Monday, June 28, 2010
First Guest Interview - Claudia Osmond author of Smudge's Mark
I'm thrilled to have as my first ever author interview, Claudia Osmond, fabulous initiator of the Torkidlit group of MG/YA authors and even more fabulous author of SMUDGE's MARK.
Claudia has done a fantastic job with both and she's been gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about how home and family have affected her writing today - both of which are major themes in my stories and I'm always fascinated by how they might affect fellow writers.
My debut novel, ILLEGALLY BLONDE, was inevitably influenced by my family experiences and cultural heritage. In what ways have your books been informed by how and where you grew up and your family background?
This is a tough question – one that took quite a bit of thinking! I’m an only child who grew up without grandparents or any significant influence from extended family members due to my parents leaving their home country when I was just a baby. So I suppose one of the general factors linking SMUDGE’S MARK to my family background is that, like Smudge, I don’t know much about my heritage and I only know about the country of my birth based on the few short visits I’ve had there. I always think kids who grow up with their grandparents around are so lucky to have that connection to their lineage. At times the disconnect for me has been so huge that it’s had me feeling like my birthplace is a whole other world; a world that I would have been a part of had my parents not moved. And it often makes me wonder who I’d be today had I been more connected to that world. Luckily for Smudge, he gets to find out through a reconnection to his “other” world!
Another, more purposeful, link between SMUDGE’S MARK and my background would be that since I was a teenager I’ve imagined conversations I’d have had with my grandparents; secrets they’d have told me of our family’s mysterious and eventful history. In reality, tho, I’ve only heard disjointed bits and pieces of the lives of the characters that make up the story of my family tree - one of them being my mother’s father. He was apparently quite the prankster. Having never known him and being intrigued by this little tidbit of information, combined with my desire to find out “family secrets”, I created Smudge’s Grampa; a grampa that I would have loved to have grown up with.
(Thanks for the question, Nelsa. I probably never would have made these connections! )
You're welcome, Claudia! I'm also fascinated by the stories of my parents and grandparents history. Probably because - like you - I only had the briefest of contact with them. I only met my own grandparents twice in my life. Grandparents can have such an effect on children even in their absence!
Before I wrote ILLEGALLY BLONDE (set in both Toronto and a small, rural village in Portugal), I never considered myself a writer who gave a lot of thought to setting and how it can inform your theme and story. In your recent book, does setting inform your story at all? If so, in what way? If not, why?
I’ll make this answer short! Yes. Setting definitely informs the story in SMUDGE’S MARK. The setting essentially displays the fallout of the main conflict.
The struggle between duty to family and duty to yourself is a big issue to my main character, Lucy. Growing up, did you struggle against your family’s expectations of who you should be or were you given the freedom to express yourself in whatever way you wanted? How did either of these situations influence you as a writer?
My parents’ only expectations of me growing up was that I be honest, respectful, and obedient. I was lucky that they didn’t put pressure on me to “become” something I didn’t want to become. However, I think that because of their underprivileged European upbringings and me being an only child – a daughter at that – it didn’t afford much leeway to expressing myself in whatever way I wanted to, either. But let me tell you, I had dreams. And a very vivid imagination. So while the company having coffee in the living room remarked at what a well-behaved and quiet child I was, I was secretly expressing myself through a conversation of my own with a movie character, famous rockstar, or ancient Egyptian King! So, I suppose those many years of internal “dialogues” prepared me for a future of writing.
(You gotta love those quiet kids - their inner life is so vivid!)
In ILLEGALLY BLONDE, Lucy makes some extreme decisions in her quest to get back home to Canada. What’s your approach when faced with making a difficult decision? Do you go with your gut and make impulsive choices? Do you take your time and make a list of pros and cons? Some other approach?
Usually when making a decision I go with my gut and dive right in. I don’t usually think things through a whole lot. Sometimes it’s landed me in hot water, but other times it’s been awesome. I’ve learned that even if I haven’t made the best decision, it’s not the end of the world. I tell myself I’ve got two options: either change directions or forge a path. In the end I believe I’ll end up where I’m supposed to be, even if I’ve taken detours along the way to get there. The only time I feel like I’ve made a wrong decision is when I allow myself to get stuck or when I’m backtracking, because in either one of those instances I’m not moving forward.
(What a great philosophy! I'm always in awe of people who can just jump right in!)
The definition of home is very subjective and means different things to different people. What’s your definition of home?
Having moved a lot, at this stage in my life I quite simply feel I’m home when I’m with my husband and children, sharing a space we’ve established as our own.
Thank YOU, Claudia. I feel like I've gotten to know you a little bit better and, the next time we have a Torkidlit get together we'll have to compare our immigrant parent stories!
Here are Claudia's contact details or if you want to order SMUDGE'S MARK
Website: www.smudgesmark.com soon to be www.claudiaosmond.com