#LoveOzYA Q&A with Jane Caro
Jane Caro has a low boredom threshold and so wears many hats; including author, novelist, lecturer, mentor, social commentator, columnist, workshop facilitator, speaker, broadcaster and award winning advertising writer and Walkley Award recipient. She has published eight books, the latest of which is Just Flesh and Blood, the final instalment in her Elizabeth Tudor trilogy.
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?
I have always written stories, from as early as I can remember. One that sticks in my head was a play I wrote in 4th Class (I suppose I was 9) called ‘The Witches Crystal Ball’. I was allowed to produce it for all the 4th classes at Frenchs Forest Public School in 1966. All I remember about it – apart from the title – was that I played the witch and everyone died at the end.
Tell us about your new book.
My new book is the third and final instalment in the Elizabeth Tudor trilogy. (Spoiler alert: she dies at the end.) It is called Just Flesh and Blood and follows Just a Girl and Just a Queen.
In this final book, I again look at a pivotal moment in Elizabeth I’s life. This time, she is dying but refusing to take to her bed. Instead she sits on a pile of cushions (this is historically accurate, by the way) and thinks back over her life, particularly her relationship with her mother who was executed by her father before Elizabeth was three years old.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
Not an Australian one, I am afraid. My family were migrants from the UK so the books my parents gave to me were the ones they’d enjoyed from their own childhood. I think my favourites were The Secret Garden, Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. Funnily enough I can see the ghost of all of them in all three of my Elizabeth books.
Was there anyone who encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
Both my parents are lifelong voracious readers so I always saw them reading books, discussing books and they recommended books to me. We were a bookish household and all my friends called me a bookworm.
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
I think good stories are universal but I think Australia has the advantage of indigenous culture, which is a rich source of stories and experience. I also think our natural environment, bushland and migrant culture give Australian writers unique and relevant stories to tell.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
My local bookshop and my local library. I love The Constant Reader in Crows Nest and Stanton Library in North Sydney.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
I read a lot of books and most of them disappear from my memory soon after I have finished them. I am reading a very interesting book at the moment. Its called Victorians Undone by Kathryn Hughes and it takes body parts of famous (or infamous) Victorians and reveals a great deal about that society by the way they were regarded or why they made an impression at the time – Lady Flora Hasting’s belly, Darwin’s beard, George Eliot’s right hand, Fanny Cornforth’s mouth, Fanny Adam’s head. It’s fascinating and very original.
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
I draw a little (for my own enjoyment only). I make documentaries with the ABC. I also enjoy public speaking and am an oral thinker, so I often come up with new ideas and insights as I make a speech. I love the process of discovery shared by both audience (and reader) and speaker (author).
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
The worst piece was my own belief that I wasn’t good enough, which made me shy about sharing my work for far too long. The best piece was to just do it and not worry about how good, bad or indifferent it was. That’s when I was able to get started.
What do you love about OzYA?
I love that it is why so many young Australians love reading the way I did as a girl. I love it in its variety and richness. I hope that as long as there are young people, there will also be many of them who love nothing more than getting lost in a book, and we can thank OzYA for that.
Just Flesh and Blood is published by UQP. You can read more about it here.