Kat Spears, author of Sway, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Kat Spears

author of Sway

Ten Terrifying Questions

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Sweden, moved around a lot as a kid, and did not have an illustrious academic career. In fact, if you were to tell one of my old high school teachers I managed to make it through graduate school they would call you a liar outright. I enjoyed dropping out of school so much that I did it a few times–high school twice, college twice.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

 I wanted to be a writer for just about as long as I can remember, and before I learned to write, I was a storyteller. After I saw Indiana Jones when I was seven or eight years old (which now seems horribly inappropriate that my parents would let me see that movie at that age) I wanted to be an archaeologist, and I do have a fall-back career in the museum field. When I was eighteen I wanted to be a museum curator/archaeologist and I pursued that path for a while. I love to write, I love museums, I love art and history, but strangely I discovered over a long career that the one job that never bored me, never frustrated me, and I never wanted to give up…was bartending. I love everything about it. Every day is different. You meet all kinds of interesting people and never can anticipate what craziness might ensue. I eavesdrop on people’s personal stories (people will say some astonishing things within earshot of a bartender) that later become fodder for my novels. I love the pace, the fact that the work can be very physically demanding, and the intense contact with other people. Finding a way to get along with every human you meet is an interesting challenge, one that never gets old to me.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That I’m smarter than anyone else.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your
own development as a writer?

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson had an enormous impact on me as a young reader. And I still cry every time I read that book. I sometimes read the last two chapters just if I want to have a sob fest—seriously, nose running, tears streaming down my face, hiccoughing. Paterson is a brilliant writer and the world is a better place because she wrote books for kids instead of adults.

As far as music is concerned that is an insanely tough question to answer. I listen to music almost constantly—at work, as I write, in the car, whenever I have to walk anywhere. My books all have soundtracks because different music sets different moods for me to write each story. I keep the playlists on Spotify under Spotify/katbooks.com. Each book I have written or am writing has its own playlist. I even do playlists for some of the characters and will listen to their playlists when I am crafting dialogue for them. Carter Goldsmith, a secondary character in Sway, has amazing taste in music. Jesse ,the protagonist in Sway, tends to like music that features a strong or distinctive guitar sound like The Stooges or Django Reinhardt because he plays guitar. I know. Jesse and Carter don’t really exist. I get that. But it helps with the creative process.

 5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?95996243

I didn’t choose to write a novel. It chose me. I have written many things in my life—grants, exhibit text, newsletter articles, term papers (blech), business letters,—that all have some personal or professional purpose. My fiction is very different. Isaac Asimov once said, “I write for the same reason I breathe; if I didn’t, I would die.” (Or something similar to that sentiment but perhaps with better punctuation. I do have a copy editor for my books.) I remember reading that quote when I was in my late teens or early twenties and realizing for the first time that there were other people who felt exactly the way I did about writing. An important revelation.

My ideas for stories hatch fully formed from my brain like Venus from the clam shell. After that it takes me a while to get to know my characters as people, so I can understand their personalities and motivations. They live in my head for a while until I am ready to put them on paper, but they are as real to me as an old friend who lives on the other side of the country who I just don’t see very often.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel

Humans are complicated, always a mixture of good and bad—never all good or all bad. I like characters that are ambiguously heroic and that definitely describes the main character in Sway.

Jesse, the protagonist in Sway, is an antihero. He doesn’t just seem like a complete jerk, he is one (this has made several people very unhappy, I’ve noticed from reviews). At first glance, Jesse has very few redeeming qualities. But he’s a loyal friend, treats everyone exactly the same regardless of race or income level or gender, and is smart.

When we meet Jesse he has closed himself off emotionally from the rest of the world, but an unlikely friendship with a boy who has cerebral palsy, and the experience of Jesse’s first love with a girl, creates serious conflict for him as he tries to maintain his cool and the empire he has built as the go-to guy who deals drugs and fake IDs and term papers in his high school.

I love Jesse. Some of his best qualities are so hidden, many people don’t notice them. For example, his best friend is a girl named Joey who happens to be a lesbian. Throughout the book if Jesse is asked whether he and Joey have a romantic relationship he says no, claiming that Joey is too crazy for any guy to date. Jesse makes a point of never outing Joey because it is no one else’s business that she’s gay. He acts like a jerkwad by calling his best friend crazy and unstable and suggesting that girls like that are impossible to date, but at the same time he does it to protect Joey’s privacy. So? Is he good or bad? Ummmm…both.

