Author Interview with Catherine Austen

If the games and music on Max's RIG were available in the current day, name a band and an App we might find on his RIG?

Max would have house music and pop songs on his RIG, provided by New Middletown’s communications network, but his friend Xavier would slip him old protest songs and Gogol Bordello.

The games would be militaristic, us vs. them, with racist undertones pretending to be patriotic. Users would be part of a team but never leading it.

Max would check the weather App before looking outside, and if the App and reality told him different things, he’d think the world had some catching up to do.

The main character Max got excited at the fact that he got to fight, he seemed to want to stand up for those that couldn't just so he could show off his new muscles. What kind of mind-set did you have to get into to write those scenes?

I discovered my inner adolescent, pumped him up, and let him loose.

This was completely out of character for me. I often hear my teenage son and his friends talk about fighting in ways that repulse me. I can’t bear to watch things suffer. I can’t stand televised boxing or UFC games or anything violent. I like physical exercise but I am not aggressive – a karate teacher once told me that I swing a weapon like a paintbrush.

But it sure was fun to visit that mind-set. There was such primal joy in Max’s fight scenes. And in his whole arrogant character. He’s just so teenage. He is purposely annoying, he makes fun of people, he fights - things I would never do or even think about. Yet it was sheer joy imagining it all as him. (Maybe because he is a really “good” character despite not being so “nice.”)

I got so stuck in Max’s head while writing this book that I would look at my own middle-aged suburban life with disdain and think, “I am so old. How can I live like this?”

I always find it interesting when an author chooses to write from the perspective of the other sex. Why did you choose your main character to be male and did you have to do any research to get the perfect reaction from Max's perspective?

Does being around difficult teenage boys expelled from school count as research?

I never considered writing this story about a girl. I wanted a character who was the sort of kid adults would want to medicate, and a boy seemed the natural choice. (Boys are medicated for behavioural reasons at much higher rates than girls.)

My first novel, Walking Backward, was also from a boy’s perspective. I think that’s because I have sons and no daughters, so I’m around boys all the time.

But my other book released this fall, 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6, is about girls, and it’s really girly, and it was just a joy to write.

I have found that several authors use tv and music to help with the writing process. Are there any movies/tv shows or music that helped you through writing this book?

I sometimes get fixated on a song to build the right emotion for a scene. This is completely embarrassing and inexplicable. I listened to Joshua James’s “Colby’s Song” about a hundred times while writing the end of All Good Children. It has nothing to do with the book, but it helped evoke the feeling Max has for Dallas.

For my first book, Walking Backward, which is about a grieving family, I listened to the Weakerthans’ “Virtue the Cat Explains her Disappearance,” which is about a lost cat. Go figure.

I’ve been listening to Matt Mays while finishing the book I’m writing now, and that’s a bummer because once I’m done the book I won’t be able to listen to him for about five years, I’ll be so sick of him. And he was one of my faves. Oh well. Art requires sacrifice.

Your theme is friendship. My favorite character was Xavier as I found him quirky and interesting. What character relationship was your favorite to write either because of the way they got along, understood each other or their conflicts and how they could not get along.

I loved writing Max and Dallas together. There are a few scenes, where they’re just goofing around talking, that capture the feeling of being young for me.
The relationship of Max and Xavier was so clear to me while I was writing it - the complex feelings Max has for Xavier, admiration and pity and being reminded of his father - but once I was done all the revisions and out of Max’s head for a while, it was so weird to me. I actually changed a line or two in the copy edits because I just couldn’t understand it anymore. Xavier is based on a real boy, so maybe once I was “me” again I couldn’t read him as his own character. I don’t know. The scene where Max says goodbye to Xavier is an incredibly sad moment for me, even now just thinking about it, and I don’t know how much that has to do with Max and how much that has to do with me.
Writing is such a strange thing, to have such intense feelings for people who don’t exist, to feel like they’re real people out there somewhere with lives that have nothing to do with me. What’s that about?!?
to see my review of the book :


  1. Anonymous11/27/2011

    Thanks, Debra! Glad you liked it. (Krista asks good questions.)


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