author of Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in Mount Isa in far North West Queensland. It’s a mining town a long way from anywhere but an amazing place to grow up. Our playground was the dry Leichhardt River, a few streets away from house, and we spent hours exploring there. Mum would send us off in the morning with a 2 litre bottle of water and tell us not to annoy any snakes. I went to Barkly Highway State School and later Mount Isa State High.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve I wanted to be a writer, at eighteen a nurse (but secretly still wanted to be a writer) and at thirty, surprise, I wanted to be… a writer.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That I had to wear black stockings and boots with everything.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
Adam Ant – Ant music! I can remember hearing this as a ten year old girl in our small town in the middle of nowhere, and realising how huge and exciting and unknown the world was to me! It made me feel creative, this song, and it was…. thrilling. Still get goose-bumps when I hear this song. I am transported.
The Reader’s Digest book Strange Stories, Amazing Facts. I know! Not high literature but it had such a huge impact on me as a child. My siblings and I LOVED it. It was so terrifying and interesting and horrifying. Fingernails that grow after death, ghosts, doppelgangers, auras, spirit writing, and my favourite (which scared me senseless) – spontaneous human combustion!!!! It fuelled much of my early fantasy writing.
And then, of course, Andersen’s The Snow Queen, read to me by my mum. This fairy-tale planted the seed of a love for quest stories and terrible villains. The Snow Queen has been lurking around in my head ever since.
It think because all my life I’ve had stories inside me wanting to be told. I had to teach myself how to write and I still am learning every time I put pen to paper. I can remember as a teenager always feeling like the words “controlled” me, not the other way around. I had to learn how to control my prose. I had to learn how to get those stories out of me. Every novel I’ve written I’ve learnt more about writing, about being creative and, most importantly, about myself.
6. Please tell us about your novel, Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy
Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy is about a little girl who peeks through a keyhole in a vast, crumbling museum and finds a boy being kept prisoner there. Together, the pair of them, have to save the world from the wicked Snow Queen. There are frightening challenges and fearsome creatures and a giant clock ticking down to the end of time. Kids and adults who love quirky, fast-paced, exciting adventure fantasy, will love this story.
Eleven-year-old Ophelia might not be brave, but she certainly is curious. Her family is still reeling from her mother’s death, and in a bid to cheer everyone up, her father has taken a job at an enormous gothic museum in a city where it never stops snowing. Ophelia can’t wait to explore and quickly discovers an impossibility. In a forgotten room, down a dark corridor, she finds a boy, who says he’s been imprisoned for 303 years by an evil Snow Queen who has a clock that is ticking down towards the end of the world. A sensible girl like Ophelia doesn’t quite believe him, but there’s no denying he needs her help. Ghosts, wolves, misery birds, magical swords – and even fabled Snow Queens – do their very best to stop Ophelia. She will have to garner all her courage, strength and cleverness if she is to rescue this most Marvellous Boy.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy is about the power of friendship and never, ever giving up. I hope that’s what kids and adults alike take away from it.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I admire too many people to mention. There are so many wonderful Queensland writers right now! Kris Olsson, Melissa Lucashenko, Belinda Jeffrey, Christopher Currie, Chris Somerville, Annah Faulkner, Patrick Holland, Chris Bongers, Krissy Kneen.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To not be scared of the creative process and to be brave enough to write what moves me. To keep learning and improving.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Just write. Write and write and write. Don’t worry about blogging platforms and marketing and networking and websites. Just write. Love your stories. It’s old-fashioned, I know, but that’s how you become a writer.
Karen, thank you for playing.
About the Contributor
Sarah McDuling is Booktopia's Senior Content Producer and Editor of The Booktopian Blog. She has been in the bookselling game for almost a decade and a dedicated booklover since birth (potentially longer). At her happiest when reading a book, Sarah also enjoys talking/writing/tweeting about books. In her spare time, she often likes to buy a lot of books and take photographs of books. You can follow her on Twitter and Instragram @sarahmcduling
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