#LoveOzYA Q&A with Eleni Hale
Eleni Hale used to be a reporter at the Herald Sun, a communications strategist for the union movement and has written for many print and online news publications. Her first novel, Stone Girl, is out now.
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 was the kid the adults looked at, eyes wide with surprise as they said, ‘Wow, you’ve got an imagination, don’t you?’ The world just seemed magical.
I attribute this to growing up in Greece where stories about Greek Mythology rolled off adult tongues like facts. My grandfather would answer my many, many questions sincerely so that like Father Christmas in the west, I had to learn that the Greek Gods were not actually real.
That idea of being surrounded by stories was wonderful. Even before I could read or write I made up tales for my little sister. As soon as I learnt to write I began filling notebooks.
Tell us about your new book.
Stone Girl is the story of Sophie Soukaris who loses her mum in tragic circumstances. Since she has no other family she is made a ward of the state and moves through the group home system. We follow her from 12-17 years old.
It’s gritty and dark, all about identity, belonging and friendship.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
It has to be Robin Klein’s People Might Hear You.
It showed me empowerment and how it doesn’t matter how young, trapped or in trouble you are, you can save yourself. I loved that.
Still, today, if I pass a house with heavy security that appears to be locking people both in and keeping people out, I can’t help but think of this book and wonder if such homes exist... and maybe right next door!
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
My mum loved the library and we’d go every couple of weeks. Watching her read and those regular library visits created a routine for me so I always had a book at hand.
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
There’s something universal about the teen experience. No matter where you are in the world the themes are similar; the search for meaning and figuring out your place in the world.
There are so many good YA reads around the globe but there’s nothing quite like hearing that local voice in a book I’m reading.
I love that Australian YA is reaching international heights and I hope it continues. The standard of local writing deserves a much bigger international audience.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
So many… Some I visited once on a trip overseas. Others I pop into all the time. I couldn’t say there was just one.
I also quite like ordering books online and receiving that exciting book package.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
I read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land recently, which I loved.
And currently I’m reading Ballad for a Mad Girl by Vikki Wakefield, which is completely brilliant. What a voice she says! I’ve had to put it down a few times to do others things but I’m not letting anything else distract me.
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
I’m addicted to podcasts and documentaries. Real life is fascinating and inspiring and makes me want to write more.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
The worst advice (for me) is planning out my narrative. This causes instant writer’s block. It steals all the magic out of discovery because the characters are no longer leading the way.
The best advice was ‘delete the unnecessary’, even if you love it. Kill Your Darlings and their offspring. I’m completely ruthless. I remove anything I suspect might be dragging the story or disrupting the tension.
What do you love about OzYA?
It’s a strong community. It’s welcoming and supportive. I feel lucky to be a part of it.
Stone Girl is out now through Penguin Books Australia. You can read more about it here.