Today we feature Cass Moriarty whose literary fiction novel, Parting Words (University of Queensland Press) will be launched on Friday, September 1st. Welcome, Cass, and thanks for participating in Sunday Spotlight.
How many novels have you written and published and what prizes, if any, have they won?
My debut novel The Promise Seed (UQP 2015) is currently longlisted for the 2017 Dublin International Literary Award. Only 10 Australian novels are listed. The Promise Seed was shortlisted in the 2016 Queensland Literary Awards Courier-Mail People’s Choice Award, and the unpublished manuscript was shortlisted in the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards Emerging Author category. Parting Words is my second novel.
What inspired Parting Words?
Parting Words was inspired by a simple conversation around the dinner table – a friend spoke about the assertive letter he really felt like sending to a work contact, but said that he never would, because of social constraints. This got me thinking about the many things that remain unspoken; all the words that we would like to say or feel we should say to people, but that we don’t, and the reasons we choose to stay silent. I thought about the feelings of anger or love or forgiveness or blame that we keep inside, and the myriad of reasons why we choose not to express them. Parting Words was also inspired by the aging of my grandmother (she is now 109!) and the large absences of information – or even misinformation – that we have about our parents and our grandparents and their earlier lives. This idea of secrets and silences in families developed into the story.
Tell us about your plotting / drafting style.
For me, the story always begins with the characters. I see them in my mind, I hear their voices, I begin to empathise with how they are feeling, and why. Once I know my characters, setting seems obvious. Plot always develops in a very organic way once my characters get together. I do have a general idea right at the start about the plot – for example, with The Promise Seed, I knew that the old man had experienced a terrible tragedy in his childhood that had had repercussions throughout his life, and I knew that the boy was vulnerable and lonely and needed a friend. In Parting Words, I knew that the central character had died and left his family with a rather strange request relating to the distribution of his estate; I knew that his children and grandchildren would learn much about him, and about themselves, while completing his request. But random plot points do often occur to me as the story develops; I realise that XXX happens…and then I have to try to incorporate that into the story in a believable and authentic way. Also, the more complex the plot and the relationships between characters, the more important it is to draw up some version of a timeline and a family tree, in order to keep events, times and connections consistent.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Read! I read widely (two to three books a week), in a variety of genres, but I particularly enjoy literary fiction, crime, and YA fiction. I especially enjoy debut fiction and, if it’s from an Australian woman, then that’s even better. I always write a review of each book I read, and post it on my Facebook author page and link it to other sites such as Australian Women Writers Challenge and Goodreads. I am a big believer in championing the writing of others – we have so much talent in this country! – and in trying to be a good literary citizen. I love interviewing or talking to other authors about their writing practice, their inspirations and their routines.
Lamingtons or pavlova?
Lamingtons AND pavlova. How can you possibly choose between these delicious Australian iconic desserts?
Why do you write?
Expressing feelings, asking questions, posing hypothetical situations, creating moral and ethical dilemmas – and then addressing all of these issues through the written word – is a fascinating and enlightening process. I learn so much every day through my own writing journey, and through sharing the writing paths of others. Encapsulating ideas, dreams, hopes and desires on a page is such a joyful and fulfilling experience.
What are your thoughts on the Australian Women Writers Challenge?
I discovered the challenge during last year, but only joined at the beginning of 2017. I think AWW has huge potential to increase awareness of Australian women writers. I have already seen some benefits (in just over a month), with people commenting on or liking my reviews, and others becoming more aware of my own publications.
Thanks, Cass. And thanks for supporting the AWW challenge.
About: Cass Moriarty was born in Stanthorpe and spent her childhood on the Granite Belt in south-east Queensland. After completing a Bachelor of Business – Communication degree at the Queensland University of Technology (then QIT), she held several public relations and marketing positions, including with the Australian Red Cross, a wildlife park and an advertising agency. She now resides and writes in Brisbane. Cass likes to explore the way in which tragedies and critical events shape families and individual childhoods, and is drawn to the themes of guilt, redemption, loyalty, loss and silences – particularly in families. She enjoys writing stories that people like to read, examine and discuss, and to compare with their own life experiences. She likes to read – and to write – stories that ask more questions than they answer. She can be found via her website, on Twitter and on Facebook.