As you ALL should know, Sydney Writers’ Festival is happening this week.
IT IS EXCITING STUFF. And as part of building the hype for All Day YA on Saturday, I had the chance to interview some of the #LoveOzYA anthology authors. Will Kostakis, Amie Kaufman and Danielle Binks were kind enough to answer some questions, and I hope you love their answers as much as I did.
Without further ado, here are the answers!
And pssst, you can read my review of the anthology here.
This year there’s an All Day YA event, and YA’s popularity definitely seems to be on the rise. What’s your favourite part of writing YA?
The readers! YA readers are absolutely amazing. Often you’ll find people who primarily read adult fiction who say they’ll only read crime novels, or literary fiction, or one very narrow area. Readers of YA — whether they’re teens or adults — are so enthusiastic and open-minded. They’ll try a contemporary romance one day and a sci-fi thriller the next. They’re amazing readers and supporters, and I love being part of the community with them.
I think I love that the one thing that generally links all YA stories together is it’s “coming-of-age”. Now, that can be coming-of-age in outer-space, a rural boarding school or while riding the high-seas as a swashbuckling Queen of Pirates – but it’s generally about being on the cusp of everything, and nothing staying the same for long. I love that. I think everyone can relate, no matter their age – because we’ve all had that feeling of the world tipping, and we’re just clinging desperately for the ride ahead. It’s also why Iove our Anthology title – Begin, End, Begin – it’s a head-nod to the fact that life is cyclical, one chapter ends and another begins …
The characters in YA are standing on the edge of the rest of their lives, considering who they are and who they’d like to be. The teen audience is in the same position, and to write something that might shape the way they look at themselves and their place in world is a remarkable privilege.
· Do you prefer writing novels or short stories?
If I had to choose one to write forever, I’d choose novels, because sometimes I just have a lot to say — but to be honest, I like keeping some variety in my writing life! Different stories are suited to different formats.
Oh, that’s tough! Stephen King once said; “Reading a good long novel is in many ways like having a long and satisfying affair” – but; “A short story is a different thing altogether – a short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.” I think it’s the same when you’re writing them. A novel with characters and a story that you really settle into can be so fulfilling, but also – sometimes you just want a quick snog, maybe to get a niggling story out of your system!
I learned a lot about writing from composing short stories as a teenager, and while I think I prefer novel writing, there’s something alluring about getting to step into a world, explore a short story and quickly duck out without having to worry about 50,000 more words.
· Is there another Aussie YA writer you’re secretly in awe of (but have never told them)?
Nope! I mean, I’m in awe of lots of Aussie writers, but I always tell them! I was on a panel with Isobelle Carmody a few years back, and I got to tell her that I saw her speak when I was in year eight, and was one of the big moments that put me on track to becoming an author. I was not cool at allllllll. (Spoiler: I’m never cool.)
HA! I’ve been blogging over at “my solo book club”, Alpha Reader, since 2009 – so I’m pretty much an open book when it comes to fawning over, and celebrating the authors I love – and Aussie YA in particular. But I’m still in awe of Melina Marchetta, even decades after I first read her. I’ve also met her quite a few times now, and I can pretty much talk in complete sentences around her now … but then I re-read one of her books (The Piper’s Son is my absolute fave!) and be reminded all over again that she’s a legit genius, and I’m in the presence of greatness. I’m going to be at ‘25 Years of Looking For Alibrandi: Have a Say Day‘, and I’ll be the person who is red in the face from crying happy-tears.
Secretly? No, I have a booming Greek voice I tend to shout my awe: Barry Jonsberg, Melina Marchetta, Cath Crowley, Simmons Howell, Gabrielle Tozer, Amie Kaufman … The list goes on and on and on.
INTERJECTION FROM EMILY: I love how proud these authors are of each other! The first time I ever met one of my favourite authors (Gabrielle Tozer) I could barely remember how to use words.
Do you have a favourite short story in the #LoveOzYA anthology…besides your own?
Whaaaaaaat? No way can I make a choice like that. That’s like asking me to choose a favourite limb. They’re all awesome. Read them all.
