Jaclyn Moriarty – Tangled in Gold – Podcast

We speak to Author Jaclyn Moriarty about the final book of the Madeleine trilogy – Tangled in Gold. We also talk about sibling rivalry and her time living abroad.

www.coop.com.au/a-tangle-of-gold/9781743533239


Jaclyn:
Hello. How great to meet you.

 

Rob:
We’re here to speak about your latest novel A Tangle of Gold, imminently released in Australia, I think, February 23. Is that the big launch?

 

Jaclyn:
I think that’s the date. February 23, yes.

 

Rob:
That’s any day for The Co-op chat listeners. It’s not just your average novel, it’s the conclusion of the Madeleine series, a trilogy. What was is like writing a trilogy? Did you go in knowing that you were going to write 3 big books? They’re big books!

 

Jaclyn:
Originally I wanted to write, for some reason I wanted to write a series of 5 books about the Kingdom of Cello. The reason I wanted to do that was because I’d spent years and years thinking about this idea for this kingdom and it had got bigger and bigger and bigger in my mind, so I had enough material for 5 books and I had plot for 5 books, I had that all figured out. A publisher said to me, “Maybe a trilogy’s a better idea,” which I’m very glad he did say that to me because I managed to get the material much more under control and streamlined that way. It might have gone completely out of control if I kept with 5 books, but doing a trilogy, I’d never done a series of books before. All the other books I’d done have been stand alone books, although they’ve often been connected to each other in some way. This is the first time that I had planned, I did mean it to be a series, and so I planned the whole trilogy once I’d managed to let go of the whole 5 book idea.

 

Rob:
There’s a lot of fantasy trilogies out there. Philip Pullman.

 

Jaclyn:
Exactly.

 

Rob:
Lord of the Rings, is that a trilogy? No, it’s got to be more.

 

Jaclyn:
I think it’s a trilogy. Lord of the Rings, great. Yeah, isn’t it? I should know. We just read it. I just read it with my son, The Lord of the Rings. Anybody who knows about The Lord of the Rings will be so annoyed by this conversation.

 

Rob:
Absolutely. What’s it like to create a whole universe? The Kingdom of Cello is a whole world. What inspired that? Tell me a bit about The Kingdom of Cello.

 

Jaclyn:

I can tell you where I first came up with idea, if you like. I was living in Montreal, Canada for a few years a long time ago. I always work in cafes. When I’m working on my books, I always take that book and lots of colored textures and pencils to a café and plan whatever book I’m working on. I was working on Ashbury/Brookfield books which is what I did before. They were realistic fiction comedies set in high schools in Sydney’s Northwest. Because I’m a Sydney girl, the winter’s in Montreal were completely magical to me for the first two years, the third year not so much because it stopped being magical and just started being cold. These -30 degree days and waking up in the morning and seeing snow everywhere, cars buried under snow, and ice and going ice skating at lunchtime, to me I was just enchanted the whole time I was in Montreal winter. 


It was a day like that, a blue sky, and the white, white sparkling snow, that I went to a café to work on my latest Ashbury/Brookfield book. I had a new notebook which a friend had given to me because she knew I liked to take notebooks to cafes. This one was covered in nice, soft, red suede material. When I got to the café and opened up this notebook I discovered there was a row of little pockets sewed into the inside cover and inside each pocket was a colored pencil, and I hadn’t known they were there. I was so surprised to find this row of colored pencils. I was in this café with this silver, glittery snow outside and I had a coffee and I had a chocolate croissant so everything seemed magical to me. 


I decided instead of working on my Ashbury book I would draw pictures of a kingdom. I just started drawing pictures of a Kingdom and that’s when I drew a Lake of Spells and mountains that shifted and drifting seasons and a butterfly child and I called it a Kingdom of Cello just because I liked the word cello for no other reason. Then I closed the notebook and got on with my real work, but that kingdom stayed in the back of my mind for years and years and I kept coming back to it and drawing more pictures and maps. It took a long time to build up the kingdom, but that’s how it started.

Rob:
It’s amazing. It’s amazing that it’s all living inside your brain and it was slowly filtering out. Who’s Madeleine?

