Today we’re joined by Kaz Delany, a local author of YA fiction. Kaz’s book Dead Actually won Favourite Paranormal for 2012 at the Romance Readers of Australia Awards and an Aurelis Award for best YA novel in 2012. And this month the sequel was released.
- Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi Stacey! Thank you for having me here. I’ve been really looking forward to it! Moi? Wow – is this the time to pretend to be bashful? Maybe not… Okay, My alter ego, Kerri Lane, and I have written 69 published books between us. Kerri is way more prolific, because she writes for younger kids for publishers such as Rigby, Harcourt, Macmillan, Blake etc, and therefore the books are much shorter. She wrote 7 books during 2013, whereas, as Kaz, I wrote only one…
I’ve been published for about 18 years – give or take, but I think I’ve been writing all my life. I’m a long way off world domination, J but I am pubbed in extensively in the US and UK and also in France and Germany which is a blast. Despite that, I do also have to have another job, and that’s tutoring English and literacy subjects – specifically, writing and grammar. I formerly tutored Creative Writing for Charles Sturt Uni and that was such a fun job as I got to travel to all the campuses and their affiliate education centres. I also tutored three subjects for the Australian College of Journalism for many years and wrote two courses while I was with them. So, as you can see – everything I do is writing based in some form or another. I’m such a writing tragic!
- You have a brand new release, tell us about Almost Dead.
Is it bad to be in love with your own book? If the answer is yes, then I’m bad. End of story. Sometimes you write a book that’s just special and this was is it. It won’t be the last and it wasn’t the first, but at the moment it’s the favourite by a long, long nose.
I’m very proud of Almost Dead. It’s a connected book to my first in this loosely based series – Dead Actually – where we first met Macey, the protag of this book. In my humble opinion, it’s great escapist reading. It has a bit of everything. Scary stuff, humour, romance… There’s a really creepy stalker mystery storyline that’s possibly my favourite part of the book. (Who doesn’t love a good whodunit?) But there’s also family drama with a capital D, and a really toe tingling romance. Oh and did I mention a very cute and very cheeky ghost who is a younger version of Simon Baker in the Mentalist? And an even cuter surfer boy (the Forever Guy), a ditzy but scarily accurate psychic and – O.M.G how could I forget the shoes? Fabulous shoes! And all played on a glittering, glistening Gold Coast canvas.
Hopefully you’ll laugh and cry and just feel good at the end. That’s what I was aiming for anyway! And can I add that this is a crossover book which means it’s for adults as well as teens? In fact I have way more adult fans contact me than I do teenager fans!! Amazing!
- Who is your favourite character from the Dead series?
Such a toughie but as I conduct a slide-by of the lineup in my head there’s probably one who stands out the most. Still, let me just make one more pass… I mean, Willow from D,A? Willow is the moral centre of that book – she always tries so hard to do the right thing, but stuff just keeps getting dumped on her. She’s smart and a sweetie and never a victim, so I love her. But then what about Seth, her guy? Seth is a dream. Love him. Nick from the Almost Dead? OMG what’s not to love about Nick. He’s sooo cheeky and that grin could melt the Arctic – but could you ever really rely on Nick? Maybe later, but not just yet. But Finn from Almost Dead? Now there’s a hottie you can rely on and swoon over at the same time. Finn could be my fave hero yet! But the ultimate crown has to go to Macey Pentecost. Macey has a brittle coating that makes her hard to get to know and hard to write! She’s whip smart, she’s sassy and savvy – and her mouth will always get her into trouble. She takes no prisoners and she’s very sure of herself. But she’s loyal to the core, and has a very well developed sense of Social Justice – and when she’s on your side? Look out everybody else! I adore Macey. When I grow up I want to be her. (And have her wardrobe!!)
- Is this series finished now or can we expect more from Willow, Macey and co?
I hope so. Publishing is in a state of flux and at the moment there are no certainties. But there’s another book almost done – so fingers crossed! That said, I suspect this next book will see out that particular storyline. I’ll be very sad to see it go though. It’s been such a fun ride.
- I love the premise for the Dead book, girls who can see ghosts. What pulled you to write this series?
