Sydney Writers Festival 2009 Meet: Transcript of coffee catch-up with Isobelle (23rd May)!

Isobelle Carmody and Obernet members meet at Max Brenner in SydneyOn May 23rd 24th, about 30 Obernetters gathered in Sydney for the Sydney Writers' Festival 2009 - to attend the Isobelle Carmody / Garth Nix panel on Sunday. With a hoard of interstaters staying in Darling Harbour and most people in Sydney for two full days, much fun was had by all! On the 23rd, during a coffee break at Max Brenners, Min pulled a sneak attack on the Obernetters present, and arrived with Isobelle Carmody in tow! Isobelle spent a good 3 hours with us, chatting about everything and anything! (read about the rest of the weekend here) Do not reproduce any part of this interview/transcript without permission from!! Without further ado, here is parts of our private catch-up with Isobelle. Back to all Interviews & Media [hr][/hr]

23/05/2009. Sydney

Many, many thanks to Zieria Deb for transcribing all of this! IC: ...think about it and let me have some ideas. You can have like a thread which I can log onto to suggest any ideas and you can talk about it, talk about the kind of things that'll be on there. Min: so we can tell people now that it's going to be probably a Masked Moonfair... IC: Yes. No, it almost... ??: Definitely... Almost definitely? IC: Let me say definitely, after I talk to {someone from Penguin} this afternoon. Min: Now are we allowed to tell them there is a masked Ball in the last book? ... IC: Yes... Min: Theory thread! ... IC: I have to tell you I am so enjoying working on this book. I'm so loving writing it. I’m having such a good time... ??: The Stone Key was awesome – so much has happened, and I can't wait to see what's next. ... {various comments – yes, loved it, etc} IC: It was great to write that, but there were bits in that where, because I was under such a pressure time-wise, where I was working really long hours at night... Where with this one I don't feel so under pressure, so I'm just really, I'm loving every single second. I can't make myself rush even if I want to because it's like the last bit of chocolate in your mouth; I don't want to bite it because it'll all be gone in a second. Min: You do at least have the Beforetime Chronicles… … IC: It's hard to put something in early in a series that you know that you're going to use it later on but you don't want to make it... too throwaway so when they come to it they'll think oh that was back there... ... ??: The dreams are really good for that, because a lot of the time you think, 'oh, the dreams are a part of people's...' IC: ...and you don't have to make it clear. ??: (continuing) '... does that mean anything, or is that just dream logic, or what's going on there?' So if it keeps recurring, well it keeps recurring for obviously a reason, so what if there is this dream that I'm not picking up that's going to be significant later on. Zier: It's great if you're re-reading them because you pick up on things.. like when she has that dream about the woman in the water with the blood and obviously that comes back, so it's really interesting, the way it's... IC: ... because when I'm re-reading before I re-write the next thing, I always find things and I think 'oh, that links with that' and a lot of it works subconsciously. It's such a big book it's out of the conscious level of your mind, into the subconscious. And what I’m finding is, I'm writing along and think 'Oh My God, this will connect with this!' IC: ... {her partner} will say 'what's the matter?' and I'll say, 'Nothing, it's just the book.' ... he's used to howls of excitement. Sometimes he comes in and I'm crying and he says, 'Oh, not that again.' {this leads into a short period of unclear discussion of Domick and Kella} ??: Where was Kella? Kella didn't come and save him! It's so... IC: I know, I know...that was a hard bit to write, that bit... ??: you weren't planning that... ??: {talking about an interview on Obernet} ...someone asked if Kella and Domick would get back together and you said 'I'm not sure but probably.' IC: ...sometimes characters unfold for you later on and earlier on, he was always a character, the very first time he was created he was a character who did things I didn't expect. For instance when he started behaving oddly to Kella, I didn't expect that, I didn't know why he was doing it, I just knew that he was, and I thought 'well at this point you can decide, well it often happens in books and you can decide.' Then will I go with this and see where it takes me or will I stop it and just make him do what I want him to do? And I thought he was such an interesting sort of, odd character, and what he was doing was ambiguous too, spying and everything, the notion of becoming the monster in order to spy on the monster sort of thing, so I thought, 'let's just see where it goes' and I didn't know for a long time. It kept happening and I thought 'what, why is this happening, she loves him so it must come out okay' and I kept hoping it would, and then at some point I thought, 'how can it? You know – how can it?' (Aside: It's going to end in tears.) And in a way it's really important that sometimes the consequences, as dark as they are, go the way that you think that they're going to go so, things like that happen too. ??: I like that they do. IC: It's important. ??: It makes sense. ... FF?: .... when something doesn't turn out, though, it makes it even nicer when they do. Because they had to work for that. IC: …and because you never, because if you do that with one character, the people who are reading it and you, never quite know whether all the characters are safe, you