Our lovely guest this month is YA writer, ace bookseller, skilled raconteur and all-round Highly Talented Person, Leanne Hall. A Melbourne native, she began her writing career with short stories in Meanjin, Sleepers Almanac and Best Australian Stories, then won the Text Prize in 2009 for THIS IS SHYNESS (and believe me, the follow-up, QUEEN OF THE NIGHT, is just as awesome).
Check out the amazing artwork (by Noelle, below) that SHYNESS has inspired, and make sure you catch up with Leanne’s website, The Long Blinks, which contains lots of extra SHYNESS content (including deleted chapters! and you might recognise the name of the website from the story itself…)
I hope you enjoy Leanne’s answers to our notorious Five Messy Questions 🙂
Why this book? Why this story?:
I wanted to tell a story of one amazing, life-altering night out, trying I guess to replicate some of the more spontaneous, memorable, endless nights of my youth (those days are over – sob!). I like the idea that, under some circumstances, you can bond quickly with a stranger and be more yourself with them than you can with your friends. I wanted to bring together strangeness and dark thoughts and romance and glamorous danger and human connection, these were all the things that were bursting out of me into my first book.
The ride is a rollercoaster totally in the dark, and you basically get assailed from all sides by flying monkeys, threatening groups of Kidds, people randomly trying to kiss you, the booming voice of Doctor Gregory, and trippy misty sections where your dreams and nightmares project around you. Um, and it’s called Dark Dreams.
Rec us a book on writing craft, would ya?:
My favourite book on writing is really a book about all forms of creativity, or all ways of being an artist. It’s called Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, who are both photographers. It took me a long time to feel I had the right to call myself a writer, and now sometimes I like to challenge myself by considering myself an artist (even though part of me thinks it’s a pretentious thing to claim!) The book talks about how difficult the creative process is, and how fear and anxiety and roadblocks are all perfectly normal thing to experience. It is so, so heartening and affirming to read.
Okay –three hot books you would run in to save if your house was burning:
Coraline by Neil Gaiman; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (I have a very beautiful hardcover edition illustrated by Iassen Ghiuselev – two of his illustrations adorn my arms! One from Alice and one from Pinocchio) and Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud. Clearly I like to read about young minds encountering unfamiliar worlds.
Why write for teenagers? Why not adults, or little munchkins?:
Actually, I think I’ll end up writing for all of those age groups eventually, as I have a few ideas lined up at the moment (they currently run: middle grade/YA/picture book/adult). I feel really in touch with my eleven-year-old and fifteen-year-old selves, so that covers my novels Iris and the Tiger and This is Shyness/Queen of the Night. I have adored reading YA as an adult for maybe 15 years now. When I started writing This is Shyness I was in my late 20s, so I was close enough, and far enough, from my teen years to feel I could write the story. The teen years are so heartfelt and passionate, so tumultuous and liminal and formative – who wouldn’t want to write for teens?!
~ Leanne, thanks for coming to visit!