GAH! No! I can’t do it. They’re all too wonderful. I loved Amie Kaufman’s attention to detail (her story was read over by a friend of hers, who works at NASA! – they checked for accuracy!). Alice Pung’s voice and bravado was outstanding. Will Kostakis totally surprised me in the best way, and made me realise that he’s an author who can literally write *anything*. Michael Pryor reminded me that good sci-fi has a backbone in reality and isn’t afraid to confront real-world politics. Melissa Keil is the Aussie YA queen of rom-coms and she bought her regality to the anthology. Ellie Marney honoured me by revisiting Rachel and Mycroft in this collection, and made all my fan-girl dreams come true. Lili Wilkinson wrote such a tender love story that was also so deliciously creepy. Gabrielle Tozer bought heart and steel to her story, and such beautiful empathy. Jaclyn Moriarty can make me laugh like no other – and even now, I’ll remember certain lines from her story and just SMILE. And for my own; I’m glad that I got to write about family and friendship, and proud that I worked hard to represent and do justice to a Deaf character and his complex, wonderful new beginning.
I absolutely love Jaclyn Moriarty’s. So unexpected and charming … Obviously, I need to add her name to the above list too. But really, reading the anthology from cover to cover is an experience. Lili Wilkinson, Melissa Keil, Alice Ping and others each being what we love about their longer works (and some surprises) to their contributions. I’ve already read the whole thing twice.
INTERJECTION FROM EMILY: thank you to Will for being the only one to not give me a cop-out answer. But you know what, all the stories are wonderful, it is true.
· What’s in the works for you right now?
Oh gosh, a fair bit! I’ve got three books coming out at the end of 2017/start of 2018: Unearthed with Meagan Spooner (think Indiana Jones in space!), Obsidio with Jay Kristoff (book three of the Illuminae Files) and the first book in my Elementals trilogy, which is for middle grade readers — it’s got shapeshifters, wolves, dragons, magic, twins, quests, all kinds of stuff I love.
So right now I’m working on the sequel to Unearthed, book two in the Elementals series, and Jay and I are working on book one of our new series. And it’s possible I have a secret project or two in the wings as well.
I have a contemporary middle grade manuscript, and hopefully there will be an announcement about that one day soon! The story is set in 1999, during the biggest humanitarian exercise undertaken by the Australian government in response to the Kosovar War. It was called “Operation Safe Haven”.
My MG inspirations are the likes of Jo Knowles, Gary D. Schmidt, Sharon Creech, Nova Weetman, Rebecca Stead and Morris Gleitzman … I’m really excited by how Australia’s MG landscape is growing, and I’d love a chance to contribute to it.
I am also finishing up a YA fiction story. Set in Tasmania, about a feminist horror-film collective, and a teen girl who was the child star of an indie horror-movie once upon a time … It’s contemporary again – about friendship, fear and fandom. Tentatively titled ‘The Monster of her Age’.
At the moment, I’m working on my next novel. I’m far enough along to call it a novel, but unfortunately, not far along enough to talk about it. I’ll just sit here and teaaaaase it.
INTERJECTION FROM EMILY: I am literally so excited for ALL OF THESE. Even Will’s nameless, shapeless novel that I know nothing about (not fair).
And finally, what has been your favourite author moment?
Wow, good question! There are so many. To be honest, it’s the same moment over and over again — it’s when I get to talk to readers one-on-one at events, and they tell me that they got back into reading after trying one of my books, or they’re trying their hand at writing after they enjoyed my stuff. I just love reading and writing so, so much that knowing I’ve played a part in anyone’s journey — just like so many authors played a part in mine! — is mind-blowing every time.
The launch of Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology was pretty epic. I got to stand up in front of a whole bunch of people and tell everyone how much there is to love about #LoveOzYA, and how honoured I was to work with so many incredible Aussie YA authors, and to be have my own words included in the collection alongside theirs! … yeah, that was pretty great. There was cake, too!
I have to say Terry Pratchett. He’s been my favourite author for the better part of half my life, and I don’t think anyone will ever take the throne in my mind. If I can write half as well as he can when all is said and done, I’ll be pretty thrilled with myself.
INTERJECTION FROM EMILY: I think Will misread the question, but since he’s THE Will Kostakis I guess I’ll let it slide.