can never feel sure that the characters are safe after that. You should care about them to the extent of worrying, whereas some books you read, you know this person is going to survive everything including having their head bitten off by a dragon. Somehow they're going to survive it. So you feel like maybe it won't happen, but in this ...I like the feeling of precariousness of characters, that you just don't know. IC: Yeah, I know. It feels like that when you write it too. You feel like you've reached the edge of a cliff and you think 'ohh I’m really gonna do it, it's really gonna happen.' ... even when you're writing it and you know that that's pretty much likely what's gonna happen, you keep hoping that some inspiration will come that will save you, save him and still be good for the book. And then you realise – no, this actually has to happen. So there's this sense of going along with your character where you don't know; I think that's important as a writer as I never ... never lose the sense of 'what happens here?' I mean there are characters I am almost certain will go right through to the end, but I'm not 100% sure, you know, and I hope nothing happens. So I'm writing, thinking 'I really hope that...' And you see the text leaning a certain sort of way and think 'oh God...' ??:'re empathising with the readers there because we do that too. We go through it going 'Oh crap, please don't kill Maruman!' I’m so scared for that little cat! {general agreement} IC: ...years ago, I think after about, I'd written the first book and I was writing the second one and I, and this was years ago, and I stood in front of a little group, a group of kids ... young school kids [who'd just read it?] ... or something like that, and one of them said to me, got up and said, 'are you going to kill Maruman?' And I said, because I didn't know at that time, and I said 'I don't know' and they went, 'Nnnnooooooooo!' So I came out and the teacher said, 'I don’t think you better kill that Maruman.' {lots of laughter} … {unclear} ??: It says that Rushton slew his insane step-uncle Alexi... ??: And we were wondering who killed Alexi, and whether he was really dead. ??: Yeah, because Rushton was comatose and nearly dead... I think one of the... IC: Did you know, I have to admit this, because it only just happened. I was writing something, and Alexi had to come ... and I thought, 'What happened to him, anyway?' {laughter} IC: 'Who killed him?' I can't remember! I can't remember what I decided, way back then. ??: We have like a two page thread on this! {chatter} IC: I won't destroy the thread! The reason I never wanna tell you too much, is because I love those threads you have where you speculate. And I just... if I tell you, I would ruin your speculations, and they're so nice... ??: Yeah, we have a lot of fun. ??:'s good too, because you'll come back and say 'No!' and then we'll just psychoanalyse these paragraphs... IC: I know, I go in sometimes – I can't help myself! I go in sometimes and I see what you're figuring out... Or you've got a thread, and I'll think, 'I wonder what they're...' ??: It's fun for us, too. ... IC: What I'm doing right now is, that I've written the... What I wanna do is finish the book, give it to the editor, and then reread all of the theories again, with all of these questions like, 'What actually...' because once I read with those questions in mind, then I'll remember what I wanted to have happen. ... Zier: Oh, I loved that scene with Merimyn. IC: I loved it too. I liked that scene a lot too. Min: I think all of us were squeeing at that point. {unclear, but much agreement} IC: At that point I thought, 'should I put that in? Because it's like a real ...' and I thought, 'oh, I can't resist.' ??: I'm so glad you did! IC: But when I was writing, one of the things I was rapt when I got on the website after the book came out, I was really pleased that you liked the bit with the... the computer. {chatter} IC: When I was writing I thought, 'it has to happen. It has to be moving more and more close...We have to start thinking of living in ... the technological age has to be drawn into it so that it's threaded through, but at the same time it's a sort of a jump from that... all those medieval world {unclear}... {chatter, unclear} IC: And it would've felt like ... And there's also a few stages you have to be brought through, and I have to be brought through, to get to the point of being able to ... I mean, in a way it's like a big clue, and what's happening right now in the book is a big clue for what will happen in the end of the book. It's like steps. And rather than make you make one gigantic step, it's much more exciting to have you make steps, each of which is really interesting. But I loved writing that bit. I loved ... ??: of the best bits was the toilet. {laughter, chatter} ??: ...the shower. ??: ...Beforetime setting. I've always wondered if she'll time travel on the dreamtrails, and so in the {unclear} gets to be really in the Beforetime... {unclear} IC: find words to describe these things... ??: The blue trews. {chatter} ??: ...that was awesome. ??: Even in the first book when she sees the obelisks and things, you're like, 'what is that? Is it something we would know?' ??: 'Is it a telegraph pole, or...?' IC: She's just passed another one of those. {excited reaction} ... IC: ...I just love the idea of bridges turned into parks. Instead of cars going across the city, imagine if it were a park with trees and things growing down – how beautiful it would be. ??: ... Sydney Harbour Bridge... IC: That is a spectacular bridge – imagine that all wound through – it would be so beautiful! It would