#LoveOzYA Author Q&A With Belinda Crawford
Physics makes Belinda’s brain hurt, while quadratics cause her eyes to cross and any mention of probability equations will have her running for the door. Nonetheless, she loves watching documentaries about the natural world, biology, space, history and technology.
She’s also a sucker for a fast horse, a faster computer and superhero movies. When she’s not doing the horse, computer or superhero thing, Belinda writes science fiction (emphasis on the fiction), where she loves to write about butt-kicking girls (and guys!) who blow stuff up.
Welcome to the LoveOzYA blog, we’re so happy to have you here!
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 been a storyteller, it just took me awhile to get around to sharing my stories with others.
As a kid I told myself stories, often with the help of Barbie and a few teddy bears. It wasn’t until high school that I really started writing.
In high school, a friend got me hooked on role-playing games. After she moved to another school, I discovered an online version of role-playing called Play By e-Mail, which is essentially collaborative storytelling. Each player controls a single character, and you move them through a storyline and interact with other characters by writing short stories. It was a hoot, and where I discovered writing was fun.
Tell us about your new book.
Cold Between Stars is the first book in a new sci-fi trilogy, the mixes some of my favourite sci-fi tropes: spaceships, alien ruins, AIs and those really scary bits in movies where you’re waiting for the monster to jump out of the shadows.
Kuma, the main character, gets booted out of stasis early, discovers that he’s the only crew member awake and that something is eating the ship. He has to stop it before it eats his family too. The book is a quirky, action-packed rush from start to end, with some delightfully gross moments along the way.
I had a blast writing it.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
Isobelle Carmody’s The Gathering, which was one of my assigned English texts, and pretty much the only the school book I enjoyed throughout my entire high school career. I never really got into the Obernewtyn books though, witnessed by the fact that I’ve had a copy of The Keeping Place on my shelf for the last twenty years and haven’t so much as cracked the spine.
As a kid I was a die-hard sci-fi & fantasy (SF&F) fan (not much has changed), and there weren’t a lot of those in the OzYA space when I was growing up. Sci-fi was pretty much the domain of adults and while there were fantasy books for younger readers, they were mostly by international authors.
I’m loving how the times have changed, and the plethora of Aussie and NZ SF&F authors making their way out of the woodwork, such as Lynette Noni. The Medoran Chronicles is one of my favs.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
My mum’s side of the family are huge readers, so I had a lot of people who tried to encourage me, but I was a stubborn kid and preferred riding horses to reading; there was actually a point at which my mum despaired of me ever picking up a book, let alone reading it. It was around then she gave me a horse magazine.
After that, I found Tamora Pierce’s Alanna series in the school library, which had a horse on the cover and, well, the rest is history.
Writing came much later in the piece.
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
I had to think about this for a bit, and my answer is very personal and a little round-about.
When I think about Australian YA, I think of Gareth Nix, John Marsden and Isobelle Carmody, and I think about the summer sun in the afternoon, how stark it makes the colours, how bleak. There’s a sense of realness to it. Of starkness.
They’re a little uncomfortable. You have the sense that author isn’t going to play by the rules you’re used to, that maybe the main character (or worse, the fluffy sidekick) will die, that they’ll tear your heart out and leaving it bleeding on the floor. And then, because you’re a sucker for pain, you’ll rush out and buy their next book.
I think that about sums it up.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
City Basement Books on Flinders Street in Melbourne, it’s a fabulous second-hand bookstore with a gigantic SF&F collection. Visit it, love it, thank me later.
When I still lived in Melbourne, I would visit Basement Books two or three times a month, as well as Minotaur (also Melb CBD) and few other stores whose names I can’t remember.
Now that I live in the Victorian High Country, bookstores are a little harder to get to, the Eastern Regional Library’s ebook collection is my go-to place for books. The best part is, membership is available to all Victorian residents, no matter where you live.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
The Spies That Bind by Ally Carter, which I listened to as an audiobook. Fabulous narration and lots of snarky one-liners.
As for an OzYA book, probably Graevale by Lynette Noni. A great, fun read. The only reason I haven’t finished the series yet is because I don’t want it to end!
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
You mean there’s a life outside of writing?! LOL
In one way or another, most of my creativity goes into my books. Earlier this year, I created several illustrations for a special edition of Cold Between Stars. It was fun but I find it easier to paint pictures with words than with actual paint.
I’m also a graphic designer by trade, and the rest of my creativity tends to go into that, including designing my own covers!
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
The best writing advice I’ve received is Brandon Sanderson’s rule #0, “Follow the awesome”. Basically, if an idea comes along part way through a scene/chapter/book/series that feels exciting don’t be worried if it’s going to mess up your plot. Chase that idea, that sense of excitement (or awesomeness), because that’s when good things happen.
It’s pretty much what I did writing Cold Between Stars. I went in with only the vaguest of outlines and followed the sense of awesome all the way to the end.
The worst bit of writing advice… get a publisher and/or agent. It works for some people, and it worked for me for a bit, but I much prefer self-publishing. It’s a lot more work than going the traditional route, but the freedom to do whatever the frack you like with your book more than makes up for it.
What do you love about OzYA?
The heroines. I don’t know if it’s just the books I’m drawn to, or if it’s a thing across the OzYA space, but OzYA books tend to have heroines with grit.
Nothing drives me quite as batty as a wilting flower or an intelligent heroine who loses her common sense as soon as a cute boy comes along. From Ellie Marney to Lynette Noni and Amie Kaufman, OzYA tends to have heroines I can root for, instead of wanting to slam my head into a wall.