jordan, and now that I’ve spent years with them inside my head, I care for them and understand who they are and what drives them. Writing their final chapters is a most enjoyable process, but it is also tinged with a little sadness, knowing that I’m drawing closer to letting them go.
What would you say was the greatest experience and or achievement you have had in your writing career?
I’ve had a quite a few special moments in my writing career, like meeting my readers for signings. At my launch for Hidden last year, I had the opportunity to meet some cancer survivors who had driven a long distance in pouring rain during a week-long flooding event to meet and talk to me face-to-face. I’ve had other types of special experiences. One that stands out was in 2002 when my second book, The Named, had just been released. Warner Bros took out an option on the entire Guardians of Time Trilogy, with the idea of making a television series from the books. Warner Bros brought on board a well-known producer, director and had commissioned a scriptwriter. When the script for the pilot arrived, it was an extraordinary experience to read and visualise Arkarian, Ethan, Isabel and the other “Named” characters, played by young actors, appearing on my television screen in a weekly program. It was an exciting time with talk of going on board as a consultant for the show. Unfortunately, though, Warner Bros didn’t go ahead and pick up the option for a second year.
Are you reading a book at the moment? If so what?
The book I am reading at the moment is the Devil’s Diadem by the Australian author Sara Douglass, who tragically passed away in 2011 from cancer. I have read many of Sara’s books; fell in love with fantasy after reading her very first standalone novel, Beyond the Hanging Wall, which I quickly followed up with The Axis Trilogy and The Wayfarer Redemption Series. The Devil’s Diadem was given to me as a Christmas gift and I am enjoying it thoroughly. Again, Sara uses her talent of combining historical fiction with fantasy and horror. The Devil’s Diadem gives a realistic look at what life must have been like in the wealthy noble circles of 12th century England, the roles of women at the time, and the horror of the plague.
Do you have an all time favourite author and someone you admire?
An all time favourite author is a hard one to pick. If I could choose three, it would still be difficult, but here goes. My all time favourite author and someone I admire is Australian author Peter Watt. Peter has written fourteen books, at last count. He explains his work best on his website when he says, ‘As an author of the family saga I chose to paint my words on the canvass of history. I did so as my research of Australian history revealed a colourful and vibrant story – about the human condition – that is as relevant today as it was then.’ I admire Peter because not only is he a master storyteller of epic family war dramas, rich in historic detail, but I happen to know he’s a good person, a caring, community-minded individual who puts his life on the line fighting fires and attending car crashes as a volunteer Fire Fighter, even on the days he could otherwise be writing.
Do you have any hobbies that don’t involve reading, writing or drawing?
I enjoy gardening and knitting and crocheting. I’ve knitted or crocheted everything over the years from tiny infants clothing to king size blankets, beanies, scarves, dog jumpers and soft toys. I also enjoy walking and watching birds. I live on a mountain with a rainforest backyard and enjoy feeding a variety of beautiful birds on my back veranda, such as colourful Australian King Parrots, Rainbow Lorikeets, Crimson and Yellow Rosellas, Doves, the occasional Satin Bower Birds and others. My backyard is also home, and at times a nursery, for brush turkeys and possums. There’s even a python carpet snake who hibernates in my roof during winter.
What are your plans/hopes for the future in your career as an author?
My future plans are simple: to keep on writing and become better with each new book. I love writing for young adults and have no foreseeable plans to change that. My novels are adventures in paranormal fiction that sweep you away to another place, or another time, or world. I want to create more memorable characters, epic love stories, amazing fantasies, while continuing with the themes of first loves, friendships, trust, loyalty, second chances, right and wrong, good versus evil and figuring out what’s really important in life.
Gold Coast Bulletin, April, 2013, Questions by Emily
Q. What was your inspiration when you wrote Hidden?
A. At the time dark-themed books saturated the young adult world, and I had just had a successful bone-marrow stem-cell transplant against difficult odds. The doctor overseeing my care was as close to an angel as one could find, as were nurses and family, both close and distant, who helped me through it. Love was abundant and carried me, as if on a cloud, even during the darker days that followed, when, a few weeks into my recovery, I broke several vertebras low in my back that had weakened from chemotherapy, adding lengthy debilitating pain to my experience. It was a dark year overall and though I enjoyed the books out there at the time, I knew that when I was able to think about writing again, it would be a story about angels.
