#LoveOzYA Q&A with Brian Falkner
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?
Ever since I was a kid. I remember in primary school that there was nothing I liked more than being creative and making stuff up. At secondary school I started writing my first novel (never finished).
Tell us about your new book.
That Stubborn Seed of Hope is a collection of stories that I have written over many years, in between writing the novels which have been my bread and butter. When I get a great idea for a short story, I just have to write it, and so I often did, without really thinking they would ever be published. Then one day I realised I had enough stories for a collection!
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
Not really. Growing up in New Zealand I wasn’t exposed to much Australian literature. To be honest I don’t think there was as much local YA around back then either. Certainly NZYA didn’t really start developing until after I had bypassed that stage of reading.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
My dad. Every Friday afternoon he would take all four of us kids down to the public library. We would pick out two or three books and return the books from the previous week. I remember how excited I was each week at the thought of the adventures that awaited me.
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
For both NZ and Australian YA I think there is a connection with the land, and with the local environment that builds a strong connection with readers. I think there is a kind of resonance, a truth, for young adult readers when they can walk down a street that literary characters have walked/run/fled down. I often make use of buildings, streets and geographic features that readers can identify with, whether it is the Auckland Sky Tower, the Harbour Bridge, the Brisbane River, the Wivenhoe Dam or Parliament House in Canberra.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
In Brisbane I have many favourites. My closest bookshop on the Gold Coast is Bookface and I make a point of going in as often as I can, and always leave with a package under my arm. For a long time there wasn’t a bookshop on the Gold Coast and we don’t want to return to those bad old days.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
That’s a tough one. Read, lots. Truly enjoyed, not many. I may be getting fussy. I have read the first books of a number of different YA series that have been huge hits internationally, and not enjoyed them at all. (I won’t name them, but you will know the names.) The exception is the ‘Hunger Games’ series. Books one and two are fantastic. (We won’t talk about book three.)
Closer to home, I recently read the ‘Once’ series by Morris Gleitzman and found it wonderful.
Beautifully written and immensely moving. I also love the ‘Minutes of Danger’ series by Jack Heath. It’s not aimed at people of my age, but for younger readers, particularly reluctant readers (boys?) these books are perfect.
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
As if I’d have time. :)
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
The best I heard many years ago. It was to the effect that you don’t deserve to be a published writer until you can wallpaper your bedroom with rejection slips.
The worst was not aimed at me, but at school students. It was an attempt by a ‘writing teacher’ to explain the concept of ‘Show Don’t Tell’. I am a big advocate of this concept and even I was confused by this person’s explanation. I make it a point in my student workshops now to give a clear and concise explanation of the concept because of how important it is for young writers.
What do you love about OzYA?
The website. I think it’s great the way it gives a voice to the YA writing community and raises the profile of Australia YA authors.