My Very Clever Friend Snazzy has dobbed me in for this. She writes amazing televisions, and the other day she got to be an extra in a TV show she created and wrote, wearing a medieval gown and holding an owl, so that's really all you need to know about how excellent she is.
What am I working on?
Three main things: working on two novels, working on my PhD, gestating a tiny human.
I’m in the edit stages of a novel at the moment that will either be called Bewildering or Lobstergirl and Shopping Trolley Guy or something else entirely. It's a YA agricultural environmental superhero rom-com. Sort of. It's about two very different teenagers who live in a really, really ugly suburb called Valentine. They bond over comic books and activism, and begin a secret guerrilla gardening project to beautify their town and wake the citizens up to the possibility of positive environmental change. Also hopefully it will be funny and there will be kissing. Out with Allen & Unwin in 2015.
The second novel is something very, very different for me, and it won't be out until 2016 at the earliest, so I don't want to talk about it too much. But it is dark, and a bit thrillery, and has involved a lot of utterly fascinating research. At the moment it's called The Subtle Body, but I've never published a book that kept its working title, so who knows what it'll end up as.
The PhD is on the ways in which YA is making teen readers more politically engaged. It's super-fun, and should be finished mid-2015.
The tiny human is due for release in mid-October.
How does my work differ from others in my genre?
The good thing about YA is that it can be pretty much whichever genre you choose. I've written historical fiction, magic realism, non-fiction, crime and romance. I like to write about smart, interesting, flawed girls who want things. One of my least favourite literary trends is the Dead Girl - girls dying so boys can have feelings, dead mothers, dead protagonists, and of course all the dead girls on YA book covers. So I'd like to think that my books feature girls who are decidedly alive.
Why do I write what I do?
Because I love it. Lots of people ask writers whether we write for an audience or for ourselves, and I think for the vast majority of us, the answer is 'both'. I write the kinds of books I like to read, but I also hope that others will read and enjoy them too. Funny, romantic books tend to get overlooked - not by readers, but by the media and by awards judges (as do books with female protagonists). Romance is seen as something trashy - a Proper Literary Book has to have Death and Tragedy. I honestly don't understand this - surely love is the most basic element of being a human being - don't we all want to love, and to be loved? I also think it takes an enormous amount of skill to explore complicated themes and subjects with a humorous touch, but generally once a book is funny, it's again considered to be somehow lowbrow.
So I suppose I write what I do because I want to make people laugh, and have squishy romantic feelings, and think about the world in new and different ways. Is that too much to ask?
How does my writing process work?
Generally, I come up with an idea for a new book, or sometimes a few ideas. I then sit down with my editor at Allen & Unwin and we have a chat, firm up the idea, and then I go away and write a proposal. This proposal is then taken to some sort of secret important board of superheroes and world leaders, and then a contract is drawn up. Then I go away and write the first draft.
I write using Scrivener, a piece of software designed for writers, as opposed to Microsoft Word, which is designed for talking paperclips. I sketch out a rough outline, and then create a list of chapters, with a sentence or two on what will happen in each chapter. I figure out how long I want the book to be (usually between 60-80,000 words), and space my chapters out accordingly, so the climax comes in the right place. I use a lot of techniques from the screenwriting world for this structuring process, to make sure that the story flows smoothly, without any boring bits.
I don't write chronologically. Once I have my chapter plan, I write whichever bit I'm feeling the most excited about on a particular day. The story comes together in a piecemeal way, and I don't get stuck or bored. It means though, that this early draft is utterly incomprehensible, as it is peppered with PUT FUNNY STORY HERE and FIGURE OUT HOW SHE ESCAPES and MORE FEELINGS IN THIS BIT. So once I have the bones, I go back over and polish it all up, fixing all the bits that I know are crap, and hoping I'm wrong about all the bits that I suspect are crap.
I then send to a few people. My editor, my mum, a screenwriter friend (usually the aforementioned Very Clever Sarah Dollard). After a few weeks, I get back my editorial letter. This letter usually goes something like this:
Dear Lili. We love this book. You are a genius. We would just like you to change one small thing - the words. Love, Your Editors.
