Marchetta Madness: Guest Post by Melina Marchetta

I’m elated that I have the Queen of Aussie YA herself on the blog today. Please give it up for the amazing author who gave us such beautiful books to enjoy – MELINA MARCHETTA!

The sequel, the companion novel, the audience and me.

I’ve said more than once that there have been big surprises for me in my writing life and one of them is Tom Finch Mackee. When he came back to me in 2007 I was midway through writing Finnikin. I had never written two novels at the same time and I chose to put Tom on hold. But I thought of him all the time and we kind of talked in that strange dialogue writers have with their characters. In a way I had to get to know him again. I had first introduced him in Saving Francesca as a 17 year old boy who was never going to be anything more than a bully in the lives of the new girls in his school. But I was teaching boys at the time and the students I first believed to be bullies ended up being pretty decent. Tom got caught up in that decency.

Sequels and companion novels are difficult because you constantly question what you owe your audience. I have an incredibly loyal readership regardless of whether they’ve liked every one of the novels or not, and I’m very much aware of them out there. It’s a strange intimacy that develops between a writer and a reader. While I’m writing, however, I won’t allow those readers in my head. So when I question what I owe them, the answer is usually, I owe them nothing. Which seems harsh, but the moment my writing is shaped by someone other than myself, I begin to let down a whole lot of other readers and there’s less truth in the story I want to tell.

A few times I’ve broken that rule, though. When I wrote The Piper’s Son, I introduced a whole lot of new characters and re-introduced some old characters that needed to be part of Tom’s journey. But I cheated with Will Trombal because really, Will didn’t need to be part of Tom’s journey. Tom can’t stand Will. But many of my young readers especially, were very keen to know what happened between Francesca and Will. Every time I did a school visit or a festival, I’d be asked about them. Deep down, I was curious about the pair myself and although I pretended that Will was out of the picture temporarily in The Piper’s Son because I sent him overseas to work, I couldn’t resist flying him back for a long weekend. Anyone who’s read the novel would also notice how I snuck him in Chapter One the night before he flies out. I’m very weak in that way.

There are problems when you cheat. Most writers have a nazi editing voice that lives in their head. The Voice has the capacity to nag at the beginning of the process and then hide for ages and ages. During later drafts of The Piper’s Son mine revealed itself again.

The Voice: Like, really, what does Will have to do with Tom’s journey?
ME: Mumble mumble mumble Francesca mumble mumble mumble.
The Voice: Francesca? But this isn’t her story, fool? It’s Tom’s and Georgie’s.
ME: Mumble mumble mumble but I love Will mumble mumble.
The Voice: Then put him to work!

The Voice is always right. It’s actually quite powerful because it has conversations with others as well. Usually soon after, my editor will say, ‘By the way, let’s talk about Will? Why does he really need to be part of Tom’s story?”

So regardless of whether I included Will for my Francesca readers, I had to put him to work. He had to spend time with Tom, instructed by both Frankie the character, and me the writer. Will’s words had to somehow shape Tom’s journey and teach him a thing or two about human nature and relationships. The character of Will was also utilized to bring much needed humour in what could be a dark novel. Not that Will has a sense of humour at all, but his scenes had an element of humour in them. One of my favourites, later included, was between Tom and Will at the football game.

The other character that surprised me into getting his own novel was Froi. I know for sure that I had no intention of writing his story when I started Finnikin because I would never have called a protagonist “Froi”. It’s a bit of a blah name and if I was serious about him, I would have named him Tariq or Akbar or Olivier.

