Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Interpreter: Author Interview: Katherine McCaughan

Shah Sight
Katherine McCaughan, We thank you for being our guest on our live talk show this evening. We will certainly ask you throughout this interview to say something about yourself, but now please tell us about your book, we believe that Natasha Lands Down Under is a story of a Russian girl ..., tell us please how you decided to write this story?

Katherine McCaughan Ah here we go. I started to write down the stories of my family and when I was finished I decided to use them in a book. I was in fact born in China to Russian parents and we had to leave after the Communist revolution, ending up in Australia.

Marita Marcano Baulesch Hi Katherine, as I told you already I really enjoyed your book. I am re-reading it at the moment and again, I enjoy it very much. Did you really have a little sister (like Sonia) who had hearing problems?

Katherine McCaughan Thank you Marita. No the little sister's deafness was all fiction. I only had one sister who is unlike any of the sisters in the book. I had to research deafness to write about it. It came about as I kept having the baby sleep though all the commotion that occurred. Thsi was a perfect reason and as I have a son who has a slight congenital abnormality, I could use the feeling I have as a mother to give to Mama in the book.

Wayne Zurl Hi Katherine. I used to work with a man whose family was Russian and left China under the same circumstances. They emmigrated from Hong Kong to the US. Very interesting times and something Americans know very little about. Your book should be a hit.

Marita Marcano Baulesch Thanks, Katherine!

Katherine McCaughan Thanks, Wayne. I lived in Hong Kong for ten years. The book has an aunt who was a prisoner at Stanley Prison Camp in Hong Kong in it and she tells us about Hong Kong's experience in the war.

Katherine McCaughan One of the things people in the US do not realize is that on the same day as Pearl Harbor, Japan invaded Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Hong Kong.

Shah Sight Thanks, Katherine, I was going to ask you if you could tell our audience a little bit more about your book, where it started, you said it's about your family, so it must be a non-fiction, please tell us anything you want us to know about your book?
about an hour ago · Like

Katherine McCaughan I used my family's experience in writing about being immigrants. Only my mother could speak English when we arrived in Australia and I went to school unable to understand anyone around me. This is Natasha's experience, too. In the book, the family is actually speaking in Russian. I use some phrases in Russian every so often to help people remember.

Marita Marcano Baulesch Katherine, could you tell in more detail what in the book is fiction and what is not fiction?

Katherine McCaughan The book contains my family's stories from the war years and the Japanese occupation of China. but after they arrive in Australia it is pretty much fiction, except I use things that happened to me, maybe in hight school, as inspirations for the things that I wrote about in the book.

Shah Sight Thanks a lot, Katherine, you may want to tell us about why you titled your book, Natasha Lands Down Under, what is behind this title, and tell us please if this title relates more to the fiction or non-fiction part of the book, why did you choose this title?

Katherine McCaughan Thanks, Shah. I wanted to show that Natasha is Russian, so that had to be in the title, and that she ends up in Australia. There is a poem, I think, entitled 'The Land Down Under' so an Australian would recognize that in the title, too. It was difficult to it in anything to do with China, so I left that out, but there is the outline of a chinese dragon on the cover.

Marita Marcano Baulesch I did not know anything about that part of history, i. e. the Japanese occupation of China.

Katherine McCaughan My computer froze, sorry. Marita, the Japanese occupied China in 1937.

Shah Sight Katherine, please read a few lines of your book to our audience, we would love to get a taste of how you write, and also to enjoy reading a few lines of your book?

Katherine McCaughan Two stations along the woman rose and said a loud "Excuse me" to the man beside her. Then, as she passed by Natasha's family, she leaned toward them. In a husky voice, she hissed, If you don't even bother to learn our language," her red mouth was just above Ntasha's head, " you should go back to wherever you came from" She straightened and squared her shoulders. "Can

Katherine McCaughan t tell you are in Australia sometimes," she added in a half whisper meant to be overheard by the other passengers. Natasha's thick eyebrows shot up. Before she had a chance to think, sh burst out with, "Ho do you know we are not learning? Just because you only speak one language." Around her the whole carriage had gone deathly quiet.

Katherine McCaughan Obviuosly, by this time, Natasha has learned quite a bit of English.

Wayne Zurl It seems that adults could enjoy your book, too. I'll say it again, you're taking a fascinating piece of history and embellishing it for your readers. Be sure to enter the next Newberry Book Awards. A YA story like this sounds like a winner.

Katherine McCaughan Thanks, Wayne. The book won a gold medal in the Moonbeam Book Awards for YA Historical/Cultural fiction.

Katherine McCaughan And adults can easily read it. I use the story of my father's brush with being shot. He was caught when he had American dollars in his wallet but thanks to a flap at the back, he escaped being shot.

Wayne Zurl Congratulations.

Katherine McCaughan Thanks. It was really a thrill.

Shah Sight Katherine, please describe one part of your story that one or many of your character are real sad, and you may also tell us the reason why they are sad, if it is anything to do with their status being a refugee in another country, or any other reason, we want you to describe it in your own words, please?

Katherine McCaughan Sure, Shah. Natasha's dog, Happy, becomes ill as the family had not realized that in Australia there were immunizations for dogs. Her Babushka tells her about a dog they had who sensed that there was going to be a death in the family and sacrificed himself. Mama later tells her about a baby brother she had that she had not known about and how they had left his grave in Shanghai. I will not tell you whether Happy recovers, you will need to read the book to find out.

Shah Sight Thanks, there will be a couple more questions for this interview, what are you writing next Katherine, now that you have written the story of your family, is there going to be a real fiction, and in what genre, tell us a little bit about it please?

Katherine McCaughan AS yet I have not started anything significant, although I have started taking notes for a sequel, which woul be very much all fiction. I enjoy writing YA and would like to try it with an older protagonist as Natasha was just ten years old, although she seems older as she has had to contend with so much.

Shah Sight This is our last question unless Marita Marcano Bauleschor Wayne Zurl has any other question, tell us anything you want our audience to know about at the end of this interview please?

Wayne Zurl Can you give us links to where we can find your book?

Wayne Zurl Do you have a website or blog?

Katherine McCaughan I would like the audience to understand how important family stories and our family history is to the people we become and our sense of self. I would urge everyone to write down the stories our grandparents tell us or get it on tape before they pass away and the stories go with them. Then I would like to thank you, Shar, for being so kind in interviewing authors to give us exposure in a very tough book market. Thank you also, to Marita and Wayne. I really appreciated that you took the time to comment on these posts. My website is Thank you again

Natasha Lands Down
Natasha Lands Down Under wins First Place in the 2009 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards in the Young Adult - Historical/Cultural section.

Katherine McCaughan Hi Wayne, I think I answered with my web site but I will give it again. There is a fan page also on facebook and my amazon link is there.

Natasha Lands Down
Natasha Lands Down Under wins First Place in the 2009 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards in the Young Adult - Historical/Cultural section.

Wayne Zurl Great, thanks.

Shah Sight Thanks a lot Katherine for giving us the pleasure of being our guest this evening, and we thank Marita Marcano Bauleschand Wayne Zurl, and anyone else who followed this interview. If you want to buy Natasha Lands Down Under please visit:

ShahSight Literary Book Shop: Natasha Lands Down Under Katherine

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