Katya is a pretty amazing woman with a fascinating history: she was born in Russia, studied in California and now lives in Melbourne. Katya has a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Melbourne, and now works as a social scientist (what’s that? you might ask – well according to this definition it’s “an expert in or student of human society and social relationships, or any subject within this field, such as economics or politics” so there you go).
Katya’s first book, What The Woods Keep, was a mix of mystery, fantasy and science fiction, and became one of Readings Books YA bestsellers. She is the co-founder and co-host of #SpecLitChat and a writing mentor with First Five Pages Workshop.
And here are her answers to our (as usual, slightly silly) questions for #LoveOzYAbookclub!
* Why this book? Why this story?
As a child, I was obsessed with archaeology. This obsession lasted all through my teen years and into my early twenties. I’d have ended up studying ancient history and archaeology in uni, but at that time in the small Russian town where I grew up there wasn’t a lot of opportunities or information in that regard. I went to study cultural anthropology instead (no regrets!), but archaeology has always remained my “first love”. It was just a matter of time before I’d write my archaeology book. A related bit of important info, I grew up on sci-fi books and adventure movies. Fast forward about a decade and a half, and these passions came together in Oasis. My second novel is my love letter to archaeology, adventure and survival stories and all those twisty sci-fi novels (Strugasky, Lem, Shefner!) I worshipped as a teen.
I started to write Oasis in 2014 during National Novel Writing Month and continued working on it while my debut-to-be (What The Woods Keep) was on submission to editors. Both books eventually found their perfect home with Macmillan. I’m so excited for Oasis to be finally published – it’s been a long wait but it was worth it.
* What other media inspired you during the writing of this book? Songs, TV, movies, other books…it’s all grist for the mill!
Oasis is pitched as Lost meets The Twilight Zone, which is a perfect way to describe its overall feel and intent. It’s an existential sci-fi thriller disguised as an adventure story. I’ll stop talking now…
I can’t really talk about my main literary inspirations for Oasis without sounding extremely spoilery (though, if anyone wants to know which two sci-fi books inspired me, they can reach out to me directly and I’ll share!).
I listened to lots of music to get myself into the right state of mind as I wrote and the revised Oasis. Here is my playlist – London Grammar, Ladytron… A song’s mood and the imagery it conjures up in my head are often more important to me than lyrics.
* Okay – what three hot books you would run in to save if your house was burning?
Whenever I visit my family in Russia, I return to Melbourne carrying luggage full of books. One of these books currently in my possession is a 1983 volume of novellas and short stories by Russian sci-fi writer Vadim Shefner. This particular book originally belonged to my grandfather. It’s a special feeling to turn these yellowed pages knowing that, years ago, he used to do the same.
Another special book on my shelves is the first collection of Joseph Brodsky’s poems which I bought as a gift for myself after graduating high school. I still remember that feeling of “this is something special, listen now” when I first heard Brodsky’s The Hawk’s Cry in Autumn recited on stage. The year was 1999 and, after years of exile and censure, Brodsky was at last included in the school program. Whenever I need to remind myself what it feels like to be human, I just open my little Brodsky paperback and read something aloud at random. Always works.
* Your hot take on what you think the hot trends for YA fiction will be in 2020:
I just hope it’s not vampires… Oh wait. *shrugs*
* Your fave line of poetry is…
“The birds of paradise sing without needing a supple branch” – from one of my favorite Joseph Brodsky’s poems, We Lived in The City…
Thank you so much for having me – and my book! Xxx, Katya
Katya, you’re very welcome! Thank you joining us on bookclub, and good luck with OASIS! We’ll have a discussion post for this book in the next few days, and stay tuned for a ‘new title for May’ announcement by Emmaly on the FB group page very soon!