Ask an Author Anything | Q&A

YA Day is coming up fast! We couldn’t be more excited for our #LoveOzYA-filled day, which comprises of five panels and 15 incredible authors! There’ll also be games with prizes up for grabs, and The Younger Sun will be our bookseller for the day.

In the lead up to our most anticipated event of the year, we’ll be sharing little Q&As with the attending authors to get a little sneak peek at what they might be talking about on the day. How exciting! And if you haven’t booked your ticket yet, places are going fast – reserve your spot here so you don’t miss out.

First up we have Michael Earp, Katya de Becerra, and Alison Evans from our ‘Ask an Author Anything’ panel sharing their tips and advice for all aspiring authors! Check it out!

What’s your best tip for an aspiring author to kickstart their career within the industry?

Michael: Get involved! This is a very broad tip that includes everything from attending book events, visiting bookshops, joining in the online conversation, reading what’s coming out, especially Australian authors, enter short story competitions, enter prize competitions, don’t be disappointed if you don’t win, see it as a completed work, do another one, learn to write properly constructed sentences (this is not an example of one). Just jump in!

Katya: The number one thing any aspiring author can – and should do – is complete their manuscript and make it the best it can be. Without a finished book, there’s no approaching agents or editors. I mean, there are exceptions to every rule, but *usually* an author needs to write a book before they can sell it.

There are so many factors and complexities to the publishing industry that the only “constant” is you writing your stuff, staying true to yourself and not giving up. Everyone’s experience is so different, and it’s not a given that what worked for me will work for someone else. I found my first agent via cold-querying, and then went on submission with her and ended up with a 2-book deal with Macmillan. Many of my author friends have gotten their agents and book deals in a similar way, but there are also many others who have taken part in online contests and found agents or editors that way. So it’s really what works for you. But *usually* the bottom-line is: you need to write a book first!  If your first book doesn’t go anywhere, you need to write another. And another. As many as it takes.

Also: read a lot, improve your craft, brainstorm new ideas, come up with unique and interesting ways of pitching your work, consider best comp titles for your work, and know your potential audience well. And ALWAYS be professional and respectful.

Alison: Meet people! I know this is kind of the opposite thing many writers want to do because a lot of us are very introverted, but meeting the loveozya community is one of the best things about being a YA author in Australia. Make friends, get excited about other people’s work, because we’re all in this together.

What literature do you believe has been most prominent in influencing your writing?

Michael: I’m most influenced by authors who push boundaries and try new things, not trying to please the crowd. The weird, complex, challenging, exquisitely crafted language. The writing that shifts something inside you, fundamentally.

Katya: I’ve been an eclectic and a voracious reader as a child/teen – lucky for me, my parents have always had a massive library! So it wasn’t uncommon for me to read Bulgakov while I had my breakfast, then whatever was assigned at school in the breaks between classes, and then some awesome fantasy at home before bed. Having said that, growing up in Russia during the “perestroika” era and its aftermath meant I didn’t get to read a lot of “foreign” books until much later, so my early reading has been shaped by what was available and what my parents managed to acquire “underground”.

I think everything I’ve read during my formative years influenced me in some way, but if I had to pick some key influences, I’d say The Master and Margarita, with its mind-bending meta-format and evil-is-good-and-good-is-evil main theme going for it, is definitely one of those books that have affected my young brain in a very deep and profound way. I was also always a huge fan of Vadim Shefner as well as Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, with their particular brand of what I perceive as melancholic sci-fi. And, finally, Tove Jansson with her amazing Moominland stories of adventure, friendship and loyalty, and Jorge Luis Borges with his complex themes and unusual structural choices, were two other authors who have influenced my writing today.

Alison: A big influence on me is Jorge Luis Borges, who wrote amazing short stories. I love how he can take a huge idea and condense it down to two pages. I love how concise his writing is. Cally Black has been another influence, I love her strong voice and how In The Dark Spaces is so violent and scary but incredibly tender and warm. Marlee Jane Ward is another person whose work I admire. Marlee has perfect pacing in her books and stories, and her characters have so much spark and heart.

If you could give the teen version of yourself one piece of writing advice, what would it be?

Michael: My writing advice to a teen version of myself sounds ridiculously parental, but I’d be much further along in my writing career if I’d heard it sooner. As much as you enjoy it, there are more important things in life than watching TV. Because if you don’t do the writing, who’s going to do it for you?

Katya: Knowing how I was as a teen makes me doubt she’d be very receptive to advice, but on an off-chance she’d listen to me, I’d tell her that a) things will get better indeed, b) dream big, and c) ignore your critics unless you’re absolutely certain their criticism is constructive and they have your best interests at heart.

Alison: Keep going! And don’t take rejection personally, because it’s not. Just keep writing, and you’ll get there.

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