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Q&A with Australian YA Fantasy Author Jaclyn Moriarty

A Tangle of Gold (The Colors of Madeleine, Book 3) - Jaclyn Moriarty
Cello is in crisis. Princess Ko's deception of her people has emerged and the Kingdom is outraged: The Jagged Edge Elite have taken control, placing the Princess and two members of the Royal Youth Alliance under arrest and ordering their execution; the King's attempts to negotiate their release have failed. Color storms are rampant, and nobody has heard the Cello wind blowing in months.

Meanwhile, Madeleine fears she's about to lose the Kingdom of Cello forever. Plans are in place to bring the remaining Royals home, and after that, all communication between Cello and the World will cease. That means she'll also lose Elliot, now back in Cello and being held captive by a branch of Hostiles. And there's nothing he can do to help his friends unless he can escape the Hostile compound.

Worlds apart and with time running out, Madeleine and Elliot find themselves on a collision course to save the Kingdom they love, and maybe even save each other.



Please welcome...







Jaclyn Moriarty grew up in Sydney's north-west and studied Law and English on three continents - at Sydney University in Australia, Yale in the US and Cambridge in England.


She spent four years working as a media and entertainment lawyer and now writes full-time so that she can sleep in each day. She lives in Sydney.


Some of her favourite things include snow, ice, blueberries, chocolate and sleep.



Hello Jaclyn Moriaty! Congratulations on the much anticipated release of A Tangle of Gold!


Firstly, could you explain to those uninitiated with The Colours of Madeleine series, what it is about from your point of view?


It’s about a girl called Madeleine who lives in Cambridge, England, in our world, and a boy called Elliot who lives in the farming province of the Kingdom of Cello.  Madeleine and Elliot begin writing letters to each other through a crack between worlds that opens up in a parking meter.


The work of Sir Isaac Newton plays a large role in the series; Madeleine becomes obsessed with his ideas, and his theories of colour and light play a large role in communicating with the Kingdom of Cello, as well as its system of magic. I was wondering if you began writing with Sir Isaac Newton as a focal point for the books, or did his theories happen to slot in to ideas that you had already thought of?


I started with colour.  I decided I wanted colour to come to life in the Kingdom of Cello, and so I began to research the science of colour (to see if that might actually be possible…).  That led me to Isaac Newton.  I already knew about his gravity and his laws of force, but I hadn’t known the story of his buying himself a prism in a marketplace, taking it home, darkening the windows, and discovering that white light is composed of the colours of the rainbow.  I liked the story so much that I read a lot more about Isaac Newton and his life, and he turned out to be a super cool guy with a collection of stories and mysteries surrounding him. So I decided to include him in the books.  The fact that he spent most of his life at Cambridge, and that Madeleine already lived in Cambridge, gave me a perfect excuse.


How do you create a world like The Kingdom of Cello? Are you a Gardener, Architect, or Architectural Gardener?


The plants on my balcony here would laugh in a quiet and bitter way if they heard you asking me if I’m a gardener.  Or they would if they were alive to laugh.  I like to draw pictures when I’m planning books, so I guess I drew the Kingdom of Cello into existence.  But people who’ve played Pictionary with me before would laugh in a quiet and bitter way if I tried to tell you that I am an Artist.    


Reading this book as an adult, I ruminated quite a lot about how much I wished I had access to this type of YA fantasy as a younger me. I never saw myself in the YA fantasy hero/ines, they always seemed to think and act in such a linear way, whereas I was all tangents and swirls (still am!). What made you decide to allow your characters to be teenagers first and foremost, and let them become hero/ines because of their tangents and swirls, rather than in spite of them? Was it harder to conceptualise the story in that way, rather than in a more linear heroic fantasy story line?


I love this question, and I love that you are tangents and swirls.  I guess my first few books were all realistic YA fiction so character was at the forefront.  Although I am drawn to the magic of fantasy, I am also very intrigued by character in all its complexities.  So it was important to me to bring the characters to life inside my head before I even started writing this.


The books deal quite heavily with characters coping with missing caregivers: both Madeleine and Elliott have missing fathers, Kiera's mother is incarcerated, Jack's parents have died, even The Kingdom of Cello is missing it's rulers! And, each of the characters cope (or not!) with this loss in a different way. Why did you decide to focus on that aspect of life in the books, and did it play a large role in the creation of the characters from the outset?


I thought a lot about the traditional conventions of fantasy when I was planning this trilogy, and one of them is the absent parent.  Often, fantasy begins with the death or disappearance of a parent, and this is a kind of narrative trigger.  It sends the hero away on a quest for revenge, or to seek out the lost parent, or it places the hero in an unexpected position of power or responsibility.  I was more interested in looking closely at exactly what it means, in a real human sense, to have a parent who is missing.



When writing a series full of intrigues and mystery, like The Colours of Madeleine, and some of those intrigues stretch out over three books; do you know right from the outset how they will play out? Or are you sometimes just as surprised as the reader?


I planned the whole trilogy before I started, and I had a long, detailed plan, but some things took unexpected turns.   There were definitely things that surprised me.  And there were a couple of changes of direction based on throwaway lines people said to me between books.


What does your writing process look like, and how many daily cups of caffeinated beverages does it include :)  ?


First I take my 9-year-old to school.  Then I walk to a café where I look over research notes and draw pictures and scribble ideas in a big notebook.  I use coloured textas for this.  I spend the afternoon at home writing at my computer and then I go and get my son from school.  I used to drink coffee  all day long without stopping, 

and then I found I was drinking more and more coffee to get the same mad buzz that made the writing fly along.  So I thought:&nbsp, this is an addiction, and I stopped drinking coffee.  I had terrible headaches for a month and now I’m scared to start drinking coffee again.  So I drink peppermint tea and eat chocolate.  Lately I’ve been finding that I need more and more chocolate to get the same mad buzz that makes the writing fly along …


If you were caught in a colour storm, which colour would you want to be caught in, and why?


Turquoise Rain because it’s like a party.  And pretty.


If you had a choice to live in Cello, or the 'real world', which would you choose?


As long as all my family and friends were there too, it’d have to be Cello.  (And I’d want to change the rules about having to be under 16 to visit the Lake of Spells.  I seem to be over 16.) 


The obligatory question to ask all authors: What are your top 10 fantasy books to read (YA or Adult)?


Diana Wynne Jones, everything she has written - I could use up my top 10 on her; Garth Nix, Lirael;  Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach;  E. Nesbit, The Phoenix and the Carpet; Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time; Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth  Jonathan Stroud, The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Phillip Pullman, His Dark Materials; Tove Jansson, the Moomin books; C.S. Lewis,  Narnia books; P.L. Travers, Mary Poppins books (that’s more than 10, isn’t it, but I could keep going).


Lastly, have you any other releases coming up, or projects in the works at the moment? Is there any chance of another fantasy novel?


I’m working on a few different things at the same time.  A novel about a woman who enrols in a course that promises to teach her how to fly; a book about a girl whose parents ran away to have adventures with pirates and have now left her instructions to deliver a chest of treasures; a new Ashbury-Brookfield book about Emily Thompson’s little brother; a time travel book; and a book about my great-grandmother, whose four children were brought up in an orphanage.


Many thanks to Jaclyn Moriarty for stopping here at Book Frivolity!


You can follow her on Social Media on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Look out for her new release A Tangle of Gold, or the full series The Colours of Madeleine out through Pan Macmillan Australia. It's in stores now!!