As a part of our series of #LoveOzYA interviews for #LoveOzYA Month, today we have a lovely Q&A with Emily Gale to share with you! We adored her most recent release, The Other Side of Summer, and we can’t wait to get our hands on what she publishes next! We hope you enjoy this interview!
The Other Side Of Summer is such a gorgeous read. How did you go about publishing it? Did you face any difficulties?
It wasn’t written to contract but I was hoping that Penguin Random House, who published my first Australian novel, Steal My Sunshine, would be interested. That said, I was gobsmacked by their enthusiasm for it. The Other Side of Summer is the most personal book I’ve written so everything that’s happened with it, good and bad, has affected me deeply. The support from my publisher has been wonderful, from superb editorial work to a commitment to publish its sister-book, which is coming next year. Previously I’ve had to be very persistent and take a lot of rejection to get a novel published, but this book was my lucky star.
That’s so great to hear! We’re definitely very excited to get our hands on the book you’ll be releasing next year. If it’s anything like The Other Side of Summer, we’re going to absolutely devour it.
One is the first things we noticed about you, is that you’re a major advocate for all things #LoveOzYA. What inspired you to support this?
My feelings have altered over time but here’s where I’m at currently. When I moved to Australia from the UK ten years ago, the only Australian YA author who’d become a must-buy for me was Jaclyn Moriarty (still a huge favourite), so I had a huge education ahead of me and I’ve devoted that decade to getting to know Australian literature. I’m passionate about so much of the writing that I’ve discovered during that time. What I found as a book buyer for Readings, which was a life-changing job, was the uphill battle faced by our small market.
Readings has an international reputation but at its heart it has always supported local writers, so that became my goal. In order to do that we had to realise what YA in this country is up against – the enormous influence and marketing power of the USA – and at the inception of #LoveOzYA what we decided is that we needed a united community to gain more prominence in our own backyard. So to me the community is about joining forces in our enthusiasm for, and desire to protect, Australian YA.
I see this in a couple of ways though. Much of it has to be about the actual book industry and how it operates – publishers investing in local books, booksellers and bloggers and librarians supporting that. But I think the way we sell the idea to the teenage audience needs a different angle. It’s not enough to say to Australian teens, “you should read this because it’s Australian” or “you should support local literature”. What does that really mean to a lot of young people? We don’t want to make it sound like medicine, plus the idea that something is going to appeal just because it’s Australian feels like a wide assumption. Perhaps it’s an idea that appeals to a lot of the adult YA readers, but let’s avoid any “shoulds” when we talk to teenagers about what to read for pleasure – they have enough of that at school.
To me there’s a distinction to be made between LoveOzYA in the industry (we must invest in it, we have a duty to protect it and preserve its distinctive qualities) and how we talk about this with teen readers. Please forgive my current messy thoughts on this topic – they are, as always, a work-in-progress.
What advice would you give to those wanting to spread the love for OzYA? Where would you suggest they start?
I suppose I’d have a think about what you can contribute to the industry that’s particular to your skills and passions. For example there’s the now-famous Bookish Manicurist, who uses her amazing artistic skills to paint nails that match beautiful book covers. There are Instagram accounts like Emily Mead whose photos are just stunning, and blogs like Written Word Worlds that go beyond book reviews into short accessible articles or lists. If the way my teenage daughter spends her time is anything to go by, we need more wonderful vloggers, too. WHSmith in the UK picked up on this audience and engaged Zoella to be the face of a YA book club. Be creative in your thinking and just go for it. I think these things take a huge amount of energy and usually take a while to get off the ground, but utilising one of your passions mean it should be hugely enjoyable for you, not just beneficial to others.
We couldn’t agree more! The #LoveOzYA community isn’t just comprised of the authors who write these books, it’s also comprised of all the librarians, and booksellers, and bloggers, and bookstagrammers, who play a role in promoting new books and sharing their favourite reads. No matter how small one’s actions might seem, it’s us as a whole that creates this amazing community.
When writing, do you start with a plan? Or do you write as scenes come to you?
I don’t plan at all at first. Whenever I’ve tried to (because it sounds like the sensible thing to do) I’ve found I ignore the plan soon after beginning the first draft. I start with a character and a basic premise. Firstly it’s all about getting to know that character and those around them, so I probably get to around 20k words before I decide to plot more seriously instead of writing by instinct alone. With my latest book, the plot is quite complicated because there are several points-of-view and it took me four attempts to complete a first draft – I’d get really close to the finish line and realise that I wasn’t happy, and then I’d start again. I find if I try to plot out the whole novel early on it feels too contrived so I’m stuck with this messier process, which means I write a hell of a lot of words that never see the light of day.
That’s really interesting, and just goes to show how different each author’s process is!
Speaking of authors, what’s once #LoveOzYA read that you would recommend everyone to read?
I have so many personal favourites but the book I’d most love young people (and adults) in Australia to read is Sister Heart by Sally Morgan. It’s a verse novel about the Stolen Generation that slips into your heart with ease and has amazing texture and wisdom.
Thank you so much, Emily!
Emily Gale has been involved in the children’s book industry for twenty years, firstly as an editor, later a book-buyer and now a full-time writer. Her writing includes three novels – Girl, Aloud (2009), Steal My Sunshine (2013) and The Other Side of Summer (2016) – and Eliza Boom’s Diary (2014) for younger readers. Her next novel will be published in August 2018 by Penguin Random House.