Hi friends! Today I have something very exciting to share with you. A little while ago, I was offered the chance to interview Jane Abbott, the author of a beautiful new Aussie YA novel called Elegy. And who wouldn’t turn down that opportunity?! So after devouring this creepy and romantic book, I wrote up a few questions for Jane to answer.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Elegy or aren’t too sure what it’s about, here’s a summary:
In a small Australian town, the most epic love story in history is unfolding . . . again.
Everybody knows everyone in Kincasey, and nothing ever happens. That’s what Jenny thinks when she moves there – until she meets the mysterious Michael Webster.
But when Michael gets into a fight with the town bully, long-held resentments simmer to the surface, loyalties are tested, and Jenny finds herself the centre of attention. Her situation isn’t helped by a deepening friendship with Michael’s stepbrother, Gabe, or her jealousy of Gabe’s beautiful but aloof sister, Caitlin.
Caitlin is the only one who knows the terrible truth: this isn’t the first life she and Michael have lived. They have a destiny to fulfil – and it’s time for Michael’s powers to awaken. But what use is power if it can’t give you what you most desire?
Now all that’s left is to launch into the interview!
“Don’t be afraid to be different. It’s okay to stand apart from the rest. Scary at times, but okay.”
Hi Jane! Thank you so much for agreeing to answer few of my questions in celebration of the release of your latest novel, Elegy. I absolutely adore your beautiful — though slightly creepy — book and I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us next!
Today I just have a few questions about your inspiration for writing Elegy and what your life would be like if you were someone like Michael and Cait; your interesting characters who somehow keep coming back to live another life…
Let’s get started!
What’s one book you wish you could have read as a teenager? Why? And what was your favourite book as a teenager?
Harry Potter! I would love to have read that book with a young heart and mind, and grow up with the series. Not that I didn’t enjoy them as an adult reader, but I suspect some of the magic is wasted on adults. My favourite book, as a young teenager, was A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin. I learned more about writing from that than from any other book.
I absolutely adore Harry Potter, and I really enjoyed reading The Cursed Child! Moving back to the present, what are some of your favourite Aussie YA novels at the moment? Are there any upcoming releases you’re really looking forward to getting your hands on?
I’m a big fan of Fleur Ferris. Who isn’t? Risk was great, and I’m itching to read Black. I hear it’s just as good as her first. I enjoyed Road to Winter, by Mark Smith, and simply loved Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall. And I’m dying to get my hands on a copy of Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland.
Fleur Ferris is one of my favourite Aussie authors! I’ve read both Risk and Black, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading Black just as much as Risk, if not more! Now moving onto some questions about your own novel, Elegy. Why did you decide to set Elegy in a small Australian town? Were you inspired by any real towns in creating Kincasey?
I have a small property in country Victoria, and I wanted to set this very large story within a mortal microcosm. It made perfect sense to use the countryside I know as the backdrop. But the town of Kincasey, and its townsfolk, are completely fictional, with snippets drawn from my experiences of a number of small towns over a number of years.
That’s so interesting! I love the vibes small towns have, especially in fiction. Fleur’s novel Black especially comes to mind as it’s set in a small Aussie town. Next – if you could have afternoon tea with one character from Elegy, who would it be and why?
Cait. That memory! The things I’d ask her, the replies she wouldn’t give. Imagine spending an hour with someone who has lived to tell all the tales of the world. I think afternoon tea might have to extend to a dinner invitation. And maybe breakfast.
Ah, good choice! I’d love to share a whole day with her, and I’d definitely have a multitude of questions to ask her. So where exactly did this idea of people reliving their lives, or being reborn, come from? Has this sort of mythology always been something that’s interested you? Have you read any other books that touch on the same kind of idea?
I haven’t read any other books that have touched on the same theme, but that’s not to say they don’t exist. The idea came to me when I was watching a teen TV drama with my son, and there was a love interest and I realised how similar all these love stories are – the passion, the angst, the joy, the heartache, the tragedy. And that thought – that all love stories follow the same pattern – became its own story about how all the great love stories throughout history and in legend have been played by the same two people. After that it was just a matter of working out which two. I chose Prometheus and Pandora, partly because I know and love their stories, but also because I wanted to twist them a little. In classic mythology, Prometheus is possessed of foresight, hence his name, so I thought the cruellest punishment for Michael would be to have no memory of his past lives. And in the real tales, Prometheus is suspicious of, and openly dislikes, Pandora, so instead of adhering to that, I brought the two of them together. As for Pandora, instead of loosing all the evils in the world, and keeping hope locked in the jar, I turned it around and had her release hope to help mankind. It was fun, and it was a way to pay homage to the mythology while giving it a different slant.
If you were someone like Michael or Cait, what would some of your past lives have been like? Would there be anything that stands out from particular eras?
Well I think they would have been incredibly varied. For one thing, neither has any say in where they’re born, into which culture or civilization and, as the world becomes more populated, and more divisive, the chance of their meeting becomes less likely. And, of course, surviving two world wars, and all that’s happened since increases the punishment for both of them. I might have been a pauper or a princess, a slave or a tyrant. I might not have lived past my childhood, or I might have endured into lonely old age, in Cait’s case waiting for one life to tick over into the next, or in Michael’s never realising my potential.
Yes, there’s so many possibilities, and it was really interesting to explore those ideas in Elegy. As a kid, did you ever wish you had magical powers? If so, what were they?
I wanted to be able to fly, to lift off and soar high and view the world as a map beneath me. Invisibility would have been useful a few times, too.
I always wished to fly as a kid too! If you had the ability to travel back in time and give one piece of advice to your teenage self, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to be different. It’s okay to stand apart from the rest. Scary at times, but okay.
Well, that’s all of my questions! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these and connect with so many other bloggers in similar Q&As. I absolutely adored reading Elegy and I think it has the perfect mix of romance and mystery, and readers of all ages will be devouring it!
I’d also like to thank Penguin Australia for providing me with a copy of Elegy and giving me the opportunity to interview Jane Abbott. You guys are awesome!
About the author:
A single mother of two teenage boys, Jane was born in the UK, raised in the leafy suburbs of Sydney’s North Shore, and now divides her time between Melbourne and central Victoria. Jillaroo, nurse, secretary, short-time teacher, office administrator (followed by a reluctant career in marketing), she has tried her hand at most things and lived in many places.
Her second manuscript, Watershed, was written in 2013; it received a Commendation in the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, and secured Jane a place in the ACT Writers’ Hardcopy Professional Development Program for Australian Writers (Fiction Edition), where she met her future literary agent.