Friday, July 16, 2010

Author Interview with Cath Crowley!

Yesterday I got to share with you my review of Cath Crowley's A Little Wanting Song, a beautiful Australian import that makes me ache for poetry and the moving power of music. Cath honored me with an interview, where I think (at least I hope) I got to probe the way her mind works. I hope you will find her as remarkable a woman as I do and be inspired to pick up her book. Without further ado, welcome, Cath, to Steph Su Reads!

1. The Australian version of A Little Wanting Song is titled Chasing Charlie Duskin. How did these two different titles come about? Did anything or anyone in particular influence the change?

Chasing Charlie Duskin suits the Australian version. In that book Charlie is chasing herself as much as she’s chasing the ghost of her mother.

In the US version Charlie still wants things but she has a stronger sense of self. She’s a bit sassier, a bit cooler. A Little Wanting Song was the first song/poem that I wrote for the new version. (The first version doesn’t have her lyrics.)

I love the way this title was chosen – it was really collaborative. I wrote down a list of my favourite titles and Allison Wortche (my great US editor) wrote her list and some other people at Random wrote their favourites. In the end there were a lot of titles in the mix but that was great because I knew in the end we had the right one.

And the whole book is written like a song or a wish – because Charlie’s voice is quite lyrical. So to name the new book after a song seemed right.

2. As a teen, were you more like Charlie or Rose?

I grew up in a small country town so I can relate to Rose’s restlessness and her need to escape. In terms of geekishness I was more like Charlie as a teenager. I liked books and art and I was pretty shy outside my main group of friends. I actually think I’m most like Dave. I belonged to a group but I still spent a bit of time on my own.

3. What was the first fictional piece you ever wrote? How old were you? What happened to it?

The first fictional piece I wrote was for my primary school’s short story competition. I was about nine years old and I won a copy of The Railway Children. I have the prize still, but not my story. I remember it though – it’s kind of hard to forget. It was about what would happen if people had fruit for heads. I illustrated it. I remember there was a picture of my family and we all had a different piece of fruit for our heads. I had a bunch of grapes. No idea where that came from.

4. Music plays an important role in A Little Wanting Song. Are you a musician yourself? What does music mean to you?

I’m not a musician, but I love music and I had a lot of fun writing Charlie’s poetry. Music is a way of escaping for me –I put my iPod in and go for a walk and for that amount of time I’m elsewhere. Usually I go into the book I’m writing, so music is a way into story for me, I guess.

I like the way words fit together. The songs I like best use words in a way I wouldn’t expect. I love that Lemonheads song "Being Around." And Clare Bowditch’s song "When The Lights Down" – that line: When the lights went down you shone/Like a mirrored train at dawn. They make me want to try to use words differently too.

Also, I think on a basic level, songs remind me that other people mess up as much as I do in life.

5. Do you have any particular publications (print or web) that you always read / authors whose works you read diligently when they come out with new books?

I always read Helen Garner. I love the way she puts a sentence together. If there’s a new John Green or David Levithan book I have to buy it. I love the way the comedian Daniel Kitson writes so if he’s got a show on I always go and wish I could have a copy of the script. I’m hooked on This American Life. And I like to read The Monthly Magazine about Australia politics/arts/lifestyle. Also, if Lauren Child has a new Clarice Bean book out I get very excited. She’s one of my favourite fictional characters.

6. I've always been curious about the reading tastes of characters. Can you tell us about the reading tastes and habits of Charlie and Rose?

Charlie reads a lot of about her favourite bands/artists. She’s the kind of girl who’d read everything on the liner notes of albums and CDs, everything on a musician’s website. She definitely subscribes to Rolling Stone magazine. She reads the words of her favourite songwriters like Clare Bowditch, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and Evan Dando. She likes the way words fit together so I think she’d be into writers like John Green, Neil Gaimon and Jeffrey Eugenides – novelists who use language differently and write about love in a way that’s beautiful but not mainstream.

Rose reads all the sections of the paper from politics to travel. She’s desperate to know about the world. Anything lying around at the doctors or the dentists she’ll soak up. I think she’d also be into Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski. She probably has a dog-eared copy of Richard Peck’s book Don’t Look and it Won’t Hurt lying around. And maybe Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

7. What was the most memorable place you ever visited?

Finland. I went there years ago and I stayed on this tiny boat owned by an old shaggy captain who made me breakfast in the morning. He and I didn’t speak the same language so I had the most peaceful week, sitting on deck reading and sleeping in the rhythm of the ocean.

8. What moves you to tears?

Plenty of things move me to anger or outrage –people getting a shabby life deal, that sort of thing. But the last thing that moved me to actual tears was the documentary The Cove. It was released a while back but I only watched it recently on DVD. I didn’t know that dolphins use their sonar to see a heart beating.

The last book that made me cry was Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The whole book was beautifully sad but especially those last pages.

9. Which minor character in A Little Wanting Song would you consider writing a companion novel on?

I’d write one on Luke – on what happens to him when Rose leaves town. He’s never known life without her and it’d be fun to write about him working out who he is and what he wants from the world. I think he works out that Rose is right. There’s more to life than his small town. Eventually, he takes off to see the world.

10. Anything else you'd like to add for readers?

I hope people enjoy A Little Wanting Song. If have any questions or you want to check out my new book you can find me at


Thank you so much, Cath! Besides for introducing me to several new artists (Clare Bowditch is incredible, by the way), you've also got me re-appreciating the world and its beauties. I hope that YOU, readers, will keep an eye out for A Little Wanting Song the next time you're looking for books to borrow or buy. It's definitely gone on my perma-shelf as one of my favorite books.


  1. Another great interview! Really enjoyed hearing about the process of choosing the U.S. release's title, too.

  2. Great interview! Thanks for joining us Cath. I, too, love A Little Wanting Song. Ms. Crowley is definitely an author to watch out for.

  3. Cool interview. I like all the little pictures you included.

  4. Great interview. I just found your blog! the book looks great, too.

  5. Great interview Steph (and I love seeing Aussie authors appear on international blogs!). This has been on my to-read pile for a while so am now determined to read it asap :)


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