Gabrielle Carey Interview

Interview with Puberty Blues author Gabrielle Carey

What is it about Puberty Blues that made it such a success? 

I believe that Puberty Blues was special because it was borne from a very unusual creative collaboration, which was based on a desire to tell the truth.

Did you draw inspiration from your own experience during this time? 

Puberty Blues is essentially autobiographical and in many ways is more non-fiction than fiction. Our method was to take our collective experiences and put most of them into the 'main' character. Many of the other characters were based on real people and we simply changed their names, although if everyone who claimed they are in the book really were, it would have a cast of thousands.

Do you think the issues addressed in the book still exist today? 

The issues or themes of Puberty Blues are as relevant today as they ever were. These are: love, sex and identity. The formation of identity comes as a result of love - that is, through our relationships with others. This means that how we learn to negotiate love as young people has a lot to do with who we become as adults. What is missing among the young people in Puberty Blues is some sort of ethics of love. This, too, is an ever-present issue.

How do you feel about the TV series? 

I’m excited and nervous about the upcoming series. It seems almost magic that a friendship between two teenage girls in the Shire in the 70s - which resulted in a schoolbook of scribbled stories - has led to another major creative collaboration in 2012, involving hundreds of people. It proves to me that creativity is central to being human and something we should all value.

What was the reaction when you first published Puberty Blues?

About 10 years ago there was a small trivia quiz in the Sydney Morning Herald offering a prize to anyone who could remember the 'other' author of Puberty Blues. At first I laughed; then I was irritated. Finally, I admitted to myself that I wasn't really sure how I felt. Was I annoyed at being so forgettable? Did I miss the brief period when people recognised me in the street? Or should I just write in to the Herald and claim the prize money?

What was it like becoming a celebrity when the book first came out?

I was 20 when the public eye turned on me after the publication of Puberty Blues. It didn't take long before I realised that being a celebrity wasn't for me. Being at the centre of a media storm can be fun, but there's also a part of it that isn't so much fun.

How did you and Kathy Lette deal with your fame differently?

As Puberty Blues was co-authored, there was trouble when one author shrank from the attention and the other lapped it up. While I saw our sudden fame as a loss of privacy, of individuality, my co-writer saw it as a gain, as an opportunity to network, to further a career, to establish the kind of status in the world that had thus far eluded us. She was right of course. There was something churlish about turning your nose up at career opportunities, a kind of inverted snobbery. But at the time I couldn't comprehend the advantages we might gain from celebrity because I was too consumed by what we were losing. What we were losing was what had got us to that point in the first place: our friendship.