Today we have the one and only Jaclyn Moriarty and her never-ending list of brilliant #LoveOzYA recommendations! From law student to author, Jaclyn shares her time travel secrets and more!
Why is #LoveOZYA important to you? What’s the first Aussie YA novel you ever read?
Excessive patriotism can be dangerous, but so can a cultural inferiority complex. In Australia, we have legitimate grounds to be proud of our literature across the spectrum of genres and styles. We also have some of the best YA authors in the world. Yet we never seem to notice this. We are too busy thinking that other countries are better at being clever or artistic than we are. It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate our own literature, especially our young adult literature, for the sake of readers, writers, young people, our national identity and because it’s good to have basic observational skills.
I read Playing Beatie Bowe and My Brilliant Career as a teenager and both were pivotal books for me. But I think the first time I was conscious that a book was ‘Aussie YA’, with a voice that was almost disconcertingly familiar to me, was John Marsden’s So Much To Tell You. It was a revelation.
What’s one #LoveOzYA book you would recommend to all readers?
The Guy, the Girl, The Artist and His Ex by Gabrielle Williams, Frogkisser by Garth Nix, also Lirael by Garth Nix, Laurinda by Alice Pung, Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar, Letters from the Inside by John Marsden, Don’t make me choose just one book, I am an extremely indecisive girl and there are many, many other great #LoveOzYA books that I love in addition to these by Jaclyn Moriarty.
How did you feel when you were asked to write a story for Begin, End, Begin, and had you written many short stories before?
Excited and delighted. Also a bit nervous because of the responsibility. I grew up writing short stories, and I’ve written short stories for a few different anthologies.
What inspired you to write the story that you did? Did you ever consider that idea for a full-length novel?
I’d been wanting to write a novel about a time travel agency for years, and especially liked the idea of people using the agency both for adventures in history and for practical purposes, like going back in time to see exactly what you did with your keys (or phone, or glasses, or any of the other things I’m always losing). When Danielle asked me to write a story about ‘firsts’, I thought of first kisses, and the idea came to me of traveling back in time to watch your own first kiss. I’d still like to write a novel about the time travel agency.
What inspired you to be a writer? Was there a specific moment in your life when you realised that writing was something you wanted to do with your life?
I loved writing stories from when I was five or six, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. But there was a specific moment when I made a decision to make writing happen: I was in a sublet apartment in New Haven, Connecticut and I was sitting on the mattress on the floor and listening to an answering machine message. I’d just finished doing a Masters in Law, and the phone message was from a guy at a New York law firm, offering me a full-time job. I already had a place in Cambridge University’s PhD program, but only a two-year scholarship for a three to four-year degree, so there was a big risk of running out of money halfway through and getting myself into a beautiful crisis. The New York job would make me a lot of money, was in exactly the area of law I loved, and would sound super cool to the people back home. I knew it was the right choice to take the New York job. I was about to make that decision when I had a sudden rush of intuition: if you take the New York job you will disappear into the law and never be a writer. So I went to Cambridge instead, and wrote my first novel while I was there.
Had you met all of the other contributing authors before being asked to write a short story for Begin, End, Begin? Whose story were you most surprised by?
I just ran my eyes down the list of contributing authors and I am pleased to say that I had met almost all of them. It is very strange but all of the Australian YA authors I have met have been lovely and smart.
I loved all the stories in the book, which did not surprise me. I think I was most surprised by Will Kostakis’s because I am used to his writing being more realistic (a brilliant concept); also by Lili Wilkinson’s because I didn’t know she could be so surreal (a beautiful story); by Michael Pryor’s story because it was bitingly political (it has stayed in my mind); and Danielle Binks’s story because it was so different to the others in the book (a lovely, gentle mood). I could go on. I told you not to make me choose just one thing.
How different is the story you wrote to your existing work? Do you normally write in the same genre, or were you trying something new?
I usually write in the epistolary format, or at least have huge amounts of correspondence between characters going on. But this story does not have a single note or letter, so that surprised me. My earlier books (the Ashbury/Brookfield series) were realistic fiction with an occasional fantastical edge and my most recent was a fantasy trilogy. This short story is maybe a fusion of approaches.
What was the first book you ever saw yourself in? What parts of yourself do you see in the story you wrote?
I can’t remember ever seeing myself in a book, I think I am too weird. But Clover, the second sister in What Katy Did reminded me of myself because she was a fairly quiet, but reasonably good-natured and occasionally funny second sister to the more dazzling personality of her older sister, Katy. I think I was always a fairly quiet, but reasonably good-natured and occasionally funny second sister to my dazzling older sister, Liane. I know that What Katy Did is not an Australian book so this answer is, in some ways, contrary to the spirit of #LoveOzYA. But it is honest.
Also, the first time I thought an author had got into my head and read my mind was John Marsden’s So Much To Tell You and Letters from the Inside.
What does your writing schedule look like? Do you like to write in a specific place, or at a specific time?
First I take my ten-year-old son to school, then I walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and back. Next, I sit in a café with coloured textas and notepads and my laptop computer, and do some planning and some writing. Around noon, I walk home, read a book while I eat lunch, then I write at my desk until it’s time to collect my son from school.
Lately, he’s been doing Little Athletics one evening a week so I drop him off there, walk along the beach to a café, and do an hour or so of writing while I look out to the sea. I don’t get that much writing done because I keep stopping to take photos of the twilight ocean. None of the photos has been good enough to put on Instagram yet.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Do you feel as though there’s a big difference between writing short stories and writing novels?
My advice is to read far and wide, across every genre and style, including poetry and science. When I was young, I used to write short stories and novels at the same time, and I found that the stories were good exercise because they sharpened my mind and helped me focus on form and structure, while the novels were fun because they allowed me to free fall. (Which doesn’t necessarily mean they were good novels.)
What books have you already published? Are you working on something right now?
My Ashbury/Brookfield books are epistolary high school novels and include Feeling Sorry for Celia, Finding Cassie Crazy, The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie, and Dreaming of Amelia. I’ve written a novel for grown-ups called I have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes and a fantasy series called ‘The Colours of Madeleine trilogy.’
My new book, The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone is an adventure story about a ten-year-old girl who must visit ten different aunts across the Kingdoms and Empires, delivering gifts to them. It will be published in November this year. I’ve also just finished a grown-up book about a self-help group that promises to teach the secret to human flight.
If you could write a book with one author of your choice, who would that author be and why?
I have too many favourite authors! Many names just rushed into mind! If I have to choose, I would say my sisters, Liane and Nicola, because that would be a fun, sisterly thing to do, and promoting it would just be hanging out with my sisters, and my parents would be so pleased with us. Also because Liane owes me a book: she and I started writing one together when I was 14 and she was 16. I wrote the first chapter and she praised it effusively and said she couldn’t wait to write the next chapter and then she went out partying for the next two years while I waited at home, first in excited suspense, and then with hope slowly fading, for her next chapter. (Look at how I’ve painted myself vis-à-vis my sister in these answers. I will need to work on reframing my identity in future Q&As.)
A massive thank you for answering our questions, Jaclyn! We can’t wait to read your novel with Liane. We’re sure it will be brilliant!
If you needed another small push to purchase Begin, End, Begin, consider this is! This #LoveOzYA tribute features ten amazing, unique stories from ten wonderful Australian authors. Oh, and it’s also our June Book of The Month!
‘Slice’ image sourced from Gin and Co.