Best-selling novels by Sydney-based Jaclyn Moriarty have been named Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Books and Best Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association. Oscar by the way is the fourth book in Moriarty’s Kingdoms and Empires universe.
Adventurers solve puzzles in Oscar by the way
While working on her doctorate in law at the University of Cambridge, Moriarty wrote her first novel for young adults titled Sorry for Celia. Since then, Sydney-based Jaclyn Moriarty’s best-selling novels have been named Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Books and Best Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association. Oscar by the way is the fourth book in Moriarty’s Kingdoms and Empires universe. In this magical story for ages 10-14, Oscar and his new friends must act fast to save an elf town trapped beneath a silver wave.
What do you hope young readers learn about themselves by reading this book?
I always hope that readers realize that they are extremely special and precious people, no matter how flawed or lonely they feel, and that there is a friend out there for them. But I think you can learn varied and unexpected things from any book you read, and those things are more about you than the book. (Also, if a reader just wants to relax and enjoy the story, without learning anything, I don’t mind at all.)
Both Imogen and Oscar have distant or absent relatives. How do you think this affects their travels?
Imogen and Oscar are very different people, but both are children with absent or self-centered parents. It affected them in different ways. Imogen became hyper alert and controlling, and very protective of her younger siblings. Oscar has essentially quit his life (and in the life of skateboarding). I wanted the book to be about the deep connections you can make with someone whose story intersects with yours in a small but essential way, even if you come from entirely different worlds (figuratively or literally).
Oscar deals with “concentration issues” at school. What inspired you to give him that particular trait?
I myself was very restless and dreamy at school – and my son inherited his own version of this restlessness. I found that reading books and playing the piano helped me. My son skateboards and plays electric guitar (so a cooler approach).
How does the absence of technology like smartphones change things for the children in this story?
It can be difficult to write books these days, because many problems can be solved with Google and mobile phones. I like that there is no modern technology in the southern part of Kingdoms and Empires, where this quest takes place. This means that children have to find their own creative solutions. It also means they can be really cut off from the adults in their lives, which gives them the opportunity to shine.
A chance to give the pirates of the trial scene a story of their own?
I liked the idea of a town where pirates can take extended breaks to live average, honest, suburban lives, so…maybe?
Your undergraduate thesis offered a postmodern deconstructive analysis of Charlie and the chocolate factory. What was the thrust of your pitch?
This question gives me the unpleasant impression that I entered an exam without having opened the manual. I know I’ve talked a lot about Foucault and spent pages and pages on spatial conceptualization in the factory. And I remember my supervisor reading my first draft and saying, “Hey, you actually came up with something. I was sure you were going to ask to change the subject.
Two of your sisters are also authors. Did your parents encourage literary activities?
When we were little, my father ordered us to write stories. You didn’t get pocket money, but you got a dollar fifty if you filled out a notebook. So Dad always liked to take credit for our three writing careers. And now I love having sisters who are also authors. Liane, Nicola and I are each other’s first readers and fully understand the importance of effusive and hyperbolic praise.
What has been the most surprising reaction of a young reader to one of your books?
A young reader once wrote me a letter saying she liked my books and saying that I should NOT let that go to my head. My favorite letter was from a girl who told me that whenever she felt sad she hugged one of my books and it made her feel better.