Stacey, I’m a sucker for a good ghost story. I love them. Ghostly happenings add another dimension to a mystery as it’s not black and white and it makes evidence harder to prove. “The Dead Girl told me” doesn’t go down well when making your argument… J Added to that I love ‘story’. I love a good, involved plot that keeps me guessing and keeps me on my toes. So, quite apart from the entertainment value, these ghostly beings deepen the plot and make life more difficult for my poor heroines. And I also am hooked on the phenomenon of psychic ability. Is it real? Or is it not? I’ve been studying this for many years and have been shocked by some of the amazing accuracies I’ve encountered; things people could not have known or predicted so accurately. (Like insisting a friend of mine was going to be okay even though as far as I knew she WAS okay. The psychic was quite distressed and more distressed by my lack of empathy for her own distress. The next day, I got a phone call from a relative of my friend to say she’d tried to take her own life the night before, but help got to her in time. I mean, how can you explain that?) But I’ve also been just as shocked by so many who just got it so wrong. My findings? I truly believe that there are people with the gift of prophesy. I think they are few and far between – but I believe they exist. Macey of course, being Macey, is a complete cynic, so she too encounters some shocks.
- What’s next for you?
I have a mid grade series about to wing its way to my agent. Fingers crossed. Then I need to finish the next of the Dead books. Right after that I have two YAs that are calling me. One is more of a quest with loads of mystery and the other is a very dark mystery that will probably get the gong as it seems to be calling the loudest. It’s kept me awake the past few nights. It’s untitled which is a bit weird for me, usually I get titles fairly quickly. But I have the first line and I think it’s a corker! (Sorry for the teaser!!!) J
- What advice would you give other Aussie YA writers out there who are trying to get published?
Three things that I think are the most important:
1. Make sure you’re writing YA for the right reasons and not because it seems to be a hot, happening genre. That means you have to truly respect and like teenagers. If you don’t then you’ll be spotted as a fraud from a mile off. If you do like/love them but are feeling out of touch – spend time with some of them. Hang out where they hang out and listen to them. Eavesdrop! Dig deep within yourself and find that inner teen – it’s lurking there. Remember what it was like – the thrill and the spills. It’s altogether the toughest, yet most amazingly, wonderful time of your life. It’s the most treacherous terrain you’ll ever tread – but the most fertile learning ground. And as such one of the most fertile areas for finding unique story lines.
2. Read YA extensively. Then go to the reviews like Goodreads and all the fabbo review sites like this one, not just to discover what’s popular, but to find out what readers are saying about the books you just read. Research! Reading within your chosen genre will keep you smack bang in the middle of the game.
3. Enter competitions that are worthwhile. I recommend the CYA (Children/Young Adult) competition and mid year (Australia) conference. Their annual comp has just opened for this year (and you don’t have to attend the Brisbane conference to take part) . http://www.cyaconference.com/ I think the deadline is end of April so you have time. These are judged first by published authors and then editors of the major houses. Many sales have been made via this conference/competition. In fact I met my agent at a CYA conference!
4. Tossing in a fourth. Never give up and never stop believing in yourself. This industry is quick to knock you down, so you need to grow a tough skin. Remember – it’s not personal. But if you make it personal then you’ll end up failing because you’ll have let ‘them’ beat you. Treat everything as a learning curve, and as soon as you send something away, start a fresh story. That way there’s always hope and always a distraction. Trust me, it helps. I’ve done it for years.
- And a question I totally lifted off your website because I thought it was fun and everyone should hear the answer. If Kaz ruled the world…
LOL! If Kaz ruled the world … it would be a safe place and there would be no war. Children would be adored and treated like princes and princesses; the elderly like kings and queens. There would be plenty of work and food for all. Citizens of the world would rediscover their self respect and self belief. Her books would the top of all Australian, UK, US (and world) bestselling lists. Lobsters would be affordable.
You know, I wrote this ages ago, but it’s still what I believe!
Thanks for joining us, Kaz and good luck with your new release.
For our readers, you can find out more about Kaz here;
Thank you so much Stacey! This was loads of fun! Good luck everybody – both with your own works if you write, with finding fabbo books to read if you don’t – and in the draw for a copy of Almost Dead! And thank you for supporting Aussie authors!
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Stacey Nash is a reader, writer, and lover of YA literature. Her debut novel, Forget Me Not releases 17 February 2014 from Entranced Publishing. You can find out more on Twitter or Facebook or on her Website