Then begins the editorial process, which I actually quite enjoy, because it's all about making the book better. And now I shall pass the torch of bloggy writing fire to three other excellent writers:
Myke Bartlett is a journalist and YA author. His debut novel, Fire in the Sea, won the 2011 Text Prize and was published to great acclaim in 2012.
Carole Wilkinson is the author of like a zillion books but is best known for her multi-award-winning Dragonkeeper series, and for being my mum.
AJ Betts is the author of Zac & Mia, which won the 2012 Text Prize and also just last week the Ethel Turner Prize at the NSW Premier's Literary Awards. Hurrah!
I'll be teaching this workshop on story structure on Saturday 24 May, and if you want to write a novel, or you have a work-in-progress and need a bit of a nudge on structure, then you should definitely consider coming along. 100 Story Building is a centre for young writers based in Melbourne’s inner-west, that also runs writing programs for adults. It's totally awesome and you should check it out.
Fifteen-year-old Mariah Kennedy is passionate about fighting for social justice. As the UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador, Mariah created REACHING OUTas a fundraising project and all author royalties will be donated to UNICEF. Heartfelt and inspiring, this book contains stories, poems and illustrations that have been donated by some of the most world?s renowned and respected authors and illustrators, including Graeme Base, Jackie French, Michael Leunig, Bruce Whatley, Michael Morpurgo, Andy Griffiths, Anna Perera, Libby Gleeson, Melina Marchetta, Alison Lester, Morris Gleitzman and many more.
I'm one of the "many more"! My story "The Leaving" is in this wonderful anthology. Hurrah! Thanks, Mariah, for letting me be a part of such a wonderful project. You're an inspiration.
Here are two things that have changed since the publication of Pink in 2009: 1. I used to be a bit nervous about saying that, at the beginning of the book, Ava has a girlfriend. I got some disapproving looks from teachers, especially at religious schools. Students would giggle and whisper. One girl loudly informed me that it was "gross". Not anymore. Four years later, and nobody blinks. It's just part of the story. Nothing unusual. This is a really, really good thing.
2. Four years ago, when I held up Pink, boys would wince. And girls would say "I like that cover". Now, instead of mentioning the cover, boys and girls alike (but mostly girls) squeal IS THAT A QUOTE FROM JOHN GREEN ON THE COVER!???
And one thing that hasn't changed:
I get more fan mail about Pink than all my other books put together. I've received so many emails from people (young and old) who say that Ava's experiences spoke to them, and made them feel braver, or less alone, or prouder about being a nerd. And I'm so grateful for those emails, and so very glad that the book is reaching new readers, and that people are still enjoying it.
The purpose of the Georgia Peach Award is to highlight and promote the best current young adult literature for Georgia high school age students, to encourage young adults to read and to promote the development of cooperative school and public library services for young adults. Teens vote for their favorite books out of the year's top 20 nominees at their high schools and local public libraries.
It sounds a bit like the Inky Awards here in Australia, so it must be awesome.
Things are super busy here in my world. Working on my new book, which has transformed itself into also being part of my PhD. Also working on my thesis, which I'm enjoying so much more than I thought I would. I love literary criticism! Who knew? I'm also super busy at various schools, festivals and other events. I'm really enjoying being a host for The Wheeler Centre's Texts In The City program - I'm reading lots of things I've always meant to read, and rereading some old favourites. I do a lot of talking about my own books, so it's very refreshing to be able to talk about someone else's! And I get to do more of that on Monday night when I'm Q&Aing with the wonderful Patrick Ness at the Athenaeum.
And next Saturday I get to talk with Penni Russon at the Emerging Writers Festival, which will be excellent.
Other things that are going on include: I have an awesome new friend through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Young Achievers program, which I'm totally loving, except tomorrow we are playing laser tag and I'm a bit scared.
