Earlier this month the latest book by multi-award winning author Geraldine McCaughrean was published. The Middle of Nowhere is a gripping tale set in the Australian Outback, and in honour of its publication I asked Geraldine to share a little bit of the background to her new novel. Here’s what she had to say:
“Thank you, Kate Mosse, for saying in Cheltenham that female characters enjoy fuller, more independent lives in children’s fiction than they do in adult. It’s perfectly true. You’d think, given the proximity of fairy tales, that something of the prince/princess happy ending would carry over into chapter books. And yet this is the realm of the ‘feisty heroine’ -the most overused phrase in children’s book reviewing. (Can you have feisty boys, too?)
Personally, I don’t have a conscious feminist mission (until I glimpse a shelf of pink glitter, and then I do). My motive’s more wish-fulfillment. When I was ten and writing stories for no one else to read, I gifted my heroine all the qualities I was never going to possess in real life: daring, quick-thinking, independence, resourcefulness and (as I remember it) a horse and sword. Nothing much has changed in 50 years.
In my latest, The Middle of Nowhere, I isolate my girl-child in central Australia and make her world gradually cave in, expecting her somehow to cope. She copes: her imagination sees her through, and she is indubitably feisty. But then, at one point, I do draw back, change viewpoint to show that she isn’t coping at all. Reading Kate Mosse made me suddenly wonder – was that an adult thing to have done? Should I have made Comity strong enough and clever enough not to need adult intervention?
But it didn’t feel honest or plausible. So I couldn’t.
It’s odd. Writing The Middle of Nowhere was a bit like following a song line through the Outback. Listen carefully enough, and a story’s topology sometimes takes an active part and steers you towards something – somewhere – a resolution. Rightly or not, I’d willingly forfeit any wholesome agenda for the sake of that kind of outing.”