Kate de Goldi, author of The 10 pm Question (which we thought was one of the best books published last year) and Wellingtonian, kindly took some time out to answer a few questions about reading, writing, inspiration, characterisation… check out what she has to say, especially if you’re an aspiring writer; there is some good advice and useful insights in here. Many thanks to Kate for playing ball with us. We look forward to reading your next book!
1. What books did you enjoy reading in high school?
I read quite a variety of books…I was – and still am – the kind of eternally hungry (and often indiscriminate) reader who needs something, anything, as long as it’s print, so I read trash as often as I read good stuff. Literal boxes full of Mills and Boons, for example… predictable, reliable, junk food. Short term pleasure, zero long-term sustenance. I read a lot of historical romances – Anya Seton, Victoria Holt, Catherine Cookson, – these were a step up from M&B, (more developed, slightly less clichéd characters, often genuinely interesting historical contexts and interesting settings, but still formulaic (I suspect the less well-written vampire fiction today fills the same need for the erotic and the comfortably dangerous)). I read crime fiction – beginning (as girls often did then) with the Queens of Crime, Dorothy L Sayers, Christie, Ngaio Marsh)… and spy thrillers by men… whatever was in the school library or around the house… I read some science-fiction, loved John Wyndham and CS Lewis.
I read and re-read a lot of children’s books, though I was in my teens – the ones on my bookcase (all the standard – and excellent – children’s writers from the 50s, 60s and 70s, American, British, Australian and some European). I read every young adult book I could get my hands on – the 70s (when I was at high school) was when the YA genre really began hitting its stride… writers like Paul Zindel, ME Kerr, Robert Cormier, John Townsend, John Christopher, Robert Westall, Jan Mark, Margaret Mahy… were all producing great stuff.
In mid-high school I began reading adult literary fiction… I started by ‘doing’ my parents’ book case… they had handsome casebound collections of Dickens and Galsworthy and I read many of those… also, Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, Laurie Lee, EM Forster… There was a lot of history books on those shelves, too, and I read most of those – histories of the French Revolution, of the Second World War (I was obsessed with WWII), of Italy, of the Wars of the Roses, of the NZ gold rushes, biographies of Napoleon, of Louis 14th, of the English monarchs… We had the complete New Zealand Heritage (instalments of NZ history that made up several volumes… I loved those).