be stunningly beautiful. And I love imagining it. When I look at a city, I love imagining what it would be like if it were... if nothing that were happening now was happening in it, and if nature had started to take it over again. Fork's like that, in Billy Thunder and the Night Gate, too – I love that city. Firefall: I love when the stonework turns into flowers, kind of like living stone – I really love that. IC: In the third one, I really want to have it more in love with Elle. I want it to be really – I want it to be quite strange, because it adores her... I love those books. When people ask what books I loved to write most, and I just had such joy, I don't know why – maybe 'cause it was my hours, writing those two books. ... IC: The thing is that... what I would like to do, if I could do anything I wanted, I would do the final Legendsong first. {excited reactions} IC: But I'm going to America later on this year, and I know the publisher's going to say to me, 'where's the third book?' Billy Thunder book. I know it will be an easier book to write because it'll be a lot shorter, {unclear} books that have come before that are so huge. And again that's a really heavy serious book for me, the final Legendsong book, and I don't want to write it in a hurry. I don't want to write it with pressure. So I figured if I finished the Billy Thunder books first, the Little Fur books are now finished, and Obernewtyn will be finished (the Obernewtyn chronicles will be finished). It will be the last series I'm finishing, and it will give me the room to actually finish it in. But the thing between I do what I always do when I'm under pressure, I start to write a secret book, which I'm not supposed to be doing. {laughter, chatter} ??: That's how the Legendsong was born. (?) Isobelle: It is, and that's how Alyzon Whitestarr was written, and that's how The Gathering was written. So all those books are like illicit side books. Min: If we get another Legendsong out of that, I don't mind! {laughter} ??: Me either. IC: All I know is when I feel under pressure from the publishers I always think, well all I know is I'm working constantly. It's not like I'm taking a holiday in Bermuda and sipping pina coladas, I'm actually working constantly. ??: the triangle for a while to work. IC: I always wish for a parallel me. That is, a parallel me meaning there's me, and then there's the me that works. So the me that works just steps sideways and works obsessively on anything I want. And the rest of me can live the rest of my life. One bit of me would now be here with you, and the other bit of me would be back in my room working on the next book. ... Zier: I was wondering, with the Legendsong, is it definitely looking to be three books, or do you not... IC: It'll definitely be three books... ??: I wouldn't mind if it was more! IC: I actually haven't read it for as many years since I've written it, because I'm trying really hard to be able to read it completely fresh. I remember the ideological underpinnings and once I read the books I'll remember how it goes, but I wanna read it really really fresh. So I've resisted the temptation to reread – which I have. Whenever someone ... if I'm being interviewed about it, I always feel as if I should reread, but I wanna save that for when I'm about to start... I wanna be the freshest I've ever been for writing a final book. Because I think... For me that's a really important book, philosophically, and I wanna save it for that. And I love those characters and I can't wait to go back. ??: So do we. ... ??: We adore them! IC: But I know what's gonna happen at the end. I do know exactly what's gonna happen at the very end. Min: Well, that makes one of us! {laughter} ??: Can I just ask, are you one of those authors who really enjoys reading back over your published works? Because I've heard authors say that sometimes it's agonising to read a published work because they can see all the things they would've liked to change... IC: I don't feel agonised in that sense, because whenever I write a book I do the absolute best I can, so I know that I couldn’t have written it better, at that time. So I really know that about myself. So I never feel, 'oh, this was a bad book.' I sometimes feel 'oh, she was young who wrote that.' You know, when I read that first book I think I've found awkward things and I just ... I felt a little bit tender about that 14-year-old girl, and that 20-year-old girl who was editing that book. That's a long time ago for me. So I don't feel it in that sense. But what I do find difficult is, partway through the reading I often find I'm starting to feel ... I stop reading it because I know it too well, and I can't reread it. It's like I can't have it as a thing to read. And that's why I'm waiting with the Legendsong. I know them too well. If you read a sentence to me out of my own book ... and put a word in that wasn't there, I will know the word. We used to play this game – my family would play this game with me. They'll go through my books, randomly pick a sentence out, add in a single word, and I'll always know that it's not right. It's not that I know the words so well, it's that I know how I would write it. That I know the sound of a sentence that I would write. And it's very rare that I would put it differently, so I know... The only times I make a mistake is when it's been edited, and I've sometimes been in two minds about how to put it. So yeah, so sometimes that happens. But if I can push it away long enough, sometimes I find myself, if I sit down and I have to read a piece, for um, like in Adelaide yesterday. I had to do a program, they were filming