#LoveOzYA Author Q&A With Ebony McKenna
Ebony McKenna has a long list of #LoveOzYA books to her name and her latest, a collection of enchanting short stories titled A Brugel Fairytale Treasury, is out this month!
Welcome to the LoveOzYA blog, we’re so happy to have you here!
I’m delighted to be here too! Let’s have some fun.
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 have been telling stories from the moment I could talk. Frustratingly for my parents, I talked early I haven’t shut up since. Ha!
I’m blessed/cursed with a strange brain that makes odd connections between things, which makes me laugh. I figure others may as well join in the fun.
Tell us about your new book.
A Brugel Fairytale Treasury is a return to the homeland of Ondine and Shambles, the stars of earlier novels. It’s a companion piece, filled with entertainingly strange stories from the old days. I’ve also included recipes from the old country, for that truly Brugelish experience.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
As a kid I was surrounded by books and read anything that came my way, especially rude books I wasn’t supposed to! (I was growing up, reading was an excellent way to engage in potentially scary topics in a safe way.) In my teen years I alternated between inhaling science fiction and Judy Blume books (which made me popular with my fellow students but not the teachers.) The more accessible and popular OzYA books like Melina Marchetta’s gorgeous Looking For Alibrandi didn’t come along until I’d left school (cough, yeah, I’m old, OK?)
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
My peer group and parents, who were all big fans of libraries and sharing our own books amongst ourselves. Long bus trips to school meant heaps of time for reading. I also started writing Dynasty-style romantic sagas that Were. Full. Of. Melodrama. And. Hysterical! WEALTHY! People! And share them with friends on the bus.
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
The spelling, obviously!
But, seriously, I love reading about compelling characters, wherever they’re from. The setting doesn’t matter to me either, it’s about the story and the struggle – what obstacles do they have to overcome in order to get where they want to go? I’ve only set one of my novels fully in Australia, because that’s where it needed to be. The rest have been set in history or set in fictional countries (like Brugel, for the Ondine series).
International settings seem to work better for overall sales though. It’s as if the rest of the world is scared of something set here. Will it be too confusion? Too incomprehensibly Australian and the word Billabong will give them nightmares?
I have no idea. I’m rambling now, because this is something that I truly don’t understand. Perhaps being Australian, we’re better at looking outwards and the rest of the world? Our small population and recent western history has made us this way? I don’t know. Clearly, we need more research on this. Is it harder to sell ‘Australian’ to the world and if so, why? Has anyone done a PhD on this? Should I knuckle down and work it out? In which case, see you in a few years I guess.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
Living in the outer east of Melbourne, I’m absolutely spoiled for excellent Libraries. I am hooked on REALM in Ringwood. It’s my new favourite Library to settle in for a writing sprints. Lots of desks and writing places – with power points to charge up your tablet/laptop. They have nooks and booths and meeting rooms galore. There’s a café below, and you’re allowed to take coffees upstairs to your desk, provided it’s in a cup with a lid.
My favourite bookstores are all over. I love Readings and Readings Kids in Carlton, I adore The Little Bookroom in Carlton North. The Younger Sun over in Yarraville is also excellent (and they have the best ‘bookface’ photos on Instagram, check them out.)
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
Being The Luckiest Writer In The World ™ I have collected an Alexandrianesque library of writing friends during my publishing journey. There’s always something excellent to read. Right now, I’m reading through the finalists in the Romance Writers of Australia’s Ruby Awards and loving it. Ruby stands for Romantic Book of the Year. (My previous release, The Girl and the Ghost snagged a RuBY last year. I’m pretty sure it’s the first time a young adult novel has won any of the categories. OK, shameless plug.)
Astrid Scholte’s Four Dead Queens was murderously good fun. I highly recommend it.
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
I will bore you to tears about gardening and bonsai. I’m planting heaps of dianella revoluta (Blue Flax-lily) to attract more blue-banded bees into the garden. Bonsai look expensive but it’s an affordable hobby if you make it from scratch. They dry out easily in summer so it’s best to have at least 11 pots so you don’t forget to water them in… wait, come back, where are you going?
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
Some of the best advice I’ve heard over the years is to write what you love and write what excites and engages you.
Whatever bad advice I’ve read over the years I must have forgotten, which is probably for the best.
What do you love about OzYA?
The sense of community and support. It’s an extra way we can show our love for local writers.
Thank you so much for inviting me for the Q&A.