Sunday, October 30, 2011

Author Interview: Caroline Overington

Have you met Caroline Overington? If not, I'm feeling smug: Ms. Overington is an award winning journalist and novelist.  She's also a very nice lady.  She recently agreed to answer my questions while I stifled a *SQUEE* and tried to pretend I possessed a modicum of professionalism...

Q. First of all, it’s so great to have you here, Caroline! For readers who aren’t already fans like me, can you tell us about your books?

I have published three novels, each dealing with a different social problem. The first was about a child murdered by his parents, and the impact on his siblings; the second about mental illness; the third about custody and divorce.

It's bleak territory but in every case, people have come up to me after publication and said: your stories are real.

I am published by Random House, Australia.

[NB: You can grab a copy of Caroline's book Matilda is Missing in the US here].

Q. Your books demonstrate a distinct social awareness – and a particularly strong focus on children at risk. What inspired this theme in your writing, and what do you hope readers will take from it?

I spent a long time working as a reporter for the national daily, The Australian. I saw many things that troubled me. People who need help often don't get it. Children are uniquely vulnerable, as are the mentally ill. I wanted to tell some of these stories in a more complete way than I could manage in the newspaper.

Q. The first book of yours I read was Ghost Child. I admire your ability to tell a tragic story from so many different (and at times, conflicting) points of view.  Do you have any tips for writers who’d liketo develop a similarly deft ability to characterize?

I guess I've been lucky in that so many people have sat and told me their stories over the years, and I've been able to absorb their voices as well as their tales.

Listening is always good when you have to write something.

Q. What is your plot development process? (Do you outline? Do you know the ending of the book before you write it?)

From start to finish, yes. But getting there is often a problem!

Q. You’ve been writing in one form or another for a very long time. Does that translate into impeccable first drafts? How long will you workon a book after the first draft is complete? (Any self-editing tips for novices will be repaid in chocolate and kudos).

Oh no! Every novel has gone through several drafts. I try not to be precious. You can't fight for every word and every scene. The editor is often right. But it's taken a long time to be so sanguine.

Q. You’ve just released your third novel .  Has your experience as an author in the publishing machine changed at all between Ghost Child and Matilda is Missing?

Promotion is different: blogs, Twitter! Facebook. Getting used to talking about yourself and your work is hard.

Q. What is one thing you wish someone had told you before you got your first publishing contract?

"This is not the end. The hard work starts now."

Q. Are there any trade secrets you can share with those of us still on the path towards publication?

You need an agent. But of course everybody knows that.

You need luck. But you also need a story - what is your story about? You need to be able to answer that question confidently.

Q. And finally, if I was to get the chance to sit down with you IRL, would it be over coffee, tea, or something stronger? And what's the one subject I could bring up that would keep you talking all evening?

Any or all. I love a good chat. But I'm afraid I'm a Dylan tragic and it bores my friends stupid. ;)

Thanks so much for your time, Caroline. It’s a real treat for me that you’ve agreed to do this, and I’m sure some of my readers will take the plunge and find out why I enjoyed your writing so much.  I wish you the very best of success with Matilda is Missing and all the new books I’m sure you’ll write in the years to come.

Bless you - and good luck.


  1. Great interview. Caroline, your advice about being able to answer what your book is about is so true. Unfortunately, even though I work in communication as a day job, I still get tongue-tied when I try to tell someone about my book! I'm looking forward to reading Matilda is Missing.

  2. Great interview! Thanks for the insight.