Coming out next year from St. Martin’s and in the works now is Flat Back Four. I’m a big football fan, hence the title, and the four main characters all play for the same team. This story is about friendship and how fragile it is. After Jason, the protagonist, experiences the death of his younger sister, he’s left to question the ties that bind him to his three closest friends, who he has always relied on as his surrogate family. I’ve moved many times in my life and some friendships last forever while others fade away. I liked exploring what makes the difference between a lifetime friendship and a friendship that exists only in a specific time and place.

Grab a copy of Kat’s novel Sway here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

When I was about 20 years old I read A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. It had a profound impact on me because it was the first time in my life I loved a book, couldn’t put it down in fact, when I didn’t like or even sympathize with the main character. Ignatius Reilly was such a reprehensible human being—absolutely repugnant. Yet Toole’s writing was so grand and masterful, his ability to perfectly capture a character and paint him as clearly as an artist does on a canvas just amazed me. And here’s the thing, the fact that I hated Ignatius Reilly as much as I did, was because of Toole’s writing ability. A good writer can evoke strong emotional reactions from readers. It dawned on me then, that even if the main character was a complete jerk, the brilliance of John Kennedy Toole was that his writing was so compelling, so captivating, that I had to keep reading even when it made me sick to my stomach, or angry and frustrated.

I am in no way comparing my writing ability to Toole’s. He was masterful and spent a decade writing Confederacy, but it was one of those light bulb moments in my life I will never forget. I could die happy if someone ever walked away after reading a book of mine and had a huge emotional reaction like I did to A Confederacy of Dunces.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

I have to say that I have a huge amount of respect for Meg Medina (author of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass). The first time I met Meg was at a writers’ group and she was telling everyone that she had finally worked up the courage to tell her mom what the title of her latest book was, though I’m pretty sure you can even say “ass” on television now. (Can I say “ass” in this interview?) Meg is incredibly supportive of the careers of other authors and makes the time to have genuine connections with the people who read her books. Meg spends a lot of time and energy advocating for diversity in children’s literature—diversity of authors and diversity of book characters. After all, everyone needs books, and young adults want to feel as if they can recognize themselves in the pages of the books they read, or find role models in the authors who write them. Diversity isn’t just about race—it can be religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or a hundred other factors. That’s one of the reasons I love Tom Angleberger’s book The Poop Fountain1) because he entitled it “Poop Fountain” which is awesome, and 2) because he wasn’t afraid to populate the book with unlikely heroes and heroines for middle grade literature. It also helps that he is hilarious. The great thing about this book is that the characters are diverse, but the book isn’t about diversity. It’s about a poop fountain, and that is as it should be.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

 My goal is for each book I write to be better than the last I wrote. Writing is a craft, not a God-given talent. I hope I can learn from the process and develop as an artist. My editor, Sara Goodman, is amazing. She has a great feel for characters and plot development and after working with her on Sway I feel like I am better able to see the shortcomings in my writing while I’m in the process. I may not know how to fix it on my own, but after a conversation with Sara it will help to shake things loose from my brain, help me to see how the story could be better, the characters more three dimensional. And sometimes the changes are very subtle but can have an enormous impact on the story.

I look back on Sway now that it has been finished for some time and there are things I wish I could change, though overall I am happy with it. The changes I would make are mostly very minor, but I learned a great deal from the editorial process and it makes me eager to grow in this profession.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I always say the best advice I can give, is never take any advice from me. But if I had to give advice I would say…write. Write all the time. Write for yourself. Don’t worry whether anyone is ever going to want to read it or if it’s marketable or matches a current trend. Write because you love to write, not because you want to be rich or famous, because you have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than you do of being a famous author (I did not actually conduct any research to verify the accuracy of that statement). But most of all, instead of taking a class in writing, take a job working in a bowling alley, take a long train ride and watch the people around you, listen to the way people talk (really listen), make friends outside your race and socio-economic comfort zone, volunteer in a shelter for the homeless, attend a comic book convention…just do something. A lot of published, well-trained authors have not lived very interesting lives, and it shows in the stories they tell. Anyone can develop writing as a craft through the practice of writing and reading, but not everyone has a good story to tell.

