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.

Review: Nevernight



Despite my restlessness and lack of focus, I ploughed through Nevernight yesterday.

This one came to my attention due to my passionate love for Illuminae which I adore with every fibre of my being. Jay Kristoff, joint author, has a new book coming out? Clearly I need to be all over that.

Mia is the daughter of a leader – until things go pear shaped and she witnesses his hanging at the tender age of 10, gripped fiercely by her mother who her urges her to never flinch, never fear, and never forget. At 16, Mia is apprenticed to the most deadly group of assassins in the republic. But will she survive the training in order to get her revenge?

This book is a trip. I had to read the opening a couple of times to aclimate myself with what was happening, and I c0uldn’t help but feel that Kristoff’s style was some sort of mad love child of Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and China Mieville. It’s dark. It’s brutal. And parts are laugh out loud funny. Imagine Hogwarts, except your teachers are actually trying to kill you. I really enjoyed Kristoff’s use of language  and word play (unlike poor reader Emily on Goodreads who seems to struggle with simple sentences and like Justin Beiber memes.)

I think by far my favourite thing about the book is the main character. One of the things that has annoyed me a little (ok, more than a little) about girls in YA fiction (particularly in fantasy/sci fi) is that there still seems to be a burden of virtue placed on them, despite how completely screwed up their situation is. So my entire family is dead, my world has been destroyed and I could die any time …. but sex? Hell no. In the Raven Cycle, poor Blue isn’t even allowed to kiss a boy for fear that she will kill him. Talk about pressure. Don’t get me wrong – I love the Raven Cycle, and this technique is effective for making the story about something else. But there are other ways to do that to.

Mia is no paragon of virtue. She drinks. She smokes. She swears. She fucks.She doesn’t confuse sex and love. (And she kills, but she’s an assassin in training, so that’s kinda part of the job description). But these things don’t change the tone of the story or the way we view her as a character. She knows what she wants and has plans to get it. There are still moral questions asked of her, but these are more relevant to the world she is living in rather than anything artificially imposed on her by her audience.

This is a YA book. There are some graphic sexual encounters (certainly much more graphic than I’m used to seeing in YA) and some very adult language. Chances are that both of these things will make you more uncomfortable than the teen you may choose to hand it to, but do be aware of the content.

Also, check out the summary posted by the author on Goodreads here . It’s good fun!

Read this book!! And then join me in the corner as I wait for the next in the series ….

4 out of 5 severed arms .