Catherine Austen books for young people

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"Her writing cuts straight to the heart."

(The Globe and Mail).

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Meeting Canadian Teachers

In July, 2016, I was interviewed by Margriet Ruurs for Canadian Teacher Magazine's "Can Write" column.

Where do you write? Do you require solitude or can you write in planes, trains and automobiles?

I write from home—on the porch, the kitchen table, at my desk. I do my best writing at my cabin—on a laptop or by hand. I also write in a café with friends once a week—we meet for a WISH (Write in Silence Hour). I work on short fiction for adults in those hours and they’re incredibly productive. I can write on planes and trains very well, possibly better than at home where chores distract me. 

I first began writing Mischief [my work in progress, an animal adventure novel] on a plane. I was reading a non-fiction book about invasive rats and my characters came alive in my mind. I began writing in the margins of the book, ideas spilling out with every paragraph I read. A little boy passed down the aisle and saw me writing on a book and he was horrified. I said, “It’s okay. I’m a writer.” I’d love to think of someone getting ideas for their own book while reading one of mine. Go ahead, I’d tell them, scribble in the margins.

Read the interview here.

Reading in Prince Edward County

In April 2015, following school and library presentations in Picton, Ontario, I was interviewed by Lynn Pickering for her local radio show, "The County Writes... The County Reads."

Alas, there is no podcast, so the interview is lost to river of life. But it was most enjoyable, and I'd love to do it again. In the meantime, you can read more about Lynn and check out what she's up to on the radio every Sunday at noon.

Shakespeare High

In April 2014, I was one of several YA authors interviewed by Shelagh Rogers on "The Next Chapter" - about Shakespeare, YA, and my story, "Cordelia's Valentine."

Listen to the podcast here.

Zombie Mayhem

In October 2013, one of my short stories for adult readers, "Team Leader 2040," was published in Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast, the longstanding Canadian sci-fi anthology series, and in December, the editor published a brief interview with me. Here's an excerpt:

In some ways, "Team Leader 2040" is apocryphal. And while every writer is always showing a scenario, do you consider it a warning at all?

I suppose it's a warning about how normalized the idea of people as commodities can become if market values are our highest values. But I didn't write it as a warning. I just wanted to explore the character, the Team Leader, who is in this vulnerable position of having to do a job that’s morally reprehensible. And though it's a speculative story, I think that basic conflict is timeless.

Read the full interview here.

CBC Radio In Town and Out

After winning the prestigious CLA Young Adult Book Award in 2012, I was interviewed by Meredith Dault for CBC Radio's In Town and Out radio show.

Listen to the Podcast here.

Older Online Interviews

In April 2012, I was interviewed by students of St. Michael's University School who were reading Walking Backward as Red Cedar Awards participants. Here's an excerpt.

What inspired you to write this book about this topic?

When I was young, I met a man who was building a time machine in his basement. Seriously. He was a cook in an Italian restaurant where I waitressed. He was not a scientist, just an ordinary man who was building a time machine in his spare time. This is something I never forgot.

After I had kids, I wanted to write a picture book about a man who loses his wife and tries to build a time machine to go back to the time she was alive, but in spending all his time on the machine he misses the only real time he has with his kids. I thought about this for a long time, but it seemed too sad a theme for a picture book.

I spent a couple of years working on a werewolf horror-comedy novel for adults that was kind of stupid. Then I had a health scare and I thought, " Oh my god, I can’t die and the only book I leave behind for my kids is that stupid werewolf book!" So I went back to the file "Time Machine" about the mom who dies, and I wrote Walking Backward. (But I'm not like the mom, and my husband is not like the dad. The kids are a little bit like mine but, really, it is all fiction.)

Read the full interview.

In January 2012, I was a guest author in the blogosphere's Dystopian Domination 2. I was interviewed by Precious on her blog, Fragments of Life. Here is an excerpt.

What kind of future did you portray in All Good Children?

The book is set in a futuristic walled city, built around the world’s largest geriatric hospital. It is a corporately owned and controlled utopia. Outside the city walls are poverty, crime, environmental disasters and terrorist plots. Inside the city, people are segregated by employment status but life is basically rich and safe and under constant surveillance to keep it that way.