Q. How long did it take you to write this particular novel?
A. It took me approximately five years. Hidden was written on a stop-start basis with sometimes long waiting periods in between. Immediately after my transplant and back injury, and while still taking high doses of pain medication, my concentration levels were inadequate to write anything more than a few lines. I had the concept of a kidnapped angel brewing in my head for months, developing the plot bit by bit as I grew stronger, but I needed time to improve my ability to concentrate for long periods, and to bring my writing back to a publishable standard. I also had to deal with my emotions, and find a way to process the trauma I’d been through, so I wrote a novel called Chains where I told the story of two close brothers whose mother passed away from cancer and the different paths each brother took during the aftermath. Following Chains, I wrote another novel, a lengthy time travel story, but my heart wanted to develop the angel series I had plotted. A few years had passed by then, but I felt ready to start the first draft of my new series. It was a further two years before submitting the manuscript, and receiving the offer to publish.
Q. Eight years is a long time to be away from a writing career. How do you feel you have changed over this period of time and what impact has that had on your writing?
A. There is no doubt that the reason for my eight-year absence – my ill health and brush with near death – had great impact on my life, on who I am, how I feel, and how I view life and the future. These changes affect my writing because writing comes from one’s heart and soul, and there is a little piece of me in each one of my books. Today, I am more determined to succeed. Not achieving something I once had (four times) can be a driving motivator. I had lost an enormous amount of confidence in my ability to write. And writing was still something I loved. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. The new me needed publication to prove my self-worth.
Q. At what stage did you determine Hidden was to become the first part of a trilogy?
A. Right from the start of plotting I knew the story I had brewing in my head would not be told in just one book. It was a series, though exactly how many books would make up the series was still undetermined. As soon as I had figured out the name of the angels’ world – Avena, the title was set: The Avena Series. Much later, when I submitted Hidden, I also submitted a summary of Book 2, with a brief point’s summary of Book 3 and fortunately, Bloomsbury Publishing offered me a three-book contract.
Q. What can readers expect from the second novel in the Avena trilogy and when should readers expect its release?
A. My editor tells me the second novel in the Avena Series will be released simultaneously in Australia/NZ, and the UK in March, 2014, and in the USA in November 2014. What readers can expect is for things to go wrong from the start with life-changing events occurring that will test the characters and take them to their limits physically and emotionally. There will be lots more action, and questions from Hidden answered, such as the reasons for Ebony’s sometimes frustrating difficulties in believing who she really is. And readers will get to know the angels in more depth as Nathaneal will be joining Ebony and Jordan as one of the point-of-view narrators.
Interview with Julie Wellings from Poland, January, 2013
Julie Wellings: How did your adventure with writing books?
Marianne Curley: I started writing when I was 35 years old. Unlike most authors, it wasn’t my childhood dream to become a writer. I wanted to be a teacher. After I became a teacher in an adult college I realized I wanted something more, and since I loved to read I decided to try writing. I took a few basic writing courses and received very good comments from my tutor. I then tried to write a romance novel. I wrote 55,000 words in six weeks and I was hooked. I fell in love with the art of writing that day and I’ve been writing ever since.
JW: What first inspired you to write the first Guardians of Time series?
MC: My daughters were young teens when I started writing books. They asked me to write for their age group, so I tried writing a novel for young adults and found it suited my style. And I loved being able to use my imagination to the fullest. My first published book was called Old Magic, about a teenage witch who journeys back in time to rid her friend’s family of an ancient curse. After Old Magic was released, I started wondering what it would be like to take the concept of travelling back in time to stop someone from altering a past event even further. I asked myself, what if there was a group of gifted people who guarded the past from an organized group who caused chaos by tampering with it, and the Guardians of Time was born.
