Can you tell us a little bit about how the Colours of Madeleine trilogy, and how the world that you have built in the Kingdom of Cello came into being?
The trilogy is about a girl named Madeleine who lives in Cambridge, England, and a boy called Elliot who lives in the Kingdom of Cello. They begin writing letters to each other through a crack between worlds that appears in a parking meter.
The Kingdom of Cello came to me when I was living in Montreal, Canada. One snowy winter day, I went to a café to work. A friend had just given me a notebook bound in soft red suede, and I took it along to write notes. But when I opened it, I found a row of small coloured pencils, each in its own separate pocket. Instead of working on the plot I was supposed to be planning, I started drawing pictures of a Kingdom. I called it Cello (just because I like the word). I think I was inspired by the strange beauty of a northern winter in combination with a new and surprising notebook.
There were several famous historical figures, including Isaac Newton, who were important to the characters of your book. What made you choose these particular people and what was the most interesting thing you found out about them?
In the Kingdom of Cello, colours have taken on material form. A Colour’s shade determines its form and effect: Greys can tear you to pieces, and Lemon Yellows can blind you. So I read a lot about colours when I was planning the trilogy, and I found the story of Isaac Newton buying a glass prism in a marketplace near Cambridge and using it to discover that white light is composed of colours. I read more about his life and realised that he'd studied at Trinity College, Cambridge. This was a strange coincidence because I’d already decided that Madeleine lived in Cambridge, and did lessons at Trinity College. So I decided I'd better introduce Isaac Newton into the book.
Then I started reading about other famous people who’d been at the same college, including the poet Lord Byron, and the mathematician, Charles Babbage.
One of my favourite facts about Isaac Newton was that he once walked his horse home from the marketplace and was so lost in thought that he didn’t realise that the horse had escaped and he was carrying an empty halter.
I liked the fact that when Byron lived in Italy he would stay up talking with friends until dawn, then sleep half the day. (I love conversations that last late into the night, and I'm very fond of sleeping in.)
Babbage filled his house with machines that were almost computers. Each time he filled up a room, he’d move on to the next and start again. I liked this fact because I like people who don’t quit, and whose houses are probably even messier than mine.
I loved the twist in the tail of this book. Without giving too much away, can you tell us a little bit about where the story is going to take Madeleine and Elliot next?
In the first book, Madeleine and Elliot are just starting to believe in each other. In the second, they are working together to solve a crisis in the Kingdom, while at the same time trying to figure out how to get through the crack between their worlds. They try science, history, imagination, poetry and all kinds of other tricks, all the time getting closer and closer to each other.
Food seemed to play a prominent part in this novel. There was lots of consuming of baked goods and more, and it all sounded delicious. What is your favourite food and has it ever found it's way into the pages of one of your books?
Chocolate. And I think it is always there just around the corner of every page.
This was my first Jaclyn Moriarty novel (but not my last)! How do you think this book compares to your previous books?
Thank you! All of my other books have been set in the real world, in the north-west of Sydney, and have been about letters written between two schools. This one is set partly in Cambridge, England, and partly in an imaginary Kingdom called Cello so they are very different. Maybe the only connection with my other books is the fact that the two main characters are teenagers, and that they communicate by writing letters to each other: I seem to have a strange obsession with letters. They keep turning up in all my books.
You have lived in a number of different places around the world. What were some of your favourite places and why, and how do these experiences colour your writing.
I've lived in New Haven, Connecticut, in Cambridge, England, and in Montreal, Canada, and I loved them all for different reasons. For one thing, I fell in love with northern winters—waking up to snow, skating on frozen ponds— and with the intense friendships you form when you’re away from home. I think the magic of new landscapes and the yearning for home might have coloured my writing.
In addition to your success as an author, two of your sisters are also published authors. What do you attribute this to?
Both of our parents are enthusiastic story tellers. We are always saying to Mum, ‘Give us the short version’, and Dad is always advising, ‘Never spoil a good story with the facts’. We had shelves full of books to read when we were kids. Also, instead of giving us pocket money, Dad would commission us to write stories. So I guess we grew up thinking it was the only way to make money.
Thank you again Jaclyn for taking time to answer my questions!
Here's the synopsis for the book:
She knew this.
That philematology is the science of kissing.
That Samuel Langhorne Clemens is better
known as Mark Twain.
That, originally, gold comes from the stars.
Madeleine Tully lives in Cambridge, England, the World – a city of spires, Isaac Newton and Auntie's Tea Shop.
Elliot Baranski lives in Bonfire, the Farms, the Kingdom of Cello – where seasons roam, the Butterfly Child sleeps in a glass jar, and bells warn of attacks from dangerous Colours.
They are worlds apart – until a crack opens up between them; a corner of white – the slim seam of a letter.
Elliot begins to write to Madeleine, the Girl-in-the-World – a most dangerous thing to do for suspected cracks must be reported and closed. But Elliot's father has disappeared and Madeleine's mother is sick.
Can a stranger from another world help to unravel the mysteries in your own? Can Madeleine and Elliot find the missing pieces of themselves before it is too late?
A mesmerising story of two worlds; the cracks between them, the science that binds them and the colours that infuse them.