An interview with Aimee Said by Fran Knight
Going to a private school gave Aimee Said first hand experience to
use as background for her first novel, Finding Freia Lockhart.
The circumscribed world of the private school was perfect for Freia,
her friend, Kate and the group Kate aspires to join, the Bs. Their
slavish adherence to fashion, combined with a focus on their
appearance, means a deliberately funny look at girls and their
groups and at the way they treat those outside their group. With
this emphasis, the book is a forum for the captivating main
character, Freia to develop to a point where she can say no to the
influences that beset her. And her latest novel, based in a boarding
school many miles from civilisation and mobile phone coverage gives
Aimee an even stronger sense of dislocation and restriction to work
with. Perfect for a story for young adults full of humour and wry
digs at their current obsessions with body image and fashion.
Aimee Said is one of this year's Fellows of the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust and is staying at the May Gibbs studio in Norwood, South Australia. She had a month of uninterrupted time to work on her next novel. Uninterrupted that is, except for school visits, a series of workshops at Seymour College (perhaps another source of inspiration) and a little spare time for lunches and coffee with members of the trust, as well as an interview.
This Melbourne based author makes her living from freelance writing, editing and proofreading work, concentrating on web work. Her website is testimony to the excellence of her work: it is simple, direct and easy to navigate, so unlike many other websites I access in my work as a reviewer. Her target as a freelance web worker is to make the content of the website easy to understand, creating a smooth road of communication with the target audience. Happily for young adults, she also has a passion about communicating with that age group, writing novels aimed directly at the secondary market, in clear unequivocal prose, with themes that engage and tempt the reader to read on.
So it is with Freia, which draws heavily upon her own school experience. The chapters where Freia is involved with the school production of My Fair Lady draws on Aimee's school production, while her knowledge of what happens on the lighting bridge is from her sister's experience at the same school in a different production. Pride and Prejudice figures largely in the narrative as Freia hates the book chosen for her class to read in English, paralleling Aimee's own experience with the novel. This gives the novel a firm base of reality, an appealing foundation when so much YA fiction is base on fantasy and situations far beyond the normal and everyday.
Wanting to create a home situation for Freia unlike others, Aimee hit upon the idea of older parents, wanting to do the best for their child, but unsure of how to go about it. Freia Lockhart's home life is very funny, as the parents read all the manuals they can find to raise their children in a modern way. It is telling of Aimee's talent that she is able to make these people sympathetic as well as funny, the family never becoming caricatures.
Luckily there is a sequel to the wonderful Freia's life story, and this along with the novel worked on in Adelaide, will be snatched up by young adults wanting to see themselves in books, knowing that the book is based upon the author's own experiences, recognisably Australian and casting a sympathetic eye on all within their sphere.
What better way to spend an hour or so than with an author, talking about books and their passion for writing.
Aimee Said has written two books so far,
Finding Freia Lockhart, Walker Books, 2010 (no teacher notes)
and Little sister, Walker Books, 2011 (which has teacher notes on the website)