Interview with Myke Bartlett, author of Fire in the Sea

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Myke Bartlett, winner of the 2011 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, and author of the fantastic Fire in the Sea (you can read my review here).  I asked Myke a few questions about Fire in the Sea, his characters and his writing experience.  Thanks Myke!

1.  What inspired you to write Fire in the Sea?

Being a teacher, really. There’s nothing better than seeing kids excited about books and I started feeling a bit envious about the attention other authors were getting. I was determined to write something exciting and challenging that students would enjoy. I think I also really liked the idea of YA fiction being gateway fiction. These were the stories that would, hopefully, get kids hooked on good quality books. If they were reading something good when they were young, then they might demand better when they were older.

2.  Had the story been bubbling in your head long before you submitted it for the Text Prize?

I think I had the basic idea about Jake in 2009. But I didn’t start writing it until 2010, as I was working on something else. The actual writing was incredibly quick and painless, probably about six months in total on the first draft. It was a near run thing to get it in on time to Text. I think I posted it off on the last possible day.

3.  How did it feel to win the Text Prize?

Unreal. In every sense of the word. I’d written the story specifically to win the Text Prize, so I suppose I felt as if I had achieved exactly what I’d set out to do. That was a great week. And then the editing process began… Which was also great, to be honest.

4.  Mythology plays an important part in Fire in the Sea.  Do you have a special interest in mythology and ancient cultures?

I’m probably much more interested in the real world, actually. But I was obsessed with that stuff as a kid. When I got older, I was more interested in ghosts and folk legends and things like that. Things that seemed like they might almost be real. That’s my favourite area of fiction — you know, through a glass darkly stuff. The sense that there might be a monster under the bed, or vampire bats in the fig tree. I think I drew on my memories of mythologies because they’re really where storytelling started. They were the first big blockbusters. Who wouldn’t want to borrow a bit of that genius?

5.  Who was your inspiration for the character of Sadie?

I don’t know if I should say. There’s a lot of me in there, really. All that standing at the edge of the world, gazing at the horizon stuff. That’s me. That was me growing up in Perth and dreaming of the world outside. There’s quite a lot of my youngest sister in there too. All the difficult, dogmatic bits! No, my sister is pretty awesome (not that I’d tell her), so I probably borrowed of Sadie’s better qualities.

6.  Why did you decide to set the story in Perth?

Because it felt like the sort of place where you’d never expect a story like that to be set! I wanted to tell a big, Hollywood-style story in a small place at the end of the world. Growing up in Perth, I would have loved to think that life could be exciting where I was, instead of thinking adventures only happened elsewhere.

7.  Which of the ancient ones are you most like? 

Ooh, tricky! Well, I’m quite fond of Agatha. When we make the TV/film version, I’d love my aunt Nicola Bartlett, who’s an extraordinary actress, to play her. I think I gave Jake some of the seriousness and the old-mannishness that I had at that age. I was in such a hurry to be old. I dressed like an old man. It’s only now that I am (relatively) old that I’ve started dressing like a teenager.

8.  Do you plan to return to Sadie, Jake and the ancient ones in the future?

I do. They will return! As of today, I’ve written about six chapters of the sequel. Writing is either sheer pleasure or sheer pain (it changes on a day-by-day basis) but it feels pretty exciting to me. There are new (old) monsters, old (new) friends and possibly a car chase. If you can do a car chase in print. Can you? I’m about to find out.

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