Writer of Paper Crowns
1. Other than the theme for the anthology, what was your inspiration for your short story?
I have always been very drawn to writing about that age when you’re hovering on the brink of adulthood – curious and yearning – but the safety and naivety of childhood still has a firm grip on your hand. I’m a sucker for a coming-of-age story! I think that’s why, as an author, I write in middle grade, and my short stories for adults nearly always feature young characters who experience epiphany moments (usually not of the positive kind!) where it’s like ‘Welcome to the World, kid. It’s sorta tough out here’. The lesson is usually learned the hard way. In my story, Cleo is yearning to have her own agency – to be recognised as an individual and not just some kid, and to slip into adulthood in a romanticised way. But of course in her naïve pursuit of this, she ultimately fails in her responsibility to her brother, with tragic consequences. By the end of the story she likely wants nothing more than to revert back to the safety and security of childhood.
I also love exploring sibling relationships – the dynamics, the nuances, the secret language families share – and this is really what the story initially grew out of.
2. Did you learn anything from writing your story? Is there something you hope people will learn when they read it?
I actually wrote this story almost ten years ago. I entered it in a few competitions but nothing came of it, so I put it away. I always knew there was a spark in it, though, that I wanted to come back to and explore. Ten years later and I could see its flaws, but I could also see the urgency of what I wanted to say. So I went back in and coaxed it out. So I guess there’s some kind of lesson here about the power of persistence (and a good edit!). If you have a story burning inside of you, follow the spark. It might take a few tries, but eventually it will fight its way out in the form in needs to take.
3. How did your character/s come to you? Were they difficult, were they easy?
My characters came to me quite easily. I have siblings, and it was this bond and our shared experience that shaped the dialogue and the dynamic between Cleo and Jesse. The Snow Queen embodies the self-judgement and insecurities we may all feel about ourselves from time to time, so it wasn’t too hard to pluck her from my shoulder and pop her in among the paragraphs!
4. What kind of writing style or preferences do you have? Are they similar to your short story?
I’m not sure I have a preference – when I write short stories, I just let the voice come out the way it needs to, and that tends to shape the language, tone, person, and tense of the story. I tend to trust the authenticity of that first writerly instinct and decide it knows what it’s doing and how it wants to be heard.
5. Do you have a favourite genre that you love to read?
Coming of age stories for sure – whether that’s in the tween, teenage or even young adult years. I love the intimacy and the urgency of these stories. It’s why I read so much #LoveOzMG. But I also adore fantasy, science-fiction, and anything with a supernatural or gothic tinge.
6. Without giving too much away, could you tell us a little about your short story?
Paper Crowns is set on a snowy winter’s night at a family ski lodge. Cleo has been left to look after her little brother Jesse while her parents enjoy themselves, but she is more interested in the handsome Jake. It’s a story about a young girl in pursuit of a romanticised path to adulthood, only to arrive there in the worst possible way.