For Educators, For Readers 6 years ago

#LoveOzYA Q&A with Jennifer Lane

Australian-born, New-Zealand-based author Jennifer Lane’s debut novel ‘All Our Secrets’ was the winner of the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel. 

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 loved writing stories when I was a kid (I remember the buzz of winning a creative writing competition when I was in primary school!) and I always wanted to be an author. It took longer than I’d hoped to get around to writing my first novel, but I had a few short stories published along the way.

Tell us about your new book.

All Our Secrets is coming-of-age novel set in the fictional Australian town of Coongahoola. After a religious cult sets up camp on the banks of the Bagooli river, some of the local kids begin to go missing, one after another. Gracie Barrett – the naively savvy spokesperson for her chaotic family – uncovers the town’s dark secrets.

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

Yes – Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park. It was a coming-of-age story, set in the Rocks area of Sydney, both in the present and in the 1800s. I can’t recall much about the plot (I read it over 30 years ago!) but I still have a faint picture of Beatie in my mind.

Was there anyone who encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?

My mum, who was a primary school teacher, fuelled my love of reading. She often brought home piles of library books, which I’d happily read one after the other. I’ve since passed this love of reading onto my own daughters.

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

We, as readers, can more easily identify with characters in OzYA and relate to the stories. I particularly like Australian YA with dark themes like Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones.

Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?

My favourite bookshops are independent ones, like Better Read Than Dead in Newtown. I prefer them for their wide range of books and prevalence of local authors.

What was the last book you read and enjoyed?

I’ve just finished reading a memoir by Lilia Tarawa called Daughter of Gloriavale, about a young woman who grew up in a religious cult in New Zealand. I’m fascinated by cults, which is why one appeared in my book, All Our Secrets.

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

I write for work as well as for fun, so I don’t have much time to indulge in many other creative pursuits, but I get inspiration from music, books and movies.

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
The best: to ‘show, don’t tell’, and to keep writing, even when process feels laborious.
The worst: to avoid writing a novel in the first person – I read this advice after writing my novel in the first person!

 What do you love about OzYA?

I particularly love YA books with a strong Australian setting because they take me back to my childhood. I now live in New Zealand, which gives me even more reason to enjoy books from home.

All Our Secrets is out now in Australia through Clan Destine Press and in New Zealand through Rosa Mira Books.

Find out more about Jennifer Lane on her website here



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