# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
What a great question! There are actually pretty interesting stories behind all my books. I find inspiration in a whole range of different places.
Stumped was inspired by a talk given by an Australian sex-worker at the premiere of a film about her work. She was so inspiring and positive in the way she talked about making sex accessible to even those with the most severe disabilities, I was inspired to write a book dealing with sex and disability.
An Unstill Life was inspired by a newspaper article I read about a local school forbidding same-sex couples at their leaver’s ball. That part of the story rolled about in my head for a long time before something I saw on TV or in a film (I can’t remember exactly which now) gave me the second layer of story I needed to feel ready to write.
The Sidewalk’s Regrets came into my head fully formed after something someone said in a documentary I saw about one of my old musician friends. I started writing the book the night after seeing the film and it was probably one of the fastest books I’ve ever written. Weirdly, when I went back and watched the documentary again after writing the book, I couldn’t figure out what it was that had inspired me to write the book!
The genesis of Chasing the Taillights is kind of a funny story. I had an idea for an adult book I was going to write, but when I started thinking about the characters and realizing what an intense relationship they had, I needed to dig into the reason why. And then I ended up writing a book about these characters when they were fifteen or so years younger. Maybe one day I’ll actually get around to writing that adult book I initially planned to write…
# What inspires/inspired your creativity?
I find inspiration all over the place – in books I read, films I see, newspaper articles, places I visit, people I meet. I never know exactly when a story idea might start nibbling at the back of my brain. But when I need to chase inspiration, nothing works better than a long walk, especially on the beach.
# How do you deal with creative block?
I usually have more than one project I’m working on at any one time, so if I get stuck on one, I move onto working on something else. Or I write a short story. Or I do something completely un-writing related like baking a cake.
# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
There are so many mistakes you can make, but I feel like the biggest one is for your characters to have no real goal. I’ve read too many books where characters just drift through scene after scene with no real purpose. It needs to be clear from the start that the characters want something and the rest of the book has to follow them as they try to get this thing they want, while the world throws up obstacle after obstacle to them getting it.
# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
I’m entirely the wrong person to ask about titles. I’m terrible at them. My books usually spend most of the drafting stage being called Chris or Andrew or Juliet… As for covers, I’m lucky that my publisher has a fantastic cover designer and is really responsive when I give feedback. I love all the covers for my books!
# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
Bad reviews are just part of the deal. I know a lot of writers say they don’t read their reviews, but I do. Sometimes they hurt, but if you’re open to learning, you can learn from them. Obviously it’s too late to change the book that’s been reviewed, but there may be things you can take on board for future books.
# How has your creation process improved over time?
I don’t know that it has, to be honest…. I am a horribly chaotic writer. I can’t outline because if I do, I know what’s going to happen and I don’t want to write that story anymore. I also rarely start writing a book from the beginning. I usually have a single scene that demands to be written, usually somewhere toward the middle of the book, so I write that and then work both ways from there. I do always try to write an ending early on too, so I have somewhere to aim for.
# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I write books that I want to read. Growing up, there wasn’t a whole lot of choice when it came to YA books, and they tended to shy away from challenging, difficult topics. But life is challenging and difficult sometimes, and navigating that stuff is hard, especially for teenagers who are still trying to figure out who they are and what their place in the world might be. I’d like to hope that by putting these things on the page and showing characters pulling through them might help people facing similar challenges in their own life.
# What role do emotions play in creativity?
Emotions are important to any creative pursuit. There’s something that feels hollow or wrong about any piece of art, be it a painting or a poem or a novel that has been created by someone who wasn’t wholly emotionally invested in it. There’s a reason why they say we bleed for our art!
# Do you have any creativity tricks?
It’s not really a trick, but I think just setting aside time each day to spend on your creative project is important. Even if it’s just half an hour. Guard this time and don’t use it for anything other than your creative pursuit. It will quickly become a habit and your brain will learn that this is its time to be creative,
# What are your plans for future books?
I have several projects at various stages of completion right now, so my plan is to finish these and get them out into the world. I also have an idea for a new book that I’m itching to write, although it scares me a little because the main character is electively mute. My books tend to be pretty dialogue-heavy, so writing a book in which the main character doesn’t speak will be a challenge!
# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
Quirky eh? Okay… I’ll bite.
My three favourite vegetables all start with the letter A – asparagus, avocado and artichokes.
I’ve lived in eight different countries around the world and currently live in New Zealand.
I paid my way through university working as a chef (and I still love to cook).
My first published writing was a story about a witch that was printed in the “kid stuff’ pages of my local paper when I was six.
There’s a cat chasing its tail tattooed around my belly button.