#LoveOzYA Author Q&A With Lisa Walker

Lisa Walker writes novels for adults and young adults. She has also written an ABC Radio National play and been published in the AgeGriffith ReviewBig Issue and the Review of Australian Fiction. Her recent novels include a young adult coming-of-age story, Paris Syndrome (HarperCollins, 2018), and a climate change comedy, Melt (Lacuna, 2018). She has worked in environmental communication and as a wilderness guide, and recently spent six months in a Kmart tent in outback Australia. Lisa lives, surfs and writes on the north coast of New South Wales. The Girl with the Gold Bikini is her sixth novel.

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

I always enjoyed creative writing as a kid, but I let it lapse for many years and only took it up again when I had kids myself. As my children grew up, I started writing stories for them, which is how I got started again. My first novel was a Harry Potter-esque middle-grade fantasy which, needless to say, will never see the light of day.

Tell us about your new book.

The Girl with the Gold Bikini is a teen detective story and a screwball comedy with a darker underbelly. Eighteen-year-old Olivia Grace has deferred her law degree and is fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a private investigator. She is following in the footsteps of her role models Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars, who taught her everything she knows, including the importance of a handbag full of disguises and how to mix business with inconvenient chemistry.

Playing Watson to the Sherlock of her childhood friend, detective agency owner Rosco, Olivia pursues a cheating husband case from the glitzy Gold Coast to Insta-perfect Byron Bay. Here she runs up against yoga wars, dirty whale activism, and a guru who’s kind of a creep. She also re-discovers her lost surfing mojo. It’s an action-packed story with a feminist slant.

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

I devoured Puberty Blues by Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette. While it’s set south of Sydney, it was a lot like the beach culture I knew on the Gold Coast. The story is about two teenage girls who want to become cool ‘surfie chicks’. And, by the way, surfie chicks don’t actually surf, they just mind their boyfriends’ towels while they’re surfing. Shockingly – spoiler alert – the girls eventually get sick of minding the towels and take to the water themselves. Looking back on this story, I feel a huge sense of relief that our beach culture has changed. In my hometown, there are often more girls than guys in the surf. Yay for that!

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

I grew up in a very bookish home and reading was basically what we did for entertainment, so I can thank my parents for that. I also remember my high school English teacher saying nice things about my writing. This stuck with me and was probably the seed that sprouted into a writing career many years later. Teachers can be so influential.

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

Australia is a special place. We have our own way of speaking, an amazing environment and a diverse society. It’s important to be able to read about people who speak like us, live in places we recognise and grapple with the issues that are important to us. It’s a generalisation, but I also think that Australians tend to be pretty down-to-earth and our writing reflects that.

Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?

I’d like to give a big shout-out to my local bookshop, The Book Room at Lennox. I feel very lucky to live in a small town with such a beautiful bookshop and the owners have been big supporters of my work.

What was the last book you read and enjoyed?

I recently read Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard, and wow! It is a hard-hitting, emotional story about masculinity and homophobia. I met Holden in Western Australia when were on panels together at Margaret River and Geraldton Writers Festivals. After that, I basically stalked him online to the gay and lesbian bookshop in Darlinghurst, where I got a signed copy of his book. I had a feeling that Holden’s book was going to be good and it didn’t disappoint. Raw, intimate, powerful and honest, the story is about three boys growing up gay in a small town. This was an emotional read for me and I couldn’t put it down.

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

I’m trying to learn the ukulele. So far, I can play ‘Don’t Worry be Happy’ and ‘Stand by Me’. I’ve got a long way to go! I also spend a lot of time surfing and walking on the beach, which is where I dream up most of my ideas.

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

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve had recently is to remember that something must change internally, as well as externally, for your main character IN EVERY SCENE. I’ve found it really helpful to focus on that when I’m writing new work.

The worst piece of advice is that you should plot out your novel scene by scene before you start writing. I’ve tried this twice, and my novels died a sudden death. For me, the only way to find the story is to creep up on it, bit by bit.

What do you love about OzYA?

Much of our culture is dominated by American literature and drama and it’s so important for young Australians to be able to see their own lives and aspirations reflected. I love that OzYA is an advocate for that. It is also a wonderful community of Australian authors helping each other.

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

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