Interview with C.G. Drews
Our lucky Inky Judges have been fortunate enough to interview some 2019 Inky Awards Shortlist Authors!
C.G. Drews is the debut author of Gold Inky Awards Shortlisted A Thousand Perfect Notes, an emotionally charged story which tackles the dark topic of domestic abuse but also draws on the power of dreams in an ultimately hopeful tale. The book has resonated with readers and especially our judges who commended the books poetic language and captivating character exploration.
Two judges, Zitong and Juliette got to pick the brain of this exciting new voice in Australian YA Literature.
First we have questions from Zitong, who is a pianist and lover of classical music as well as an avid and discerning reader!
In a world that is largely dominated by contemporary music, what inspired you to write a character that was a classical pianist, and are you yourself a fan of the classical music genre?
One of my initial inspirations for A Thousand Perfect Notes was that I wanted to write a loose Beethoven retelling. I’m also a musician and taught myself piano before adding in violin and cello. During high school, I was constantly practicing, swapping between instruments, and between times I wrote stories to the soundtrack of Beethoven’s symphonies. Classical music was my heart, but I also enjoyed improvising…which helped when I wrote Beck who dreams of being a composer! (I was not very good at writing music though, ahem, so I focused on writing books.
Beck is abused in by his mother in different ways throughout the book. Is family violence and abuse something that you have experienced before, or simply something you believe the world should be more aware about?
I do believe we need to talk about violence more, especially in books which can provide a safe space to unpack darker themes. Beck’s mother hits him, but she also constantly whittles away his self-worth until he believes he deserves her punishments. And while most people may not experience physical abuse in their lives, being made to feel small and worthless is something many of us go through. It’s a terrible thing, to be told you are nothing. I wanted to highlight that in A Thousand Perfect Notes. I wanted Beck to find a friend, gain confidence, and believe he was worth saving. I have a loving family who I adore, but I am extremely passionate about how violence is never justifiable. At the heart of my book is the line “You are worth more than a thousand perfect notes,” and that’s what I want readers to remember.
Are there any authors you looked up to, or found inspiration from during the writing process of A Thousand Perfect Notes?
I have so many authors I am in complete awe of! A few I look up to are Maggie Stiefvater, Adam Silvera, and Cassandra Clare.
Before you were a successful young-adult author, were there other career choices you considered or was writing always the number one thing you wished to do as a living?
There may have been a brief interlude when I was small where I was very assuredly going to be a pirate. But apart from that, being an author has been my dream. My goal was to walk into a bookstore and see my novel on the shelf. (I still have to pinch myself that it’s a reality now!)
For the people who have loved reading your novel, are there other books that are perhaps similar in style that you would recommend to readers?
I’d recommend A List of Cages by Robin Roe and The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis for books that deal with themes of abuse and reclaiming self-worth. And I recently read You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silvermann which features a very stressed violinist if you’re looking for stories about musicians who really deserve a nap.
Next we have questions from Juliette (who has also read C.G.Drews’ latest novel The Boy Who Steals Houses and highly recommends it!)
One of my favourite aspects of the book was the element of music. What inspired you to write a book that featured Beck’s relationship with music so prominently?
I had such a melting pot of inspiration for this book! I wanted to write a Beethoven retelling, but I wove in little nods to Cinderella too (evil mother; August makes a lovely Prince Charming, etc…) and also put in some of my own love/hate relationship with music. As a teen I adored playing and improvising…but performing in front of crowds? Shudder. So while I had kind music teachers and an amazing family, Beck and I share the same terror of playing music in front of people.
Did you find it challenging writing about some serious topics (for example domestic abuse) in this book?
It was challenging in that it was sad to write Beck’s pain and horrible to know hundreds of teens grow up in similar situations. I did a lot of research as well, particularly by reading memoirs from people who’d gone through abusive situations.
What messages do you think young people can take away from reading this book?
At its core, my story is about self-worth and believing you deserve to be loved. I want readers to close the book and remember, no matter the situation, anyone who makes you feel worthless is wrong. The title comes from a line spoken by August, “You are worth more than a thousand perfect notes”, and that’s the heart of the book.
Did you know at the start of writing how Beck’s character arc would progress throughout the book, or did his development change while you wrote more of the book?
I do write outlines so I knew where his arc needed to go: he needed to believe he was worth saving. But I needed him to make that decision…which is where August came in, to start spreading those seeds of hope and love, so eventually Beck could stand up for himself.
What character do you relate to the most and why?
I do relate to Beck and our utter loathing of performance. We’re both very quiet and introverted. But I also admit that lot of August’s passion about animal rights, cupcakes, and disdain for shoes is also from me!
Thanks so much to C.G. Drews to giving us her time and letting us pick her brains. Be sure to seek out her latest book, The Boy Who Steals Houses.