Keep Them in Suspense | Q&A

It’s hard to believe YA Day is only two weeks away! We couldn’t be more excited for the epic day of #LoveOzYA goodness we have planned. With 15 Aussie authors and five panels (plus the chance to get all your books signed, and even win some prize packs), this is a day you won’t want to miss out on.

Make sure you’ve booked your tickets through the Writers Victoria website if you haven’t already!

Today we’re sharing a little Q&A with Fleur Ferris, Anna Snoekstra, and Sarah Epstein, who’ll be appearing at YA Day on the ‘Keep Them in Suspense’ panel, which is all about crime, thrillers, and what it takes to write an unputdownable novel. This is just a taste of what’s to come on Saturday 9th February!

Which authors / books have inspired you the most?

Fleur: When I was younger I read the Kay Scarpetta Series by Patricia Cornwell. I’d reach the end of the book and realise I had forgotten I was reading. I was so immersed in the story that I was seeing it in my head and the writing never pulled me out of the story. I aspire to be that kind of storyteller. I was also inspired by books Dean Koontz and Rebecca James.

Anna: Two favorites of mine are Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan and The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. They are both stories of young people grappling with experiences well beyond their years. I love how intense these novels are, and how much is achieved in a limited word count. Both authors write in this distilled way that creates so much vibrant emotion, it’s really inspiring.

Sarah: I’m a huge fan of Australian crime and thrillers, both adult and YA, so I’m inspired by authors like Liane Moriarty, Jane Harper, Rebecca James and Fleur Ferris amongst others. I love suspense and twists, so anyone who can make my skin crawl and my jaw drop has my admiration.

Do you experience writer’s block, and if so, how do you overcome it?

Fleur: I’ve never experienced writers block.

Anna: I don’t know if I’d call it writers block, but I do often get a bit stuck on a story. I’ve found the best way to overcome this is to go somewhere different and write in my notebook rather than off the screen. I did this just a few days ago: I went to the beautiful Bargoonga Nganjin library in North Fitzroy with just my notebook. I wrote some different possibilities for the section I’d been stuck on all week. Soon, a few hours had passed and I’d filled pages and pages. When I came back to my computer, I knew exactly what to do.

Sarah: I have a bigger problem with procrastination than I do with writer’s block, so one way to help me get some words down is to do 500-in-30 writing sprints. I give myself a 30-minute block of time and try to write five hundred words without editing as I go. Another way to encourage myself is to jump ahead and write a scene much further along in the manuscript, something fun like dialogue or a tense action scene or argument. I write scenes out of order all the time to keep myself entertained, then go back and link up the scenes by filling in the blanks.

What’s one important thing to remember when writing a suspenseful story?

Fleur: There are so many things to keep your eye on when writing a suspenseful story. One important thing is pacing. If the pacing isn’t right the suspense will be lost.

Anna: Tension. Building it slowly and being very careful in the way you release it. Sometimes, when the protagonists come face to face with the bad guy, it can actually release the tension and you lose the suspense. I also think there are some primal fears that all humans share. If you can tap into those, you’re set.

Sarah: Don’t underestimate your reader. If you’re laying clues and creating red herrings, don’t be obvious about it.


Purchase your tickets through the Writers Victoria website!

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