#LoveOzYA Q&A with Charlie Archbold
Charlie has worked as an educator for many years. She has a Master of Education Degree in Studies of Asia and has spent time teaching in the UK, Australia, and Indonesia. In addition to teaching she has a passion for creative writing.
Charlie’s debut young adult novel, Mallee Boys, was the recipient of the 2016 Adelaide Literary Festival Unpublished Manuscript Award and was a 2018 Children’s Book Council of Australia Honour book. Her middle grade manuscript, Red Bottomed Boat, was shortlisted for the 2020 Text Prize.
Charlie’s latest book is Indigo Owl (Wakefield Press), out now!
Have you been telling stories since you were a kid or was writing something you fell in love with as an adult?
As a child I played endless imagined games and made up plays but I never thought about writing the stories down. Instead I wrote complaint letters to my parents and made posters. One of my most memorable was when I was championing the rights of spiders which my Mum put up in our kitchen window. Spiders May Not Look Very Nice But We Should Love Them Too. She still has it.
On a more serious note, which may resonate with readers, was the belief for many years that I could never be a creative writer. Journaling and diaries were okay but certainly not fiction. It was always something others did. I sort of talked myself out of it and with hindsight I wish I’d had more self-belief.
I remember saying to a friend recently, ‘I wish I’d started this earlier.’
She replied, ‘At least you’ve started.’
I would encourage anyone who has even the slightest inkling they want to write fiction to just have a go because once you start you realise it isn’t a creative pursuit granted to a selected few.
Tell us about your new book.
So, my new book is Indigo Owl. It’s a speculative fiction story set in the future and explores themes of bodily autonomy and ideas around population growth. I was on holiday in the UK and went to a museum where there was a live world population counter. Looking at the numbers in the billions, increase second by second, sat with me. World population impacts our planet, but it is hard to discuss because of far reaching implications. Indigo Owl takes place on a corporation planet which controls and manages the fertility of its citizens. But just like our present world conjecture around this issue it is not as simple as it appears. The protagonist fight for autonomy and voice as layers of conspiracy are revealed.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
Not really. I grew up in England and I didn’t really know YA was such a clearly defined genre until about ten years ago. I jumped from children’s fiction into adult fiction and wish I’d had the benefit of the fusion space modern OzYA affords. I’ve always been drawn to books though which have compelling young protagonists and tackle issues young people face.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
I’m a day dreamer so I always sought out books but the real reading motivator was my English teacher in high school who was amazing. He suggested books to us we never would have chosen to read and his passion for literature was infectious. I read very broadly because of him. He used to say we should never set limits on what we read and I think I’ve always carried that with me. I think it’s important to read widely because you never know what gems you might discover.
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
Because they are amazing and defining the genre. Australia is a complex and dynamic country and it makes sense the YA stories reflect this diversity in themes and characterisation which have an edge, relevance and authenticity to them. Also, there is always a strong sense of location and place. The setting of the stories becomes both part of and backdrop to the narratives. Australian YA is very grounded and for me this holds true regardless if the books are contemporary, fantastical, or historical.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
I have a soft spot for Shakespeare’s Book Shop in Adelaide. It is my local vibrant independent bookstore and nothing is too much trouble.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
I just finished Pretty Girls by Lisa Portolan & Samantha McDonald. It was a tough and gritty read about a young woman confronting the domestic violence which defined her youth and adolescence. I’m not sure enjoyed is the right word to describe my response to it but I was compelled to finish it and witness the triumph of her story. It is currently being made into a film.
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
I find that my job as an educator is highly creative.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
Best: ‘Only you can write your stories.’ Thank you to the author of such wise words because only we can.
Worst: ‘Write every day.’ I tried this and then felt rubbish because I couldn’t sustain it. In the end I created a writing habit which works for me. I’m okay to say I’m a binge writer, seizing precious blocks of writing time when I can.
What do you love about OzYA?
The whole community. Before discovering OzYA I used to think of writing and reading as solitary pursuits but the enthusiasm, support, and knowledge in this group is outstanding. As a reader you have recommendations you’d never find on your own, chats, and forums to connect. As a writer you have encouragement, agency, and a wonderful sense of belonging. Thanks so much for all you do.
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