A Cuppa with Meg Caddy

A Cuppa with Meg Caddy

Book: Waer

Genre: Fantasy
Readers: Young Adult (14+)
Recommendation: A fast-paced action-filled fantasy novel with a heart. Perfect for fans of Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles. 

The future is bright for Perth-based author Meg Caddy. Her debut novel Waer was released by Text Publishing in March this year after being shortlisted for the Text Prize in 2014. With a number of exciting projects in the pipeline and a hectic schedule of writing events and workshops, there is plenty more to come.

Meg sat down for a cuppa with MillPoint Caffe Bookshop, to talk about Waer, publishing and pirates.

You started working on Waer when you were quite young.
Fourteen, so it’s been ten years this year.

How has it evolved since you were fourteen?
Initially it was very gimmicky and the characters didn’t really have a lot of depth or consistency. I think Lowell was pretty steady from the get go, but Lycaea was a real mess, I didn’t really know what I was doing with her. She’s changed a lot since the beginning and the world itself has gone from a collection of different places to a united world. It feels much more complete.

One of the things I really love about Waer is that not only did you have a strong female character, you also had a gentler male character. Was that a deliberate choice?
It absolutely was. So many of my male friends are these lovely, gentle people, so it was really important to me that Lowell was a gentle character, and an anchor as well.
There’s a saying about it’s better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war. Lycaea is the warrior in the garden at the beginning, and Lowell is the gardener in the war toward the end. For me, that was an important dynamic for both of them.
The other thing about Lowell is that he has what we would call today social anxiety. He gets really anxious and upset in these different social situations, and that’s something that a lot of people I know, a lot of guys I know, struggle with. If we’re not aware of that, if we don’t see it, then how can we deal with it in our everyday life? 

Waer was shortlisted for the Text Prize from Text Publishing in 2014, what happened after that?
Yeah, so I was shortlisted for the Text prize, and I didn’t win, but Mandy Brett who works for Text Publishing, my editor, she called me and let me know that they’d still like to take on the book.

What was the editing and publishing process like?
It was really good and that’s mainly due to Mandy herself, she is just dead on all the time, she’s really shrewd, and also very good at putting things gently and dealing with my constant stress, you know, first time author, you stress about everything, but she was very kind, very patient with me. When she was suggesting changes, there was never a point where I thought, no I don’t want to do that, it was always like ‘oh I can do that? That’s great, let’s go’, so that was nice.

Waer cover image

How much say did you get in the finished product, the cover, the maps and so on?
The cover illustration I knew was in very good hands, because the cover designer is Imogen Stubbs. I’d seen a lot of her work before and just loved it, and as soon as I saw the draft I started crying so you know, it was the right thing.
The map was interesting, because my wonderful cousin actually drew these maps early on. She and I worked out all these distances and that sort of thing. 
Mandy, the editor, emailed me and said look we’re getting (illustrator) Simon Barnard to draw your maps, so can you help with the scales and all that sort of thing, so I dragged out the maps from my cousin and then we emailed back and forth getting those distances precise and then working out the key as well. 
Simon was wonderful, he was really receptive to all the annoying emails I sent him, saying ‘can you fix this, can you change that’. I had a lot of input in that, which is lovely because it’s the world I spent so long creating and it just turned out so beautifully.

For a lot of writers there’s a feeling that your work is never done, is that something you experienced?
Yeah, and I think because I started it when I was so young, there’s that constant sense that it needs to be refreshed and renewed, because it was so juvenile at the beginning, you know, it’s been rewritten from scratch so many times. It was hard at the end to be like, ok, this is the last time I’m touching it, goodbye.

Letting your baby go out into the world.
Really, well and truly.

You created such an immersive world in Waer, do you have any plans to revisit it in future books?
Absolutely, I really want to. I’m looking at some ideas for prequels and sequels. At the moment though I’m working on some historical fiction, because I really need a break from the world of Waer, the world of Oster, just whilst I get my bearings. I need to have a bit of distance and then I’ll come back to it.

Historical fiction is a good fit, given your field of study was in history and literature.
Yeah, I finished my Honours last year and my dissertation was on the history of pirate literature, looking at the way that pirates were represented in the early modern period. That’s kind of what the current historical fiction is about, it’s largely involving pirates.

Did you learn anything that surprised you with your studies into pirate literature?
A lot of it was looking at the way that small details and technological advances in different areas really impacted the way that piracy progressed and grew, so things like the development of the printing press and even the development of means to measure longitude. That was a really geeky answer, going on about longitude!
There’s also a lot of gaps in our knowledge about different pirates, so there’s various pirates where we don’t know what happened to them or we don’t know what happened to their wealth. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding pirates that goes beyond that idea of peg leg and eye patch. And I like that.

What are some of your literary influences?
I have been really influenced by (fantasy author) Juliet Marillier, she’s a Perth writer and she’s been my mentor a couple of times. I read her books before I met her and just absolutely loved them and she’s been so encouraging and supportive, so she’s played a huge role.
But also, my dad (David Caddy) is a writer, he writes children’s books, so the writing culture has also played a huge role in my life. 
If you’re talking about other books, I read a lot of Dickens, I read a lot of Shakespeare. It varies a lot, fantasy is my main thing, fantasy and history.

What are some of the organisations you’ve been involved with?
Well, there’s SCBWI, so that’s the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the support from that group has been magnificent. There’s also KSP, the Katherine Susannah Pritchard Centre, they’ve been incredible.
Everyone promotes each other’s events and books. I thought that writers, being fairly solitary creatures and doing fairly solitary work, would probably run in opposition to one another, but it’s been so welcoming and open and loving.

What advice would you give to other young people interested in writing?
I’d probably say get into the community. It’s so easy to think, I’m in this alone, you know, no one’s going to help me. It does kind of weigh down on you, you’re writing alone for so many hours, but the community in Perth in particular, WA has this incredible writer community, so if you get involved in that, go to events, go to book talks, meet authors, they are your greatest allies and they’ll end up being your greatest friends as well.

Want to find out more about Meg? Visit her author website or check out her World-Building Workshop, 2pm Sunday April 17 at Mattie Furphy House in Swanbourne.

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