I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with Australian novelist, Kate Constable about her latest young adult novel, New Guinea Moon. Kate Constable was born in Sangringham, Melborne (Victoria, Australia). When she was six-years-old, her family moved to Papua New Guinea where her father worked as a pilot.
Strange country, first love, secrets.
I believe you spent part of your childhood in New Guinea, did your time there inspire you to write this story?
It certainly did. My family lived in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s, when New Guinea Moon is set. I was six when we moved there, and eleven when we left, so I was at a very impressionable age! In many ways, it was a wonderful place to grow up. There was no television, so I spent most of my time reading and climbing trees. We were exposed to great inequalities of wealth and privilege, which was a good life lesson, but one I feel great unease about now, looking back – it was just the way the world was, and I didn’t question it. I loved the wild landscape, the violent climate, the traditional culture, but I was a privileged expatriate child, much wealthier and more fortunate, through an accident of birth, than the local children I encountered. Even at the time I was dimly aware of the unfairness of it all, but I never really questioned it. Part of the reason for writing NGM was so that I could explore those ambivalent feelings, the attraction and excitement of living in this amazing, exotic place, and the deep, uncomfortable divide between the expat community and the local people. My protagonist Julie is sixteen, a few years older than I was when I left PNG, and she can see things a little more clearly than I could back then!
New Guinea Moon is your tenth novel, how do you keep up your momentum to continue writing?
I’m not much good at anything else! But honestly, I can’t imagine a more enjoyable job. With every book, I get to plunge myself into a different world, and live there for a year or so — sometimes longer. I started living in my imagination when I was a little girl, perhaps I’ve never fully emerged.
What do you love about writing young adult?
In many ways I still feel like the tongue-tied, awkward, uncertain teenager I used to be. I don’t think I’ve ever really got a firm grip on the way the world works, so it’s easy for me to slip back into feeling fifteen or sixteen, groping my way toward understanding those complicated things: love and family and identity and friends, trying to work out what I’m doing here.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a time-slip book for younger readers, which is a mixture of My Place, The Block, and a ghostly mystery! I can’t say any more than that…
What do you do when you’re not writing?
My family would probably say, reading! Let me think, what else have I done today: tidied the library at my daughters’ school, sewed miniature clothes for a tiny toy dog, prepared for a book launch, researched for a talk I’m giving later in the year… I’ll tell you what I haven’t done yet, I just remembered, I haven’t vacuumed.
And just for fun, when writing do you prefer…
Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?
I’m a tea addict. I have a special one person teapot with a sideways handle which is a precious possession. My favourite day is Saturday, when the newspaper comes, and I can browse through it at leisure with a pot of tea. Bliss!
Plotting, pantsing or both? Plotting is my favourite part. I’m an uptight Virgo, I don’t do pantsing!
Quiet solitude or background noise? I tend to work with a background murmur from the radio (chat, not music) but I actually do work better when I have quiet solitude!
Warm day, sunny day or rainy day? Rain, plese. But not every day.
Typing or pen and notepad? Typing. My handwriting has deteriorated to the point where if I use a pen, I can’t decipher it any more.
Thank you so much for stopping by Kate.
Check out my 5 star review for New Guinea Moon.
Julie has grown up not knowing her father, with just the occasional Christmas card and the knowledge that he flies planes for a charter company in New Guinea. When she comes to stay with him one long summer, she learns to appreciate not only her long-lost father and his love of flying, but also New Guinea itself and the people she meets. An awkward romance with a young expat contrasts with her growing attraction to the son of a local coffee plantation owner. And, left to her own devices much of the time, Julie learns to rely on herself and gain her own independence. A tragedy and then a mystery leave her reeling, but force her to evaluate what she really wants out of life.