I think we’re all so lucky to live in the era we do, where it’s so easy to connect with authors and other readers online. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where there are bookish events or book festivals, you’re even given opportunities to talk to your favourite writers in real life – it’s pretty cool. So today I just wanted to share some advice about talking to authors, from one awkward booknerd to another.
Over the last few years, my confidence has grown so much when it comes to interacting with authors online and speaking to authors at events. When I was just a smol teen blogger, authors favouriting my tweets made me freak out a little bit, and then if they REPLIED, I would spend LITERAL HOURS trying to compose a reply tweet. Then meeting authors at events made me a nervous wreck. My hand would shake as I handed over my books for them to sign and all I’d be able to do was mumble out an “I love your work!”.
But wow, how the times have changed. Going to numerous bookish events the past few years has made my confidence grow so much, to the point where I now run a book club and I’ve even had the opportunity to HOST A BOOK LAUNCH AND BE IN CONVERSATION WITH AWESOME AUTHORS. I never thought I would have the chance to do that in a million years, and I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. Last year, I was lucky to have an exclusive 30-minute Skype interview with Angie FREAKING Thomas! I got to launch a book from an author I’ve admired since I was 14 last July. And next month I’m going to be in conversation with Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman at the Obsidio launch in Melbourne! I’m low-key FREAKING OUT.
But enough about me! Now I’m just going to share some of my tips for interacting with authors, and some of the things I wish someone had told me when I was starting to go to bookish events at 15. So I hope this helps you a little if you’re someone that gets anxious when speaking to people you admire!
Remember they’re just another human being!
Sometimes I feel like a lot of us forget that authors are more than the books they write and their social media profiles. It’s SO EASY to forget that everyone is more than the version of themselves they share online; we all have bad days and get stressed and need to switch off for a while. So just be kind!
Treat them with the same respect and kindness you’d like others to treat you with.
This is a pretty simple one, but sometimes a lot of people online seem to forget this. If you don’t like an author, that’s fine. You can’t be expected to like everyone you meet, and it’s natural to disagree with people at times. But because most interactions with authors happen online (thank god for the internet), it’s sometimes easy to forget there’s a person behind their smiling profile picture on Twitter. If you’re commenting something to them that you wouldn’t say to their face, it’s probably best to just refrain from typing it at all.
Don’t tag them in EVERYTHING. Especially not negative reviews.
I know you might feel the need to share all your thoughts with authors about books they’ve written, tag them in long threads, and even send them links to your reviews of their work, but they don’t always want to be involved in that. Sorry to break it to you. Sure, if you have something nice to say, feel free to tweet at them. If you have a 5-star review of their book, sharing that with them might make their day. But please, please don’t tag them in negative reviews. It’s fine for you to have negative opinions about books, but reviews are for READERS, not authors.
Feel free to just have a chat with them! Be friendly – authors shouldn’t be feared.
One of the best things about the internet is having opportunities to connect with not only fellow readers, but also the authors that create some of our favourite books! But it’s important to remember that this is a tool that doesn’t just have to be used for fangirling. You can ask an author what books they’ve been enjoying! What shows they’ve been binging recently! Authors are just average people that happen to write books – so don’t be afraid to have a little chat with them if they’re okay with that!
Understand that authors aren’t in control of much else besides their writing.
I’ve seen SO MANY AUTHORS be hounded by readers about cover changes, when new books will be released, if books will be released in different countries, and even questions about casting in their movie adaptations. Chances are, AUTHORS HAVE A SAY IN NONE OF THIS. The one thing authors DO have control over is the words on the pages of their novels, and everything else should be expected they don’t have a lot of a say in. Authors get so tired of having to explain all this stuff to readers, so please don’t @ them asking to cast your favourite actor in their movie adaptation.
If you like their work, try to support them in any way you can!
One of the best ways you can show an author you care about them and want to see more of their work is by supporting them in various ways. Buy copies of their books if you have the funds to do so! If not, go to your local library and borrow copies of their books (authors still get paid for this, you know). But you don’t have to necessarily spend money to show your support. You can write blog posts, or make videos, or share reviews, or make fan art, or just spread the word about their novels in general! Supporting your favourite authors in any way you can is necessary to see them keep on creating content.
