Claire Christian is one of those people who seem to radiate positive energy and good vibes; and chatting to Claire is a lot like getting a hug from your mum. This talented writer and creative being consistently looks on the bright side of the moon, BUT she’s not afraid to confront the more serious subjects in life – as her new book ‘Beautiful Mess’ demonstrates. Read on to find out more about this sparkling lady and her brilliant upcoming novel…
In 2016, your YA manuscript scored you the Text Prize (a MASSIVE achievement). How did it feel to come out on top of nearly 300 entries?
It was truly unbelievable. I had used the deadline for the Text submission as my own personal motivator to finish the novel in the first place, so I was just thrilled to have finished it. So, when I was shortlisted I was so excited – it didn’t actually cross my mind that I’d win. In my mind I had already won. So, that phone call from Text letting me know that I had won, and that they were going to publish the book, was just the best, most bizarre, most glorious moment ever.
Tell us about your forthcoming book, Beautiful Mess…what can we expect?
Beautiful Mess is a young adult novel. It’s about a 15-year-old girl, called Ava, and a 17-year-old boy named Gideon. They are both dealing with life’s biggest, most messiest issues when they meet; Ava’s best friend has just committed suicide and Gideon is in grade twelve and suffers from anxiety and depression. They meet, become friends, make out, write some poetry and and try and help each other. I think its deliciously awkward, funny, a bit sad, very real and honest, but ultimately very sweet.
What do you hope young readers might gain from reading this story?
I hope when young people read this book they won’t feel like it’s a big deal; I hope for them it’ll feel normal. That it will reflect them, their lives, their hurt, their joys, their awkward poetry. I hope they’ll feel acknowledged, heard. Like their feelings are valid. I hope they feel like they have an adult ally waving a giant flag telling them that they’re okay.
What’s the message you’d most like to send young adults (and all people) with mental health concerns?
Quite simply, that it’s normal and they are normal. Ava and Gideon represent two very distinct experiences of mental health, someone who is left behind after suicide, and someone who is navigating their own mental health battles every single day. I hope readers realise it’s okay to get help and that even though life is messy, it’s also so, so beautiful.
How did you get into young adult books? What are some of your own favourites?
I was a big reader. I read all of the classics: Paul Jennings, John Marsden, Robin Klein, Judy Blume. I LOVED The Babysitters Club series. When I was about twelve I found an old box of YA romance novels that Dolly Magazine published in the 80s at an op shop. I think the box was like $5 for about ten books. I DEVOURED those romantic tales like my life depended on it. They were pretty foundational to me as a young woman.
Tell us about your work on Single Asian Female, a play that’s been getting thumbs up from the critics. Was it as fun as it looked?
Single Asian Female was an absolute joy. I fell in love about twenty times over with our creative team and the project itself. I feel very lucky to have been part of it. I’m fully aware how rare it is to get to work in a job that you adore, making art that you care about, with amazing people, and then to show it to an audience who enjoy it as well. It’s a dream. Absolutely. Projects that are carefree and glorious and important, don’t happen that often; only a few times in a lifetime. I feel very, very grateful.
What’s the most challenging thing about being a writer?
Motivation. You only have yourself to answer to when you’re writing your own work. It’s easy to choose Netflix over writing. But that being said, nothing really makes me as happy as inventing stories and characters, using my imagination and writing does.
What do you love most about what you do?
I adore stories and story telling. I truly believe in their power to change the world. Whether that be through novels, theatre, TV, film or even people themselves. Stories are a sustainable energy source. It’s how we grow, feel validated, get better. Being a storyteller – there is nothing better. At all.
What is your tip top advice for an aspiring writer?
Write. Write all the time. Write down all your ideas. Get into a routine. Write every day. Write because you love it. Be careful who you seek feedback from. Read – fall in love with books and words. Watch films and TV – fall in love with characters and plots. Find the stories you adore and the stories that you hate – work out why. Oh, and then write some more.
Image by Jess Jackson Photographer.