Monday, August 11, 2014

Interview with Cecily Thew Paterson

As many of you know, I am a fiction author and homeschooling mother. For this reason, it's especially good to welcome another hardworking Aussie mum who juggles her writing with caring for her family, and has such a lot of good to show for both. Cecily Thew Paterson has written a variety of fiction and non-fiction, including a 3rd prize winner for Australian Christian Book of the Year and another which recently came within a cat's whisker of winning the Amazon Break Through novel award.

Welcome Cecily. It's lovely to have you on my blog.

How do you juggle your working life with looking after your four children? What does a typical week day in your household look like?
It’s a tricky thing. My children span 11 years so they all have very different needs, plus I have one with autism who has more needs than most, so I have to be very disciplined with using the available time that I have. Basically, I can’t afford to get writers block. And if I get 15 minutes, I have to use it. For example, I started answering these questions at 9.45. I’m going out at 10. We’ll see if I can beat the clock.
Our days run to a pretty standard schedule. We’re not that ‘flexible’ family that does whatever it feels like, mostly because autism doesn’t really work that way. I get ready for school, go to school, do the morning jobs with the preschooler, have some afternoon writing time, get afternoon tea, cook dinner, supervise homework, get people to bed, and all the while make sure everyone is emotionally looked after while at the same time figure out the next plot point in my novel.

(Wow, that's making the most of a day.)

You've chosen teenage girls as the target audience for your fiction novels so far. What is it about this age and gender which moves your heart to write for them?
It’s not just teenage girls, but young teenage girls I write for. I went to boarding school at the age of 11 and was bullied for a whole year. I remember the age and the feelings and the horribleness so clearly that I almost feel I have a calling to write for kids who go through the same thing.
I knew I’d be an author the day I won the White Essay Cup at the British Overseas School in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1981. I was eight, in Year Three, and I beat kids in Years 4 and 5 to the prize. It was life-changing.

Great answer. So anybody with girls in the tweenie years, keep a look out for these stories.)

You are a prolific author of several genres. Do you have a favourite? How did you come to decide that writing is your calling? 

I don’t have a favourite. Or if I do, it’s probably the book which isn’t selling as well as the others at any given time. I love me an underdog, I do. I do love my girl characters in my novels, although the two of them are vastly different. Jazmine is quiet and stands on the outside, looking at life. Coco is in there, tearing it up but embarrassing herself badly along the way. I see myself in both of them.

Writing can be a recipe for mental exhaustion and parenting for physical exhaustion. What do you recommend for winding down and relaxing?
Sorry. I don’t understand the question. [Insert smiley sarcastic face here.] I’m not very good at relaxation. Writing is what I do to feel like I’ve achieved something. Parenting is an ongoing, unfinished marathon of hardness with occasional bursts of sunshine. Once you’ve written a book, on the other hand, it stays written! In a real answer to your question, though, I like to watch TV with my hubby and I’ve just taken up the cello at the age of 40. Which is Awesome!

(Good for you, Cecily.)

You lived in Pakistan until you were 16 years old. Growing up in a different culture must have helped mold you into the person you are today. Do you believe your earliest experiences have any bearing on the books you've written?
 Pakistan has had a huge effect on me, as of course, it should have, but only in the same way that everyone’s bringing up affects and molds them. I do tend to write from the perspective of the person who doesn’t quite fit in, because that has been my experience my whole life as a ‘third culture kid’, never really being part of the dominant culture or in-crowd. I love Pakistan so much, but strangely, I don’t think I could really write about it because I don’t feel that I understand it enough. All I could do would be to write about the experiences of someone living in a culture that isn’t their own.
Hey, look at that. It’s 10 am. The questions are answered. My fifteen minutes has been used to good purpose. And I didn’t get distracted by facebook once!  Thanks Paula for your time.

Thanks, Cecily. I've got to admit, I wouldn't have been able to fit so much into fifteen minutes, so I think there's another secret to your productivity. Readers, Cecily is offering an eBook of your choice to one commenter, who will be chosen randomly. To get another good look at the range, please visit her website,


  1. Interesting interview! Thanks, Paula and Cecily.

  2. I've just finished reading Love and Muddy Puddles and LOVED it. I'll look up more of your books in the library. Liz Shelton

  3. Wow, what an amazing life you lead Cecily and well done for getting this done in 15 minutes. I'm really enjoying these interviews with other writers so thanks for posing such interesting questions Paula.

  4. Thanks for such thoughtful questions Paula, and for having me on your blog. @Elizabeth, I'll be your friend forever if you'll leave a review of Muddy Puddles somewhere.. (:

  5. It was a pleasure having you, Cecily. I've found that I have both your novels on my kindle, so they are up near the top now.
    Thanks for your comments, Iola, Elizabeth and Lesley. I've been enjoying them too. good luck for the draw.

  6. I'm in awe of anyone who can write quality answers like those in fifteen minutes! Wonderful to get to know you, Cecily. Thanks for hosting, Paula.

    1. Hi Andrea, that was my same reaction. She's a legend, but you and I get a fair done by plodding along. What I take from this interview is consistency and not stopping :)

  7. Thank Cecily and Paula for a great interview. I admire your discipline Cecily and your passion. I spent some of my growing up years in Africa and had a year at Boarding School (and though some of the girls weren't nice, I wasn't bullied), so I know what you mean about not quite fitting in but also how enriching it is to experience another culture.

  8. Hi Jenny,
    I'm sure you'd both have a lot to share on just that subject, as being at boarding school in a foreign country would be like nothing else. Yes, I've taken on board a few things about discipline and simply getting things done too.

  9. Hi Paula and Cecily, thank so much for the great post. Love that TCK's are writing and being written about! You've had a bit of a run on your blog Paula, with Andrea's latest book and now Cecily. :)
    Loved your comment on parenting Cecily, very succinct and so true. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Linsey,
      Yes, I've been making guest posts a Monday feature. I'm glad you've been enjoying them :)

  10. I'm pleased to announce that the winner, chosen by, is Andrea Grigg.