#LoveOzYA Author Q&A With Nikki McWatters
Nikki McWatters always dreamed of being a writer but studied law and worked a range of jobs before beginning her writing career. She’s now an award-winning author and Saga, the final book in what she describes as a ‘loose trilogy’ (in that the books are connected but also stand alone) that also includes Hexenhaus and Liberty, has just hit the shelves.
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 always written stories from as soon as I could hold a pencil. I wrote little plays for my friends to perform, poetry and short stories, even basic film scripts. I came second in a writing competition run by my local newspaper at 12 and the thrill of that (and the validation that I didn’t completely suck) was the first time I considered being an actual ‘real’ writer when I grew up.
Tell us about your new book.
Saga is the third in a series of books I have written about strong, heroic young women who changed the world in small and large ways. But the book can be read as a stand-alone, as can the others. Three books. Three different story threads in each but all are about the power of the sisterhood. Saga traces the stories of Astrid, a pagan priestess during the Viking era; Mercy, an orphan, who finds herself moving in Gothic literary circles with the likes of Ann Radcliffe and Mary Shelley; and Mia, a uni student from the Blue Mountains who sets off to Scotland to discover the secrets behind the mysterious book she is given by her aunt. How are these three girls connected? Read the book to find out!
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
There was no distinct YA section of my school library (as I am a dinosaur). But my earliest favourite Australian books were Seven Little Australians (primary school) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (high school).
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
My dad! He was an English Subject Master at my high-school and a Shakespeare enthusiast and his love of literature was his genetic gift to me. I still love Shakespeare. And my father taught me about the beauty of words and the power that a good book has to change you for the better and widen your worldview.
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
I love Australia stories because they capture our complex character in a way that resonates deeply with local readers. My stories are international although I always have one local Australian character and I do that to show that although we are unique in many ways down here on our Antipodean island, we are also tied to everyone else on the globe because we are all more alike than not.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
I adore Bookface at Erina who have been so supportive of me and I also have a soft spot for Riverbend Books in Brisbane. My favourite library is in my town of Blackheath. It is so tiny but very adorable.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
I most recently read Lili Wilkinson’s After the Lights Go Out and promptly went out and filled my pantry with non-perishable goods in case of emergency. It was such a page-turner.
Aside from writing what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
I’ve just bought a piano and am trying to rekindle those seven years of lessons from my childhood much to the annoyance of the rest of the family. I am also about to join a painting class.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
The worst advice I got was to stop dreaming of having a career as a writer because it was a foolish fantasy and my writing should only be engaged in as a hobby. The best advice I received was to write the first draft of your book and then go back and take out every second adjective.
What do you love about OzYA?
I love OzYA authors. They are a rare breed of people who are generous and unfalteringly supportive of each other. I have never felt so warmly welcomed by a community. I’ve made some wonderful friends over the last few years since I began writing YA and I’ve learned much from great mentors. It is so important to foster new Australian writing. OzYA provides a platform for discussion and a bridge for collaboration between writers and readers.