Lili Wilkinson

Read more about Lili Wilkinson.


Interview By: Tamazon

Date: February 18, 2011

Lili Wilkinson's Web Site

Interview

Pink, HarperTeen, YA, 02/08/2011

The pink jumper was practically glowing in my grey bedroom. It was like a tiny bit of Dorothy's Oz in boring old black-and-white Kansas. Pink was for girls.

Ava Simpson is trying on a whole new image. Stripping the black dye from her hair, she heads off to the Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence, leaving her uber-cool girlfriend, Chloe, behind.

Ava is quickly taken under the wing of perky, popular Alexis who insists that: a) she's a perfect match for handsome Ethan; and b) she absolutely must audition for the school musical.

But while she's busy trying to fit in - with Chloe, with Alexis and her Pastel friends, even with the misfits in the stage crew - Ava fails to notice that her shiny reinvented life is far more fragile than she imagined.

Please tell us your latest news!

News! I'm SUPER excited about finally having a book come out in the US. I'm also excited that I've quit my day job and am about to start a PhD in Creative Writing. What else... this feels like when my Grandma calls me up and asks for news and I can never remember stuff... Ooh! My next book, A Pocketful of Eyes, is coming out in Australia in May.

Please describe your writing environment.

I have a lovely study with a desk and bookshelves that gets used for... sewing. And I do all my writing on the couch in the living room. It's a comfy couch, and close to the kitchen for cups of tea, and I can see out into the courtyard we share with our neighbours and many cats.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Diana Wynne Jones. She's been my favourite author ever since I was little, and despite putting out a book a year, she's never disappointed. I love the way her books weave magic into the ordinariness of everyday life, and I love her humour and beautiful characterisation and mind-bending plotting.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I'm an only child, so have always been a big reader. When I think back to my childhood, I don't so much remember beach holidays and school, I remember Prydain and Middle Earth and Tortall. So it seemed natural for me to want to MAKE stories as well. When I was five my grandmother asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told her an author, but she's a bit deaf and thought I said "a wharfie". We sorted it out eventually.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read. Don't resist editorial changes. Be sparing with adverbs. Ask yourself what each character wants, and what they need, and how those two things relate to each other. Let your characters solve their own problems, and bring about the conclusions to their own stories. Read more, and don't be afraid of being influenced by what you read.

How does your family feel about having a writer in the family? Do they read your books?

It's old news in my family, because my mother is a children's author (her name is Carole Wilkinson and she wrote the Dragon Keeper books). It's great having another writer in the family - we share a lot of ideas and problems.

Do you write full time? What did you do before you became a writer? Or Still do?

I've just become a full-time writer! Before that I managed insideadog.com.au, a website for teenagers about books and reading. It was the second-best job ever. Now I have the best one. I'm very excited to be combining writing with study this year as well - my PhD will be half novel, half dissertation, focussing on YA literature, teenagers and politics.

What is your writing process? Do you outline, fly by the seat of your pants or a combination of both?

I studied screenwriting at University, so I'm a meticulous planner. Once I have a basic premise, I break that into three (or four, or five) acts, then plan scenes and chapters from there. I do most of this using Scrivener, which is the best writing software out there.

Did you pick the title for your book? If it has been changed please tell us about the process.

Titles are the hardest thing ever. I don't think I've ever had a book published with the same title it started with. Pink was originally Pink is for Girls. Scatterheart was originally East of the Sun. What started off as The Army of Lost Children became Angel Fish in Australia, and Company of Angels in the UK. The (Not Quite) Perfect Boyfriend began life as Spelling Mistakes.

Do you like to mix genres?

I do! I think that's the great thing about YA, is you can write whatever you like. For example, my next book, A Pocketful of Eyes, is what my editor is calling a rom-crime, or a rom-com meets murder mystery detective thingy. Set in the taxidermy department of a natural history museum.

Tell us all about "The Call" or "The Email"!

My very first "Call" happened in 2004.

LILI is sitting at her desk. The phone rings. It is Andrew, a publisher who she knows through her WORK.

ANDREW: Lili! I've been reading these articles you've had published lately. And these book reviews. I think you're a good writer.

LILI: Thanks!

ANDREW: Do you want to try writing a book for us?

LILI: Um. Yes.

ANDREW: About Joan of Arc.

LILI: Um. What?

ANDREW: Joan of Arc. Non fiction for teenagers. Write me a proposal, we'll have lunch. Bye!

*phone goes dead*

LILI: Gosh. I'm going to be a writer. A writer! This is the best day ever! Except... I know nothing about Joan of Arc.

I didn't. I knew she was French, and I knew she was dead. Then I did a bucketload of research and wrote my first book.

How many books do you plan on writing each year?

In the past I've always written one a year, but I'm just starting to work on a junior fiction series, so hopefully I can expand that to one YA novel and two junior titles. And a Phd. Easy. *chews nails*

What are you hobbies?

I like to sew, and watch quality TV (at the moment we're re-watching Buffy from the beginning, and have just started Mad Men and Chuck), and occasionally play video games. I like Scrabble, although lots of people won't play with me because I have a selfish tendency to win. I like cheese.

How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?

I like to research. My first work of fiction, Scatterheart, was set in 1814 London and Australia, so that required a HEAP of research. Pink didn't have so much, because it was largely based on my own high school, so I just had to do lots of remembering. But Pocketful of Eyes has required much research into animals and insects. Did you know that author Patricia Highsmith used to carry snails around in her bra when she went on plane flights?

What's your favorite drink?

I live in Melbourne, Australia, which is pretty renowned for having some of the best coffee in the world. But I don't drink coffee. I have the occasional cup of tea, and am partial to a glass of red wine with dinner... but the real winner for me is plain old H2O, because the other thing we do really well in Melbourne is water. I reckon we have some of the tastiest tap-water in the world.

Do you have an agent?

Yep, my agent is Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary. She's awesome! There's been a lot of paperwork to get things to go back and forth between the US and Australia (taxes and administration are the worst things about being a writer), but now it's wonderful.

What main genre do you write in?

Teen / Young Adult

Thanks for having me!

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