something. ... And I had to read a few lines, or a few pages. And I was looking through the book trying to find a few pages, and I started to read, looking, thinking, 'would this be...?' And then I get involved in the story, and I love it when that happens. Because for a minute I had the pleasure of actually reading it like it was a real book for me. So yeah, for that reason I get some pleasure out of it, but only ... ... IC: You have a moment when you need to read a book again. What I love most about this website, and about the people who read me is that when I was growing up and books were my sole solace in life, sometimes, that I would reread things that I loved again and again and I never tired of them. And when I was getting the very first fan letters a long way back, and people would say 'I've reread your books so many times' and I was so moved and {unclear} that somebody feels for my books what I felt for those books that mean so much to me... ??: Of course we do! {chatter} ??: I think that’s why a lot of people want to write, because they've had that experience with books, and they just really want to have people say 'I've got a craving to reread this again...' IC: Yeah, like a {unclear}. And there are some books I carry around the world with me, from country to country. That I have to have them with me, just in case I need to read them again. ... Spoilers for The Gathering! IC: When I was ... the contract for The Gathering, the one thing I said to the filmmakers was, 'I don't want you to show the scene where the dog dies. I don't want to see that.' ??: That's traumatic enough as it is. ??: Exactly. IC: It's one of those things where because they're so good at special effects they can do anything. But they shouldn't. Sometimes it's better just to leave it to your imagination. Firefall: It's more effective that way anyway, I think... IC: And that's the thing a lot of filmmakers don't realise, I think. They think, because I can do it with special effects, I should do everything that can be seen. But it's like playing with toys ... they should leave it alone and let it be to the imagination. ??: Or a way to enhance the story where necessary, but not to tell the story... ... [act]someone asks about the division of Wavesong and TSK for the US audience[/act] IC: What I did is I rewrote, I redivided them into sections. The last one came really easily in half, although, to me it should be one book. So there's sort of an emotional arc in the book that doesn't finish in the end of the first book. But it's an okay spot to finish it. Whereas the next one I thought I'd write it so that there were sort of like two emotional arcs so I could cut it up neatly, but I couldn't do it. Zier: It doesn't work? IC: It doesn't work, because if you're true to the book you're writing... So I'll just write it, and I'll look around there and see... What I might do is, what I'm thinking of actually doing is ... at about 800 pages it would be a good place to cut it for the first book, which will leave it a smaller book for the second book. So I thought that perhaps I could write it, and let them ... that, and then cut it to go into the one, so there's like two versions, one that has more... Because they want to start editing now. ... ??: So you're looking at a similar length to The Stone Key then, or a bit longer...? IC: I'm hoping it'll be shorter. I'd like it to be shorter. {various comments that we really wouldn't mind} ... Min: We just wanted to clarify – we were talking about it before and I've only just remembered. The Sending – that's probably going to be the beginning of next year? Zier: Hopefully? IC: Yeah, I'm glad you know... I was dreading the fact that someone would mention 'what time this year is the book coming out?' ??: No, we know that... IC: Well, I said that it would be February, but my editor said 'Are you sure about that?' And I said, 'Well, it'll be well and truly finished for then.' And she said they don't like bringing stuff out then – most people are sick of celebrations ... all their money for Christmas. She said that it might slip into March, so I don't know. In my mind it would be fine either way with me. It's an extra month for you to wait. ??: ...Oh, another month, whatever. IC: You know what I feel? Someone asked me on stage the other day – 'do you feel guilty about keeping all these people waiting?' And I said, 'I used to. But if you could believe the relationship between those people on the Obernewtyn network, they would not be around for so long. ... If I'd written all the books in one go, you wouldn't have had the reason to be waiting and guessing and all those theories. I actually don't feel guilty – I'm really rapt that it's generated... People write to me and say, 'This person is my friend, who I love, because I met them through this website.' And I love that – I love that. So I don't feel guilty at all. I do feel bad about making you wait though! ??: When it does come out though, it makes up for it. Because now we've got a thousand new pages to analyse while we wait. ... ??: ...reading The Stone Key ... because you know the characters so well... ??: We had bets on what was going to happen. ??: It was really exciting. So much fun! IC: ...when I don't come on for a while. It was so much fun to come on after the book came out and to read what people had written. ... take a long time to write a book, you think 'I hope it's as good as I think it is. I hope it's a good book. I hope it's worthy of the wait.' Transcriber's Note: I think we all know the answer to that one! :P Hope you enjoyed the transcript, and sorry it was so long in coming! [hr][/hr] Back to all Interviews & Media