#LoveOzYA Q&A with Gary Crew for IN THE SECRET PLACE
Gary Crew has published over 100 short stories, novels and illustrated books all over the world. His work has won four Children’s Book Council of Australia awards, as well as the NSW Premier’s Award, the Victorian Premier’s Award, the Aurealis Award for Science Fiction, The Ned Kelly Award for Crime writing, the American Children’s Book of Distinction and the Wilderness Society’s Award for Environmental Writing.
To celebrate the release of his most recent #LoveOzYA novel, In the Secret Place, Gary chatted with #LoveOzYA’s Dayna Smith about how he developed the novel, his writing practice, and how he became a YA author.
For those people who haven’t read it, what is In the Secret Place about?
My novel In The Secret Place is the story of Ben, a teenage boy who has a disability: a severe injury to his foot which causes him to walk with a limp. He is laughed at by students at his school because of this and called ‘The Gimp’. The story reveals the growth of Ben’s inner strength as he determines to overcome this bullying and grow into a mature, independent adult.
The main character, Ben, has learned to adapt to avoid bullying and has become a bit of a self-reliant loner. When you started the project, did you develop the characters first, the themes, or another element?
My ideas for the novel began with how I might develop the character of Ben, who is a loner. Mocked and shunned by his peers, he refuses to be treated as a victim. I was especially interested in demonstrating the worth of a teenager’s positive spirit and the development of that character’s personal growth as he faces life’s challenges. Ben achieves self-respect with the support of his father, his father’s partner, his sister, his friends and also the remarkable intervention of nature in the form of a terrifying, yet extraordinary reptile.
What do you hope readers take away from In the Secret Place?
By reading In The Secret Place, I hope my readers will learn the inner strength of self-respect and personal integrity.
There are few authors who have written so prolifically for children and young people. What do you love about writing for that audience?
I enjoy writing for all audiences: adult, young adult and children. I have no preferences.
You’re Professor Emeritus at the University of the Sunshine Coast and have earned a Masters and Doctorate in the field of literature and creative writing. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about writing and what advice do you regularly share with the people you mentor?
I’m not keen on giving advice about writing because it suggests that I know a great deal about the topic (which I actually don’t – I’m still learning the craft!). But I would suggest (and this is really Stephen King’s suggestion): If you want to write a lot, you must read a lot. Simply put, reading and writing go together.
What does your writing practice look like?
While I might write at any time, I feel that writing in the morning (with a coffee) is best. If I write at night, it always sounds good by the light of the moon but dreadful at sunrise.
When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I never thought of being an author until one day, when I was a teacher, I read some YA novels that I found in my school library and thought, I should try that. I did, and my career changed big time.
You’ve written over 80 published stories, do you have any favourites among them?
I honestly don’t have favourite stories. My books are like my children: sometimes they’re close to me, sometimes they seem far away.