Kat, thank you for playing.


by Kat Spears

In Kat Spears’s hilarious and often poignant debut, high school senior Jesse Alderman, or “Sway,” as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop. He also specializes in getting things people want – term papers, a date with the prom queen, fake IDs. He has few close friends and he never EVER lets emotions get in the way. For Jesse, life is simply a series of business transactions.

But when Ken Foster, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all-around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things. While following Bridget and learning the intimate details of her life, he falls helplessly in love for the very first time. He also finds himself in an accidental friendship with Bridget’s belligerent and self-pitying younger brother who has cerebral palsy. Suddenly, Jesse is visiting old folks at a nursing home in order to run into Bridget, and offering his time to help the less fortunate, all the while developing a bond with this young man who idolizes him. Could the tin man really have a heart after all?

A Cyrano de Bergerac story with a modern twist, Sway is told from Jesse’s point of view with unapologetic truth and biting humor, his observations about the world around him untempered by empathy or compassion – until Bridget’s presence in his life forces him to confront his quiet devastation over a life-changing event a year earlier and maybe, just maybe, feel something again.

Grab a copy of Sway here

Claire Zorn, author of The Protected, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Claire Zorn

author of  The Protected and The Sky So Heavy  

Ten Terrifying Questions

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born, raised and schooled in the lower Blue Mountains. I lived there until I was about 24 when I moved to Sydney’s Inner West. Now I live in Wollongong.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

Twelve: Artist/writer/Olympian show-jumper/horse-breeder. Why? Why on earth not.

Eighteen: Artist/jewellery designer for Dinosaur Designs. My obsession with Dinosaur Designs started at seventeen when I went into their Sydney Strand Arcade Store. I was so inspired that I changed my university plans from equestrian science to visual arts. I continue to squander all my money on DD stuff and am in the habit of writing them occasional fan mail.

Thirty: Writer. I’ve always imagined stories and characters. While film-making would probably be more fun, all you need to write a story is some paper and a pencil. It’s simpler and more direct. If anyone wants to spot me a few thousand dollars to make a film, I’m up for it.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I was convinced there was no God. Now I’m 99.9 percent sure there is one.

Author: Claire Zorn

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Only three? Cruel. Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief and King of Limbs (Can’t choose.) Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Pipilotti Rist’s video installation Sip My Ocean

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

Because I love stories most of all. It’s that simple. I find story-making to be the most satisfying pursuit aside from swimming in the ocean, and no one’s offered me money to do that. Writing seems to be the most direct way of getting stuff out of my head. I mentioned film before, but to cram all the details and tangents novels allow for into a film, you need tens of hours. You also need to collaborate with multiple people and schedule stuff and there’s probably diagrams involved. I’m not organised enough for all of that.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Hannah is just shy of sixteen and her family has recently been ripped apart by tragedy: her sister – whom she loved but didn’t like – has been killed. An unexpected ramification of this is that the bullying she has endured throughout high school has ceased, something that puts her in a strange place emotionally. While she is trying to come to grips with this she begins to form her first friendship in years – with the crossword-obsessed delinquent, Josh.

Grab a copy of Claire’s book The Protected here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

Golly, I hate that question! Perhaps some small sense of camaraderie for those who were/are miserable in high school. I also wanted to pay homage to the lovely, genuine, noble guys I have known over the years. You don’t come across them all that often in books.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

This is one that tends to change a lot. I’m going to break the rules and choose two! Vince Gilligan: the character arcs he created in Breaking Bad were nothing short of Shakespearian. And Sonya Hartnett. I don’t have words to describe how great her writing is. I also like how she doesn’t seem to give a brass razoo about genres or markets or any of that annoying stuff. She seems to just write what she wants.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Oh dear. This is going to be embarrassing. May as well aim high: the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award would be quite nice. That would mean I could stop renting! Or perhaps if we are going to be absurd I could write the first YA to win the Booker. I’m pretty sure that’s impossible, although I dare say Harper Lee could have won it. On a more achievable level: I really, really want to write and illustrate a picture book. 

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Choose carefully whose opinion of your work you listen to. And write. It sounds obvious but until you get the words out on the page, nothing will ever come of them.

Claire, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Protected here

The Protected

by Claire Zorn

I have three months left to call Katie my older sister. Then the gap will close and I will pass her. I will get older. But Katie will always be fifteen, eleven months and twenty-one days old.

Hannah’s world is in pieces and she doesn’t need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn’t have problems?

Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn’t afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?

In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl’s struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.

