#LoveOzYA Author Q&A With Danielle Binks
Danielle Binks is a writer, reviewer, agent and book blogger who lives on the Mornington Peninsula. In 2017, she edited and contributed to Begin, End, Begin, an anthology of new Australian young adult writing inspired by the #LoveOzYA movement, which won the ABIA Book of the Year for Older Children (Ages 13+) and was shortlisted in the 2018 Gold Inky Awards.
Danielle’s debut novel, The Year the Maps Changed, 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 writing something you fell in love with as an adult?
There definitely exists many family videos of toddler-me rambling on about something or other that nobody can decipher, and my parents’ favourite thing to ask me was; “Are there bubbles coming out of your mouth, because you’re talking so much!” I’ve watched those videos though, and I honestly can’t tell you if it’s story or just – rambling chain of thought. I do know around the time of loving Sylvanian Families I drew lots of pictures of rabbits and had my Mum staple them together into book-form.
Tell us about your new book.
The Year the Maps Changed is *technically* middle-grade (though I am getting lots of feedback from booksellers, that they intend to recommend it to their 10-14 year-old customers and book-clubbers) but it’s set in 1999, which makes it historic-fiction.
It takes place in Sorrento down on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, and is about 11 going on 12-year-old Winifred "Fred” Owen-Ricci whose life is turned upside down by news that her adoptive father and his new partner are having a baby. Then a war unfolding on the opposite side of the world in Kosovo comes suddenly to Fred’s back door, when the Australian Howard government instigate something called ‘Operation Safe Haven’ which involves bringing 4000 Kosovar-Albanian refugees to Australia, at eight safe-havens in five locations around the country … one of them is a disused quarantine station at Point Nepean, on the Mornington Peninsula.
It is a story inspired by true-events, and influenced a little by my childhood.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
Like many of my generation, reading Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi was a revelation. I read it right before I went into high-school; when I was about to leave my co-ed public primary school for a partial scholarship at a private, all-girl high-school so *of course* it was Melina speaking to me, personally. I also had an Austrian grandmother with a thick accent, who liked to feed my friends salami-sandwiches on rye bread after school – so all of Josie’s life just spoke to me. I thought she was me! I still feel that way about Melina’s books – most recently, The Piper’s Son really felt like the truest representation of my family.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
Oh, my grandma – my Omi. My Mum too, but she got her love of books from Omi so I feel like it all stems from her. When I was really little and we used to go to the supermarket, the way she’d get me to behave was by promising to buy me a Little Golden Book once we got to checkout – and then growing up I was never denied trips to bookshops, or the library, and it was a bookish present every Christmas and birthday. Later in life I kind of returned the favour by getting Omi hooked on the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon – so we were always swapping books back and forth.
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
I think – honesty. Which is not to say that’s something American YA can’t or doesn’t do, but I feel we have a real grounding to all our stories … even our fantasy, things like Ambelin Kwaymullina’s The Tribe series has these threads of real-history running throughout. Melina’s Lumatere Chronicles which I love, is this sweeping fantasy inspired by Australia’s very real treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers. We find it very hard, I think, to create without grounding in the here and now, to a degree.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
Oh, look – my local indie is Farrells in Mornington and I love them so much, they have a guest-appearance in The Year the Maps Changed.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
I just finished The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim (I am *so* late to this party!) and it was honestly such a delightful and fulfilling slice of contemporary YA. Highly, highly recommend!
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
I’m getting into gardening. I recently planted proteas and kangaroo-paw and they’re thriving – I’d like to plant some yellow wattle, and have a go at a veggie patch. It’s very soothing and there is such a degree of design to it that I really enjoy.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received? What do you love about OzYA?
I don’t know about best and worst, but the best warning I ever heard was from my queen – Melina Marchetta – who said that what stops most people from writing, is the fear that the idea in their head won’t be as brilliant once it’s on the page so they don’t even bother trying. And that’s very true. And if I remember that, then I can break through that mental-barrier a bit and just get on with it.
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