There's also lots of house and garden stuff going on around here, and to avoid boring you all with endless photos of plans and plants, I've started a garden blog. But there are some literary connections, because there is some sneaky gardening in my next book.
SPEAKING OF BOOKS. Remember how I wrote that book called The Zigzag Effect which came out two months ago? Well people seem to really like it, which is great. I'm enjoying performing magic tricks (okay, trick. I only know one) at schools and reading out scenes that contain buckets full of wee.
Simmone Howell has tagged me to do this, and it's SUPER late because I got distracted by Christmas. But here we go!
1) What is the working title of your next book? The Zigzag Effect. That's the final title. For a while it was Never Miss A Trick, then The Sucker Effect, then about a million other things, but now it is definitely, finally The Zigzag Effect.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book? A documentary about magician's assistants. There is a bunch of ladies whose job it is to dress up in a spangly little leotard, look beautiful, get tied up, cut in half and made to disappear. Creepy, amirite?
3) What genre does your book fall under? YA. More specifically, YA romcrime, which is a mystery with kissing. A kisstery.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? Jennifer Lawrence as Sage, the main character. Andrew Garfield as Herb, the love interest. And Taylor Swift as Bianca, the magician's assistant. Ooh, and Alan Rickman as The Great Armand. Except then they'd all have to pretend to be Australian. I really should know more Australian actors.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Backstage kissing, vanishing magicians and ghost-photography - Sage Kealley's new job is more than she'd bargained for! 6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Published Australia in April 2013 by Allen & Unwin. Represented in the US by KT Literary.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? The first draft probably took five months. The whole thing in around eighteen months.
8)What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? It has a similar feel to my previous books Pocketful of Eyes and Love-Shy.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book? Partly wanting to explore some of the bizarreness that comes with being a magician's assistant. Partly wanting to learn more about stage magic.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest? There is a bunny called Warren. There is a kissing scene which takes place in the dark, near a bucket full of wee. There may or may not be a ghost.
Well. I was pretty rubbish at blogging in 2012. But in my defense, I did:
- get engaged
- release a new book
- buy a house
- move house
- get married
- go on a honeymoon
- go through PhD confirmation
- write a novel (more on that tomorrow)
- do over a hundred talks/workshops in schools
- attended four literary festivals
- and like a million other things that I can't remember.
It's been a pretty damn awesome year. I'm hoping 2013 will be just as wonderful as 2012 was. I have lots of super exciting projects coming up. Plus in three weeks we are getting a PUPPY. YAY!
I'm currently the writer in residence at ibrary, Brisbane City Council Libraries' website. On Thursday 18th October, I'll be chatting with Isobelle Carmody about her awesome career and books at Fitzroy Library More info here.
And in answer to the many teenagers who have asked if I have a tumblr - yes. Yes I do.
My next book finally has a title! More on this soon.
And yes, thank you for asking. Our honeymoon was amazing.
2012 is the National Year of Reading, which seems like a pretty good reason (not that we need one) to celebrate Australian writers. The Australian Women Writers Challenge was created by Elizabeth Lhuede in response to the gender bias debates of 2011, to participate in the National Year of Reading and to raise awareness for the totally awesome Stella Prize. The goal of the challenge is to read and review books written by Australian women writers throughout 2012, and I've been meaning to participate all year. My list of book by Grouse Aussie Ladies is growing steadily, so I thought I'd do a bit of a summary, now we're halfway through the year. So here's what I've been reading:
Queen of the Night by Leanne Hall I was a very big fan of Leanne's This is Shyness, so I had high hopes for this sequel. And they weren't disappointed. Sinking back into the dark, elusive suburb of Shyness was a little like sinking back into a dream. Except this time, six months later, Shyness is different. Or maybe it isn't, maybe it's Wolfboy and Wildgirl that are different. Shyness pulls you in and wraps you up in a darkness that is both dangerous and utterly compelling.
Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan Okay, so this one's only half Australian, as SRB is Irish. Team Human tells the now-familiar girl-meets-vampire-falls-in-love story, except this time it's from the POV of the girl's best friend. Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, but she doesn't associate with them. Vampires are weird. Then her best friend Cathy falls in love with one of them, and everything is all soulful declarations and longing gazes. Mel is disgusted, and vows to rescue Cathy from an eternity of pretentious speeches and bad poetry. Funny and refreshing, Team Human manages to poke fun at the bit-lit establishment at the same time as delivering a solid, genuine story with a powerful emotional punch.
Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan We all know how much I love Margo Lanagan. This latest novel is not quite as harrowing as Tender Morsels, but no less beautiful. It's about the inhabitants of Rollrock Island, a remote fishing community that becomes strange, when the young witch Misskaella learns how to draw a human from the body of a seal. For a price, she will lure a beautiful woman from the ocean. The men of Rollrock are bewitched, and abandon their true wives for these strange, lithe creatures. Generations pass on Rollrock, and the links between land and sea tangle together like seaweed on the beach.
The Truth About Love by Stephanie Laurens I met Stephanie at the Wheeler Centre a couple of years ago, and have terribly only just got round to reading one of her books. A name unknown to most readers outside of the romance genre, Stephanie holds the grand title of being Australia's highest-selling author. The Truth About Love is part of her Cynster series, set in the Regency era. When eligible bachelor Gerrard Debbington lands the opportunity to paint the fantastic but seldom-seen gardens at Hellebore Hall, he jumps at the opportunity. He just doesn't expect to fall in love while he's there. I'm a big fan of the lightness and humour of other Regency writers like Julia Quinn and Lisa Kleypas, so I found this one a little too gothic for my tastes, but it was nonetheless an enjoyable read.
Only Ever Always by Penni Russon
Claire's world is broken when her uncle Charlie is in a car accident. Clara's world has always been broken - a filthy, corrupt world of gutter kings and wild dogs. These two girls are linked, by music boxes, keys and dreams. Their two worlds start to collide and intermingle, and nothing will ever be the same. Grief, melancholy, survival and identity elevate Only Ever Always to something strange and extraordinary. Like Margo Lanagan and Ursula Dubosarsky, Penni Russon's writing requires a level of focus and commitment from the reader, a commitment that brings ample reward.
Pan's Whisper by Sue Lawson
Shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Award. This is the story of Pan, a damaged, broken teen running away from her memories. Pan is taken away from her mother and sister by a social worker, and dumped into a foster home smack bang in the middle of wholesome, middle-class Legoland. As Pan struggles to settle in to her new life, she's haunted by frightening little glimpses of the past. Packed with angst, tragedy and "issues", Pan's Whisper is told with a lightness of touch that rescues it from being a gratuitous "problem novel".
Blood Brothers by Carole Wilkinson
Obviously I'm a little biased on this one, what with it being written by my mum and all. But I love the Dragonkeeper series, and am totally excited that it's back. Set 400 years after the conclusion of Dragon Moon, Ping is long gone, but Kai is just an adolescent dragon. His wings still haven't grown yet, and he's full of bouncy energy, stubbornness and occasional sulky tantrums. Tao is a young Buddhist monk, living an ascetic life high up in the mountains. When their paths cross, both Kai and Tao must confront some uncomfortable truths about their families, their pasts, and their future paths.
What books by Australian women have you been reading?
We moved into our house! It's very exciting and as soon as it is a bit tidier, I'll post some photos. But I've also been busy doing lots of other things. I had another academic article published, on John Green's Paper Towns, Nerdfighters and heterotopia (you can read it here).
I presented a paper on Meg Cabot at the ACLAR conference in Canberra, organised by the very clever Anthony Eaton.
I'm championing a book for the Kill Your Darlings YA Championship (but you'll have to wait to find out which one).
I remotely gave a speech at ALA to accept my Stonewall Honor Prize (you can read the speech here).
I finished the first draft of the Next Book (of which more soon), and am about to start the first round of edits.
And now it's nearly August, where I shall be very busy visiting many schools, and doing events at the Melbourne Writers Festival. Speaking of which, the program has just been released, and it's awesome. The full program can be found here, and my sessions are here.
