What is the first book you read that made you cry?
I’m not sure it was the first, but it’s the one I can remember – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.
Have you always wanted to be an author? What made you want to be an author?
I’ve always loved telling stories, but I didn’t think about becoming an author until I studied Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT. The character in the first book I wrote made me want to be a writer. And the feeling I had when I wrote – I felt a calmness and a focus I’d never felt before.
Why do you choose to write young adult fiction?
It chose me, really. The first character I wrote about was a teen. I remember that time in my life vividly, the feeling of wanting independence, falling in love with books and ideas and people for the first time.
Have you ever written in other genres/ for adults?
I’ve written some short stories aimed at an adult audience, yes, but mostly for teens. Although, based on the emails I’ve had, Words in Deep Blue works for adults as well as young adults.
Do you have a main purpose/intent you want to achieve through writing, or that you want to portray to readers through your books?
Good question. I wouldn’t call it a purpose, but I do have preoccupations that come up in my writing as themes. I’m interested in the way we leave ourselves on the landscape, and how landscapes affect the people in them. I’m interested in how art and literature can improve lives.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read and write as much as you can. And don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t ever think you’ve learnt it all.
Do you have (or have you had) another job alongside writing?
Lots! I’ve worked in bars, in offices, in classrooms. I’ve written non-fiction. I’ve done manuscript assessments. At the moment I teach and I write.
How long did it take you to get published; did you face any rejections and how did you overcome these?
I had my first book published at 33. I had a lot of rejections – I still get rejected. It’s the long game, though. I write because I love it, and I want to get better at the craft. I’m bound to mess up or miss the mark. The most important thing is to keep writing
Where did you get the inspiration for the characters in Words In Deep Blue? Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
The characters appeared out of writing exercises. I think Henry came from an exercise where I wrote about a young man sending letters to Pablo Neruda after he’d had his heart broken. Rachel arrived very early on, but in a different form. She was at the beach, calling for her brother.
“Sometimes science isn’t enough, sometimes you need the poets.” – This was my favourite line from Words In Deep Blue (I loved it, so I wrote it down and put it on my writing wall!). Could you talk a bit about this quote? Where did you get the inspiration for this line and how does it communicate the themes of the book?
Thank you! That’s one of my favourite lines too. It’s always hard to work out where things came from. The book, in the end, became a sort of discussion about grief for me. How do we ever cope with death? We can’t have the answer we want – that person brought to life. That’s all I wanted when my dad died. Him alive again. But that’s impossible, and so we turn to the poets to give us some perspective, some help understanding where people go and how we can live without them. It’s not enough. But it’s something.