 Grab a copy of The Protected here

And the winners of the Big Little Lies Girls Night In prize packs are…

During July we gave you the chance to win 1 of 3 Girls Night In prize packs which not only included books but chocolates and a blanket. 

All you needed to do to enter was buy Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty!

And the lucky winners are…

S.Costin, Limpinwood, NSW

R.Davino, Merrylands, NSW

B.Hill, Cheltenham, NSW


big-little-liesBig Little Lies

by Liane Moriarty

‘I guess it started with the mothers.’
‘It was all just a terrible misunderstanding.’

‘I’ll tell you exactly why it happened.’

Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. A parent is dead.

Liane Moriarty’s new novel is funny and heartbreaking, challenging and compassionate. The No. 1 New York Times bestselling author turns her unique gaze on parenting and playground politics, showing us what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.

‘Let me be clear. This is not a circus. This is a murder investigation.’

Grab a copy of Big Little Lies here

Grab a copy of Big Little Lies here

Congratulations to the winners!
For your chance to enter a Booktopia Competition click here

Georgia Clark, author of Parched, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Georgia Clark

author of Parched and She’s with the Band

Ten Terrifying Questions

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Manly, which is ironic because I certainly am not. Raised in Hornsby Heights where I shunned the bush to keep my nose in a book. I went to school at Gosford High School, which I commuted 2 hours each way to! Had a great time at school: I loved my friends and I was pretty good at the learning.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I have a very early memory of wanting to be a policewoman, but I think that was more about being in charge than upholding the will of the state. Eighteen I was dead-set on becoming a film director, which is what I went to uni for. By 30, that had changed into novelist, mostly because it was easier and cheaper, and I could do it in my pajamas.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Author: Georgia Clark

I strongly believed there would be a revolution in Australia. After starting at uni, I quickly fell into the left wing movement, and learnt about anarchism and socialism and all sorts of wonderful trouble-making. I really believed there would be an uprising, and that I would be a part of it! I also believed in cutting my own hair and dying it blue. I was fun.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Manhattan by Woody Allen. I grew up watching this movie. From my lounge chair in suburban NSW, Woody’s New York was impossibly smart and cool and complex. I loved his intellectual points of reference and his characters’ shifting morality. I’m sure this early obsession led me to New York and a love of clever, modern characters from my socio-economic world.

The Dark is Rising series, by Susan Cooper. This series fanned the flame of my love for fantasy and adventure. I still remember inhaling these books when I was 12, 13, 14… I grew up without the internet or TV, so books were my everything. When I finished the fifth book in the series, I immediately started re-reading it again. Set in Cornwall, England, in the 1950s (when it was first published) this is a story about a group of plucky young kids, Barney, Simon, and Jane, who embark an ancient quest in an underworld that exists alongside out own. It’s ambitious, exciting, and original, I was riveted the entire time. Think Narnia meets Harry Potter. Yes, that good.

Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. It’s no accident that Parched has been compared to this handbook for dystopic action: I’ve read the book, listened to the audiobook and seen the movie many times. I set out to create something as tense, political and exciting as this fantastic book.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

Writing a marathon is a bit like what I imagine running a marathon is like: so hard to do your first one, but then you’re hooked. I love creating fictional worlds and imagining dialogue and scenes. I tried TV writing and directing, but couldn’t break into it. I found my niche with books.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Parched is about a sixteen-year-old girl, Tess Rockwood, who joins an underground rebel group called Kudzu to help stop the development of an ‘artilect’; an artificial intelligence prototype. It’s set in a future world without much water, and features robots and kickass girls and a cute/mysterious guy. Some reviews have compared it to Divergent and Hunger Games, which of course I’m totally thrilled about!

Grab a copy of Parched here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I hope Parched takes them on a rollercoaster ride, complete with sweaty palms and racing hearts. I hope they swoon and sigh over the romance, cheer on Kudzu, and root for Tess. And I hope they think about climate change and sustainability, and ponder the ethical issues of artificial intelligence.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Anyone who speaks their truth and maintains a healthy output. YA authors I love include Maggie Steifvater, David Leviathan, Rainbow Rowell, Cassandra Clare, and Lauren Oliver.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I’d love to get a six-figure advance to write a No. 1 New York Times-best selling novel that gets turned into a fantastic movie, thus entering the pop culture Hall of Fame forever. I’d also like to write something that concretely affects people’s lives, and gives them a greater sense of hope and self-worth.  