- editing my new book (about a magician's assistant)
- drafting my PhD novel (about an apocalyptic road trip)
- writing my PhD thesis
- occasionally scribbling down some words on a Sekrit Writing Project.
People often ask me if I get confused, working on multiple projects at once. Do I mix up the characters? I don't think so. It's like how, at the moment, Michael and I are watching:
- Mad Men
- Game of Thrones
- Being Human
- Up All Night
And I don't ever stop and say "hey, wait - I thought Stannis Baratheon worked at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Will Arnett was the serial killer and Jimmy Smits was the vampire living in a sharehouse on Barry Island!". I keep all those stories separate, even though we often dip into more than one of them in a night. I'm also reading two novels at the moment, and listening to a third in audiobook format. I think we can all keep stories separate in our heads. Our heads are good at that kind of thing.
Plus I'd get bored if I was only working on one thing at a time. What would I do then when I got stuck?
Because we just bought a house, Mj and I have to save a chunk of extra money over the next couple of months, so we are being super frugal. We're already pretty frugal (we don't smoke or drink coffee or soft drink, which according to my calculations has saved us around $100,000 over the past ten years), but we're stepping it up. Here are my top ten frugal tips.
- Coins. I collected all the loose change in the house and took it to the bank. We had over $500!
- Take your lunch. We are lunching on instant ramen and toasted sandwiches instead of store-bought sushi.
- Shop at the market, an hour before closing. Everything is extra cheap. We bought 5kg of potatoes for $1.50!
- Cook in bulk. Soups, bolognese and chili are our staples. One big lot can last for six or seven meals.
- Spring onions - this is basically magic. In the past, I've always ended up throwing half the bunch away when they go dry and bendy. Instead, snip off the end of each onion as you use it, about an inch above the root, and put it into a jar of water. The onions will keep growing, and you can snip off the top when you need. Ours are still going strong after six weeks. Also keep herbs from wilting by keeping them in a glass of water. And bendy veggies like broccoli can be revived by cutting off the end and sticking it in water for an hour or so.
- Cleaning products like Spray & Wipe are way too strong anyway. I always split one bottle between two and top up with water.
- Don't go to the pub, or the movies.
- Cut down on booze. We are enjoying a few weekend gin and tonics, as we have duty-free gin in the cupboard from our trip last year. My home-made tonic syrup and our SodaStream makes this a very low-cost beverage!
- Cancel gym membership. We never went anyway, and walking is free.
- Pay off credit cards immediately. We do this anyway, but it's good to remember. Interest fees are a bitch.
oh, and as a bonus
11. Have wonderful friends and family that supply you with food and drink. Thank you, guys. We'll pay you back with many lovely meals at our lovely house in the future!
What are your best frugal tips?
Sorry about the lack of blogging, world. I've been a little busy. (do every one of my blogs start with that?)
Here's an update for the last month or so:
1. A Pocketful of Eyes made the CBCA Notable list! Hurrah!
2. And the WAYRBA Older Readers list! Double Hurrah!
3. Love-Shy is getting lots of love out there in the world, which is wonderful.
4. I had an awesome week as the writer-in-residence St Margaret Mary's Catholic College in Townsville.
5. I am NEARLY FINISHED the first draft of the Next Book, of which more soon.
6. Wedding planning is full-steam ahead. My Pinterest overfloweth.
7. WE BOUGHT A HOUSE! This is absolutely terrifying and also utterly wonderful. Now we can have our Saturdays back instead of traipsing from house open to house open. But we will be very poor for a few months while we settle into our mortgage. I'm enjoying finding new ways to be frugal - yesterday I gathered up all the loose change lying around our house and took it to the bank. There was $525 worth of coins! Our new house is a beautiful little 1925 weatherboard in Thornbury, and we'll be moving in July. Lots to do before then. I'm still not really sure what a conveyancer does, but we have one.
8. Here's Pink with its Stonewall Honor sticker! Look at how it matches!