Sunday, January 2, 2011

Story Behind the Story: An Interview with Kirsty Eagar and Raw Blue Giveaway!

For anyone who reads my blog with any sort of regularity, you know that I am absolutely gaga over Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar. In fact, I officially call it my Top Read of 2010.  It's a hard story to let go of, and I took it straight to my heart.  Readers in Australia love it, too - it was the winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult fiction 2010 and shortlisted for the Gold Inky Award 2010.  So, I was over the moon when Kirsty (who is so lovely and nice) agreed to an interview for Bibliophile Brouhaha.  Without further ado, here we go!

How did you come to be a writer?

I quit my career job, and my boyfriend and I spent the next couple of years working and surfing our way around Australia. During that time I started writing. It was just something I wanted to try, and only a sideline thing at first. In the beginning, it was freelance articles for surf and travel magazines, but it quickly changed to writing fiction - I think because fiction has always given me the most pleasure as a reader. My first manuscript got me an agent, who put the story up for auction - which is something you dream about. In my case, though, no one bid - which was DEVASTATING. The next manuscript lost that agent, so by then I was starting to suspect I'd already seen the highs of my writing career. The problem was, I was hooked. Eventually I realised that the most important thing was to write, and not worry so much about outcomes.  That's when I wrote Raw Blue. Funnily enough, after that I got another agent, and then a publisher. It took a while, but in hindsight I'm really glad it turned out the way it did.      

U.S. readers who follow blogs may have heard of you, but not too may of us are familiar with your books since they aren't available in hard copy here (yet?).  What do you want them to know about your writing style, the kinds of stories you write, and what inspires you?

Probably everything I write, in one way or another, is preoccupied with the question of how to really live.  That seems to be a personal obsession. Aside from that, I have spent a lot more time surfing than I have writing, so I guess it's no surprise that the ocean plays a part in my stories. When I was writing Raw Blue, more than anything else, I wanted the story to have a feeling of truth to it. While my second book, Saltwater Vampires, was mainly about giving the reader a good ride. I'm inspired by generosity of spirit in any form, and people who can take a risk with style. I'm also inspired by failure - mine, other people's. It has a negative connotation, but it really can be the best thing. You learn so much more from it than when you win, and how a person reacts to it reveals a lot about who they are. 

Raw Blue was your first published work.  Tell me a little about what inspired you to write it? 

In 2005/06 there were a series of high profile sexual assault cases tried in the Australian courts, and I was struck by a general apathy towards what had happened. Every year here there are allegations of sexual assault made against sports stars, and there seems to be an undercurrent of public opinion that goes something like: well, if she was drunk, she probably deserved it. I cannot understand the continued acceptance of violence against women (and children). And I have collected enough stories from friends over the years to know that it isn't just something that happens to other people. It's real, and it's wrong.  In the writing, it was also really important to me to show how someone might get through something like that - the quietness of true bravery. 

". . . I have collected enough stories from friends over the years to know that it isn't just something that happens to other people.

It's real, and it's wrong."

Once you had the background and inspiration for Carly, how did you develop her character, personality and family history? 

I knew from my research that family support is a major factor in the recovery process. In many cases, however, for varying reasons, people don't receive it. Without family support, Carly was always going to be the biggest impediment to her own recovery. My view of life is that if you're open to it, you'll often get the things you need from other sources. In Carly's case, it's her friends, her lover, and her passion for surfing that help her to turn things around.

One thing with Carly was that her voice was very strong right from the start of the writing process. I'm not sure I will ever have a writing experience like that again. Instead of telling a story, I felt like I was listening to one. I've heard the film director Jane Campion talk about the creative state of being receptive (rather than trying to control and drive things), and that's probably a good way of putting it.     

Raw Blue was touted quite a bit as a 'distinctly Australian' book in AU - I have to tell you, as a reader in the U.S., I was struck by the familiarity I had with it - the cultural competitiveness, the family dysfunction, and the growing relationship between Carly and Ryan.  It really did feel like it could be in Any(Coastal)CollegeTown, USA.  How would you describe the book and how do you feel about its ability to connect with readers globally?

Yeah, it was great to get that feedback from you. Raw Blue is set on Sydney's northern beaches, and it was really important to me that the book had a strong sense of place, but apart from that, most of the themes are pretty general. Carly is trying to recover, and anyone who's ever been through something major (which would be most of us?) is going to relate to that - whether it's your parents divorcing, or physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or the death of a loved one ... A large part of the book is about the anger that comes as a result of that process. Besides that, she falls in love, which seems to be a universal condition! I think the humanity of reading is that it allows you to relate to people of both genders, all ages, all religions, in other places, with different beliefs to yours, and other ways of living. That's what I get from it, anyway, so when I write something I'm hoping people are going to relate to the characters. 