JW: Can you describe your writing process?
MC: I like to start early, so I rise at 6:30 every morning. By 7:30 I am at my computer and I will write all morning, taking a few minutes out occasionally to stretch my legs. Some days I can write until 4 or 5pm. But it’s not always writing that has me sitting at my desk. I start a book by researching the topic I am currently interested in, and taking notes. Then I plan the story by writing a brief outline and naming the characters. Once I have their names, their faces and personalities begin to take shape and I flesh out their profiles on the computer. Chapter breakdowns come next, with more research where necessary. For example, I might need to know how to train a horse, or fight like a gladiator, or climb a mountain. After learning the skills my characters will own, I begin writing the first draft. This usually takes a few months. After I finish the first draft I read it through many times to polish it, check facts and grammar, before anyone reads it. My daughters are the first to read and give me feedback, then my agents before they send it to my publisher.
JW: Do you find writing a book is hard?
MC: Writing is a joy and I tell everyone that if you are doing something you love, it doesn’t feel as if you’re working. I love writing and I hope to keep writing for a long time. I can’t think of anything else I would rather be doing. If I had to pinpoint the hardest part of the writing process, for me it is creating the first draft, and then later, after delivering the manuscript and waiting for the publisher to tell me if they like it or not.
JW: What overarching message do you aim to send to teens?
MC: That good will eventually always triumph over evil, that life can have many challenges, but with determination and hard work, those challenges can be overcome and dreams can come true. And finally, that family and friendships are important and should be highly valued in one’s life.
JW: As long as you write to the last volume – The Key?
MC: I’m not sure what you mean by this question, but I am asked all the time about a fourth book for the Guardians of Time and I always explain that I had planned to write a fourth book in the series when I became ill with bone marrow cancer, and while receiving treatment I fell and broke my back. So I had a pretty hard time for a while, my concentration took a long time to return. During my recovery time, I wrote two books that were not up to publishable standard. I am writing a new series at the moment that will keep me occupied for some time, but I hope to pick up the plot notes I had prepared for Book 4 one day after my new series is finished. My illness is why I have not had a book published since The Key.
JW: What is your favorite hero of the Guardians of Time? Why? My favorite is Arkarian.
MC: My favorite hero is Ethan. It didn’t matter what hardships I put him through, he always remained true and loyal to his friends and to the Guard.
JW: What do you like to do besides writing books?
MC: Walking in rainforests, knitting, reading (of course) and collecting pictures on a website called Pinterest. Have you heard of it?
JW: You write a book now?
MC: I am writing a new series called The Avena Series. The first book is titled Hidden and is due for release in the UK and Australia on 1st March, 2013, and in June 2013 in the USA. It is about an angel who was kidnapped at birth and raised to think she was an average human girl, but by the time she is 16 she realizes she is far from average. When her body starts to change she begins searching for the truth of who she is. Then she meets a human boy with whom she has a connection. The bond they share lights up the heavens, alerting two sides of opposing angels to her location, and it becomes a race as to who will find her first.
JW: Your books have been released in many countries. How to feel?
MC: My books have been translated into twelve international languages. It blows my mind to think about it. Children, young adults and adults around the world are reading the stories I created in my head, from my little office in my home in Australia. It’s an unbelievable feeling to know this. It’s humbling.
JW: You have a lot of fans?
MC: I think so! I hope so! I receive emails and Facebook messages from readers from many different countries. I can’t reply to all, but I read every one.
JW: What you want to tell your fans with the Polish?
MC: I want to thank them for taking me into their hearts and reading my books. I dearly hope my new series finds a Polish publisher soon. After I wrote The Key I became seriously ill, as I mentioned earlier, and could not write again for a few years. That’s why it has taken me so long to have a new book published, and for anyone who enjoyed reading the Guardians of Time, I think they will enjoy getting to know the characters in my new series.
JW: Thank you for the interview. Welcome to the Polish.
MC: Thank you for asking me. Julie, it was a real pleasure. All the best, Marianne Curley.