And now I’d like like to share two reviews and Q&As of books I’ve read recently and authors who took the time to answer some of my questions! I hope you enjoy!
Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with the boyfriend Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. Especially when the police arrive on her doorstep and Eden finds out that the boyfriend is actually their music teacher, Mr Cohn.
Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts.
As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.
After absolutely loving Sara Barnard’s last release, A Quiet Kind of Thunder, I had immensely high hopes for Goodbye, Perfect. I expected to read something I would fall in love with and be raving about for months to come. I expected to love these characters like I loved the people in A Quiet Kind of Thunder, hoping to get my TBR under control so I could reread it again. But unfortunately, Goodbye, Perfect took my hopes and crushed them up into an unsatisfying, three-starred goop. It was like ordering a gourmet pizza from some expensive restaurant and being given one from Dominos. At the end of the day, it’ll still provide you with the sustenance needed to survive, but will you enjoy it like the pizza you’d been getting hyped for? Probably not.
I’m sorry, that metaphor was a mess. I’m just really craving pizza.
ANYWAY. MOVING ON.
Let me get this straight — I didn’t hate Goodbye, Perfect. I didn’t even dislike it, I just thought it was… underwhelming for what I’d expected. It was still a fairly enjoyable read and I won’t deny that I absolutely flew through it (I read it all in one go), but I just felt like this novel could have been so much more. The exploration of student / teacher relationships already felt like it’d been done before, even though it’s a really important and often sensitive issue to cover, and it just wasn’t a topic I liked reading about. This book is quite confronting in aspects, and it talks about grooming and relations between adults and minors in a candid manner. Goodbye, Perfect is definitely an important book — there’s no denying that — but I just didn’t love it.
One of the things I both loved and hated about this novel was how short it was, and how the story itself only took place over the span of a few days. On the one hand, I loved how I was able to fly through this book incredibly quickly and I felt like this would easily be a book a lot of people would read in one sitting. But on the other hand, I felt like there was a lot going on and the ending did feel a little rushed to me. Another thing I also felt a bit mixed on was my opinion of the characters. I didn’t feel particularly connected to the protagonist and actually preferred the side characters to Eden.
Ultimately, Goodbye, Perfect was unfortunately not a perfect book for me. I would have loved it to feel a bit longer, and I would have liked to feel as though I could connect with the protagonist a little more, but beyond that there aren’t many faults to point out. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked, and that’s definitely on me for hyping myself up for it. However, if you just want to jump into a #UKYA novel with an important message, I definitely recommend giving this one a go!
Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Q&A with Sara Barnard
While Eden’s own romance with her boyfriend Connor isn’t at the centre of Goodbye, Perfect,her sexual relationship with him is very open and frank. Why do you think it is important to show this in YA novels?
Because it’s the reality, and that’s always what interests me the most. Especially for someone like Eden, who has her own unfair labels and insecurities because of it. Teens have more access than ever before to information about sex, for good and for bad. I think YA novels have an important role to play as part of that, and I personally feel a responsibility to be honest and frank.
Are there any people that inspire you when you write?
This is a very boring answer, but not really! Most of the time I’m just trying to get it out…
Do you have any quirks or habits when writing that you’d love to share?
If I’m alone, I have been known to have conversations with myself to try and get through a scene, as if I’m explaining what’s going on… to myself!
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Read as much and as widely as you can. And enjoy yourself! Writing should be fun.
Can you give us any ideas as to what your next novel will be about?
That’s all under wraps at the moment, but I’ll say it involves some old friends.
Anahita is passionate, curious and determined. She is also an Iranian asylum seeker who is only allowed out of detention to attend school. On weekdays, during school hours, she can be a ‘regular Australian girl’.
