#LoveOzYA Author Q&A With Eliza Henry-Jones
Eliza Henry-Jones is a novelist and freelance writer based on a little farm in the Yarra Valley of Victoria. Her debut novel In the Quiet was published as part of a three-book deal with HarperCollins Australia. She has since published Ache and the YA novel P is for Pearl. Eliza’s novels have been listed for multiple awards. She has qualifications in English and psychology as well as grief, loss and trauma counselling. Eliza has been awarded a residential fellowship at Varuna in New South Wales, a young writer residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in Western Australia, the Tyrone Guthrie Fellowship in Ireland and an Australia Council Grant to work on a new novel set in Scotland.
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 been telling stories since I learnt how to talk. I wrote my first novel-length manuscript when I was fourteen (which was quite dreadful) and I’ve been writing ever since.
Tell us about your new book.
My new book How to Grow a Family Tree is all about addiction, trauma, first love, families and friendship. There’s a lot of focus around what makes a family. What makes a best friend or a sister or an aunty? Can we ever really choose our family? This is a book that deals with some pretty heavy issues, but there’s a lot of love and laughter in there too! I also wanted to explore first love and how it can strike at the most unexpected moments – even if you’re in the middle of a major meltdown.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
It’s so hard to pick just one! I adored On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, as well as everything by Robin Klein, Isobelle Carmody and Morris Gleitzman.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
My mum – who was a teacher-librarian! We used to go the library every week. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was young, but Mum used to bring me home ex-library books that had been taken out of rotation. She kept them all and I’ve been able to give them to my little boy.
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
I think the quality of YA by Australian authors is incredibly high – there are so many stories that delve into dark subjects with lightness and humour.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
My favourite bookshops growing up were Benn’s Books in Bentleigh and Readings Books in Malvern. Locally, I adore The Faraway Tree Bookshop in Olinda and Belgrave Book Barn.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
I recently finished an early copy of Loner by the very talented young author, Georgina Young. It’s very quirky, clever and fun. It won the Text YA Prize last year and, while technically general fiction, it has huge appeal for teens.
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
I love to paint, knit and am learning to sew. I’m not particularly good at any of these things but they make me happy and that’s all that matters.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
Best is to READ. Read, read, read. Read great books and terrible books. Read everything. Worst advice I’ve ever received was that I needed to plot everything before I wrote it, which made writing immensely difficult for me. I’m not a plotter!
What do you love about OzYA?
The OzYA community is not only immensely talented, but also incredibly supportive, wise and generous. It’s a joy and privilege to be a writer of YA in Australia.