I also know that if I had his own story in mind, I would have changed what Froi tried to do to Evanjalin. It’s not a good place to begin a sequel because I knew for sure that the novel would be criticized by some readers before they read the first page, and that I would lose a whole lot of other readers who were disgusted by Froi’s actions in Finnikin. How could one not be? But what I wanted to show was how that single heinous act became part of his bond to women and to himself. Female characterisation and the way men and women interact with each other is paramount in my story telling, whether in my contemporary or fantasy novels, and I’d love to think that after reading the whole 600 pages, an independent reader would make up their own mind about Froi and his treatment of women. I was very conscious of not insulting the Finnikin reader. For that reason, I set myself three rules: don’t forget what Froi tried to do; don’t let Froi forget what he tried to do; don’t let the reader forget what Froi tried to do.

But there was also a character in Froi of the Exiles that I included to make my Finnikin readers happy. Not Finnikin and his Queen, however. Both characters are important to this trilogy, especially in Quintana of Charyn. My big cheat was Beatriss of the Flatlands. I wanted closure because I left her relationship with Trevanion in some sort of limbo. I had absolutely no regret not tying up the pieces in Finnikin because it was too soon. But I wanted their relationship played out in the real time of a novel, rather than the three years in between. My decision was questioned once or twice in early edits by both the Voice and my editors. I could understand why. Beatriss didn’t belong in Froi’s journey. So I made her count in other ways, especially when it came to understanding what life had been like for the Lumaterans throughout the curse. She was also used to compliment the character of Phaedra of Alonso. Beatriss and Phaedra were similar in my eyes. They both had an abundance of strength, concealed by their own fear as well as society’s perception of them.

There have been other little cheats along the way. The cameo by Ben the Violinist in The Piper’s Son. He and his band were my gift to Jellicoe readers. Some didn’t pick up the references, others have told me they burst out crying when they realized who Ben was. And of course there’s Danny Griggs’ older brother in The Gorgon in the Gully. Even Taylor makes a cameo appearance as part of a photograph in a sock drawer. Sometimes cheating is a lovely thing to do. I’m thinking of making it a habit. 


Yes please, would love to see more cheating! 😛 Melina, we can never thank you enough for writing wonderful novels that speak to all of us in many different ways. Thank you for graciously doing a guest post for this week (also for commenting on the posts), I’m sure I’m not the only fan who appreciates this. 🙂 I can’t believe it’s the last day of Marchetta Madness!

28 thoughts on “Marchetta Madness: Guest Post by Melina Marchetta

  1. Oh god, when I figured out the Ben reference in The Piper’s Son I think I actually squealed. I’m a big fan of the cheating! 🙂

  2. Cheating is fiiiine.

    I love this post! It’s so brilliant to see all the connections in her books. It seems to make the whole world even more real, like somewhere in Australia these guys are just hanging out having a brilliant time.
    Which, of course, they are and I will never believe anything different! 😉
    I still need to read Gorgon in the Gully!

    • Cheating is MORE than fine. 😛

      Yep, it’s amazing how MM can make characters come alive, they feel so real. Jo, we really need to visit Australia so we can hang out with MM’s characters! Hope you get to read The Gorgon in the Gully soon. 🙂

  3. I love that she has conversations with her characters and has The Voice (an editing voice) living inside her head. Hee. 🙂

    I’ve only read Saving Francesca but because of this Marchetta Madness, my desire to get hold of the rest of her works multiplied TREMENDOUSLY.(take note of the all caps) 😀

    • Read The Piper’s Son while Francesca is still fresh in your mind. 🙂 It will be a lot more fun to connect with characters that way. And I know you really liked Tom in the first book (I reread it recently so I can see why you wanted Tom for Francesca instead of Will). Go grab copies of MM’s books, all her contemporary novels are available locally. 😀

  4. Oh wow. I had the exact sentiment about Froi the entire time i was reading his book. I didn’t really cozy up to him right away but the reminder of what tried to do to Evanjalin certainly helped. Beatriss and Trevanion’s story was one of my favourites and the closure you gave them was just beautiful and as usual, heartrending.

    My first novel was Saving Francesca then The Piper’s Son so I didn’t really get the Ben reference. It makes me want to go back and re-read those books now…not that I don’t do that on a regular basis. 🙂

    Thank you for writing incredible, unforgettable, amazing novels, Ms. Marchetta!

