For Educators, For Readers 5 years ago

#LoveOzYA Author Q&A With Katy Warner

Katy Warner is a playwright, writer and actor and her debut #LoveOzYA novel, Everywhere Everything Everyone (Hardie Grant Egmont) has just hit the shelves!

Welcome to the LoveOzYA blog, we’re so happy to have you here!

Thanks. I’m thrilled to be here! 

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?

Definitely something I’ve been doing since I was kid. I don’t really know life without creative writing. I remember in like grade two or something we had to write a daily journal and I’d come up with some pretty outrageous events to write about. I mean, outrageous for a six-to-seven-year-old. The one that stays with me is an entry I wrote about Halloween. My family never did Halloween. But if you read that journal you’d think we were a family from one of those American-sitcom-Halloween-specials. I think it’s because I was so shy and quiet. I recently read some of old school reports from that time and the teacher wrote, ‘Katy is as quiet as a mouse’ and ‘Katy needs to speak up.’ So, creative writing was my outlet. It was my way of being loud and speaking up, I suppose. 

Tell us about your new book.

You know what? I just thought from answering the previous question that, in a way, my book is about just that: finding your way of being loud and speaking up. I hadn’t even thought of it like that until then, and I really think that could be the crux of it to be honest.

The book is called Everywhere Everything Everyone. I remember the title by thinking of the world shrinking in – start with place, move to objects, then individuals. Which is sort of the way the regime that my lead, Santee, is living under. She lives in a ultra-conservative, right-wing, fascist state which didn’t start like that. It sort of snuck up on everyone. They weren’t paying attention or it didn’t affect them enough to really care. Humans are like that. Anyway, a wall or what they call a safety border goes up and splits a city, a city like Melbourne or Perth or Sydney or anywhere in Australia really, in half. Santee gets stuck on the ‘good side’ which is actually the wrong side, as she is separated from her family. 

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

I loved everything and anything by Robin Klein. She’s probably best-known for Hating Alison Ashley which I loved too, of course, but my absolute favourites were Came Back to Show You I Could Fly and People Might Hear You. I got them from a second-hand bookstore when I was eleven or twelve and just read and reread them. Robin Klein was my go-to. Always. 

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

My Mum. She encouraged all of the above and more. She always had a book on the go, reading at breakfast time or after dinner, and I think as a kid seeing that behavior just made reading the most natural thing to do. There was always a book by the bed that I was reading. All of my siblings were the same. I grew up thinking everyone just did that. Mum read to us all the time. We went through the whole Narnia series together, and I remember us all crying at the end – me, my three sisters and Mum sobbing all sitting up in one bed, crying over Aslan. Mum also wrote short stories and I remember she did this correspondence course on creative writing and we’d pore over the text books she bought on writing – structure and creating character and things like that. She would help me write stories, just for fun, and always encouraged me. I am very lucky to have grown up in a house of books and stories. 

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

Every book is different and every writer has their own, unique voice so I’m hesitant to say it is ‘our voice’ because I sort of hate that notion but there is something in Australian YA which doesn’t shy away from humour or gritty reality and everything in between. In a world full of so much American content – and believe me I consume a heck of a lot of it – I think there is something very special about reading stories set in a world you just intrinsically know. It isn’t that fake version of dinkum-fair-go-larriken-Australia which makes me cringe and is not representative of the country I know at all – it is real and familiar and there is something very comforting and reassuring about reading a story set in a place you just know, not from a TV series but from your soul. 

Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?

I have to shout out to my local City of Melbourne libraries because they are brilliant and I am so lucky to live within walking distance to a library service. East Melbourne Library is one of my favs because it is quiet, they always get my requests in, they often have 50c to $2 book sales and they have an outdoor area where you can write and read under the trees. It’s awesome. 

I have never met a bookshop I didn’t love but my locals are Hill of Content and Paperback Books on Bourke Street and I could spend all day in there, honestly. Avenue Bookstore in Richmond is another particular favourite of mine – such a beautiful atmosphere and excellent range and also happened to be where my book was launched! 

What was the last book you read and enjoyed?

I just finished Katy Tur’s Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History. I am doing some research for a new play I’m working on, and I’m also a huge politics nerd. It was an incredible read. Frustrating and terrifying. I couldn’t put it down.

I am also super late to the party but I am midway through Take Three Girls and my god it is good. I hate having to go to work because I just want to finish it! AND I recently read Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High and it was something very special. Highly recommend. 

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

Is there anything else? I write plays – that sort of counts as writing though, doesn’t it? But, in my defense it is a really different form. 

I love visual art and what I lack in skill I make up for in enthusiasm. I try to draw and have been doing silly character sketches, following these-learn-to-draw-cartoons YouTube tutorials which are a nice way to break up writing and use the brain in a different way for a bit. 

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

Best: just write the damn thing. I am a bit of a perfectionist and would spend hours worrying over one little sentence. The advice to just get it down, in words, on the paper is some of the best advice I have ever received. Just write it. You will always be reworking and rewriting and rewording anyway. 

Worst: put it in the drawer and forget about it. That advice came from someone who wasn’t so into my book and wanted me to write something completely different. If you have something to say, if you have a story to tell, a character busting to get out of your head and onto the page then don’t hide it in a drawer. Write it. Finish it. Share it. 

What do you love about OzYA?

It is a passionate, intelligent and supportive community. As a newbie to this world, the support this community offers new writing and new writers is so incredible to see and experience. OzYA is diverse, inclusive, challenging and vital. These are the books which stay with us forever, really. 

Find out more about Katy and her work by visiting her website and following her on Twitter: @katywarner and Instagram: @warner_katy.

*Image Credit: Lachlan Woods



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