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Author Interview: Meg Caddy and Waer

Caddy, Meg headshotIt’s a real delight to introduce Meg Caddy, an up-and-coming Australian writer whom I mentored back when she was a high school student. Meg was already a passionate and dedicated writer then, with a remarkable work ethic for someone of her age. It wasn’t only her talent that impressed me, but her willingness to listen to critique and to re-draft over and over in an effort to improve her work. After that mentorship with me she continued working on the manuscript that would eventually become her fantasy novel for young adults, Waer. Meg completed an honours degree in English Literature and History at the University of Western Australia.

In 2013 Meg was Young Writer in Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre. In that same year, Waer was short listed for the Text Prize. It will be published by Text on March 1 2016. I have to confess that when I heard that news I jumped up and down with excitement, feeling more reflected glory than was quite justified. If anyone deserves success as a writer, it is Meg Caddy.

I was really happy when Meg agreed to chat about Waer and about her writing in general.


Welcome to the blog, Meg! I was so thrilled to hold a finished copy of Waer, with its striking cover. Could you tell readers a little about the story?

Thanks for having me, Juliet!

Waer revolves around two waerwolves, Lowell Sencha and Lycaea. Lowell lives in the sheltered, peaceful Gwydhan Valley, populated almost entirely by waerwolves. One evening he finds Lycaea on the riverbank near his family home, injured and traumatised. She comes from outside the Valley, and is hunted by a blood-purist named Daeman Leldh. When soldiers pursue Lycaea into the Valley, she and Lowell must travel to the southern city of Luthan to seek help from the Rogues and thieves who live there.

You’ve created an intriguing world for this novel, shared by several different races, including the waer of the Gwydhan Valley, who have a slightly Welsh flavour. Your waer are somewhat different from the werewolves of legend. How did you first come up with this idea? What elements did you retain from traditional werewolf lore?

My reason for writing about werewolves is distressingly nerdy. During high school my best friend Jenn and I had an elaborate two-person live-action-roleplay going on. We only spoke to each other in character for about a year. While I was still figuring out my character, Jenn passed me a note in class that read ‘the werewolves are in danger’. After that, my character (Lycaea, in her earliest form) was a werewolf and I started to develop her backstory, which ended up being Waer. So began my enduring obsession with werewolves!

I never liked the idea of werewolves as savage and uncontrolled, though. When you look at real wolves, they have a very structured pack system, intricate family relationships, and a real beauty to them. I wanted to hold true to this idea, so I looked for old werewolf legends that involved voluntary transformations. I found this was actually quite common before Hollywood popularised the legends. Although the waer blood acts rather like a virus in the book, and the first shifts are largely involuntary, I decided to discard the lunar transformations and give the waer more agency when it came to their own bodies.

I also decided to keep the intolerance to silver. This was for narrative purposes more than anything else – the waer in my book heal when they regenerate, which seemed rather too convenient. The silver was there to make sure things weren’t too easy for them!

waer bookYou’ve made many changes since I first read this story, though Waer still has much of its original shape and character. What have you learned as a writer as a result of that process?

I started Waer when I was fourteen, and as a result there was a lot of learning to do. I had to learn to listen to critique, to delete things, to plan and plot and have the discipline to stay on task. I also had to learn patience, which didn’t come easily to me.

Most importantly, though, I learned the ever-important writing cycle: write, rest, redraft (repeat). Each step is important, but for a while I kept missing the ‘rest’ part and I quickly burned out. I’m getting better at finding that balance.

I love Moth Derry the healer and her husband Dodge the storyteller. They seem to have roots way back in folklore. In terms of your research and the development of the story, what were their origins?

Moth and Dodge are very close to my heart. I started developing Moth’s character before I found Lycaea, back when I was active on a Lord of the Rings fansite (letting my geek flag fly again!). I did a lot of brainstorming on the chat boards there, with other aspiring writers. There are a lot of Tolkien influences in Moth and Dodge’s story – I wanted them to mirror Arwen and Aragorn (but to be rather more human) and have hints of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry (but to be rather less annoying).

Their wandering romance and Dodge’s storytelling come from a combination of the Grimm’s Fairytales, Icelandic sagas, and old Celtic stories, which I read extensively through the various drafts. And I have to admit, Juliet, reading Son of the Shadows guided me in how to add storytelling to a novel!

Who is your favourite character in the story, and why?

