I’m excited today to be sharing a Q&A with Clare Strahan, the author of Cracked. Cracked is a uniquely Australian young adult novel about relationships and staying true to your own self. You can check out my review for Cracked here.
Q&A with Clare Strahan
Hi Kate, thanks for having me.
The first line of Cracked was inspired by the Leonard Cohen song, Anthem, and Clover and the story grew from there.
In Cracked, Clover explores her love of art – including graffiti. Has art played an important part in your own life?
Art wakes us up to beauty and terror and everything in between. Sometimes I think gardening, art, craft, and family/community rituals and entertainments are the only things humans do that make any sense at all – and all those things are food for the soul if they’re done with a sense for the artistic. Human beings are naturally immersed in art – the everyday objects of the past are considered art; unfortunately our current everyday aesthetics are overwhelmingly designed for us by advertisers and because the intention is disposability and fad, it’s much harder for us to value the artistic quality of everyday things. Art by dedicated artists stirs the soul, a sense for the artistic in everyday life warms the heart. Ooop – shouldn’t have got me started on how important art is to me!
Are there any similarities between Clover and yourself?
Clover is her own girl and revealed herself to me over the process of writing the book, however, I suspect I, too, cracked when I was eleven. Whether it showed then or not, I’ll never know (but I’m pretty sure it’s obvious now). I’d love to be as brave as Clover, as committed to demanding more of the world than apathy. I think I was pretty demanding of my teachers, the way Clover is: I wanted them to inspire me.
I read that you once wrote a novel on a manual typewriter by candlelight! Do you still have that typewriter and did you use it when you wrote Cracked?
Sadly, I had to leave my lovely typewriter in Queensland after I’d been living up there for a couple of years – I thought perhaps I’d return and collect her, but I never did. I do, however, have this photo of her:
I do have a couple of old typewriters, but didn’t use one to write Cracked. I write in longhand and then type up what I’ve written on a computer, then edit on paper with a pen, then return to the computer, etc. I love writing with a pen, and I love typing on a typewriter, but there’s no doubt that a computer screen and keyboard makes redrafting a lot quicker and easier.
Many authors are categorized as being either plotters (having plotted their novels out in advance) or pantsers (writing by the seat of their pants). Would you consider yourself to be a plotter, a pantser or a little of both?
I’m a pantser forced to become a plotter after the first draft. I tend to write scenes which generate ideas for further scenes and feel like the plot/story reveals itself to me, as do the characters. At some point though, I have to take hold of the characters and their world and wrestle them into a plot.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
If the writer is writing for their own pleasure and process, I wouldn’t give them any advice, because it might cramp their style. If they want to write to be read and/or published, it’s worth finding out about craft and technique – things like the dangers of adverbs, and the difference between a scene and a summary. The main thing is, though, to keep writing and not give up.
Are you currently working on any new projects you can tell us about?
I’m writing another YA novel with the working title of The Property. It’s just a messy jumble that’s mostly in my head at the moment, but I’m hoping to get away at the end of June and get cracking.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m lucky enough to love my other work – teaching and editor-ing and assessing manuscripts.
I live in a quiet, beautiful, treeish place, so I like to hang out with nature … and my lovely daughter and brand new grandson (what a little darling). I’m blessed with good friends and a close family, so I like to spend time with them. There’s a good sense of community up here, and around my various places of work, which is a most excellent thing. I’m also ridiculously fond of our three chickens, Virginia Woolf, Jerry Hall and Gertrude Stein, who came to live with us this year. I hadn’t guessed how loyal, friendly and funny free chickens can be.
And I like to read novels, especially tucked up in bed with a cat or two and dog or two, too.
What book are you currently reading?
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions, Clare. Clover is such an interesting character and it was great getting to see her struggle but ultimately learn from her experiences.
It’s my pleasure, Kate, thank you. I’m so pleased you found Clover an interesting character; I’m so fond of her.
Those literary rats are adorable! I hope others loved reading your answers and getting a little more insight to Cracked and the character of Clover as much as I did. We are pretty lucky as Australians to have so many amazing authors out there for us to read.
Cracked on 1st June 2014
Click here to buy the book from Amazon •Booktopia • Book Depository • Angus and Robertson
'I'm pretty sure that by the time I finish high school, I'll be cracked into a pile of shards, beyond repair.'
At fifteen, Clover is finding the going tougher than she expected. Her life is close to being derailed on the rocky terrain of family, friendship, first love, acts of defiance and a planet on the brink of environmental disaster.
So when Keek breaks his promise to her, and school sucks, and her mother is impossible, and her beloved old dog is dying, and her dad is in the wind, and the girls at school are awful and the footy-boys are bullies and she's arrested for vandalism - well, what else can she be but cracked?
Can Clover pull herself together - or will she spiral further out of control?..When life feels like it's fracturing, how do you find a way to feel whole?