Hi Melina, Can you tell us a little about The Piper's Son?
The Piper’s Son is about the Finch-Mackees, especially Tom Mackee and his aunt, Georgie Finch. It’ s about how the family come back together again aftertwo years of grieving and it’ s about their friends and redemption and romanceand love and it’ s funny and it’ s sad, but it’ s very hopeful.
Thomas made his first appearance in Saving Francesca. The two novels are written years apart. and Thomas has a bit part in the first one though I got the feeling that Thomas was simply waiting his turn.
Did you ever consider writing a novel around one of Francesca's other friends?
Not really. I tend to think my novels are finished when they go to print so Tomcoming back to me five years later was a big surprise. I mean, a big one. If any character was going to come back it would be Tara Finke or even Will Trombal.I knew it wouldn’ t be Francesca, although I’ m so happy with the part she played in Tom’ s journey. In Saving Francesca, Tom was one of those characters that truly began as an annoying guy in her class, but he just grew on me and I had to fight hard to shove him out of the spotlight. Perhaps now it’ s not so surprising that he found his way into his own novel.
In Piper's Son the narrative alternates between Thomas Mckee and his aunt Georgie. What drew you to these two characters?
Before I wrote Finnikin of the Rock, I wanted to write about a woman my age named Georgie Finch who had to travel to France to retrieve the body of her brother who died there in a bomb blast. That’ s all I knew about the story at the time. It wasn’ t going to be a story about terrorism, but the impact it had on a family. Then Finnikin came and Georgie just became an idea. A year later,Tom came calling and in true surreal fashion he whispered his family’ s story to me and explained that Georgie Finch was his Aunt. That’s how it began.
It doesn’ t usually begin that mystical, but Tom and Georgie were a bit of a gift in that way. These two characters are twenty one years apart in age, but they are going through the same emotions, the same relationship stuff ups, the same issues with friends who they’ ve kept at arm’s distance because of their grief.
I stuck them both under one roof and watched them dance around each other and when I thought they were both getting strong enough, I let the rest of the Finch-Mackee circus into that house. They are two of the most flawed characters I’ ve ever written, but they have a great capacity to love. It was a joy having them live in my head for those eighteen months.
The Finch- Mackees know a lot about loss first a father was left behind in Vietnam then an Uncle is killed by a suicide bomber. The grief could've easily overwhelmed the storyline but its simply another layer in a beautiful crafted novel. There's so much heart in Piper's Son.
How did you keep Thomas and Georgie from drowning in their families losses?
Strangely, I think they are my funniest characters. Really dry dark sense of humour. What I also did was make sure that within all that grief, other trivial real life stuff was irritating them like Georgie complaining that her partner’ s exgoes shopping without using environmentally friendly shopping bags and all those wry conversations you have with your friends. I made sure I had them interacting with people who had a light to them.
Like the exchange between Tom and his thirteen year old sister who had moved interstate with his mum. I knew I had to introduce his email to her early in the piece so the reader wouldn’ t think he was all anger and brooding. I mean,someone whose email address is I mean,someone whose email address is firstname.lastname@example.org has to be halfway decent and have a sense of humour.
Do you ever wonder what happens to your characters after the last page?
I think of them, but I don’t wonder too much. Regardless of everything that’s happened to Taylor in Jellicoe, and Finnikin and Evanjalin in Skuldenore and Tom and Georgie in Sydney, as far as I’m concerned they get what they want at the end so I’ m happy to let them go. Of course they live through other people’s feedback. The character I think I’ ve cared about the most and thought of the most is Francesca Spinelli. It’s a personal thing with her.
All of your novels have been published in the United States. Your last two Finnikin of the Rock (loved it) and Piper's Son were both published by Candlewick Press.
Do you think you've finally found a U.S. publisher to call home?
Yes, I definitely have. I love my editor Deb Wayshak and the whole Candlewick team and I’ m honoured they’ re going to be publishing my next two novels, the Finnikin sequels. But I also know that Saving Francesca was loved dearly by its U.S. editor, Michelle Frey at Knopfs and Jellicoe would never have been published if not for Farrin Jacobs at Harper Teens. I’m grateful to them all because I don’ t think I’ d have any profile in the U.S. if not for them.
From Trisha , I heard about a debut called The Returning by Christine Hinwood.
Like Trisha I want to read a novel that moved you enough to blurb it. Did it really make you cry?
Yes, and it just received a fantastic starred review from Kirkus. When you readit, don’ t try to place it in a particular time or place. If you do, you’ ll miss out on the beauty of it. I think too many times when someone is reading a fantasyor historical novel, they need to recognise the world. Sometimes it’ s a pre-requisite, but when you’ ve been given wonderful characters and wonderful themes, go with that gift. Also, it’ s not the type of novel to skim read. I read it word for word.
Melina, thank you so much for your time and for another great novel. On Sunday March 20th the author will one of 44 teen authors signing at Books of Wonder.