#LoveOzYA in the USA: Mark Smith
#LoveOzYA in the USA is a monthly series featuring questions and answers with Australian YA authors who have been published in the USA.
In this installment, the #LoveOzYA team spoke to author Mark Smith about his book, The Road to Winter.
Is your American cover different to your Australian cover and if so, why?
No, we used the same cover as it has been very successful in Australia.
Did you have any input into either cover?
Interesting question! I loved the cover of The Road To Winter when it was first presented to me, though it was very different from anything I had imagined. Strangely, the cover of the sequel, Wilder Country, is much closer to what I had anticipated the first one would be. Text also made the decision to print the book in trade paperback, which enhances its crossover appeal. In some ways looks more like an adult book than a YA one.
Do you have a favourite LoveOzYA cover design or designer?
Both my covers have been by Imogen Stubbs at Text. I think she has a great feel for story and themes. I’m also a big advocate for boys reading and she creates eye-catching covers that encourage even reluctant readers to pick the book off the shelf. My favourite recent YA covers are Sophie Hardcastle’s Breathing Under Water, Cath Crowley’s Words In Deep Blue and Steph Bowe’s Night Swimming.
How does your book signal to your readers that the setting and characters are Australian? Did you include any interesting references to landmarks, history or pop culture?
The Road To Winter has a distinctly Australian setting – the small coastal town of Angowrie. My aim when creating the setting for the action – in Angowrie and beyond - was to make the landscape almost a character in itself. Locals along the west coast of Victoria will be familiar with many of the places mentioned. I’ve retained some local place names but changed their locations. There’s also a strong theme of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers that runs through the novel – principally through the sisters, Kas and Rose, who are escaped “Sileys”. There is mention of boat turn backs and detention centres. I think this is almost a universal theme and one that will translate well to the US, especially given the travel bans Trump is attempting to put in place.
Are there any differences between the US and Australian edition besides the cover? Any slang that had to be removed, or scenes that wouldn't translate well to a US audience? If so, how did you feel about it?
Text made the decision not to change any of the language, or remove any scenes. I expected there to be some blowback from reviewers about this but no mention has been made of it. The Road To Winter gained a Kirkus starred review, calling it “a breakout new series full of romance, danger, and a surprisingly engaging world.”
What do you think makes #LoveOzYA unique, and what do you think US audiences may gain or experience by reading it?
I think what makes #LoveOzYA unique is that we are willing to tell our own stories in our own way. We don’t shy away from tough issues or themes and we consistently challenge the gatekeepers. This can be fraught with danger for publishers but, like the writers, they seem determined to make their mark with distinctly Australian stories. It’s why I don’t think we should be altering our stories to accommodate overseas readers because I think those readers are often more interested in finding new and distinctive voices. If YA from the US isn’t altered to be sold on the Australian market, why should we be changing ours for the US market?
Name one US YA title/series you think Australians should read, and one Oz YA title/series (besides your own!) you think Americans should read.
To be honest, I’ve read very little US YA! I’m not sure I should be admitting that but….! I can say that a US novel called The Dog Stars by Peter Heller heavily influenced me when writing The Road To Winter – as did The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis. She’s from the UK but the book is set in British Columbia so that almost counts!
Re Oz YA that Americans should be reading – how can I limit it to just one? There is so much talent - and so many great stories - out there. But I’ll put my hand up for Robert Newton’s Mr Romanov’s Garden In The Sky. It is unapologetically Australian in its characters and setting and being a road trip story, continues a strong tradition in Australian literature.