Good afternoon! How’s everyone doing? I am sick with a head cold right now… boo! But I am still on a high after the amazing night I had last night at the Waurn Ponds Library as a part of Reading Matters which is a State Government initiative all about YA! This post will be long – I’ll be recapping last night’s discussion!
Last night Gayle Forman (OMG!) and Aussie YA authors Myke Bartlett and Vikki Wakefield made an appearance to discuss their books and answered all kinds of questions. I did my best to take notes, so below is a summary of the topics discussed and what each author had to say. I also hung around and got to have a chat with Gayle and Myke who were both really lovely.
The evening started with our host Adele Walsh asking Vikki, Myke & Gayle different questions. Below is a recap of this discussion to the best of my abilities. This is a bit of a mind dump, since I’ve taken short notes, so please excuse any jumping to and fro!
Adele asked each of the authors to tell us a bit about the books they’d written. Here’s what each had to say about their books:
Vikki told us about All I Ever Wanted, and how Mim wants to escape her life as she knows it. Her mother is drug addicted and Mim comes from a disadvantaged background but is determined to get out. It’s ultimately a book about belonging. Vikki also wrote Friday Brown.
Myke wrote Fire In The Sea, which is set in Perth (Where Myke used to live before moving to Melbourne) and in his own words is a Hollywood avengers style story. There’s a minataur and undead mermaids, and mythical creatures but in a very realistic setting.
Gayle said that If I Stay was not her debut novel but it was the “first anyone has read” of her work. Her previous books weren’t successful before this, but she persisted. The second book in this duology was Where She Went. And her newest book is Just One Day which is also going to be a part of a duology with Just One Year coming out later this year (October). Gayle described Just One Day nicely saying that Allyson had one moment of defiance (by making a decision to do something she normally would not do), and that lead to a chain reaction which made up this amazing day she had in France.
Adeles next question was asking the authors to describe what they liked the best about their main characters:
Vikki liked that Friday (from Friday Brown) she was the ultimate underdog. She had no mother, no identity and on top of all of this Vikki had thrown in a natural disaster, and for Friday to overcome all of this shows how strong she was. Vikki said that she felt for kids that have a bad beginning in life but are able to come through.
Myke loved Sadie’s (from Fire In The Sea) dogmatism and her sense of morality. She keeps going. She’s lost both of her parents however she doesn’t let that destroy her life.
Gayle exampled that Allyson (From Just One Day) was probably the most real character she’s ever written. Mia (from If I Stay & Where She Went) was always very heroic, but Allyson was difficult – fans often mention to her that they just want to shake Allyson because of some of the things she does, and Gayle agreed, that she just wants to shake her sometimes too. There’s one moment in Just One Day where Allyson and Willem are in the park and confronted by some skinheads, and she was very heroic. She was crazy and brave in that moment.
All three authors have an element of grief in their books (either the loss of parents, their family or the loss of love). How do you keep an element of hope in your books?
Vikki says that grief is a cycle just like life, and her books have an element in them of starting over again.
Myke’s character Sadie is trapped in grief even two years after losing her parents, so it’s a bit of a different perspective.
Gayle says the flip side of grief is love. People can read a book about loss and feel like it’s depressing but often come away from her books feeling uplifted because even though her characters have lost so much, a lot of it is about love. In Just One Day, Allyson’s grief is more about not knowing herself – in France she was “Lulu” for a day, and she lost this.
Adele asked about what each of the authors did before being a writer:
Myke and Gayle both used to be journalists. Myke referred to himself as a former journo (which is what us Aussies abbreviate journalists to). Gayle was really amused with this and said she almost wanted to go back to journalism so she could call herself a “journo”. Myke said as Aussies, we pretty much just put an “o” at the end of most words when we shorten them (He’s right, we do! lol).
Vikki told a really interesting story about how for a while she was also a journalist but she struggled. One of the jobs she had was to drive all the way out to this ‘haunted house’ in her beaten up Gemini. The owner asked Vikki if she wanted to see the cellar since it was the most haunted place in the building and Vikki said she did. So she went down into the cellar with the owner who then said she was going to lock her in there for a few minutes. She was only paid $20 for this job! But then she was able to use this experience in her book Friday Brown, in a scene where Friday was locked in a cellar and she could describe the experience. Vikki has also had jobs writing eulogies and because of this is now the appointed family eulogy writer. lol She mentioned that a eulogy is really a short story in itself.
Adele asks Myke about being a male and writing a female protagonist in his book:
Myke said that he didn’t have to think about it at all, that the character of Sadie was there and he just went with it. It all started with the Twilight phenomenom, and Myke had read the books and thought about how he could almost write a character the opposite to Bella, and Sadie came along. Gayle joked with Myke “So are you saying this is anti Twilight fanfiction?” Myke explains Sadie as being a misfit, but where fans sometimes struggle with her, is that Sadie is actually happy being a misfit.
Vikki talked about her writing process for Friday Brown. She said she tends to stumble across the themes of her book accidentally when she’s writing. She doesn’t set out to create themes, they just come out as a part of the writing process. She wrote chapter 28 first, which was the longest chapter in the book and went backwards.
