Catherine S. McMullen is a writer and film & TV professional, currently living in Melbourne.
Her fiction work has been published in Nightmare Magazine, Aurealis Magazine, Dark Tales, and others, and her non-fiction work includes articles for Non-Fiction Gaming and Reading for Australia. She was the youngest person to ever to sell a story to a professional science-fiction magazine, selling to Interzone Magazine at age 10. Recently, her short story ‘The Nest’ was nominated for an Australian Shadows Award from the Australian Horror Writers’ Association, and her short story ‘Monday-child’ was voted by Aurealis subscribers as Best Story of 2013.
Catherine currently works full-time in film & TV industry. She has worked in various roles on different productions, in both scripted and unscripted, including AACTA award winning series Nowhere Boys, unscripted shows Real Housewives of Melbourne and Formal Wars, and feature films Cut Snakeand Paper Planes. She also works as a note-taker and researcher for TV writers’ rooms, and writes analysis and coverage for both scripts and prose.
Catherine graduated in 2011 with a double degree in Arts/Law from the University of Melbourne, on a full Melbourne National Scholarship.
She is a a life-long nerd and former MMO addict, and enjoys books, TV, movies and games, especially if they’re about robots or dragons (or possibly robotic dragons).
You hold the record for the youngest person to make a pro sale (at age 10 to Interzone). Along with being the daughter of a noted writer, do you feel that this created pressure on you as your career progressed?
Being published so young definitely did put a lot of pressure on me, although in retrospect, I think most of it was pressure that I placed on myself. I used to worry that I had lost my ability to write because I hadn’t written anything for a while…. at the ripe old age of fifteen. But after a while, school and then university took precedence instead, and while writing was always at the back of my mind, it stopped being the focus as much, which I think was probably healthy anyway.
It was only really when I began working full-time after uni, that I began to write again – I suddenly found that I had no spare time, and that I wanted to write in what time I did have.
In terms of being the daughter of a noted writer – I haven’t actually ever felt pressured by this, only encouraged and supported by people that like Dad’s work, and by Dad himself. It helps that there’s never been even the slightest hint of rivalry – more that we’re both following our own writing path, and we’re ecstatic whenever the other person gets something published or gets nominated for an award. I think I cried when Dad told me he’d been nominated for a Hugo!
After a gap of around ten years, you’ve burst back onto the scene with a number of critically acclaimed and award nominated short stories. Did this time away affect your approach to writing or your writing process?
The time away from writing taught me one extremely valuable lesson – you’re not a writer unless you finish the story.
‘Monday-child’ was literally the first story I finished in ten years, and ‘The Nest’ was the second. I was lucky enough to sell both of those – but those were the only two stories that I actuallyfinished that year.
No one will publish “that half-finished amazing story about vacuums” that is sitting in your drafts folder (this is a real story I haven’t finished, and the date on the file says 2007…).
To be a writer, you have to finish the story. Then start on the next one.
I’m still getting better at that second bit.
I’m currently working on a television show called Nowhere Boys – we’re shooting the second season at the moment. I work as a production assistant, and I was also an attachment in the script department.
The first season of Nowhere Boys was commissioned while I worked for the production company that produces it, Matchbox Pictures, so I’ve been around for the whole process, from development to broadcast, which has been a great learning experience.
The first season aired on ABC 3 at the end of last year, and was a huge success, winning the AACTA, Logie and Prix Jeunesse awards for Children’s TV. A novelization of the show has just been published as well, by Elise McCredie, who was one of our very talented writers on the first season, and who is also writing on the second (http://www.booktopia.com.au/nowhere-boys-elise-mccredie/prod9781760120160.html ).
It’s very exciting to be a part of, not just because it’s a great show and a great team; as a huge speculative fiction nerd, I’m just happy that there’s good quality TV shows being made in Australia with science-fiction and fantasy themes. I’d be watching it, even if I wasn’t working on it!
What Australian works have you loved recently?
I’m currently about halfway through reading The Bone Chime Song And Other Stories by Joanne Anderton. It’s a fantastic collection, lots of really original and striking stories, and it’s intimidating and inspiring all at once.
I also just finished Ink Black Magic by Tansy Rayner Roberts, which I was incredibly excited about when I found out about it recently – the first two books in the series are two of my all-time favourites, and I think it’s fantastic that FableCroft Publishing has published the third. Loved it by the way – and I hope the fabled fourth book finds its way onto my shelves soon!
Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
Years ago, I remember Dad talking about shelf space when a new book would come out, and how long your book had on the shelves before they decided to move it. That is far less of a determining factor now – eBooks mean that if your book is online, someone can buy it if they want to. Conversely, it also means that there are a lot more books out there competing for people’s attention. Self-publishing also seems like a lot more of a viable route now, and I’ve been keeping track of authors like Linda Nagata, who self-publishes all of her own books, after years of being with the major publishers.
I don’t think that all of this has affected the way I work per se – more just made me aware that there are more routes open to me than the traditional ‘send it to a publisher, wait for them crush your hopes and dreams’ approach.
And in five years, I hope I’m writing something that makes me excited, and a bit scared of what I’ve written. I don’t really care what format it’s in, or where it’s published, as long as it fulfills those two criteria.