Q&A with Danielle Binks | Clunes Booktown Festival

Another author we’re super excited to see at the Clunes Booktown Festival is the wonderful Danielle Binks! Danielle is the editor of Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, and she’s also a literary agent with Jacinta Di Mase. She’ll be appearing on the Reading to Escape, Or Face, Reality panel, as well as the Writing for the Millennial Mind panel!

We had the pleasure of asking Danielle a few questions ahead of the festival, so we hope you enjoy this very special Q&A.

Have you been to Clunes Booktown Festival before? What do you love most about regional book festivals, or what are you most looking forward to?

A: I have never been! I’ve always looked on via social media with *great* envy (your channel did NOT help that, btw! I was extremely jelly of your very picturesque bookish shenanigans of last year especially!) So I am absolutely thrilled to be going on my very first Clunes Booktown adventure – and I apologise in advance for all the bookish goodness that’s going to be blanketing my Instagram feed *especially*!

I am looking forward to just being in amongst it, I’d love to find some great second-hand book bargains and just generally appreciating the love that this regional town has for celebrating literature. I think we often get into this misconception and inner-city bubble thinking that Good Books and Good Book Discussion *only* happen in the CBD (and, I mean, Melbourne *is* the City of Literature) but arts culture thrives in all corners of a country, and in our country particularly. I’ve been all over in recent years, and I can tell you that’s 100% true – from Broome to Booktown, Australia is a nation of literature lovers and Clunes is just one particularly brilliant example of that love.

We’re really looking forward to seeing you on the ‘Reading to Escape, or Face, Reality’ panel! Do you find yourself more drawn to stories that help you escape the modern world, or do you prefer to immerse yourself in the lives of fictional characters living in the present day, or a bit of both?

A: I don’t really think it’s an either/or so I’d definitely say a bit of both. I’m angry right now with what’s going on in the world – and I (like most people, probably) want to both embrace that anger, not suppress it; but I also sometimes want a little reprieve from it. It’s why I love the romance genre; because I genuinely think seeking out pleasure and happy-endings is a revolutionary, subversive act during times of despair. Especially when there’s also a dimension of seeking out diverse and inclusive romance stories, that send a message that *everyone* deserves love, and to love whoever they want.

At the same time, I do want to keep up the resistance – and read books that fuel my anger, and equip me with the language and knowledge to fight, respect and better understand other people’s experiences. It’s one reason I’m so honoured to be one of Carly Findlay’s agents, who helped her release the activist-memoir Say Hello. It’s why Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give is a modern-classic, in my eyes. And it’s why my own writing touches on activism – particularly youth activism – and examines historic moments of injustice and inequality. But more on that later

I do love fantasy and science-fiction too; but I more embrace those books, film and TV shows that meld our modern struggles, with the allegories that genre-fiction can afford. So I love Melina Marchetta’s The Lumatere Chronicles, which is essentially a high-fantasy trilogy about refugees and displaced peoples. I also adore the ABC television seriesCleverman; a sci-fi show about racism, asylum seekers and border protection. Or How to Bee by Bren MacDibble; this super-clever middle-grade cli-fi (climate-fiction) book set in the future, when bees are extinct. Ditto Highway Bodies by Alison Evans; a zombie apocalypse story featuring a range of queer and gender non-conforming teens. I don’t think loving genre always means wanting to “ignore” or escape what’s going on in the real-world – I often think it’s the most poetic genre for seeking justice, and more closely examining the here and now.

You’re also appearing on the panel ‘Writing for the Millennial Mind’. What kind of narratives do you think are particularly important in YA for teens at the moment, and do you think this has changed over the last few years?

A: Oh, I find this really tricky – I’m both an agent and an author, so it’s kind of weird that I get a *very* little say in the kinds of stories teens will be reading now, and into the future – and I do recognise the immense weight and privilege that I have. For that reason, I’m very focused on actually asking young people – whenever I get a chance – “what do you want?” That’s the big thing for me – is getting out of young people’s way, letting them have a say, and listening when they tell me what they want and what they care about. Then I take that, and I do try to interpret it into the stories I seek and tell. And I think that’s probably the biggest change over the last few years – teens do have the channels and platforms now, with which to tell “us” (publishing realms) what they want and what they love. The best thing we can do really, is listen.

Check out the Clunes Booktown Festival program here!

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