I keep rethinking my answer to this question. It’s a tricky one! My favourite character has changed with every draft, but I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Moth. Her capacity for hope is a constant comfort. And although I’m always drawn to writing women of the sword, like Lycaea, I often find I learn and take more from the women who show their strength in other ways, like Moth.

What was most challenging about writing this book? What was most rewarding?

Some of the earlier drafts were challenging, because it was hard to tell whether my changes were making things better or worse. Getting to the end of one draft only ever meant starting again from the beginning and tearing it all to pieces again. There was one character in particular who just didn’t work. I reached a point where I lost all perspective and was close to giving up on the whole book. The Text Prize came at just the right time!

The most rewarding moments have been during various writing talks, and in writing groups. I’ve found both SCBWI (the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and KSP (the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writer’s Centre) to be invaluable. The members are friendly and endlessly supportive, and connecting with them has been magical. Members of the WA fantasy writing community, such as yourself, Lee Battersby, and Glenda Larke have also been so welcoming and kind. It’s wonderful to connect with other writers.

I’ve also taught writing classes to teenagers and held book talks for primary school children. I love engaging with young people who might want to follow the same path – I hope I can keep paying it forward.

What is your recommended reading age for Waer? Young Adult covers a fairly wide range.

My recommended reading age for Waer is fairly broad. I think it would be best enjoyed by young adults between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, but (I hope!) adults may enjoy it as well – and slightly younger readers shouldn’t find anything particularly distressing, so they are also welcome to it if they are mature readers, though at their parents’ discretion.

I know you are juggling writing with a day job. Do you have a writing routine? A favourite place to write? A favourite time of day for creative work?

I don’t have a specific writing routine, because the nature of my work (tutoring, night shifts at a boarding school, and some odd retail hours) means that each day is very different, from week to week. I do write every day, though, and I write best with a deadline or a word-tracker. I try to do about a thousand words a day. At the moment I cannot make myself write in the room with my desk in it (go figure) so it’s either on the couch, at a café, or at my parents’ house.

My only constant is time: I work best late at night. I’m a shocker in the mornings, but between about 9pm and 1.30am I can get so much done. I also have to have musical soundtracks playing while I’m writing. Luthan and the Debajo, for example, were developed while I was listening to ‘Look Down’ from Les Miserables.

ViolaYou’ve done a few visits to schools to talk about writing, and the photos suggest both you and the students have a lot of fun. What do you love about that kind of activity?

I get horribly nervous talking to a crowd of adults, but I have no nerves when it comes to children. I’ve been working at day cares and schools for the past six years, so I’m quite comfortable with that sort of crowd. I love the chance to get up there and be a complete dork. An hour of talking about what I love, singing daft songs and getting children to shout in a library – bliss!

Where other writers have a cat or dog as a companion, you have lizards. Who’s currently in your menagerie? What does a writer’s lizard do to earn its keep?

Although I have had up to three lizards, at the moment, my menagerie just consists of my male bearded dragon, Hotshot. His real name is Cedric, but no one calls him that. He is not clever. He will only eat food if I point to it, and he won’t drink from his water bowl. I have to spray the water into his open mouth. He would 100% die in the wild.

As for what he does to earn his keep? He allows me to bask in his glorious, stupid presence.

What kind of books do you read for pleasure?

I love Dickens and Shakespeare. I also read a lot of poetry and as many history books as I can get my hands on…but my first and truest love is always Fantasy. Anything with magic or invented worlds, and particularly anything with interesting female characters, and it’s won my heart!

You are quite versatile as a writer, with recognition for both poetry and short fiction on your CV. I gather you are currently working on a new novel. Can you tell us a little about that? Is it related to Waer?

I’m taking a short break from the world of Oster! I’ve been working on Waer for ten years, so was desperately in need of a rest. I’m currently drawing on research from my Honours year (I did my Honours dissertation on Early Modern attitudes toward piracy) for a YA historical novel about the pirate Anne Bonny. She was a real pirate who disappeared in 1721, and I’m writing a fictional account of what might have happened to her after that. I do have plans to get back to Oster, though! Prequels and sequels are constantly on my mind.

Last but not least, where can readers purchase a copy of Waer?

Perth people can purchase Waer from Stefen’s Books on Shafto Lane, from Bookcaffe in Swanbourne, and I believe in Dymocks on Hay Street, after March 1. You can also order it online in print or e-book here:

Thank you, Meg! Readers, to find out more about Meg Caddy check out her website.