#LoveOzYA Q&A with Allison Rushby
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 guess you could say I’m a legacy writer—my mother is also an author who writes both Young Adult and Middle Grade (Pam Rushby), so it was in the blood. I still have the first novel I ever wrote (okay, it’s more of a picture book), which was a very dodgy re-telling of my parents’ wedding where her train ripped.
Tell us about your new book, The Fifth Room.
The Fifth Room is about a group of four brilliant accelerated high school students who are members of secret medical society. When they’re invited to the society’s secret bunker to self-experiment, they learn that a fifth student is secretly experimenting alongside them. When that student’s experiment goes horribly wrong, they have to ask themselves how far they’re willing to go in the name of science.
Why the pseudonym AJ Rushby?
I’m usually Allison Rushby and have been for many books, but as I’m writing quite different work at the moment in Middle Grade and Young Adult, I decided it might be a good idea to opt for AJ Rushby for my Young Adult work.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
When I was growing up there wasn’t really a distinction between Middle Grade and Young Adult books, so I’m going to say Robin Klein’s Hating Alison Ashley. It was so amazingly Australian and the book’s world was so close to everything I knew and could relate to.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
Definitely! My mum being an author helped a lot, of course, and my dad has always been a big reader as well. One of my grandmothers was a primary school teacher and my aunt and uncle are teacher librarians. I guess you could say we’re all a little bit bookish!
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
There’s just something about reading a novel set at home that makes sense. It’s a different level of comfort, even if the read is an uncomfortable one.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
I’ve been so lucky with how supportive both my local booksellers and booksellers further away have been. Locally, Riverbend Books, Avid Reader and Dymocks are always amazing and further away, Readings has been great to me.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
I just finished Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give last night, which completely blew me away. I learnt a lot—she kept me up quite a few nights in a row.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
Probably the worst piece of advice I’ve been given (and that I hear a lot) is that you must write every day. I just think it’s not true at all. Life is tricky. There won’t always be days you can write—either because you’re sick, or working, or just too busy. Also, sometimes that writing time is swallowed up by other writing-related tasks, like a copyedit, editing, or PR. As long as you’re still regularly showing up to write and and are actually writing in the time available to you, it’s all good.
The best piece of advice I’ve received is ‘write for just ten minutes’. Honestly, it’s the starting that’s the hardest—those first few minutes of writing when the cobwebs clear out. I don’t think I’ve ever written for ‘just ten minutes’. Not once.
What do you love about OzYA?
It’s great to hear about new Australian YA releases and to be able to read them early on and tell others about them.