4 years ago

#LoveOzYA Q&A with Hayley Lawrence

Hayley Lawrence worked as a lawyer in a commercial firm in Sydney before trading city life for the coast when she married a pilot. Hayley and her husband had many adventures while she worked for a small law firm on the Mid-North Coast of NSW. They now have five vivacious daughters who continue to bring immense joy and utter mayhem to their life.

Despite leaving legal work, Hayley could not leave behind the stories of the people she’d encountered. They are stories that provoke questions about the nature of humanity, and it’s these questions that haunt her novels.

Hayley’s latest book is Ruby Tuesday (Penguin), released 1 September!

Tell us about your journey to becoming an author.

I started my first novel when I was 18 and languished over it for a number of years. At 24, I pitched it to Text Publishing and was asked for the first five chapters. My manuscript was predictably rejected, and rightly so, as I hadn’t even finished the novel! Neither the story nor I were ready. Sadly, I let one rejection get me down, and paused my writing dream for six years. But the year I turned 30, I realised I was the only one who cared about whether I ever wrote and published a novel, so if it was going to happen, I had to work to make it happen!

I decided to give myself a decade to complete a novel and get it published. If I didn’t get any publishing interest by the time I turned 40, I would hang up my writing boots! So I set out writing a new story. When I was 32, that story got the attention of two major publishing houses, who both saw promise in it but ultimately both rejected it, asking me for my next manuscript! At the age of 33, I wrote my next manuscript, Inside the Tiger. It went on to shortlist for the Vogel Literary Award in 2017 and was published as my debut novel by Penguin Random House in 2018. I was 36 years old by the time I held my first published book in my hands. So that was double the age I was when I started writing my first novel!

Tell us about your new book!

Ruby Tuesday is a story about a girl who was named after a song about freedom, but she’s far from free. Trapped in a dusty, small town with her mother, Ruby has an incredible voice and longs to be heard. Ruby Tuesday is about broken dreams, the joy of creativity and how healing can be found in the wildest of places.

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

A number of favourites actually! Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi, John Marsden’s Tomorrow series and Margaret Clark’s Back on Track. All three books were Aussie made and Aussie set!

What’s your favourite experience connected to a bookstore or library?

My book launch at my local bookstore BookFace in Port Macquarie! We sold out of every copy of my book and I was so encouraged by the support they offered to me! The store itself isn’t just interesting and inspiring, but they do an incredible job of championing local authors, and Australian authors in particular. You can’t ask for more than that!

If you could reside in any fictional universe, what would it be?

Ooh, tough call! Many of my beloved fictional universes are dark places I wouldn’t necessarily want to live in, so the characters would have to be amazing enough for me to forsake life and limb to do it!! I’m going with Tomorrow When the War Began, because Ellie and her gang were like friends to me when I was a teen!

What recent OzYA book would you like to shout out to the world?

Eleni Hale’s Stone Girl was an absolute standout novel to me (and not just to me, it has won multiple awards now!). Stone Girl is a brave novel that doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities facing kids in care and showed me a flipped worldview I’d not yet encountered.

What advice would you offer to your younger writer self?

Write now! Get disciplined! Don’t worry that you’re too young and don’t yet have enough life experience or enough writing experience. Life experience is an evolving beast, and it’s okay to write it as you go and change it as you go. Writing experience only comes from writing practice, so do it. Do it. DO it. Set goals, small daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals. Finish. Finish the damn novel even if it’s a piece of crap. A piece of crap can be polished! The younger you start, the more years you have to write and hone your craft.

What is a new habit/hobby/practice you didn’t have before COVID-19?

A little trick called shutting my bedroom door. Click. And locking it! When your world is contained inside four walls, kids are home all day and you have a writing deadline, you may need to lock your kids out of your room for chunks of time to write.

What do you love about OzYA?

That it’s all about Aussies supporting Aussies, and YA fiction getting the boost it so desperately needs and deserves. Australian YA fiction is incredibly strong and smart and clever and uniquely us. It’s a shame when our stories get drowned out by the sheer volume of stories and print runs in larger countries. Our stories matter and LoveOzYA does an incredible job of promoting this. How can we embrace who we are as Australians if our bookshelves are dominated by overseas stories? LoveOzYA takes a stand for Australian creators and bands us all together in one supportive community, and that is amazing!

To find out more about Hayley and her writing, visit her website and follow her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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