Jono needs the distraction of an infatuation. In the past year his mum has walked out, he’s been dumped and his sister has moved away. Lost and depressed, Jono feels as if he’s been left behind with his Vietnamese single father, Kenny.
Kenny is struggling to work out the rules in his new job; he recently started work as a guard at the Wickham Point Detention Centre. He tells Anahita to look out for Jono at school, but quickly comes to regret this, spiraling into suspicion and mistrust. Who is this girl, really? What is her story? Is she a genuine refugee or a queue jumper? As Jono and Anahita grow closer, Kenny starts snooping behind the scenes…
WOW. Just wow. Between Us is one of those books that I just want everyone to get a copy of IMMEDIATELY, because this is honestly one of the most powerful novels I’ve read all year. While I love books like The Hate U Give and Love, Hate & Other Filters with all of my hearts and believe they’re also books that every reader should have on their shelves, there’s nothing I love seeing more than books with such powerful messages being specifically about Australia.
Between Us is about the tragic and infuriating refugee situation in Australia, and I couldn’t think of a book that is more needed at the moment in Australia’s current political climate. I’m just SO ANGRY about how we treat refugees and asylum seekers in Australia, and this NEEDS TO CHANGE. Between Us reminded me a lot of When Michael Met Mina, another incredibly important #LoveOzYA novel, and I just think it’s a book that every Aussie teen should read. But just because this book is set in Australia, that doesn’t make it only applicable to our audience. I think this is a novel that’s important for everyone to read.
One of my favourite things about this novel was how genuine and realistic the two main characters felt. I was able to feel their struggles radiating from the pages, and I really enjoyed seeing how their friendship developed and grew over the course of the narrative. This book hit me RIGHT IN THE FEELS, and I was captivated the entire time. Between Us is a novel that highlights the injustices against the people in detention centres in Australia. It’s confronting at times and very emotional, and I just loved every page of it.
Thanks to Black Inc. for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Q&A with Clare Atkins
What made you want to write a book asylum seekers, and has this been an issue close to your heart for a while?
In my twenties, I volunteered at Villawood Detention Centre, helping to co-ordinate children’s activities with a group called ALIV. The memory of meeting those children and their parents stayed with me, particularly as some of my extended Vietnamese family had previously been in Villawood. When I moved to Darwin I volunteered with DASSAN visiting asylum seekers at Wickham Point. I became aware of the children and teenagers who were allowed out to attend mainstream school each day, and was immediately interested in how they navigated those two very different worlds. This formed the heart of the story in Between Us.
What are some of your favourite YA novels about political issues or that you feel are important reads in today’s society?
I love novels that explore political themes through character and personal stories. In the young adult world, some of my favourites include Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar, Laurinda by Alice Pung and Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta. And, in general, I think all Australians should read Why Warriors Lie Down and Die by Richard Trudgen and The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper – they are both non-fiction novels about our treatment of Indigenous Australians.
If you could say something to the Anahita’s of Australian Detention Centres, what would you say?
I don’t think there’s much I could say apart from ‘I’m so sorry.’ I would love to say ‘Hang in there, things will change, they will get better,’ but unfortunately in today’s political climate I’m doubtful that that’s true.
Can you tell us if you’re working on anything at the moment? Is exploring political issues something you’d like to continue doing in subsequent novels?
I haven’t started working on my next novel yet, but the idea I have in mind does have political themes. I’m passionate about stories that make readers feel deeply and challenge them to see life from a perspective they otherwise may not have access to. I hope the stories I tell remind readers that political decisions aren’t so removed from us – they’re not just what plays out in Canberra, they impact everyday people’s lives.
What are some upcoming #LoveOzYA novels you’re most excited to get your hands on this year?
I’m excited to read the soon-to-be-released Amelia Westlake by Erin Gough, and two fairly recent releases that I haven’t read yet but are top of my list are Songs that Sound Like Blood by Jared Thomas and Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Fiona Wood and Simmone Howell.
Do you interact with authors often? Have you ever had an author reply to your tweet and freak out a little? Have you had any awkward / embarrassing encounters with authors? I’d love to hear your stories!