Water and surfing keep Carly going in Raw Blue.  Why surfing, and what would've happened to her if it wasn't for the water?

All the surfing stuff in the book is true to life, and mostly it was a way for me to record some of the lovely moments (and not so lovely moments) I've had out there. I surf the same break every day and I'm fascinated by the politics of the place. I live at the beach, and I really need to plug into the ocean daily, and I know a lot of other people like that, too, so part of it was just wanting to capture that lifestyle. I think in Carly's case, though, what was important was that she had a passion (so it could have been music or dancing or tennis or anything else). In life you've got to give yourself permission to do the things you love. They help you feel alive.  

Carly is an extraordinary character.  So many time I just wanted to wrap my arms around her or find her father and smack him straight across his face.  So, this is a question I've been dying to ask, but have you thought of what happened to Carly post-Raw Blue

Yes, is the short answer. I miss those characters terribly. I would like to write a sequel at some point. (And I love it that you had such a strong reaction!)

I adored Ryan - he was 'classic' guy in Raw Blue - but he has a 'background'.  Why did you choose to make him an ex-con?

I'd talked to a guy who'd been imprisoned four times for drug dealing and a lot of the things he said about it really interested me, like how mundane a lot of it is - sitting around, waiting for phone calls ... I knew Ryan had a past, and drugs are a part of surfing's underbelly, so it seemed like a good fit. 

Carly's nineteen; Ryan's twenty-six.  Why the age difference?

From memory, I don't think it was a conscious decision. A lot of Ryan's characteristics - his maturity, tolerance, patience - just seemed to be those of someone who'd been around for a while, and he had that past, so ... It was pretty organic really. 

"Carly, I told you. . . Everybody's got something, 

it's how you deal with it that counts."

                                    -Ryan, Raw Blue

When someone finishes reading Raw Blue, what do you want them to take away from it?


Paranormal YA is pretty big over here.  From what I've read about your second book, Saltwater Vampires, it seems to be a mix of historical and paranormal fiction.  Is that an accurate definition?  Can you elaborate?

You're so well researched, Linds! The vampires in Saltwater Vampires hail from the (real life) shipwreck of the Batavia in 1629. Almost 300 people survived the initial wreck, and then at least 110 of them were murdered by a small group of mutineers. The whole thing has always fascinated me, and I loved extrapolating from history to bring some of the mutineers involved into a contemporary setting (oh, and make them vampires). The main mortal characters are a group of teenagers who live in a small coastal town, and the story takes place over the course of a music festival.  

Anything else you would like us to know about Saltwater Vampires?  Does it have any similarities to Raw Blue, or is it a complete departure?

Apart from the ocean playing its part, it would be fair to say it's a complete departure! Even the writing - it's third person, past tense, told mainly from the point of view of the main character, who is a fifteen-year-old surfer called Jamie Mackie.

What's next for you?  Any new books in the works? 

Yes, I'm working on something called Night Beach (also YA). I like telling people it's my sea-gothic novel, but mostly they just look blank in response. It's about art, the ocean, and the supernatural. 

Which is harder: starting a book, or finishing one?  (I think I would have a hard time letting go of my characters!)

Definitely finishing it - you are so right. When Raw Blue got published, all I felt was grief, and I couldn't work out why because I was supposed to be happy. Eventually I realised it was because I wasn't able to go back there again. And then you're worried about how people are going to treat your characters in the wider world, and all of that, so ... Painful, really.

This is a question I plan on asking all of my interviewees - do you have a running list of books that you would like your daughters to read someday or ones you think every young woman should read? 

This was such a hard question! I kept thinking of it in relation to my daughters, who are both really young, but when they get older I want them to make their own way through our bookcases (which is how I went about it when I was a kid, and how I came to be reading eighties bonkbusters like Lace when I was twelve). I would probably point them in the direction of a few of the stories I've read and re-read over the years, such as: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, Tove Jansson's Moomin books, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr Seuss, anything by Margaret Atwood, Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson, Rupert Brooke's poetry, and Lord Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (Canto IV). Bit of a weird mix tape, that one.

Thank you so much for joining us, Kirsty!  It was a real pleasure getting to know you better and to read about the story behind Raw Blue.  I can't wait to read Saltwater Vampires and wish you the best of luck to you and your next book, Night Beach!

