7 years ago

#LoveOzYA in the USA: Will Kostakis

#LoveOzYA in the USA is a  series featuring questions and answers with Australian YA authors who have been published in the USA.

In this installment, the #LoveOzYA team spoke to author Will Kostakis about his book Sidekicks.

Will, is your American cover different to your Australian cover and if so, why?

At first glance, the American and Australian covers are wildly different – there’s a whole host of reasons for that, different publishers, different markets – but when you discount the colour and the art style, they’re quite similar. They’re both illustrated and focus on the three protagonists.


Australian cover


American cover


Did you have any input into either cover?

I was lucky enough to see the early draft of the Australian edition and offer input. It was important to me that the three characters be distinct – one was the swimmer, one the rebel, and one the nerd. Changes were made to reflect that. The American process was entirely different. I filled out an online form detailing everything from characters and key scenes, to the novel’s mood.  It is my understanding that the editorial staff filled in the same form, and that information served as the basis for the design process. When the final cover was presented to me, I was floored.


Do you have a preference for one of the covers?

They both do a great job at capturing the novel’s essence, but I think I prefer the American edition. Maybe it’s because I’ve always wanted an orange book cover (one of the possible Loathing Lola covers was orange and I loved it), or because it’s the newer of the two, but something about it draws me in. It’s softer than the Australian edition, and I think better suits the novel. That said … The American audiobook cover is also sensational.


American audiobook cover


What do you like about each of them?

I like the way that the Australian edition draws your eyes to the three boys. Those red stripes weren’t originally in the novel, but after having seen the cover design, I did manage to work in a reference. I love the art style of the American edition, and it’s hardcover, which scores major, major points.


Do you have a favourite LoveOzYA cover design or designer? 

I absolutely love Catherine Jinks’ Evil Genius cover. Even though I ran out of shelf space a long time ago, I still insist on displaying it face out. It is so powerful, and while elements of it were maintained for the American edition, I think it lost some of its impact in translation.


How does your book signal to your readers that the setting and characters are Australian? Did you include any interesting references to landmarks, history or pop culture?

The Sidekicks is set in Sydney and a town down south, Gerringong. While I shied away from naming too many suburbs, there are geographic clues and anyone with a passing familiarity with Sydney should be able to figure out where events take place.

After a Paris Hilton reference in my first novel aged terribly, I steer clear of overt pop culture references, local and international. I think the book signals its Australianness most in its attitudes and its language. I made a concerted effort to capture the way Australian teens were communicating, and the slang that was prevalent at the time.


Are there any differences between the US and Australian edition besides the cover? Any slang that had to be removed, or scenes that wouldn’t translate well to a US audience? If so, how did you feel about it?

 I’d heard horror stories about Australian-to-American translations, so I went into the editorial process at peace with shifting the setting to San Francisco or New York City. For me, the most important thing was that the story remained intact. I was surprised when Harlequin Teen only suggested edits for clarity. We removed or softened any slang or phrasing that acted as a barrier to a prospective American teen reader. I was involved in that process and personally revised the novel, so I felt completely fine with it.


What do you think makes #LoveOzYA unique, and what do you think US audiences may gain or experience by reading it?

#LoveOZYA texts are unique to us because we see our experiences in them. But really, I think all books are windows … You can see the world through someone else’s eyes. It may be a different perspective on the family down the street, or an enlightening look into the family halfway across the world. I think US audiences will better understand who we are, beyond the tourism industry caricature. They read our values, our humour … but I think it goes both ways. By reading authors from other nations, we understand them a little better too.


Name one US YA title/series you think Australians should read, and one Oz YA title/series (besides your own!) you think Americans should read.

I have read American John Corey Waley’s Highly Illogical Behaviour twice now, once upon release, and once this month in preparation for my American tour. It’s a riveting look inside the mind of an anxious teen, and equal parts heart-warming and heartbreaking. As for an Australian read, it’s The Whole Business With Kiffo and the Pitbull (The Crimes and Punishments of Miss Payne in the US) by Barry Jonsberg. Funny, heartfelt, and the ending tied a knot in my brain.

And finally Will, you’ve recently returned from a trip to the US to launch The Sidekicks. What was that experience like? Any highlights, or advice for other Australian authors visiting the US?
Touring the US was unlike anything I’ve ever undertaken. There were exhausting days and exhilarating ones, and the highlight for me was recognising the appetite US teens have to hear anecdotes about Australia. I worried how much of my talks would be lost in translation… until I actually gave a talk and realised the “Australianess” that is said to negatively impact the appeal of our work abroad actually makes us interesting speakers. And that made me wonder… I don’t want to say that publishing gatekeepers have lied to us, but I do think that how much a text’s Australian qualities impedes its appeal in other markets has been overstated. My advice then to visiting Australian authors is not to try appeal as an American, because you will just turn into a facsimile of what they’ve seen before. Rather, embrace and explain the Australian parts of you.

Thanks Will!



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