Love YA – Brisbane Writers Festival 2016

The Brisbane Writers Festival is an annual event and it’s always pretty awesome. I try to make sure we get along to the Love YA portion of the festival, which has been happening for the last couple of years. This year the Aussie speakers were Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman, Jaclyn Moriarty, and Lee Battersby (who is technically an import, but we’ll have him.) Meg Rosoff and David Levithan were the international guests.


As a huge fan of  Illuminae we were particularly excited to hear Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman speak, and they did not disappoint.

Kristoff’s session was ostensibly to promote his most recent release NevernightHe talked about the struggle to become a full time author, and how he would write in his lunch breaks and until 2 in the morning to write his first books. His move into the US market was intentional as the sheer difference in population numbers meant that he would pick up more readers (and therefore more cash) in the US market, and Australian publishers have a high respect for authors who have done well in the US market although the reverse isn’t true. If you are an aspiring author Kristoff has blogged about his journey breaking into the American market.

Kristoff also spoke passionately about the Federal government’s proposed change to the parallel import rues (meaning Australian publishers would have to compete with cheaply produced mass published paperbacks) and the fact that this would wipe out the Australian publishing industry within 5 years. (You can find out more about this here and sign a petition here.)

Nevernight stemmed from a conversation between two of Kristoff’s female friends about the “c” word and its misogynistic usage. He rewrote the  conversation to be between a girl and a boy and was then intrigued by the girls’s character and wanted to know more about her. This conversation is featured on the book and is one of our favourite moments in the story.)

Kristoff described Nevernight as a book that doesn’t want you to read it When asked why he would do that to himself and his readers, Kristoff answered that he was wanting to flex different muscles creatively. As he was working on three different projects, he was wanting to use different language and structure for Never night, and that is was designed for a reader ‘with a particular capability’.

Excitingly, Kristoff mentioned he had two more projects in the works – a new series called Lifel1k3 and a new series co-authored with Amie (you can find some more details here). I’m not sure how I’m going to last till 2018.

Kaufman, Battersby and Moriarty were on a panel hosted by the very capable and funny David Burton (whose book you can find here).

These three authors were a great combination and would riff off each other when answering their questions. Amie in particular was cracking jokes left and right, but Jaclyn’s understated, quiet and self deprecating humour was also absolutely delightful.

I think the way each author answered the first question (how would you survive the end of the world?) gives a good picture of each of them.  Kaufman responded that her plan was to die in the first wave – she knew she wouldn’t survive too long, she’s done a lot of research about these things, and she would rather go down immediately than be terrified for six months and still die horribly. Battersby observed that even if he was transported to another world, he would still be a slow moving, rotund middle aged guy with a broken back, so shambling about wouldn’t be much of a change of pace for him. Moriarty had interpreted the question completely differently and was planning for after it was all over – she would take her piano and cocoa beans. Both Kaufman and Battersby decided they would like to go to Moriarty’s apocalypse, especially if there was lounge music and chocolate.

They discussed their different approaches to research: Kaufman talked about the range of specialists that she calls on for advice – from a doctor, to a battleship designer to an astrophysicist PhD, who, it seems spends a lot of time being cranky at Hollywood. Battersby said he reads 600 – 700 books a year researching, which is great as it turns up interesting facts which are just waiting to become stories. Moriarty said that she based the alternate world of Cello on her imagination and called it Cello as she liked the word, and she had bought herself a cello on Ebay, practiced for an hour a day and the downstairs neighbour had moved out.

The final panel featured Meg Rosoff and David Levithan. Both authors discussed the fact that they hadn’t planned to be authors. Rosoff wrote her first book at 46, and Levithan had “fooled himself” into thinking  he wasn’t writing a novel when he started Boy Meets Boy. Levithan had started writing by creating short stories for his friends as Valentine’s Day gifts, which is a tradition he still follows (some of these are contained in How They Met and Other Stories ).

Both authors also talked about their experience having their books translated into film. Levithan said that a female author had told him to think of the film as a two hour commercial for the book, but he had been happy with the films that had resulted and felt lucky. Levithan also mentioned that he doesn’t visualise when he writes, which made the translation of book to film easier for him to deal with (unlike his co-author, Rachel Cohn, who it seems struggled a little with some of the portayals). Rosoff’s journey to film was a lot rougher, interrupted initially by her own bout with cancer and her film agent’s murder. It took ten years for the film to be completed and she was happy with the outcome. She is currently involved in the process of turning her new book Jonathon Unleashed into a film.

All of the authors were kind, modest and self deprecating. All stayed (Kristoff for a good couple of hours after his session) to sign books (multiple volumes in most instances) and chat with people.

I’m looking forward to next year!



There was also a panel for debut Aussie authors, which I haven’t covered – but let me know if you’d like more information on what happened there.


    • I’m not familiar with Disruption, but I’ve just checked it in Goodreads and it sounds awesome. I look forward to your review. Even here Aussie authors don’t get enough publicity. One of the debut authors said he had been told that his book was too Australian (Clancy of the Undertow). Thank you!!


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