LoveOzYA Q&A With Scott Westerfeld
Scott Westerfeld is an award winning author with more than twenty books to his name, including the much-acclaimed ‘Uglies’ and ‘Leviathan’ series. He’s originally from Textas, USA, but now splits his time between New York and Sydney. His latest novel and book two of the ‘Impostors’ series, Shatter City, has just hit the shelves.
Welcome to the LoveOzYA blog, we’re so happy to have you here!
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 come from a large Texan family. Whenever we got together for Thanksgiving or Christmas, stories of alligators and ghosts and family feuds would be told. I learned early that stories bring people together, across generations and different backgrounds. But unlike the rest of the family I took to writing my stories down.
Tell us about your new book.
It’s about two twin sisters, daughters of a powerful oligarch. One is his heir, trained to charm and manipulate. The other is her body double, hidden from the world, created as bait for snipers and kidnappers. At the opening of book 2, each sister is pretending to be the other. And Frey, the dangerous sister, is engaged to be married to her family’s mortal enemy, who’s also her real-life boyfriend. Things are complicated.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
I was extraordinarily lucky that way. My parents were readers and so I grew up in a house filled with books. I had a great creative writing teacher in high school, who treated his class the same way a professional editor would have. As an A-student, I’d never seen so much red ink! But that teacher made me think, for the first time, about the importance of every word.
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
Australia has a unique set of demographics, so it’s been wonderful to see more diverse writers emerge over the years since I came her first. Wonderful writers like Ambelin Kwaymullina and Wai Chim are adding balance to the European-facing Oz lit of old. I love that Australian YA is slowly beginning to reflect the country’s diversity. As with the USA, of course, there’s still a long way to go.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
There are so many wonderful independent bookstores in Sydney that have been supportive of my books. I’d hate to leave anyone out. But Glebe Books, Better Read, and Kinokuniya are all amazing.
I’m fond of the reading room at the Mitchell Library in Sydney. Nineteenth-century libraries with shelf-ladders and staircases always inspire me.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning, an amazing monster-hunter story set in an indigenous community in the American west.
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
I play a lot of board games, which is an inherently creative activity. The emerging narrative of games is one of my favorite mode of storytelling. Cooking is also pretty cool, because it’s art that you get to eat when you’re done.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
“Write every day” is both the best and worst advice. Making a habit of writing is great, because the only way to get better at anything is to do it frequently. But the idea that you’ve failed it you take a day off is terrible. Everyone has their own rhythms of work and practice. It’s okay to let your brain go fallow sometimes.
What do you love most about OzYa?
When I was first published in Australia, me and my wife, YA author Justine Larbalestier, visited the Australian Centre for Youth Literature at the State Library of Victoria. I was incredibly impressed by the late Agnes Nieuwenhuizen, who was an encyclopaedia of Australian children’s and YA literature, and her colleagues Mike Shuttleworth and Lili Wilkinson (who’s gone on to be one of Australia’s best YA authors herself). They were my introduction to this brand new world of Australian literature.
I was deeply saddened when Centre closed. I worry about the loss of that institutional memory, and about what will happen to Australian YA without that central body. (I’m glad I Love Oz YA is around to keep the focus on stories from Australia.)
The fabulous Inky awards, created by the Centre, remain. They’re the only awards decided by Australian teens. They are my favourite Australian award, partly because they shortlist books across genres. Too often, awards decided by adults overwhelmingly reward realism. I love all genres and am always excited when they’re all supported.