Today I would like to introduce you to my guest interviewers Rhiannon Mustapic and Braydon Harvey, who have prepared some questions for well-known Aussie YA writer Justin D’Ath, who has kindly agreed to answer them here on the Great Raven.
Pool, a novel published by Melbourne’s Ford Street Publishing and shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards, is set in New Lourdes, a small Victorian town where a miracle once took place at the local swimming pool. In fact, the town was renamed after the miracle happened, to get the tourist trade, which it does. Wolfgang, a boy who has a summer job at the pool, meets and befriends blind and nocturnal Audrey, the object of the miracle, in which she seemed to drown as a toddler, but came back to life. As the summer goes on, strange things begin to happen and butterfly-loving Wolfgang begins to see black butterflies unknown to science…
I reviewed this book when it first came out, so I’ll let you find out more details from that and let Justin, Rhiannon and Braydon tell you all about it. Welcome to my blog, everyone!
RM What inspired you to write the book Pool?
JD: Believe it not, I wrote Pool because I didn’t want to write another book. Here’s what happened. Fifteen months earlier I applied to the Australia Arts Council for funding to write a YA novel about a rock band called Wolf Gang. Eventually, and much to my surprise, my application was successful and I received a $30,000 grant to write the novel. But by this time I had lost interest in the project so I turned the would-be title into the name of a character and wrote about him instead, and the result was Pool.
RM: What is your favourite line from the book (Ours was when Audrey said “I want to smell the lions”)
JD: Good choice. I think that’s my favourite line, too. In fact, the chapter when Wolfgang takes Audrey to the zoo is my favourite.
RM: Why did you use butterflies as part of the story?
JD: I like butterflies. And when I began the first chapter I had this character called Wolfgang working at the New Lourdes Pool and I needed something to happen to kick off the plot, so I wrote a butterfly into the scene to see how he would react, and it turned out he was interested in butterflies, too (but in a different way than me).
RM: Does the black butterfly represent Audrey’s soul?
JD: It wasn’t my intention. On the other hand, when you trust a novel to your readers it’s their interpretation that matters, and I quite like the idea.
RM: Why did you choose for there to be a love interest between Audrey and Wolfgang?
JD: I wanted their lives to come together. Also it presented Wolfgang with some interesting dilemmas.
RM: Have you ever known or experienced any of the events that occurred in the book in real life?
JD: No. It’s entirely fictional. I come from a strong Catholic background, so drew on that where it touched the plot and found it interesting to juxtapose Wolfgang’s beliefs with the extraordinary spiritual contradictions suggested by the sloping pool and by Audrey.
RM: Why did you choose for Wolfgang to finally see Audrey’s “special place” near the end of the story?
JD: I think Wolfgang needed to understand Audrey as fully as possible, if only to offer the readers entry into where she came from, or went.
BH: Why did you make Audrey blind?
JD: Again, this was purely happenstance. When I write I simply explore ideas, and it seemed interesting, since I had a butterfly in the story, to see how a blind person, who couldn’t see one or feel one, might react to it.
JD: My first book was a novel for adults called ‘The Initiate’. I wrote it after spending 10 months on an Aborigine mission in Central Australia. Living there was like being in a novel, so I decided to write one.
BH: What books have most influenced your life?
Every book that I have read from beginning to end has influenced me both as a writer and a person. If they don’t influence me, I don’t finish them. But there are too many to name.
BH: Why is Audrey nocturnal?
JD: I wanted to give this blind girl a reason to be at the pool every day, and since she was asleep most of the time I wondered why.
BH: Why did you choose for Wolfgang to have an interest in butterflies?
JD: See my answer to Rhiannon’s question. Also I wanted to make Wolfgang an interesting and slightly unusual young man – a misfit, if you like, which gave him a connection with Audrey.
Thanks for the great interview! One more thing before I go: last year, some of my students who had read Pool stumbled across some information on the Internet, about an American girl called Audrey Santos, who had had the same experience as the girl in the book. I asked Justin if that was where he’d got his inspiration for his own Audrey and he said he’d not heard the story. Weird!