Hi, thanks for having me!
Your new young adult novel The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl is out in February, could you tell us a little bit about the book?
Cinnamon Girl is the comic-book alter ego of artist, comic book nerd and all round cheerful soul, Sarah Jane Albany. ‘Alba’ lives in a tiny rural town, but she is perfectly happy in her bubble with her art and her mother and her small group of best friends. But high school has just finished, and Alba is facing the prospect of having to leave her idyllic, isolated home for the real world – which is causing both her and her comic book creation, Cinnamon Girl, no small amount of angst. Then there is a small matter of an end-of-the-world prediction which goes viral, sending Alba’s life into a spin. Oh, and there’s romance too, and a gorgeous boy who I’m a little sad is just fictional…
The novel tackles the importance of promoting positive body image, being true to yourself when everything is changing and channelling individuality in young adults. What made you write your novel on these issues?
It’s really wonderful to see diversity being discussed as widely as it is now – there are so many stories to be told about people of all shapes, sizes, colours, abilities and sexual orientations – both stories that deal directly with these things, and stories that have these ordinary people just getting on with their lives. Everyone deserves to be a hero, and it was really important to me that Alba’s size wasn’t the defining factor in her story. It was also really important that she was totally comfortable in her own skin – she rocks makeup and high heels and has a very distinctive style that she enjoys playing with – but has no judgement on her friends who aren’t interested in these things. I love characters with depth of personality who have an innate kindness towards each other; who are able to have fun with their appearances but who also recognise and appreciate everyone’s individuality, and don’t spend all of their time and energy on the outward.
Congratulations on recently being shortlisted for the 2015 Inky Awards in Australia! Is there any award that you dream of winning for your writing?
Thank you! Every award that I’ve been nominated for has been a shock – I’m so appreciative of the fact that I can write books for a living, and the awards are just really lovely icing on top (but, a Best Original Screenplay Oscar would look pretty cool on my shelf).
Before becoming an author you had an array of jobs including an editor, high school teacher and a Middle Eastern tour guide. Do any of these experiences inspire you to write your novels?
I spent a lot of time when I was younger trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but I like to think of it as time spent gathering material for my books. There are pieces of many things I’ve done in all of my characters (for instance, one of my university majors was in Cinema Studies, and my main character in my first book was a movie buff and wannabe screenwriter). His catchphrase was ‘everything is useful’, which I really do think is true.
When writing do you have a special place to go and write?
I’ve tried to train myself to be able to write anywhere – I carry my computer with me most places and try and squeeze in a bit of writing whenever I have the time. On my dedicated writing days, I’m either chained to my desk or out at a café. Writing can get pretty lonely, so I like to get out if I can. It’s summer here now, so I also try and set my computer up outside when the weather is not scorching (Australian summers can be pretty harsh!)
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author what would that be?
It takes time to figure out your style and voice, but you’ll never figure it out if you don’t put pen to paper. I think all writers start out by intentionally (and sometimes unintentionally) mimicking the people they admire, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that. Every piece of writing you do, even the derivative stuff and the terrible stuff and the half-finished stuff, is useful because it’s practice.
What have you got planned for 2016?
I am finishing my next novel, a romantic comedy tentatively titled The Secret Science of Magic. It’s been in the works for a while, and has been one of the most wonderfully challenging things I have written so far. I will also be working on the screenplay for The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl – it is very early days, but a very exciting thing to be pondering!
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl is out now! Visit www.littletiger.co.uk for more information.