The elite kids in this city – genetically, economically, and academically gifted teens - have an overblown sense of entitlement and no clue about the rest of the world except to know they don’t want to be tossed out into it. Their parents would do anything to help these kids succeed. Anything. So when the corporation launches a New Education Support Treatment to “help” students work harder and without question, no one raises any objections. After all, it’s a treatment that turns troublemakers into better students. No one thinks it’s all that bad. Except one suspicious teenager.

Read the full interview.

In December 2011, I was interviewed by Lindsey Carmichael on her book blog, 10 Stories Up. Here's an excerpt.

[In All Good Children] Despite (or maybe because of) his prickles, his trouble-making, and his very smart mouth, I fell in love with Max on the very first page. How did his character develop? What makes him so suited for his rebellious role?

I think Max suits his role because he’s so bright and he loves so hard. He has a great combination of arrogance and vulnerability. I didn’t have a full grasp on his character until my first revision. He changed age, colour, and habits. His attitude was always there but it was only when I had his language that he became complete and intensely real. To show how well-educated he is, I got rid of the casual phrases and words from my first draft, replacing them with better, brighter wording because that’s what he is. Max wouldn’t say “got rid of”, he would say “eliminated”. He doesn’t speak like I speak. He is so not-me. He sees things like an artist. He describes things with metaphors. He carries themes of colour and history through his entire story. He loves language, though his wording fails a bit as he falls apart through the book. Once I had his way of using words, I was right in his head. And I got stuck there a bit - I took on some of his odd vocabulary, started calling my kid Dallas by mistake, saw my life from his perspective as old and dry as dust. It was great.

Read the full interview.

In November 2011, I was interviews on the book blog, Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers. Here is an excerpt.

[In All Good Children], Xavier is a side character and yet I can't help but wonder in the way he was developed (so complete and distinct), was he ever a lead character in a draft of the book....or perhaps will he be playing a bigger part upcoming?

Xavier is loosely based on a real person who was the inspiration for this book (a boy who was strange and beautiful and heavily medicated). He was never a lead character but Max’s story began with him, i.e., my first conception of Max was of him half-listening to Xavier. (I never imagine my main character from the outside, always from the inside. It’s kind of freaky.) So even though Xavier is a side character, he’s at the heart of the book. (Or at least beside Dallas. I love Dallas. I would like to adopt Dallas. Or be him. I can’t decide which.)

Read the full interview.

In November 2011, I was interviewed on the awesome book blog, Just Deb. Here is an excerpt.

You have been pretty busy this fall with launching ALL GOOD CHILDREN & 26 TIPS FOR SURVIVING 6TH GRADE, blog tours, interviews. What were some of the highlights. Did you getting any sleep? Any advice for other authors embarking on a blog tour or getting out there and promoting their books online?

I always get my sleep. I always exercise. And I practice drums at least a couple times a week. The real question is: Did I get any writing done?

As for highlights, I love my book launches. I throw a party at my local library. It’s relaxed and warm and busy and chatty. I am always touched by the friends and neighbours who come out to help me celebrate.

I also enjoyed meeting other writers this past year – I joined a critique group and attended events and visited an awful lot of coffee shops. I’ve always envied the way musicians collaborate. “I’ll do the dialogue and you jump in with some narrative summary,” just doesn’t work the way guitar and piano can. But writing and publishing is still made easier by friends who are peers.

For promotion advice, I’d say: Do what you’re comfortable with. I like interviews because they make me pause and think about my own creative process. I have fun on my website, and a few people actually look forward to my blog posts. But if you’re not comfortable doing those things, then don’t. One good review in a respected journal will sell your book better than a ton of self-promotion. So write a great book and let other people blog about it. Would Salinger tweet? Would Dostoevsky do a blog tour? You need to write; all the rest is optional.

Read the full interview.

In November 2011, Jill interviewed me on her blog, The Owl. Here's an excerpt.

Was school lunch just as yucky [when you were a kid] as it is now?!

Up to grade 8, it was much much worse. I’m talking day after day of bologna or tuna fish. Mondays were okay because I’d get roast beef left over from Sunday’s dinner. There was no such thing as Schneider’s Lunchables or snack-sized Pringles in my day. (But then again, there was always PB&J – I never heard of a peanut allergy when I was young.)

High school lunches were WAY better than they are now because there was a cafeteria and absolutely no one in the world was concerned about our nutritional intake (because we were all skinny and active and ate home-cooked suppers), so I ordered French fries with gravy (AND ketchup) every single lunch. It was AWESOME.

