#LoveOzYA Author Q&A With Catch Tilly
Catch Tilly is a former high school teacher now working as an author and script writer. It was after hearing students comment how realistic and empowering they found Morgan and Stormin’s story presented in a play on bullying that she decided to write Otherwise Known as Pig. She is married with five children and has an MA in creative writing.
Welcome to the LoveOzYA blog, we’re so happy to have you here!
Let’s go back to the beginning…have you been telling stories since you were a kid or was writing something you fell in love with as an adult?
Up until age 13, I didn’t so much tell stories as live in an alternative world. I was Kimba the white lion for years, then various orphans, wolves, horse-riders etc … I never got into toys much, all I wanted to do was read by myself or play imaginary games with my friends. Then when I was in Grade 9, my best friend started writing a book and so did I. I haven’t stopped since. Writing is like make-believe games you can do by yourself.
Tell us about your new book.
Otherwise known as Pig is a YA novel about bullying. It’s violent and confronting. I usually describe it by saying it starts with “Stormin punched me in the mouth today” and goes downhill from there. But it’s very funny: my protagonist Morgan, otherwise known as Pig, has a real mouth on him and he says those smart-arse sarcastic comments we all want to. And, in between the bullying there’s pieces of real hope.
I wrote it after doing a workshop on bullying and there’s a lot of research behind it. What I’ve found most amazing is the way people tell you stories. From 13-year-old kids to adults over 80, I’ve found by just talking about this book, people open up to you and tell you things about their past you never imagined. It’s humbling to think something you’ve written can speak into people’s lives like that.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
There wasn’t a lot of OzYA around when I was growing up, but I’d say my two favourites were probably World’s End was Home by Nan Chauncy and I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshal.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
Both my parents. My Mum used to tell us stories when we went to bed. She’d read The Magic Faraway Tree when she was younger and because we didn’t own a copy, she’d make up Faraway stories. I thought she was just retelling them, but when I finally read the book both me and my sister agreed that Mum’s stories were different and better. And I think that taught me that you could always imagine.
My Dad read to us, we went through all the Swallows and Amazons books and about half-way through, I started reading ahead to find out what happened. And I’m still doing it.
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
I think, if there’s anything, it’s a willingness to take chances. Australian authors like Ivan Southall were writing YA ‘before it was cool’ as they say, and I think this ability to step out on a limb still characterises Australian YA.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
Hard question. I love any bookshop I go into, but I’d probably pick Dymocks Adelaide because they are so active in promoting Australian YA. And as for libraries, let me tell you a story.
When I was a student (and poor) I used to take a day a week before my birthday and Christmas and spend it busing to as many libraries as I could. Then I’d collect a pile of books and get the librarians to borrow 2 or 4 for me and put them in my bag. By the end of the day I had a pile of Christmas reading as a free present. I loved those days. All libraries are awesome.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
Sensitive by Allayne Webster. I love Allayne’s work and this one had extra punch because she wove so much of her own story into it.
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
Mostly I imagine, but when forced into the real world, I do have a part-time job as an actor in kids’ theatre. I write the scripts as well, which is fun, and has taught me that everything goes better with zombies. (Even cooking shows).
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
I have two good ones (sorry, really can’t decide between them).
Follow the character: When I get stuck in a plot point, or a piece of writing, and don’t know where to go I close my eyes and imagine. Get right into the person. Stop thinking like a writer and start thinking like a protagonist. Then all I need to do is take their story and put it into words.
Trust yourself: My husband keeps saying this and it really helps. Believe you can do it.
Worst advice: Always show, not tell – do you know long that makes a story? Sometimes you need to tell, the trick is to do it in an interesting way.
What do you love about OzYA?
The community. We’re a small population in a large country and that gives us something Europe and America don’t have – we know we need each other. And Australians are good at friendship, at being mates. We have so many good writers and good books, and that’s fantastic, but we also have a solid, supportive community and that’s magic.
Image: Suzanne Elliott Photography