Where did the original idea come from for the Circle books?
Melaina: Do you want the long answer or short answer? The short answer is that I was out running and the series concept flashed into my head. I had to run 3 kilometres home to get paper and a pen!
The long answer... Between bouts of compulsive travel I worked as a secondary
school English teacher. It frustrated me how little time (especially in the
state system) is able to be devoted to pastoral care, when it seems obvious
that the emotional concerns of teenagers rule their lives. I was ranting about
this with one of my student's parents, Kerry Gardiner, and we decided - let's
We found a venue (the local youth centre) and put up notices. We were inundated by girls from the four surrounding high schools. The groups were called: Honouring the Self and there was an altar in the centre of each circle with candles, crystals, flowers, lollies and the girls' precious objects. I'd been part of a women's group that really nourished me and, to an extent, I based the girls' groups on this experience. Each week we'd start with an opening meditation. Then we'd pass a rose quartz heart around to take turns listening to where each of us were at. Kerry and I rarely interfered or advised; the girls always knew the wisest way. They just needed a sacred space to connect. We did so many things: laughing, crying, rituals, wing-making, craft, candle-making, love spells, conflict resolution etc. We also asked healers, artists, and creative women who were passionate about what they did to come in and share their passions with us. It was so wonderful that I wanted to share the energy at a broader level through the medium I love most - and The Circle books were born.
deeyOni: What sort of response have you had from readers and their parents?
Melaina: I have only had positive responses from readers and parents. The books have been written for 12-16 year olds but the truth is heaps of my thirty and forty something friends love them too. If I'm asked about suitability for younger girls, I'm always frank about the themes within the books. Most parents, older friends and grandparents have a fairly good idea about what their girl reads.
Princess in particular seems to elicit so much sadness and fury from its readers (teenage and adult). It was fascinating when all the publicity was being done because, without exception, everyone who interviewed me was female and each had a story to tell about being devastated at some time in their lives by a disparaging reference to their physical appearance. I really do believe that in these times women's bodies are a war zone for all-conquering capitalism.
The incredibly compassionate eating disorders councilor I researched with, Amanda Wales, was really pleased with Princess. She felt that I hadn't glamorized eating disorders, and depicted Ella's experiences with emotional accuracy.
deeyOni: What motivated you to focus on bulimia?
Melaina: Originally I was going to focus on
anorexia. Two things dissuaded me. It didn't work for the plot and bulimia
is more prevalent, more hidden and considered to somehow be a less dramatic
(almost socially acceptable) illness. But girls and women can go for decades,
suffering from the most terrible self-condemnation without detection. I wanted
to draw attention to the more common disorder.
Is Ella based on a person or people you know personally?
Melaina: I'm very careful about not basing my characters on specific individuals. They are themselves and, to a far lesser extent, a pastiche of real-life human qualities I observe in daily life. Saying that, Ella felt very real to me. I cried while writing the book. My lovely husband cried while reading it too.
deeyOni: Does it concern you that some young girls may not read the book all the way through, and focus on the part where bulimia seemed to be working for Ella?
Melaina: This doesn't concern me so much because the very first feedback I get about all my books is generally: 'I couldn't put it down!' I deliberately try to write in a way that compels readers to want to discover what will happen to the character they are feeling with and through.
Any comments on ‘Big Girls Don’t Lie’?
Melaina: Great article. I think it was a stupid thing to do but I feel sorry for her. She obviously had a deep fear about her addiction to narcotics being exposed. Any addiction is monstrous and at least she's been brave enough to finally confess when she must know the sort of media censure she'll cop.
deeyOni: Anything else you'd like to say to your readers?
Melaina: Enjoy the books, girls! Be beautiful and bold and brave. Listen to your wise aunts (even if you temporarily can't stand your mothers!) And remember that the preoccupation with how we look is a lowdown conspiracy to make us feel bad and buy lots of crap we don't need!
The Circle: Princess is the third book in the Circle series following The Circle: Gift and The Circle: Dreamer. First published by Random House Australia in 2004.
Other related articles:
Big Girl's Don't Lie - Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas faked bulimia to cover her addiction to narcotics.
Bulimia - The hidden dangers!
yOni now blogging at cliterallyspeaking.blogspot.com