    Joy (Joyousreads)

    • Joy, I support your idea of rereading Jellicoe followed up by the Fransceca-Piper combo because that’s what I did (still doing? I haven’t finished Piper) for Marchetta Madness. 🙂 Reading all these posts has made me want to reconnect with Marchetta characters. It’s good to be reminded of why I fell in love with them in the first place.

  5. Melina, thanks so much for this post, and Chachic, a ton of thanks for hosting this week and introducing me (and I hope many others) to this fabulous writer. I know the titles of these books but haven’t read any of them and I can tell that my life will not be complete until I track them down! I’m really looking forward to the riches on offer here!

    all the best, e wein

    • EWein, woohoo! You’re planning to read Melina Marchetta’s novels! This is exciting news. So glad I managed to convinced you to pick them up. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that you’ll love them just as much as I did. What book of hers are you planning to read first? 🙂

      • It depends on whether you want to try her contemporary or fantasy first. 😛 If you want to go the contemporary route, I recommend Jellicoe Road. Her fantasy trilogy starts with Finnikin of the Rock.

  6. I love this! Yes, if cheating means getting more Will it is perfectly okay. And that scene between him and Tom at the football game is actually my favorite scene in the book.

    • Cheating did mean we got more Will in Piper. I haven’t gotten to that footy scene (did I use that term correctly? :P) with Will and Tom yet but I’m looking forward to it! Now I think it’s time we got more Jonah.

  7. Wonderful post and I am so happy Melina cheated and included Will, because getting to see him and Frankie together was one of my favourite parts of The Piper’s Son.

  8. This was such a wonderful post.
    I loved seeing WIll in The Piper’s Son and I actually thought his being there made a lot of sense. And Ben, I loved Ben!

    As for Beatriss, I loved she was in Froi, I was so curious about her and Trevanion and thought that so much love couldn’t end just like that. Her story touched me so much and I loved Vestie. Also loved her relationship with Phaedra (I LOVE Phaedra, she gets under my skin in a way that Quintanna and Isaboe don’t, though I love those girls too.).

    Also, I honestly remembered what Froi did only when he did. It wasn’t that big of an issue for me, just part of the journey he took to learn to care about others.

  9. Leave it to Melina to think of a post topic that’s off the beaten path of the usual interview questions. I appreciate this personal peek into an interesting dilemma when writing series and companion novels. (P.S. I think Froi is a more unique and memorable name than the others.)

    • Elizabeth, I agree. It’s always interesting to know more about an author’s writing process because it varies from one person to another. I really love this bit: “I have an incredibly loyal readership regardless of whether they’ve liked every one of the novels or not, and I’m very much aware of them out there.”

  10. I feel so spoiled by all the awesomeness this week. And I’ve never been so happy to hear that I’m being ignored! 🙂 To quote Fran Lebowitz:

    “What we have had in the last 30 years is too much democracy in the culture and not enough democracy in society. There is no reason to have democracy in the culture. None, because the culture should be made by a natural aristocracy of talent.”

    Melina Marchetta’s talent makes her an aristocrat of the highest order.

    • I respectfully disagree! “Aristocracy” implies “hereditary nobility” for most people, which is exactly what art shouldn’t be. Also, “talent” means next to nothing: almost every craft is 99% hard work and study. I’m going to hope that Fran Lebowitz meant “meritocracy.” (In which case Melina Marchetta is a cultural leader based on her achievements. And that’s how the world should roll.)

      • Hmm Elizabeth, you do have a point there. I’m going to go with the idea that Fran Lebowitz meant meritocracy because that’s what I mean when I call Melina “Queen of Aussie YA” 😛

  11. Pingback: Marchetta Madness: Random Facts | Chachic's Book Nook

  12. Pingback: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta: Audio Review | Emily's Reading Room

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