The Writer's Blog Tour

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!