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write stories in genres you read, and that you personally, would love to pick up in a bookstore. Commit to a regular writing schedule, ideally in a space away from home. Try the app Freedom if the internet distracts you. Don’t worry about the lacklustre first chapter; you’ll find your writing gathers steam later and you’ll go back and rewrite it anyway. Remember that talent is persistence: most writers don’t sell their first book, they sell their third or fourth. Writing is the long game: stick at it. Live a life worth writing about: take risks, say yes, follow your heart, and me, on Twitter: @georgialouclark

Georgia, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Parched here

The winner of the signed Frank Lampard Jersey and books is…

During the Football World Cup we gave you a chance to win a Chelsea Jersey signed by football royalty Frank Lampard.

All you needed to do to enter was buy a book from the Frankie’s Magic Football series!

And the lucky winner is…

T.Baer, New Norfolk, TAS



by Frank Lampard

Frankie and his friends and their dog, Max, are magic-ed to Brazil where they must track down three key items to help England win the World Cup: the referee’s whistle, a football and the trophy. Their adventures take them through a jungle, a Rio carnival and onto the beach for a game that could change the history of the tournament.


Grab a book from the series here

Congratulations to the winner!
For your chance to enter a Booktopia Competition click here

And the winners of the June YA Buzz Competition and the signed copies of Tim Cope’s book are…

If you bought a feature title in our June Young Adult Buzz you went in the draw to win a special hardcover edition of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

The winners are…the-fault-in-our-stars

C.Dudley, Joyner, QLD
A.Beverley, Nambucca Heads, NSW
S.Mosley, Mundubbera, QLD
T.Lloyd, Swan Hill, VIC
C.McKenzie, Bunbury, WA
C.Birelo, South Yarra, VIC
J.Giaouris, Carss Park, NSW
R.Cullen, Young, NSW
K.Wilson, Dangar Island, NSW
M.Reynolds, Caringbah South, NSW
I.Wishart, Aberfoyle Park, SA
S.Johnson, Earlwood, NSW
K.Buckley, Kallangur, QLD
L.Darby, Quoiba, TAS
K.Lewis, Kalgoorlie, WA
B.Januszkiewicz, Craigieburn, VIC
J.Fagan, Paradise Waters, QLD
H.Maya, Palmerston, ACT
K.Nairn, Paterson, NSW
T.Nollas, Kalgoorlie, WA
M.Taylor, Padbury, WA

by John Green

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Despite the tumour-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

John Green is the best-selling author of Looking for Alaska; An Abundance of Katherines; Paper Towns; Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

Grab a copy of The Fault in Our Stars here

on-the-trail-of-genghis-khanOur Facebook page recently hosted a competition to win copies of On the Trail of Genghis Khan signed by author Tim Cope and his trusty sidekick Tigon.

The lucky winners are…

Ashley Louise
Gem Gallen
Phil Sutton
Paul Ferguson
Sophie Radams

by Tim Cope

The personal tale of an Australian adventurer’s tragedy and triumph that is packed with historical insights. On the Trail of Genghis Khan is at once a celebration of and an elegy for an ancient way of life.

Lone-adventurer Tim Cope travelled the entire length of the Eurasian steppe on horseback, from the ancient capital of Mongolia to the Danube River in Hungary. This formidable 6,000-mile journey took three years to complete. It is a journey that has not been completed successfully since the days of Genghis Khan. Trekking through wolf-infested plateaus, down into deep forests and up over glaciers, across sub-zero barren landscapes, scorching deserts and through treacherous mountain passes, Cope travelled deep into the heart of the nomadic way of life that has dominated the Eurasian steppe for thousands of years.

Alone, except for a trusted dog (and a succession of thirteen horses, many stolen along the way), he encountered incredible hospitality from those who welcomed him on his journey – a tradition that is the linchpin of human survival on the steppe. With WC the Kazakh aphorism ‘To understand the wolf, you must put the skin of a wolf on and look through its eyes’ playing constantly in his thoughts, Cope became immersed in the land and its people, moving through both space and time as witness to the rich past and to the often painful complexities of present-day life still recovering from Soviet rule.

On the Trail of Genghis Khan is a tale of survival, adventure and discovery set in a fascinating and politically volatile time.

The Winners of the signed copies can you please email promos@booktopia.com.au with your details and we will get these prizes out as soon as we can.

