#LoveOzYA Q&A with Beck Nicholas
Let’s go back to the beginning…have you been telling stories since you were a kid or was writing something you fell in love with as an adult?
I’ve always written. I studied science at Uni and found myself ignoring lasers to quickly finish the story I was working on. My lab mates thought I was a different species.
Tell us about your new book.
LAST DAYS OF US is Zoey’s story. Six months ago, Zoey’s brother died and in her desperation to find oblivion through drinking and partying, she destroyed her relationships with those left behind. Now, after a scare, she’s pulled herself together and is determined to get everything back to ‘normal’ which includes reuniting with her ex. The problem is that he’s now dating her best friend.
They head off on a road trip to see their favourite singer – whose songs have helped Zoey through her pain. With them is her ex’s grumpy cousin, Luc and his irrepressible sister Jolie. Zoey fights to regain her voice, and reconcile the past with the promise of the future. LAST DAYS OF US looks for belonging in loneliness, redemption in grief, and love in loss, finding courage in change and happiness in the present.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
There are two that stand out for me. The first is Looking For Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta. I fell in love with Josie as a character as much as John and Jacob. In lots of ways she was nothing like me but it was the first Aussie single-parent book I read and I felt like it had been written for me.
The other is Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden. This terrified me as much as enthralled me.
I still love both of these.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
I grew up in a house overflowing with books and readers. I’m the youngest, and my mum and both big sisters read a lot so there was both supply and example. As far as writing goes my mum, who didn’t have a lot of spare time, always seemed to have time to listen to a story and I had some fantastic English teachers (although they didn’t always approve of the books I was reading).
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
There is something about the Australian ‘voice’. It’s hard to describe but it comes through in our stories. A simplicity maybe or desire to cut through the crap. We’re relatively close to nature (the countryside, the beach) in even our bigger cities and live outdoors a lot which effects stories too.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
I’m a fan of all of them and follow some great bookshops on Instagram but I would have to say the City Dymocks here in Adelaide gets my vote for fave. They have a great range, are helpful and are really supportive of local authors.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
I have a towering TBR pile but most recently read The Road to Winter by Mark Smith and really liked it.
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
I’ve become a bit obsessed with the book candles on Instagram and have bought the stuff to try making my own candles. Love anything with a vanilla scent and I’m going to mix with some cinnamon and apple I think. I love cooking if it involves chocolate but tend to have as many disasters as successes.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
The best writing advice I’ve received is this: ‘Read a lot and write a lot’ (Stephen King). I wish there was a shortcut or a magic recipe but I haven’t found one.
All writing advice I’ve received has been well intentioned but I remember being told early that I need to have a detailed chapter outline for each chapter. Attempting to do so killed the story for me. I’ve discovered I need some kind of plan but too much and there’s no discovery/fun. That returns me to some more good advice – writing a story I want to read.
What do you love about OzYA?
The aussieness of it. The feeling of recognition when opening an OzYA book and reading the voice of a character that could be someone I know (even if the experience and setting is nothing like my personal experience). There is something about the uniquely Australian way of thinking that comes across and makes me feel at home even within some confronting and diverse storylines and characters.