 

Jaclyn:
Madeleine is a 14 year old girl who lives in Cambridge, England. It took me a long time to start writing. Once I got the idea for the Kingdom of Cello and I knew I wanted to write about it, and as I was saying I just kept accumulating details on the Kingdom of Cello, it wasn’t until one day, I decided I wanted to have the real world in this book as well, that I knew that I was almost ready to write it because even though I like fantasy I always prefer fantasy which has the contrast of the real world, is framed by the real world, because if there is a connection to reality then I’m much more likely to believe it, that’s what I find. Seeing it from the perspective of someone who could be me brings the vision to life for me I think. I decided I wanted to have a girl living in Cambridge, England who finds a crack through to the Kingdom of Cello in a parking meter, and it’s only a crack big enough for letters and notes to go through. You can’t actually get through it, so she starts writing letters to a boy named Elliot who lives in the farming district of the Kingdom of Cello.

 

Rob:
I think anyone that hasn’t picked up any of the trilogy will be excited now to trace back the beginning steps with the first book. I wanted to ask you a broader question, because you seemed to have jumped all over categories in the book world. What do you prefer writing? This is a fantasy, whatever that means, but you write young adult, essays, what’s your favourite form?

 

Jaclyn:

That’s a good question. I just like writing. My favorite form of writing is writing. I want to  be able to … I know that publishers would like me to stick to one category, one genre, and they’ve even said to me, “Keep writing young adult, that’s what you’re big in, just stick with what works for you because then you build up a readership,” but I think that’s a mistake. You should follow where your imagination goes and that’s what I want my favourite writers to do. That’s what writing is, I think, just going in any direction that you want. Even my Ashbury/Brookfield books were realistic fiction, and they were set in the same high schools, but after I had written two of those, I suddenly thought, “I want to go outside, I want to extend my range beyond teenage romance and interactions with friendship.” I like writing about those things, but I wanted to follow a different path. My third book became a murder mystery, even though it was set in the same high school, and then the fourth book became a ghost story. I suppose in the back of my mind I always liked the idea of fantasy because that’s when that childhood imagination … that’s when I wanted to start writing, or when I wanted to be a writer, was when I was about 6 or 7 and reading those crazy fantasy world children’s books.

Rob:
How did you get started as a published author? I don’t think it was your average story.

 

Jaclyn:
I always wanted to be a writer from when I was little. I wrote lots of stories. I did a English and a Law degree. You grow up and you realize you can’t really be a writer, it’s not a sensible career option, so I studied English and Law, and when I finished the law degree I knew that meant now I had to become a lawyer and so I decided to run away and study more law to put off becoming a lawyer as long as I possibly could. I went to Yale and did a Master’s in Law and then I went to Cambridge and did a PhD in Law. While I was studying at Cambridge, I realized this was my last chance because I was going to run out of things to study and I would have to become a lawyer, so I kind of made a pact to myself that I wasn’t going to be allowed to come home from England until I was a published author. 


I wrote a novel called Feeling Sorry for Celia, while I was doing a PhD, and sent it to publishers in London and they all sent it back to me and said, “No thank you.” I kept sending it out and by then I ran out of, my PhD finished, and I ran out of money and my Visa expired. I came back home and got a job in a law firm in Sydney and I put the print out of Feeling Sorry for Celia in the corner of my office in the law firm and I thought, “I will work on that one day when I get a chance.” One year later it was still sitting in the corner of the office because I was working 12 hour days as a lawyer. When I was working very late and I saw that in the corner and I thought, “I’m never going to get a chance to write that. I’m just going to give it one more chance,” so I put in an envelope and sent it to an agency in Sydney. I don’t know. Do you know the author Garth Nix?

 

Rob:
Yeah.

 

Jaclyn:

He’s a big international author and he happened to be working as an agent in the agency at the time, and he’s the one who opened the envelope with Feeling Sorry for Celia in it. He called me in a few days and said that he loved it and wanted to represent me and then he found me publishers in Australia and The U. K. and America within a few months.

Rob:
We hear many stories of people’s path to becoming a published author and everyone feels there’s a book in them and there’s a dream but your story is the element of resilience, pushing, and the element of life that we all need as well. It’s an interesting bit of background. Your family’s very much been involved in writing and reading. Tell me a bit about your background growing up, how that influenced you.