So, you might have noticed the word 'giveaway' in the post's title.  Well, every once in a while, a book comes along and just sticks with you.  Raw Blue did that for me, and I want to share it with everyone I know.  Unfortunately, it is only available in hard copy in Australia (you can purchase an e-reader copy here, or if you want have a hardy copy shipped from AU, go here).  However, I think it should have a place on the shelves here in the U.S. and want to spread the word about it.  To that end, I have one copy that I will be giving away to one lucky reader.  If you read it, are a blogger and love it as much as I did, I hope you will review it on your site.  If you don't have a blog and would like to write a guest post review here on Bibliophile Brouhaha, it would be my pleasure to put it up. 

As always, the rules are simple:

***Leave a comment about why you want to read Raw Blue (either here or on linked review)
***Have a U.S.or Canadian mailing address (ignore the 'US only' on the form)
***Give me your name/alias
***Give me your email address
***Following is not required, but extra entries are available for being one, as well as tweeting about this giveaway

This giveaway is open until January 12, 2011 and will close at midnight E.S.T.

this giveaway is now closed.


  1. Thanks for the interview! I particularly liked the question about what you would have your daughters or other women read - I think it's important to think about these things when participating in literature, whether as a reader or a writer.

    Thanks! :)

  2. This was an amazing interview. I'm so glad to have stumbled across it via Twitter. I loved Kirsty's simple answer of "Hope." It really struck me that such a simple word encompasses so much.

  3. wow i never knew sounds really awesome and when and if i can get hope from a book makes it an awesome read count me in ty

  4. Great interview. I adore Raw Blue and I am so glad you a giving someone the chance to have a copy on their shelf. I really hope Raw Blue gets published internationally soon. Everyone needs to read this book :)

  5. Thank for the interview and giveaway. I have heard so much about this book and I really need to read it.

  6. Amazing interview! I fee like there are pins in my heart after reading this transcript. And I think I've found my new favorite quote: "In life you've got to give yourself permission to do the things you love. They help you feel alive."

    Very well said!

    Why do I want to read Blue Raw? Because of statements like this, "Carly is trying to recover...A large part of the book is about the anger that comes as a result of that process."

    Anger is so hard to let go of, and sometimes it really destroys a person. I've seen it happen, and I've even felt it happen.

    I will never forget how pleased I was to learn of Eagar work. I first heard of her when I read a review for Saltwater Vampires. From then, I spent six months trying to get a hold of the book. When I finally did get it, I hugged it for a whole hour. True Story. LOL

    Linds, you are a great researcher! Which is a wonderful why to make an interview more entertaining. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  7. This was a fantastic interview. I've seen Raw Blue around, but never really realized the depth that it has. I can't wait to read this book. Thanks!

  8. Thanks for joining us, everyone! So glad to see you all excited about this amazing book! I really can't talk enough about it!

    @Ammy Belle - I love that question, too! I am going to start a new page on my blog at some point that will have all that information there.

    @ASLOR - you are exactly right - such a small, powerful word.

    @SiNn - I hope you get the chance to read it someday!

    @Nic - Ohhh, I am so on a mission - you have no idea ;)

    @Savy - oh yes, you need to read this one, I agree! But the question is, would you be able to handle Carly's story and a new Bones & Cat story at around the same time, haha?

    @Missie - always a pleasure to have you hear - yes, anger - it can be so debilitating, can't it? Grazi for the lovely compliments, and I am a book hugger, too - no judgement :)

    @LJ - you won't regret it!


  9. Well written review and interview! Great blog!

  10. I want to read it because it sounds like the type of book I love and I always like finding new authors so this would be perfect.

  11. Wow, quitting and going surfing is pretty gutsy~~ I applaud ^.^

    Sniffly Kitty
    Sniffly Kitty's Mostly Books

  12. oh wow, great interview and great sounding book. i always like books that really emotional :)

  13. That was a great interview. I really like the idea of your next book- mixing history and vampires. This one sounds really good, also.

  14. Thanks for being a voracious reader.

  15. Love the interview. Still wanting to get this, but since I don't have an e-reader right now it's kind of hard. :) but thanks for replying awhile back about it.

  16. I love strong characters. Sounds great and the cover is beautiful.

  17. Great interview. I can't wait until your books are available in the United States. I hope your agent is working night and day on that! :o)

  18. I just had to revisit this interview, because I can't stop thinking about the story, and wow! I can appreciate it in a whole new light.

    I would love the author to revisit the characters because there is so much more to come for these characters. Carly did leave with hope, but just like sometimes it works, sometimes it's not enough.

    And, yes, put me in line to slap Carly's father.

  19. Well, you know I have a running list of characters whom I would love to smack the holy hell out of, so we can go in on Carly's dad together.

    Missie, I LOVE that you can't stop thinking about the story. . . it's so simply written, but your attachment to Carly really sneaks up on you, doesn't it? Glad the interview helped you with understanding it a bit more.