Interview by Alexandra Pierce.
Kathryn Barker was born in Canberra, but growing up involved plenty of travel. She started primary school in Tokyo (the only kid with a sandwich in her lunchbox) and finished high school in the woods outside Olympia, Washington State (aka that rainy place where Twilight was set). In the years that followed she went to university, became a lawyer, changed her mind, re-trained as a film producer and worked in television. Kathryn currently lives in Sydney with her family, and In the Skin of a Monster is her first novel.
Your novel In the Skin of a Monster won the Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Novel in 2016 – congratulations! What was it like to write such a novel? Had it been gestating long?
The story wasn’t exactly ‘gestating’ for long… it just took a really long time to write! We’re talking years. Several of them. Honestly, I did more re-writes on that book than I care to remember.
As for what it was ‘like’ to write In the Skin of a Monster? Well, at times it was tough. I mean, the story involves the fall-out from a school shooting and takes place in an alternate realm populated by nightmares and monsters. Getting into the headspace of the characters was a bit dark sometimes. Having said that, the story also has lightness and love and friendship and redemption. Writing those moments was an absolute joy. So, in short, the process of writing In the Skin of a Monster was both tough and joyous… and pretty much everything in between.
In the Skin of a Monster is your first published novel, but how much unpublished work is sitting on the metaphorical drawer right now?
The drawer’s empty I’m afraid – In the Skin of a Monster was the first thing I ever wrote. Truth be told, I didn’t even have a crack at short stories before jumping in head-first. It’s not like there were any magical short-cuts, though. All of the usual learning curve stuff still applied (finding your voice, finding the story etc)… I just did it all ‘on the job’. Like I said, the story took me several years to write.
These days my ‘metaphorical drawer’ is filled with ideas and outlines that I haven’t had a chance to write yet… but I’m (slowly) working on it!
What writing plans do you have for the future? Are there ideas or themes or genres that you’re hoping to explore?
I’ve just finished an early draft of my second novel, which I’m really excited about. Without giving too much away, it’s a YA mash-up involving classic works of English literature. Thematically, I wanted to explore the idea of ‘romantic ideals’ and how they measure up against what’s real. Also, there’s time-travel… because who doesn’t love time travel?
What Australian work have you loved recently?
This is such a hard question, because there’s been so many! Off the top of my head, I’m going to say ‘My Sister Rosa’ by Justine Larbalestier. I mean, who can resist an adorable little psychopath wreaking havoc?
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?