A spotlight on Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore
Metal Fish, Falling Snow is one of the six books shortlisted for this year’s Readings Young Adult Book Prize. Metal Fish, Falling Snow is a portrait of 14-year-old Dylan looking for her identity in the wake of immense trauma. Our judges described it as having ‘a voice that is rich and beautiful.’
We asked author Cath Moore about her inspiration, dream castings, the wonderful nostalgic music in the book and what she’s working on next.
What was the inspiration for this story?
I am always interested in writing about parent/child relationships and why they are important in shaping who we become. I also wanted to unpack my own mixed heritage which had always been a problematic part of my identity. There was a lot of pain and emotions associated with my skin colour, and it ended up being a really cathartic experience. Writing my way through these feelings and personal history. My research process forged a deeper connection to my West Indian heritage and my father, and so I wanted the book to become a way for other readers to know that their fears and conflicts were not unique, and that mixed heritage can also become a source of pride.
What would be the perfect soundtrack?
Well, it’s all in the book! Interwoven throughout is the soundtrack to my own teenage years, a tribute to the Australian music industry of the time. My main character Dylan has two heroes, Johnny Farnham (Two Strong Hearts, The Age of Reason, You’re the Voice, Chain Reaction) and Tina Arena (Chains, Heaven Help My Heart, Sorrento Moon, Wasn’t It Good) whose work really speaks to the heart of Aussie music in the 1990s. There’s also a number of other songs from Aussie bands that I imagine being played on the car radio as Dylan and Pat travel through the outback: 1927, Hunters and Collectors, Mental As Anything, Icehouse, Crowded House, Boom Crash Opera, ACDC and Jimmy Barnes, of course. Dylan also grew up listening to her French mother’s favourite music, so anything by Serge Gainsbourg (Je T’aime, Ballade de Johnny-Jane, La Decadanse) would also have to be played.
Who would be my dream cast for a screen adaptation?
Well, this story started out as a screenplay, and I am in the midst of adapting the book back into this medium! I think Aden Young would be fabulous as Pat. I would love to see the American actor Danny Glover play William, the amazing Shareena Clanton as Cecelia and a slew of Australian acting gold playing bit parts; Bruce Spence as pub owner, Magda Szubanski as the pub owner’s wife, David Field as the bent copper, maybe even Johnny Farnham and Tina Arena making a guest appearance!! I would love up and coming actor/dancer Nova Karikari to play the role of Dylan. She’s incredible.
What are you working on next?
I’m caught between worlds at the moment! I am trying (very hard) to write two YA novels at the same time. This may be a crazy idea, but I am tyring to write stories that sit in the same universe as Metal Fish, Falling Snow. I’m interested to know if certain themes—the search for family, what it means to be a teenager in a complex world, grief and identity—can be explored with reference to my debut novel, but with a completely different cast of characters. While both books are set in the near future, they will both embrace magic realism, a space that I love writing in. There will be equal measure wonder and sorrow! The first explores (dis)connection to our bodily selves and the fallibility of memories. The second book asks what is it like to become a woman and has a strong environmental theme.
Dylan is such a quirky, unique character: her magical insight into people’s past and motivations, combined with her complete lack of insight into everyday situations, created a really interesting character. Was the magical element always there, or did it come later in the drafting process?
The magical element was something that I had explored in the screenplay version of the story, but in changing to prose, became a much more important vehicle to explore Dylan with. It enabled me to open her up as someone who, despite being socially awkward, had a different knowledge system based on an ability to see and understand people’s inner emotional lives. This also helped in establishing one of the themes, that loss and grief unites us all. I always wrote the story as being quite visual and playing with the narrative flexibility that magic realism offers was a wonderful way to bring that quality to the page.