AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Deb Fitzpatrick
90 Packets of Instant Noodles author, Deb Fitzpatrick, was starstruck when Elizabeth Jolley marked her creative writing thesis. Years of hard writing and a stint living in a Costa Rican shack later, she’s releasing her first novel for young adults.
What sparked the writing of 90 Packets of Instant Noodles?
Essentially I wanted to record something of my experience of living in a series of shacks over four years in Costa Rica, in the shape of a book that teenage boys would want to read: a book about them, for them. I had found living in a shack in a remote part of the world very difficult indeed – almost a punishment at times – and wanted to see what Joel would do in a similar situation.
Thematically, the book may never have come about had I not lived in Costa Rica. I wrote the first draft of Noodles in my final year there. I think I realised that it might be my last chance to have that amount of uninterrupted time for writing.
Where did Joel’s voice come from?
I think it’s safe to say something my friends and family have long known: my inner teenager is not very far at all from the surface! Once I began writing, Joel’s voice came fairly easily. For me it’s a matter of being ‘in the zone’ when I’m writing.
In a different book, Joel could have been portrayed negatively as a juvenile offender – how did you encourage readers to not only sympathise with him but to like him?
I think I sympathised with him as I was writing, and that comes through in the book. I actually sympathise with all of the characters in the book, for various reasons. People, especially young people, are comprised of so many conflicting experiences and feelings – about themselves and the world – how can we help but identify with that?
What does 90 Packets of Instant Noodles say about parent–teenager relationships?
I hope the book conveys the idea that parent–teenager relationships are meaningful and powerful – in both directions.
How did you come to be a writer?
It was when I was at university that I began to seriously consider writing for publication. I did my honours in creative writing and embarked on something of a writing apprenticeship: I wrote short stories and submitted them to state and national competitions, and to Australian literary journals. At the same time, I began to narrow the focus of my reading to Australian fiction. I had some great mentors who encouraged me and taught me the craft of writing. I immersed myself in the culture of writing. Years later I undertook a master’s degree in creative writing and wrote my first novel. I was starstruck to learn that Elizabeth Jolley marked my thesis. My interest in writing fiction for young adults (YA) quickly became clear to me.
What is your previous writing experience?
I have had short stories published in literary journals, and articles published in national newspapers. I was shortlisted in the 2007 T.A.G. Hungerford Award (for another YA manuscript).
What do you hope teenagers will take from the book?
I hope they will be kind to themselves in the difficult years and believe they are worth ‘investing in’; that they, as citizens of the universe, are inherently valuable.
What do you hope adults will take from the book?
I hope adults will cherish their teenagers, however difficult and confused, or silly and immature, along with the journey they are on.