French fries are no longer served in high schools where I live – honestly, it’s French fry fascism up here in Canada. There is still cardboard pizza and soggy lasagne, but the one item that cafeterias make better than you can make at home - fries and gravy – are banned. This is particularly sad because I live in Quebec, where fries are served with gravy AND cheese curds in a delicious ultra-fatty nutrition-free dish called poutine. You can’t get that at the high school. You have to go to the chip truck next door.

Read the full interview.

In November 2011, Krista interviewed me on her book blog, Cubicle Blindness. Here is an excerpt.

[In All Good Children] The main character Max got excited at the fact that he got to fight, he seemed to want to stand up for those that couldn't just so he could show off his new muscles. What kind of mind-set did you have to get into to write those scenes?

I discovered my inner adolescent, pumped him up, and let him loose. This was completely out of character for me. I often hear my teenage son and his friends talk about fighting in ways that repulse me. I can’t bear to watch things suffer. I can’t stand televised boxing or UFC games or anything violent. I like physical exercise but I am not aggressive – a karate teacher once told me that I swing a weapon like a paintbrush.

But it sure was fun to visit that mind-set. There was such primal joy in Max’s fight scenes. And in his whole arrogant character. He’s just so teenage. He is purposely annoying, he makes fun of people, he fights - things I would never do or even think about. Yet it was sheer joy imagining it all as him. (Maybe because he is a really “good” character despite not being so “nice.”) I got so stuck in Max’s head while writing this book that I would look at my own middle-aged suburban life with disdain and think, “I am so old. How can I live like this?”

I have found that several authors use tv and music to help with the writing process. Are there any movies/tv shows or music that helped you through writing this book?

I sometimes get fixated on a song to build the right emotion for a scene. This is completely embarrassing and inexplicable. I listened to Joshua James’s “Colby’s Song” about a hundred times while writing the end of All Good Children. It has nothing to do with the book, but it helped evoke the feeling Max has for Dallas.

For my first book, Walking Backward, which is about a grieving family, I listened to the Weakerthans’ “Virtue the Cat Explains her Disappearance,” which is about a lost cat. Go figure.

I’ve been listening to Matt Mays while finishing the book I’m writing now, and that’s a bummer because once I’m done the book I won’t be able to listen to him for about five years, I’ll be so sick of him. And he was one of my faves. Oh well. Art requires sacrifice.

Read the full interview.

In September 2011, I was interviewed by teen blogger Saambavi Mano about my dystopian novel, All Good Children, before presenting the book at The Word on the Street. Here's an excerpt:

Is your main character, Maxwell Connors, based off of someone you know in real life?

No. He started out as a 12-year-old white kid who loved to skateboard and goof around.... But as I wrote the story, he changed completely and became a 15-year-old black artist who is deeply serious as well as playful. As Max aged, the focus of his story changed from being about family to being about friendship. I have no idea how a character comes to life like that; it’s not like inventing someone, it’s like meeting them. Weird. But wonderful.

Read the full interview.

In the fall of 2010, I did an interview and guest blog with Teens Read Too. Here's an excerpt:

You have the chance to spend the day with any character from one of your favorite books (not one that you've written). Who would you choose and why?

Ludwig from Lives of the Monster Dogs - because how often do you get to meet a talking dog? Mr. Bones from Timbuktu might as well come, too, and Boxer from Animal Farm, and all the other fictional animals I wish I could have saved.

If you could bring any character from one of your books to life, who would it be and why?

I would bring Maxwell Connors to life. He's the hero of my teen novel, All Good Children, coming Fall 2011 from Orca Book Publishers. Max is a fifteen-year-old graffiti artist with a keen but cutting sense of humor. He'd probably make fun of me, but I would suffer through it if he'd write his own sequel.

Read the full interview.

In early 2011, I did an interview on The Flatt Perspective. Here's an excerpt:

What's the hardest aspect for you in terms of being creative, finding the time? the space? the focus? something else?

Sometimes it's the writing itself that pushes me away. Sometimes a story just isn't ready or isn't working so the writing is frustrating and hard to face. It's a lousy feeling reading back your work and thinking, “This is crap.” It takes a lot of experience and a thick skin to learn to work through the crappy and mediocre pieces and keep faith in your ability to write a really good piece of work. (Give me the strength to file my crappy drafts, the courage to revise my promising ones, and the wisdom to know the difference.)

Real the full interview.

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