Grab a copy of On the Trail of Genghis Khan here

Congratulations to all the winners!
For your chance to enter a Booktopia Competition click here

Rachael Craw, author of Spark, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Rachael Craw

author of Spark

Ten Terrifying Questions

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born and raised in beautiful Christchurch, New Zealand, and lived there until earthquakes broke our house and destroyed our neighbourhood in 2011/12. Whenever we go back to visit, the empty green paddocks of the eastside, post-demolition, make my heart sore. I hate that my girls will never know the city I knew, so many of our precious landmarks are gone. Now we live at the top of the South Island in sunny Nelson and I rather fancy my new small-town life. It suits me.

Growing up, I went to Burnside High School where I was greatly inspired by my English teacher Ms McColl. She took our creative writing class to my first ever Writer’s Festival in Dunedin where I sat in the audience moony eyed at the poetry of David Eggleton. At the University of Canterbury I majored in Classical Studies and Drama expecting to train and become a teacher in these subjects. Really, it was the literature in both that I loved the most and I became an English teacher instead.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I’m not sure about these ages … but when I was 5 or 6 I desperately wanted to be a Solid Gold dancer (think Beyonce in glittering gold spandex + epic afro), around 10, like most of the girls I knew, I imagined a glamorous future as an air hostess, but by 18 I had the acting bug. I did amateur theatre and short films but it was the scriptwriting that got my pulse racing. By 30, I had been teaching for a while but the itch to write was getting harder to ignore.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito would be the best Batman, Catwoman and Penguin of all time. (Batman Returns 1992). While Tim Burton is one of my top 3 directors (heads up: you’ll see locations in my novels named to reflect this) Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) upended this strongly held belief. Though he has retired the cowl, Bale holds my allegiance. If Affleck can win my attention I’ll be impressed. I reserve judgment on any future Penguins or Catwomen (Pfeiffer for the win).

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

For thematic influences I would site my favourite texts to teach in the classroom: Hamlet and Lord of the Flies. Hamlet for the exploration of moral dilemma and the consequences of action or inaction. Lord of the Flies for the exploration of human nature and poking at the flimsy scaffolding that keeps us from savagery. At University I loved Oedipus for the question of freewill versus predestination. In a somewhat less grandiose scale I have begun to attempt my own experimentation with these concepts.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?


6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Spark is a story about friendship, loyalty, courage and love mixed with a synthetic gene that creates guardians and killers known as Shields and Strays. Evie learns that she is a Shield, genetically engineered to save the life of her best-friend who is being stalked by a Stray.

Evie strives to learn how to use her new psychic and physical capabilities while managing grief, learning to live with her aunt and struggling to fit in at a new school. Added to these pressures is the complication of falling in love with a boy who is completely off-limits and totally irresistible.

Spark is the first novel in a sci-fi/crossover trilogy.

Grab a copy of Spark here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

A sense of investment in my imaginary world, that they’ve journeyed with characters they love and or loathe, that they give enough of a damn they’d want to visit again in the future.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

My favourite writer of all time is Margaret Atwood. I fell in love with her work when I was a teenager and the novelty has never really worn off. In contemporary literature I’ll read anything Kate Atkinson sets her pen to. Isabel Allende, for magical realism and Alice Hoffman too. In YA, I love Patrick Ness and the astounding Elizabeth Knox.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I would love to have readers from all over the globe discover my imaginary world, emotionally invest and embrace the characters, grieve their losses, rejoice in their triumphs, and then argue about it all online, print t-shirts with their favourite quotes, swarm at conferences, throw my books across the room when their favourite characters die, lose sleep to finish a chapter, fake sick days to stay home, neglect their chores and families because they’d rather read, text their friends when they’re watching TV and they spot someone who’d be perfect to play a character from the book in a non-existent movie adaptation, create playlists that remind them of the story and re-read, and re-read because it’s just like visiting old friends. I dream of this because these are things I’ve done with books I love.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I am an aspiring writer and I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’ve arrived, mostly because I’m never satisfied. From the beginning I wanted to be good more than I wanted to be published so I have always been hungry for the best counsel and the most honest criticism, to learn the craft and keep learning, refining, exploring and taking risks. Unpopular concepts like sacrifice, hard work and commitment are the price you’re willing to pay to realise a dream but passion, faith and obsession is what keeps you going.

Rachael, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Spark here


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