4 years ago

#LoveOzYA Q&A with Lili Wilkinson

Lili Wilkinson is the author of 16 books, including Green Valentine, The Boundless Sublime and After the Lights Go Out. She established insideadog.com.au and the Inky Awards at the Centre for Youth Literature, State Library of Victoria. Lili has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne, and now spends most of her time reading and writing books for teenagers. Her latest books are The Erasure Initiative and How To Make A Pet Monster: Hodgepodge.

Her latest book, The Erasure Initiative (Allen & Unwin), is out now!

Let’s go back to the beginning. Tell us about your journey to becoming an author.

Oh, it’s a terrible story. Embarrassing and full of nepotism. But I always wanted to be a writer – when I realised that I was never going to discover a secret land in my wardrobe or hatch a dragon from an egg, I thought at least I could write about it. I got published a bit as a teen in Voiceworks magazine. Then my mum stole my dream and became a super-famous children’s author (she wrote the Dragonkeeper series). In my twenties, I started working at the Centre for Youth Literature, initially as an admin assistant but eventually curating Inside a Dog and the Inky Awards. I wrote a lot of book reviews and articles about YA, and one day a publisher (alright, my mum’s publisher) called and asked if I had ever thought about writing a book. They wanted a non-fiction book about the life of Joan of Arc. I didn’t know anything about Joan of Arc, but I googled her like any self-respecting researcher, wrote a book, and here we are. I told you it was a terrible story.

Tell us about your new book.

THE ERASURE INITIATIVE is a YA thriller with a few dystopian touches. It’s about a girl who wakes up on a self-driving bus that’s circling a deserted tropical island. There are six other people on the bus. Nobody has any memory of who they are or how they got there. It’s a very twisty book that is fundamentally about ethics (the Trolley Problem is a big part of it), memory, and what makes us who we are. Think of it like Black Mirror meets The Good Place meets Speed.

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

Probably Obernewtyn, by Isobelle Carmody. Our industry is pretty small so we mostly all know each other, but every time Isobelle likes one of my tweets, teenage-Lili faints.

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

My favourite thing to do is go into a library or bookstore and get someone to tell me what they like, and find the perfect book for them. Occasionally schools pay me to do this for a bunch of kids, and it’s SO fun.

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

Oh, this is HARD. Fictional universes are generally fun to read about but not exist in. I don’t want to live in the Potterverse because of the apartheid between Muggles and Wizards. I don’t want to live anywhere historicalish because sexism, racism, homophobia and less vaccines. Maybe… Etheria from the She-Ra reboot. Magic and science and friendship!

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

Lisa Fuller’s GHOST BIRD. Winner of the Readings YA prize and such an awesome new voice in OzYA! It’s a spooky, tense thriller skillfully woven with elements of Lisa’s Murri heritage. I couldn’t put it down.

What advice would you offer to your younger writer self?

Stop wasting time writing what you think other people want to read. Write what you like, don’t be a snob.

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

I have a kid in Prep, so my workday is now 6am-9:30am, then Banjo and I sit down for some schoolwork. We are tremendously supported by his wonderful teachers, but home-schooling a five-year-old is an unavoidably hands-on job. It’s not something I would choose to do, but it’s been lovely helping him learn to read and write this year. I’m looking forward to school going back though!

Animal Crossing. I love it so much. I’ve even started a separate Insta account to post pictures of my beautiful, peaceful, COVID-free island.

What do you love about OzYA?

So many things! I love our community, first of all. Releasing a book during COVID is scary and disheartening, and I have THREE out this year (The Erasure Initiative and two How To Make A Pet Monster books). It’s been so delightful seeing the community rally online to support me and all the other writers with new releases this year. Turning up to online launches, ordering books, plastering social media with reviews and gorgeous pictures and supportive words. It makes a girl’s heart swell.

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

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