#LoveOzYA Q&A with Beau Kondos
Beau Kondos is a Melbourne based finance guy by day, fantasy writer by night and 'a bit of a geek' all the time. His self-published novel The Path of The Lost not only challenges the idea that to be a successful author you need to be represented by a publisher, but also marks a step forward in fantasy #AusQueerYA. We spoke to Beau about what inspires him, the writing process and the cathartic nature of creativity.
Hey Beau, thank you so much for talking to us today. Can you give us a quick intro on who you are and what you do?
Thanks for having me! I’ve been working at a publishing house for the past five years as their finance guy, and in my spare time I’ve been plugging away at my debut novel that was inspired by one of the things I’m really passionate about: creativity.
Mindfulness is a buzz word that has gathered traction over recent years, because people are finding it harder and harder to find the time to slow down and just process. It might sound stupid but when we’re constantly surrounded by mobile screen technologies that are always begging for our attention, down time has become synonymous with screen time.
I think discovering the power of creativity is just one solution to help us to stop and really check-in with ourselves and explore our souls. This idea is what inspired me to jump to the other side of publishing and write a fantasy novel.
Your debut self-published YA novel, The Path of The Lost was released in July 2018. What is your book about?
The Path of the Lost is a fall down the rabbit hole type of story, that begins in Melbourne and transitions over to the Cosm – a world parallel to our own where all forms of creative expression have been outlawed.
James is one of the first characters we meet. He’s a local Aussie who’s caught in a bit of a funk. All he has known is a life of study and he’s reached a crossroads: the real world is looming next year and he’s struggling to find his calling. When he enters the grey realm of the Cosm, he meets Zynthia who is a Delver – someone who rebels and dares to paint, share stories, and create melodies. Like all other Delvers, she performs her craft with such devotion, that it’s imbued with some pretty sweet magic. Initially each of the characters believes the other holds the answers to all their problems, but their friendship is tested by the Path of the Lost – an ever-changing trail of legend filled with formidable creatures and secrets of the Cosm’s past.
Can you share with us the journey from aspiring to published author?
It’s very challenging to be picked up in Australia when you’re writing young adult speculative fiction, especially when you’re a debut author. Sadly the Australian market is so small that many successful Australian spec-fic writers tend to sell their books in larger overseas markets first, before the Aussie publishers get their hands on them.
I was pretty adamant about being published in Australia first, and although I received some promising feedback from local publishers, at the end of the day they said no. So I pleaded my case on a crowdfunding campaign and raised enough funds to self-publish the book properly, following the same process a publisher would from hiring an editor, cover illustrators, a proof reader and having it professionally printed so it would look like any other book on the shelves both inside and out.
What made you go with Black Inc. and how have you found the experience so far?
I initially approached Black Inc. for a printing contact for the book, and they were really impressed by the professional approach to self-publishing that they offered me a distribution agreement instead! I was fortunate that they believed that my novel would find a market and I’m really grateful that they took me on. They don’t normally offer distribution agreements so I pounced on the offer and they’ve been really supportive throughout the entire process.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
I’m going to bend the rules a bit when answering this one. My favourite books were a tie-in of the Aussie television series Spellbinder. It was a quirky fantasy series about parallel worlds that was always on TV after school. Heather Mitchell who played the antagonist, Ashka, is one of my favourite villains of all time.
What is your writing process like? Are you a seat of your pants type or a plotter?
I need a spark to get me started, some sort of problem with the current world that I want to reflect in an alternate universe. People think it’s unusual for a finance guy to be a writer, but both roles are heavily involved with problem solving. Like maths, a story follows an equation: what is the end product when you multiply various personalities, add in their goals and subtract their obstacles? Problem solving through stories is much more fulfilling for me.
After I locate the spark I write down the bones of the story and the way the characters might attempt to reach their goals by interacting with the world and one another, and then I go back and write each chapter. Unexpectedly, after I started in the filling-in process, the characters evolved organically and took the story in a different direction, which I didn’t see coming. This was kinda great for me, because I was able to experience the same surprise that a reader would when sinking their teeth into a story for the first time.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
My parents would always read to me as a kid, and that’s something I’ll be forever grateful for. They were the first ones to introduce me to my favourite stories in Greek mythology.
Last year an old friend of mine asked if he could read out loud to me at the beach. At first I resisted but as soon as he started reading out loud, I found myself just letting go and relaxing. I think it’s small-minded to consider the art of reading aloud a practice reserved for children. It has an amazing calming quality when someone reads to you and it was such a simple yet effective bonding experience. Or it could’ve just been the fact I was at a beach – I guess you’ll have to try it to find out!
Reading on the beach is my favourite! What else do you like to do with your time apart from write?
I’m a bit of a geek so I’m usually at a mates place watching TV or playing board games. I like to keep active too, as writing and my day job have me sitting all day. People always talk about the mind and body as functioning separately, but each helps the other to flourish. Physical activity helps me to relax and to keep positive, while writing helps me to feel fulfilled. I wouldn’t be happy if one or the other was missing in my life.
Who are some Queer artists that inspire you?
Patrick Ness is my favourite author, and I draw a lot of affinities with his writing. He has an effortless way of fusing the everyday with the fantastical, and of creating an end product that is both powerful and laced with a sharp sense of humour.
What do you think are some of the strengths of the OzYA writing and publishing scene? Where could we be improving?
I really love the variety and diversity of OzYA publishing. When I was growing up I struggled to find a YA novel that normalised my experiences. Now there is an incredible choice of genuine voices on offer, and they’re really hitting home. Literally. I’m running out of shelf space in my study! I think the humour also helps this. Apart from the soapies at night, Aussie teens are rarely the centre point of television and movies. So when I read a typically Strayan quip or pop culture reference, I find myself laughing out loud like a weirdo on the train. It’s fresh but at the same time it’s quite nostalgic for me when I read YA – I think that’s why adults make up such a large portion of the readership in the YA market.
The improvements might come from behind the scenes. It’s common knowledge in bookish circles that YA readers are primarily made up of females. The biggest challenge the YA community faces is finding a way to encourage young males to see the value in reading. Unlike TV and movies, books need to be digested slowly to receive the most value from them. Books don’t hand you fantasy worlds on a silver platter, you have to actively construct them using your imagination. Reading is such a powerful way to encourage younger people to lengthen their attention span and keep their imaginations alive – and that’s something I think publishers, authors and teachers should be collaborating together to find a solution to get reading back on young men’s radars!
Are there unique challenges in the publishing world for Queer writers? Have you experienced any hurdles in your career because of your identity?
This question reminds me of one of the worst pieces of advice I was given during my writing course. One of my teachers warned me that I shouldn’t write homosexual romance for young adults, because it’s too risky for publishers to take it on. Maybe it was true back in 2011, but today the YA shelves are brimming with diverse own-voice writers who aren’t afraid to shy away from reality.
I’ve been very fortune to have never experienced any prejudice in my career as a writer so far. I’d like to think that’s a reflection of how society has become more open and accepting, and difference is becoming celebrated more and more rather than the reverse. Everyone who has been involved in the publishing process has only given their support.
If you could go back in time and give your younger self some writing advice, what would it be?
If you’re passionate about something, keep at it. It might take years, but at the end of the day it’s up to you to get the truth you think the world needs to hear out there. And the writing process itself is such a cathartic thing, that nothing you write will ever be a waste of time.