For Educators, For Readers, Q&A 4 years ago

#LoveOzYA Author Q&A With Astrid Scholte

Raised on a diet of Spielberg, Lucas and Disney, Astrid Scholte knew she wanted to be surrounded by all things fantastical from a young age. She’s spent the last ten years working in film, animation and television as both an artist and manager. Career highlights include working on James Cameron’s Avatar, Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin and Happy Feet 2 by George Miller. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her fiance and two cats, Lilo and Mickey. Her debut YA novel, Four Dead Queens, is an international bestseller.

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 writing stories ever since I learned how to hold a pencil. In fact, my first “novel” was written at age 5, which I still have! Most of my early stories revolved around cats and something fantastical, like flying to the moon. From a young age, I adored picture books and wanted to be an author/illustrator. It wasn’t until year 8, that I turned my sights to writing for young adults and started my first full length novel. While I never finished it, the desire to be published didn’t fade.

Tell us about your new book.

The Vanishing Deep is a standalone YA thriller set in a world that’s 99% water and where the dead can be revived for 24 hours. It’s about what you would do with 24 more hours and what you’d be willing to sacrifice to give that time to a loved one.

I first came up with the idea while watching The Real Housewives of NYC. One of the housewives wished she could have just one more day with her late husband. The idea stuck with me. I wrote the idea in my journal back in 2015, before I’d written Four Dead Queens. It wasn’t until the start of 2017 that I started actually writing.

Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?

Yes! I loved The View from Ararat by Brian Caswell. I read it over and over. Science fiction was my first fictional love and it still impacts the stories I tell today.

Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?

My mum used to read to me every night and I would look forward to bedtime to see what fictional journeys we were to embark on. When I was a teenager, she would go to the local bookstore and tell the bookseller the books I liked and would then surprise me with a new book for my birthday or Christmas. She clearly saw the enjoyment I got from reading and supported my love of books.

What do you think sets Australia YA stories apart from those set internationally?

I think Australian YA focuses on quieter stories; stories that are not necessarily about saving the world. While I write speculative fiction and the worlds I create are large and complex, the main story is always about the people inside these worlds; their wants and needs. Australia YA stories are often more intimate, and therefore, impactful.

Do you have favourite bookshop or library?

Dymocks Collin Street is my favourite bookshop. I love descending the escalators and into the world of books!

What was the last book you read and enjoyed?

I recently finished Leigh Bardugo’s King of Scars, which I loved! Six of Crows is one of my favourite YA books and I loved reading more about the world of Grisha. I can’t wait for the Netflix TV show!

I also devoured Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman and can’t wait for the sequel, Aurora Burning, out this May!

Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?

I’ve painted in oils since I was 12 years old and started painting my favourite fictional characters a few years back. I also paint my own characters, the main characters for The Vanishing Deep can be found here:

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

The best piece of advice was to write what you’d like to read. Both Four Dead Queens and The Vanishing Deep were books I would have loved to read as teenager. I love complex characters, immersive worlds and twists and turns that keep you on your toes.

The worst piece of advice is to write what you know. I know nothing about royal murders, reviving the dead for 24 hours, or diving down to the sea’s depths. While it’s true you should do your research and try to ground your worlds in fact—even if they’re fantasy—I don’t believe in writing what you know. That’s what your imagination is for!

What do you love about OzYA?

Without a doubt, the best thing about OzYA is the community. I was a part of the OzYA community long before I had a book published. I went to every launch, festival and event that I could, meeting likeminded people. While writing and reading are solitary activities, the OzYA community is a wonderful network of creative, intelligent, empathetic and supportive people. I’m so lucky to be a part of this wonderful community and give back in the form of my books.

To find out more about Astrid and her writing, visit her website and give her a follow on Twitter and Instagram.

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