Gayle was asked if she liked her book covers:
Gayle says she liked the original cover for If I Stay, which was the light blue cover with the white branch and the blossoming flower on it. The publishers told her they were going to change the cover, and Gayle says she was upset at first about the new cover (the cover has a girls face on it horizontally as though she’s laying down) but now she likes it. It ties in with the story about Mia being in between life and death. She said she’s been ambivalent about every cover since. Says the cover for Just One Day is fine. Covers are just a marketing tool.
Adele says to Gayle that in Just One Day, Paris is a character in itself. But as she’s been asked about this a lot already, Adele wanted to ask her about the character Dee instead, and since he was such a huge larger-than-life type of character, how did she ensure that Allyson didn’t fade into the background around him?
Gayle says that Dee was post Paris and he was actually a character that she had imported from a previous book she’d written and shelved. He optimised the black sassy gay man. Gayle said she did have to redefine him quite a bit though after she adopted her second daughter who is from Ethiopia. It made her think of things from a different perspective such as how her daughter would see characters of colour, and so this was something she considered with Dee’s character. Gayle talked about the fact that lots of people have asked if she would consider writing a whole book about Dee, and she’s not sure that she’d be able to tap into him enough to write a whole book, but she did say she doesn’t feel she and Dee are finished just yet.
On music – listening to music whilst writing and book playlists:
Vikki said she tends to just become addicted to one song that reminds her of her character, and she will just thrash that one over and over until she can’t listen to it anymore rather than having a whole playlist. She said at the moment, she’s been listening to a lot of the band Garbage because they have some really angry songs. She said music is really powerful, music helps you tap into memories – some songs remind you of a smell or a memory.
Gayle usually compiles a playlist for each book after it’s written (If I stay and Where She Went both had playlists and songs listed), but doesn’t necessarily listen to those songs when writing. She said that when she wrote If I Stay, she listened to Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová quite a lot and when she wrote Where She Went, she wrote the first half in silence since Adam doesn’t rediscover music until the end half of the book.
Myke listens to a lot of instrumental music whilst writing. He likes to take the emotion from songs and link them to characters. He said he creates some pretty extensive playlists whilst writing. He said at one point “A song evokes a nostelgia for something that hasn’t happened yet”. Gayle loved this quote.
Someone in the audience asks the authors about their thoughts of the New Adult genre, especially since Gayle’s book Just One Day is almost in that age category:
Gayle explained that she doesn’t see too much difference between the YA market and NA market except that New Adult books seem to normally have an erotic element to them. She’s not sure that her books would appeal to 13 year olds, and understands most of her readers aren’t in fact teens anyways. Gayle said she’s not sure that segmentation helps (genuinely not sure, wasn’t being critical). She said she felt her books did fit the NA category age wise, but didn’t think they were like NA books such as Easy.
Myke said he would love to write a NA book with a male protagonist. He said he doesn’t feel like there’s many if any books out there with a male character in their early 20’s, and especially writing about things like breakups would be interesting.
Vikki doesn’t like the type of books landing in the NA market at the moment because they all seem to have that erotic element to them, but she does generally like the idea of having a new adult category. Might help ease some of the self consciousness people have of going to the Young Adult section instead, but isn’t sure that it would have that much of an impact since most YA readers are in fact much older anyways.
On encouraging young people to start writing:
Gayle says you should have a love of writing and love of reading, but don’t worry about feeling pressured to aim for being a published writer at 14. She feels there’s so much pressure on people today to have a plan, and to be a success but so few people become successful published writers, you just need to write for the love of it, and allow yourself to amass life experience.
Gayle says she loves Aussie YA – she said there’s a such a distinct sense of place. It’s a very strong theme in Aussie YA and it makes these books very different to other YA books on the market.
And that’s where the discussion came to an end! I could have listened to them for hours more, it was a fantastic experience.
As regular readers will know, I am a big fan of Gayle Forman and meeting her was incredible. She was an absolute sweetheart and only so happy to sign some books and have her photo taken. We chatted all things books, and I am going to be reading some of her recommendations very shortly (She’s a big fan of Melina Marchetta’s work), and likewise I recommended to her Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley which she said she’s going to read!
I talked with Gayle about her books, and how I loved Just One Day (and how it made me cry), but the ending I had a hard time with! lol She said that initially Just One Day was going to be a stand alone book, but she decided to make it a duology. I was like “Thank God for that, because you broke my heart”. haha I told Gayle that it wasn’t often books resonated with me, but hers all have, and that she’s on my “auto-buy” list which she loved! She liked my rainbow coloured nails (pic below) and took a photo of them on her iphone! lol She’s also said that she will do an exclusive interview on Book Nerd Reviews before Just One Year comes out, which I am just ecstatic about!
She was so sweet and exceeded any expectations I had of meeting her. She gave me a hug, signed some books for me, including one for Kristy as well and an extra one for a very lucky winner of the giveaway below!
Here’s some pics – L-R: Me on the left and Gayle on the right, my copy of Just One Day signed! She loved my nails. lol My copy of Where She Went also signed, and a copy of Just One Day for Kristy signed too.
Okay, and I mentioned a giveaway right? So I picked up another copy of Just One Day and Gayle signed it (I love what she wrote in it), and also gave me a couple of swag postcards – one for Just One Day and one for the upcoming Just One Year with an exclusive quote from the book on it and a hint of the setting! One lucky winner will be getting this sent to them! Below is what you will receive, and to enter, all you need to do is enter below via the rafflecopter. This giveaway is international!