The Booktopia Book Guru asks
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 Uruguay (but am the non-bitey type). My family left our little country when I was two and the choice was between Australia and Canada. I think the brochures for Australia were prettiest, so we ended up here. After a short stint at the Endeavour Hostel for Migrants in Sydney’s Coogee (now the site of luxury housing) we settled in nearby Eastlakes, where I went to primary school. Later, I attended J.J. Cahill Memorial High School in Mascot, reputedly the toughest school around. Luckily, we had a great year and inspiring teachers (hi Mrs Slattery and Mr Johnson!) and I never even came close to getting my head flushed down the loo.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
12: A writer. I’d realised by age 4 that I was in love with words and stories. When I was in year 3 I wrote a poem called The Hungry Sea that Miss Griffin pinned up on the classroom wall, so this seemed to confirm that I was on the right path.
18: A magazine editor. Ok, so I still wanted to write books, but by now I’d worked out that I would need to sustain myself somehow until that dream came to fruition, so I figured that a job in magazines would be the best way to do this, without hindering the original dream. I’d grown up on Smash Hits and Dolly and may have thought that being the ed of a mag would be all pop stars and hilarity. Of course, after two decades in magazines (give or take a few to have babies and try freelancing) I’ve realised that I couldn’t have been more mistaken! I tip my hat every day to the ed of Who, where I work; being the editor of a magazine is a 24-hour gig. We do laugh a lot though, at least I was right there.
30: An author: I’d just had my second child, just 18 months after the first. He was born the day before September 11 and the world beneath my feet seemed to be cracking. I’d taken a voluntary redundancy from work to look after my babies, but clearly remember staring longingly at my bookshelves during night feeds. The sight of them cut through the mind-numbing exhaustion and fears about the state of the world. I didn’t have time to read the books, but just looking at them, knowing I’d get back to them one day, offered a measure of comfort and peace. It reminded me of my original passion for books, and of how, one day, I hoped I too could bring hope and solace to readers through writing a book of my own.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I was very hard on myself, especially in thinking I had to look and be a certain way. I look back on photos now and think, ‘What did you have to complain about??’ I was also a bit ashamed of my quiet nature, thinking I had to be another way, especially if I wanted to be a journalist. Now I know that being quiet and non-intimidating can be a big plus in journalism: it allows people’s stories to just pour into me.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
1: Golden Books. I was probably 2 when I first got one, not long after we arrived from Uruguay, and maybe 4 when I taught myself to read them. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love stories. My mum is a wonderful writer and poet, and I’m certain that I inherited her love of words … but if I had to pinpoint a time when I can first recall books in my life, it was Golden Books. Looking back, I was an immigrant child who’d lost her entire large extended family in one fell swoop. I think books filled the void, in a way. I learned to associate them with love and comfort, and never wanted to be far from them. That’s still the case today.
2: When I was about 7, my mum shared with me some experiences that she’d had as a young woman growing up in Uruguay. These experiences were instances of precognition, of sensing the future, specifically, the imminent deaths of loved ones. These stories opened me to the possibility that there was more to life than what we see and know, that mysteries abound. I found this exciting! It spoke of hope… it also taught me about the power of storytelling.
3. Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende: I was in my late teens or early 20s when I first tackled García Márquez. I was stunned, winded, by his novels—his dexterity of language, his breadth of imagination, the sheer beauty of his words. He left an imprint on my heart, as did Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits a little later on. Both huge influences on my work. Many years later, I was lucky enough to interview Isabel Allende as part of my job as the books editor at Who magazine. I found her a kindred spirit—like me, tiny and overly fond of makeup!
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?
Not at all, see above! To me, books spell comfort, healing, joy and love, I can’t see how they’ll ever be obsolete.
6. Please tell us about your latest book…
Love Never Dies is a celebration of love that transcends death. It is full of stories of everyday Australians who’ve had an experience of sensing the spirit of someone they’ve loved and lost. It is my third book on the subject of life after death, and the seed for this one was planted in my earlier books. Those were a broader look at paranormal experiences, but each also contained a chapter about people who’d sensed the spirit of a loved one. I was struck by how powerful these experiences were, how they changed the outlook of the beraved person—the experiences were life-changing, and, in some cases, life-saving—and decided that I would love to dedicate an entire book to these kinds of stories.
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
If my work could inspire people to appreciate the loved ones in their lives while they’re with them, that would be wonderful. Beyond that, if my work could encourage people to be kinder, not only in their dealings with precious people around them but also with other people in the community, from neighbours to the Lollipop Lady, I’d be a happy writer. I’m with the Dalai Lama when he says: “My religion is kindness.”
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
This is very difficult! It is a long list and it’s growing (a good thing, no?). I’ll have to cheat and tell you about two people who are on it today: first, a lady I saw on Dateline, who puts her safety on the line every day to run a school for the impoverished children of Brazil’s favelas. My heart was bursting watching that. I’m passionate about children’s literacy but she’s actually out there, making it happen in her third-world country, just over the border from the third-world country I was born in. Something to aspire to. The other person who’s on my list today is my daughter, Jasmin. She’s 14 and has just brought home the most outstanding report! I’m so proud of how hard she works for her results. She inspires me everyday to just put my head down and get the job done, no complaints.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I would like to try my hand at fiction … other than that, my goals involve helping others. I’d like to find a way to encourage children to read and be passionate about books, because that opens the door to a brighter future.
I will not be the first writer to say this, but, ‘Be true to yourself.’ Follow that gut instinct that tells you you’re on the trail of a good story, the right thing for you to commit to the page. And don’t worry if you’re that teenager who loves reading and writing but hates drawing attention to yourself and would rather sneak under the radar at every opportunity. I’m here to tell you it won’t always be that way. Some day, you’ll be happy to get up and tell a lot of people about your work, stories you’ve gathered because your kind face and quiet demeanour allowed subjects to pour their stories into you, without fear.
Karina, thank you for playing.
by Karina Machado
“Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality.” – Emily Dickinson
This is a book about the indestructibility of love. Journalist and author Karina Machado spoke to over 60 Australians with stories of post-death contact. She shares their life-shattering experience of loss, and shows how their spiritual contact with a deceased lover, friend or family member brought peace, hope and the solace of knowing that their connection lives on.
There is the story of a teenage boy who appears in bodily form on the eve of his funeral to bring comfort to his sister. A young husband returns to his widow in time to prevent another tragedy. A grandmother arrives to lovingly care for the infant children of her grief-stricken daughter. A man soothes his heartbroken brother with an otherworldly embrace.
Written with grace and compassion, Love Never Dies is as much about the power of loving relationships as it is the phenomenon of the survival of consciousness beyond death.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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