 

Jaclyn:
I come from a family of 6 kids and most of us like to write stories or tell stories. Our dad used to encourage us by commissioning us to write stories. We didn’t get pocket money. We’d get $1 or $1.50 if we wrote a novel, if we filled up an exercise book, you were allowed to illustrate it as well, it didn’t just have to be words, so that was how we made money in our house, writing books. My older sister, Liane, used to tell stories to me and then I would tell stories to the next sister down every night. It was a big part of growing up. When I got Feeling Sorry For Celia published, my sister, Liane, who’s a couple of years older than me, was so mad because we all had that dream in the back of our mind that we were going to be writers but we didn’t think of it as practical. It had faded away a lot, so Liane was mad because she said, “Wait a minute, you are younger than me. You should not be getting published first because that’s not how the order goes in our family,” so then it reminded her that she can run and be an author. She wrote her first book then and got it published and now she’s huge and writes #1 New York Time’s best sellers. I think she’s the first Australian ever to debut with a novel at #1, and I think she’s the first Australian to have 3 of her books in the top 10 New York Time’s best seller list. She’s doing well. She’s back in her position as #1 sister in the family, and our youngest sister, Nicola, has written a couple of books now too and she’s about to take off too I think.

 

Rob:
It’s great to see how sibling rivalry can be used for the literary benefit of us all. As you know, at Co-op, we have a lot of university students listening to this podcast, what was Uni like for you?

 

Jaclyn:
That’s a good question. I went to Sydney University and I did English honors, and then I did Law at the law school. I’m trying to remember. It’s strange. My teenage years are really vivid in my mind. University has faded away so much, and I think that might not be for good reasons; a lot of parties and things like that. It was great, I loved studying. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want to be a lawyer, it was that opportunity to use your mind and I knew it was a privilege. It was just thinking in a completely different way and being able to follow the path of research and ideas twisting and turning, I loved that. Going to Yale was a revelation. A big difference to me between studying in America and studying in Australia was that in Australia, or at least at Sydney University, maybe things have changed, but at Sydney University everybody seemed to have to pretend that they didn’t really want to study or that we were quite cynical about studying. Everybody said it, I remember always going to exams and people saying, “Oh my God, I haven’t done any work,” and, “I haven’t done any work either,” and knowing actually I think you’ve both been staying up past 2 AM, but we don’t talk about it, we don’t talk about we were studying legal cases but we never discussed the law with each other. We talked about other things and went to parties and that was separate. When I got to Yale, suddenly I was surrounded by these American students who were openly passionate about what they were studying and proud of it. They were things, I could remember hearing young American law students flirting with each other in the corridor and their version of flirting was to say, “You haven’t told me what you think of New York Time’s [new sullivan 00:15:17] yet,” which is something that I would never have heard at Sydney University. I don’t know if things have changed, but it was surprising and I was a bit cynical about it at first but eventually I loved it because why not embrace this. You don’t realize until later in life, I think, how lucky you are to be surrounded by intelligent people who want to talk about ideas because you end up getting jobs with people who are, well, when I was in the law firm I was also lucky because I was surrounded by bright, creative people, but I had worked in places where day after day being with people who don’t really understand you and don’t want to discuss ideas, it’s soul destroying, the unimaginable, I think.

Rob:
Absolutely. I think for all the lawyers and writers out there, you’ve got interesting insight into potential pathways. Who do you enjoy reading? Who are you reading now?

 

Jaclyn:
I read a lot of young adult fiction because I want to know what’s going on out there and to inspire me to be better, because that’s mainly what I write, young adult fiction. I mix it up with adult books. My favourite young adult authors, there are so many, but I love and was inspired by the books of John Marsden. I think he’s one of the greatest young adult writers that we have. I love, I’ve recently started reading Fiona Wood’s books, I love them. Diana Wynne Jones is someone I discovered quite late, only recently, and I’ve completely fallen in love with her books. I think she’s amazing. Garth Nix is a great writer. In adult books, I like Carol Shields and Lorrie Moore, an American writer who often writes short stories, Lorrie Moore. Who else was I thinking of? Kate Atkinson. I could go on for a long time.

 

Rob:
Jaclyn Moriarty, thank you for being part of the podcast for The Co-op. For anyone that hasn’t had a chance to grab any of the Madeleine series, they’re all available online or in stores. Good luck with the launch of the book. I’m sure your fans are just waiting for that date, February 23, to get the final book of the trilogy.

 

Jaclyn:
I hope so. Thank you so much for having me.
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