Jackie French is the author of numerous novels, including Macbeth and Son and Pharoah most recently. She can be found online here.
Q1: A lot of your stories revolve around historical people or places: Macbeth and Son, Pharoah, Dinkum Histories, A Rose for the ANZAC Boys… and those are just the recent ones! What is it about historical stories that appeals to you? Is there any person or time that you would never write about?
Nothing that I’ve deliberately censored from my mind and thought “that’s out.”
History? Partly because i’ve never quite believed in the concept of linear time, even though we may experience it that way. have always felt that the past and present is only a membrane away.
Partly early conditioning- as a child growing up in Brisbane in the 50s I was subjected to long stretches in Church and religious instruction and the only acceptable thing to read instead of listening to the sermon was the Bible… which is a stunning source document for ancient history. Moved onto the great dialogues of Plato and had a crush on Socrates- all in all, lived in the past for large chunks of the week.
And partly too because of history’s sheer diversity and complexity. When you start thinking about the past you see it in terms of your own age. the more deeply you understand it the more different you realise it is.
But mostly…well, I don’t like being fenced in. Couldn’t live in a city, or work in an office- and would hate to be boxed up in a small world called ‘the present’ too.
Q2: You’ve received a huge number of accolades for your stories: shortlists and Notable Titles from the Children’s Book Council of Australia, YABBA and Bilby and WAYBRA shortlists… and that’s just this year! Two questions, then, really: is there one story or project that you are most proud of? And how do you react when you find out you’ve shortlisted or nominated for an award yet again?!
For every award I get there’s the rejection when a book I love DOESN’T get an award… especially the ones that I know are better than some of the ones that have.
Writing is a pretty solitary occupation. Sometimes it seems as though the publishers just kindly send you a cheque twice a year. Awards are when you suddenly realise that it was a book that you wrote, not just a pile of words.
Q3: Where to from here for Jackie French? You’ve been prolific in the last few years – will you keep up the pace for the next few?
When you suddenly have to face that you may not make it through the next few years, I suppose everyone starts wondering what they’ve missed doing. But for me it’s simple- I just want more. More books to write, more lunches with friends and family, more wombats to watch and trees to plant and see grow.
Q4: In between your writing, and public appearances, and other demands on your time – do you get to read much? What’s the best thing you’ve read in 2007?
I read at least a book every day (I read fairly quickly). But the best? Bloody hell… Audrey Niffenegers’s The Time Traveller’s Wife. Jasper Fforde’s The Fourth Bear. Graham Green’s Travels with my Aunt (re read that last night- simply perfect). But there must be at least another twenty somewhere there- probably in one of the boxes in my bedroom of books I’ve yet to put back on the shelves!
Q5: Should you ever have the chance to visit a fictional world, which would it be – and are there any characters you would like to meet and, shall we say, be intimate with?!
I think I could settle down quite happily in Lancre. But I’d prefer the Island of Aldous Huxley…minus the invasion at the end.