So today I'm doing a very special post which I'm literally buzzing with excitement about- I had the amazing oppertunity to do a Q&A with the fantastic Melissa Keil, author of Life in Outer Space, one of my favourite reads from 2012 (I was very lucky to receive an ARC- the novel comes out February this year, in Australia.)
My review of Life in Outer Space.And to make this whole thing extra awesome? I've been given one copy to give away! (Open AU/NZ only) Lets get to the questions and, more importantly, the answers!
Have you always wanted to be an author?
When I was a kid, I always loved the idea of being a writer; when I left high school I contemplated studying creative writing, but didn’t end up applying for any courses. I never really considered writing seriously until I started working in publishing. I wrote a lot when I was younger, but (apart from dabbling in bad poetry), I stopped writing when I became a teenager. I guess I never really saw it as something a normal person could do – other people wrote books, not anyone I knew. It was only once I started working in publishing – once I started meeting other authors and realising that normal people did do this thing for a job – that I started writing again.
What was your first job?
I’ve had lots of different jobs – it took me a very long time to find what I wanted to do! I worked as a waitress through uni (all seven years that it took me to finish my degrees), and did lots of volunteer work backstage in community theatre, which I loved, as well as an assortment of odd jobs. After uni I was (very briefly) as a high school teacher, but was never very good at it (I loved the actual teaching part, but was hopeless at classroom management!) My first publishing job was as a production/editorial assistant and general office dogsbody. I got very lucky to be given a shot at being trained in editorial. It was actually a very lucky serious of events that lead me to publishing as a career, but I really can’t imagine doing anything other than making books.
Is there a story behind you writing Life in Outer Space?
I had been working on a completed manuscript and was in the process of editing and redrafting it, but I’d been working on it for quite a while and was feeling a little burnt out. So I decided to set it aside and try and write something new; I had no idea what the ‘new’ thing was going to be, only that I wanted to write a romantic comedy. I used to meet a writer friend of mine every Sunday to write in a café, and this Sunday, I happened to see a poster for a horror film club on the café wall. Out of nowhere, the voice of Sam, my main character, was just there. The story really evolved from him.
You wrote and published a picture book before LiOS – why did you decide to go YA?
Well, when I started working in editorial, my training was mostly with YA manuscripts – back then, YA wasn’t really something I was overly familiar with, but I read everything I could get my hands on, and just fell in love with it. As a children’s editor, I do love great picture books (and I had a lot of fun working with my fabulous illustrator), but YA is really where my heart lies.
Do you have plans for more YA novels in the future?
Lots of plans! I’m working on a second YA contemporary at the moment, but it is still in the early drafting and research stage. I’m really excited about getting to know these new characters though.
Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
I think it takes time to find your style and voice; every writer has a bottom drawer filled with unfinished manuscripts and writing that makes them cringe, but all that writing serves a purpose. Like anything, learning how to write takes time and lots of practise. I guess my advice would be don’t be afraid to be really bad at it – if you’re serious about a career as a writer, all that ‘bad’ writing is how you learn to write well. There is no rush to get something ‘out there’; that first manuscript you finish may not be the one to send out to a publisher, but it may be the one that inspires some really great writing. Also, I can’t overemphasise how valuable it’s been to be part of a writing group – writing a novel can be a really lonely process, and having other writers to bounce idea around with, and who can give you honest feedback on developing your work, is amazing.
Thank you so much for answering my questions, Melissa! I can't wait to read more of your work.
Thanks to Hardie Grant Egmont, I have one copy of Life in Outer Space to giveaway to someone in Australia or New Zealand- to enter, simply follow the instructions on the rafflecoptor.
Open in Australia/NZ only.