Leanne Hall is a bit amazing, I reckon. She’s been working with books – as a writer, a reader, a bookseller – for a long time, and she is currently a children’s and YA specialist for Readings Books online. But it was through her writing that I first got to know her: when I read This Is Shyness (Text, 2010), it completely blew me away. Her latest novel, THE GAPS, is this month’s title, and I asked Leanne if she would share a little bit about her process for tackling what seemed like a pretty tough book to write – read on…
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or something in between? Do you even believe in that ‘plotter Vs pantser’ stuff?
I am a natural pantser, who has been trying to move more towards plotting – not fully, but trying to strike a happy medium. Mainly because the amount of restructuring I usually have to do with my work is truly shocking – every books I think, why am I in this place again? Recently though, I’ve been focussing more on character development and the protagonist’s journey. I’m starting to suspect that’s more my cup of tea.
Could you share something about your personal connection to the story you chose to tell in your book?
I wrote this book because of the backdrop of violent crimes against women that persisted throughout my youth, and even now. A crime similar to the one in THE GAPS occurred at my high school, and ever since then I’m greatly affected by the regular and heart-breaking attacks and assaults on women that happen in my city. I didn’t expect it, but THE GAPS also allowed me to explore a lot of things around race, inequity and prejudice in a very personal way.
Writing in a time of covid – has your writing life changed these days? Can you tell us a bit about it?
2020 was a time of extreme lack of creativity and imagination! I was so anxious and worried the whole year that the last thing I could do was dream up people and situations and revel in language. I edited THE GAPS during Melbourne’s Stage 4 lockdown though, and for some reason my brain loved that kind of focus. But generating new material has been off the cards until very recently. The pandemic helped me with some things I have been struggling with: taking time to rest, valuing social connections, not driving myself to burnout, giving up control and letting projects unfold at their own pace…remembering that writing is just one part of life, and there are many other important things to parcel out energy for (and to be grateful for).
What are the key themes (or maybe just the key feels!) that you hope readers take away from your book?
I wanted to try and write the experience of being a young woman in an unsafe world. How you can feel powerful and strong, and vulnerable and weak at the same time. I also wanted to show how fiercely people work at survival and thriving, how smart, funny and capable teenagers are, even in difficult circumstances.
Your fave line of poetry is…
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
This is just the opening stanza of A Ritual to Read to Each Other by William E. Stafford, but the whole poem is brilliant, and a real source of solace to me. Please go read the full thing!
Leanne, thanks so much for visiting us on #LoveOzYAbookclub, and congratulations on the release of THE GAPS! And thank you all for reading – I hope you’re enjoying this month’s title, our discussion post will go up in a few days 🙂