#LoveOzYA Author Q&A With Carolyn Denman
Carolyn Denman is a YA fantasy author whose latest novel Shamar (Odyssey Books), the fourth and final book in the Sentinels of Eden series, is out this month!
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
Was writing something you fell in love with as an adult?
I have always been addicted to fantasy stories, from the earliest picture books, through Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby series, and right through my high school Anne McCaffrey addiction. I remember writing a few short stories for high school assignments which always resulted in such terrible marks that I was completely discouraged. It wasn’t until my kids started reading the same YA books I was enjoying that I considered writing one myself. It began as a joint project with my daughter which may have gotten a bit out of hand…
Tell us about your new book.
Shamar (pronounced Shaw-mar) is the fourth and final book in the Sentinels of Eden series. The Cherubim who are tasked with keeping the location of the Garden of Eden a secret have enough on their plates just trying to keep their sheep farm running. Throw in an assassin-demon, a stolen sacred sword, a missing amulet and an ancient stone artefact, and their job becomes a whole lot harder.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
I mentioned the Silver Brumby series earlier, and that certainly stands out as a lasting favourite. It made me fall deeply in love with the Australian bush, and helped me acknowledge that I am, well, Australian. Truly, madly, deeply. I was born here, raised here, and I doubt I could ever feel truly at home anywhere else. A book that helped ground my sense of self and identity? Now that’s what a YA book should do.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
My dad often read to me before bed as a child, and he was always just as reluctant to leave our local library as I was. When I was old enough to start nicking the same books he was reading, I realised how similar our tastes really were. I mean, I caught him reading a book about dragons. I wasn’t the only nerd in the world! Actually, many of my friends were equally book-nerdy, which had to have had an influence on me. Even the gorgeous boy I met who spent the entire day after his last Yr 12 exam devouring Magician. Yeah, you bet I married him!
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
I find most Aussie YA gets to the heart of each character very realistically, which I love. The characters tend to be messier, funnier, often childish, sometimes rude, always ‘honest’ even when they lie. They have heart. I’m not saying international book characters don’t, but maybe because I grew up here, I find it easier to connect with Aussie characters.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
I am a bit of a sucker for second hand stores set in country towns. And church fêtes. I also love bookstores that take a risk on stocking more than just the ‘big publishers’. I feel this world would be a much poorer place without indie press, so any bookstore or library that supports that has my vote.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
I just binge-read Michael Pryor’s Gap Year in Ghost Town and Graveyard Shift in Ghost Town. Those books are so much fun. I think Anton would be great friends with my protagonist. He and Lainie would be hilarious together. I’d love to have a meal with them both (stop rolling your eyes. Daydreaming is a good thing for an author, remember?)
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
I live on a hobby farm and love being outdoors, mucking around in the paddocks and garden. I wouldn’t call it ‘gardening’ exactly, but I love landscaping. Planting trees for the koala sanctuary down the street to harvest from, replacing old pine trees with local indigenous plants, trying to keep our dams healthy for frogs and snakes. Is that my creativity, or is it nurturing the inherent creativity of the land I am honoured to serve? Either way, I love it.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
Best advice: do your best not to hurt anyone. It sounds so basic, but it isn’t. You can’t please everyone – I accept that, but that doesn’t make it okay to hurt anyone. Be humble enough to listen, learn and change. Some opinions authors had (and wrote about) even ten years ago are no longer okay, and for good reason. For example, if you haven’t heard about #MeToo then you probably shouldn’t be writing YA. It’s a tough thing to say, I know. This is the hardest thing about writing YA, and also the very best thing. Young adults will no longer put up with hurtful or damaging attitudes in their books, and nor should they.
Worst advice: probably those bad marks I got for my high school English assignments. Not exactly advice, I suppose, but it was still unhelpful. Of course, I doubt I deserved anything better. Not the point though, is it?
What do you love about OzYA?
Easy. The support I get from the community. From readers, indie publishers, other authors, bookstagrammers, reviewers, bloggers, fellow book club members – you are my people. You get me. It sounds so cliché to say you are the reason I write, but it’s true.