Hi Steph, thanks for letting me interview you. You should know that I’m a huge fan, considering I’m a Australian teenaged writer and all. Here’s my first question: when did you first consider that you might actually publish a novel?
Thank you! I first thought about publishing a novel when I was about seven. This was when I vowed that I would become an author and buy a house (among other goals. I also wanted to be a singer and a dancer and an artist and a marine biologist and an actor and a psychologist, but none of these other goals have worked out yet). I kind of overestimated how much money authors earn and underestimated how much houses cost. I have managed to achieve the first part, at least. I didn’t at any point believe that I would be published quite as soon as I was, though I really, really wanted to be an author. When I finished writing a novel (which I’d been attempting to write since I was seven – the ones I wrote back then were rather a lot shorter than novels are supposed to be, I was only seven after all), I figured that I might as well send my work out and see what happened.
Do you think it was harder to publish your book as an Australian? And what advice would you give to aspiring Australian authors?
I haven’t had much experience publishing overseas, so I can’t really say whether it’s harder as an Australian. I think it’s really easy to see publishing as this mysterious and impossible thing when you are unpublished, which I don’t think is the case – you don’t have to know anyone in publishing, or have a qualification as a writer, or have previously published short stories, or an agent, or anything like that in order to get a book deal. Publishing journeys can be simple and straightforward or lengthy and complicated or a bit of both, and getting a deal relies on the right story falling into the right person’s hands at the right time. I’d advise aspiring authors to never give up, to know that their stories are worthwhile, and that publishing is random and bizarre but it’ll still be random and bizarre once you do have a book deal and are trying to remain published. Having your first book published isn’t really the end goal – you’ll still have lots of challenges after that, and everything you learnt in the lead up to getting that first deal about writing and publishing will be very useful to you.
You’re almost twenty now. But did being a teenager affect your publishing journey, at all? How did you balance everything?
I’m ten months off twenty! Still nineteen! I don’t think being a teenage affected my publishing journey especially, apart from my mum having to sign paperwork and accompany me to various events (it’s sad being an adult and not getting to take her along to events anymore! My mum is the best wing-woman ever). It’s been quite rare for people to treat me differently based on my youth, and I don’t think it’s affected me negatively very much at all (and it’s a marketing angle). Completing high school by correspondence made it a lot easier for me to balance school with writing and the business of being a writer, but it was still challenging at times.
I know that I love creating diverse characters in my stories. What’s your favourite part about writing?
I also love creating characters! I think it’s very tricky for me to narrow down what my favourite part of writing is – there are so many marvellous things about writing. I love being able to create and control a world, bringing into existence the stories that I would love to read and the characters I would love to read about and the plots that I think would be fun. When I speak in schools to groups of kids who aren’t interested in writing, I try to sell it as “the most excellent video game in existence” but I don’t think I fool them. Controlling an imaginary universe, and then someone else being able to envisage that universe when they read your book – it’s pretty magic. And very low-cost, compared to movies and the like.
What is your favourite book/book series? If it’s too hard to choose…you may have three.
This is an impossible question, and it’s an impossible question even if you let me have three – I could probably choose a hundred, and the list would change weekly. Let’s go with: On The Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley and Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell.
Quick! Chocolate or lollies?
Chocolate. Really, though, I’d prefer cake. Or a muffin. I like baked goods.
And the last question to round it all off: what’s the best part about living in Australia?
Having not spent much time outside of Australia it’s hard to say what the most wonderful thing about Australia is – I can tell you lots of wonderful things about living in Queensland (the weather! the beaches! everyone is very relaxed!), which I suppose can be applied to lots of Australian places. It’s just generally a really good island.
You can find Steph at her website here.