Interview With Gold Inky Award Longlisted Author, Lili Wilkinson
Hello Inky Friends,
This week, I went to Williamstown Literary Festival and went to several panels discussing things ranging from adventure to fantasy. I was also given the opportunity to interview the wonderful Lili Wilkinson about her long listed book, ‘After The Lights Go Out’, her journey as an author and everything in between.
Lili Wilkinson is an Australian author of 12 books, including ‘The Boundless Sublime,’ ‘Green Valentine and ‘After The Lights Go Out’. She established the insideadog website and the Inky Awards for The Centre Of Youth Literature, State Library Victoria. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne and now spends most of her time reading YA fiction and writing books for teenagers.
This interview has been edited slightly to fit the article.
Imosshelf: Hi Lili, it’s great to meet you. Thank you for this interview!
Lili: Thank you for having me!
I: So, what’s it like to be on the long list for an award that you invented?
L: It’s amazing, there’s no greater thing than being on your own awards list.
I: Well, congratulations. What made you want to create the Inky Awards?
L: It’s something we were thinking about for a while. We were tired of books winning in a ‘popularity contest’ so we wanted something that was less biased. We’ve seen a lot of awards for younger kids similar to this but nothing really for young adults. We wanted some more structure so that’s why we have such long processes for everything. We kind of stole the idea and made it our own.
I: Make sense, what are some of the highlights of your career?
L: Creating the Inky Awards. I don’t know… everything feels like one big highlight. I guess the first piece of fan fiction I read about my book or when I saw someone reading my book on the train. I was so excited!
I: That’s so cool! I’ve read in some of your previous interviews that you always wanted to be an author, was there ever any doubt?
L: Yep, from year 10 to the end of uni I actually wanted to work in film and run a theatre company. I was very bad at directing though and communicating my scripts to actors. I got a job at the state library and I was writing a paper at the time, there was this massive shift in the paper – you can really see it, when I realised that I wanted to be an author.
I: Huh, that’s really interesting. What’s the best #LoveOzYa book you’ve read recently?
L: I really loved ‘Highway Bodies’ and ‘Shadowscent’
I: I’ll add that to my TBR list. What kind of books do you read?
L: I read a lot of YA and I really love it, I also read other stuff. At the moment I’m loving science fiction and fantasy. We have a book club where we read books not written by white men, it’s eye opening.
I: I can imagine. What was your favourite book to write?
L: Um, ‘The Boundless Sublime’. I wrote it just after I had a baby and I really wanted to write a dark book, I thought it would be hard but it was surprisingly easy. Everyone only wants nice happier things right after a baby but I didn’t really feel that. It was a really emotionally intense time and I wanted to show that bad things can still have joy. It was a great outlet for my own darkness. I also love killing characters so that was fun.
I: I imagine it would be! What is your favourite trait to write into characters?
L: Hmm, I really like writing arrogance… and humour. I like reading humour, I think darkness needs humour.
I: Yeah, I think so too. Why do you write YA when you could write for people your own age?
L: People my own age are boring. I read a lot of YA and I think that adolescence is a very emotionally intense time. Adults and teens really aren’t very different but I guess adults get distracted by the mundane and are burdened with responsibilities. It frees adolescents to be more idealistic.
I: That makes sense. What age did you start writing?
L: At age 5. I’m not sure, I was pretty young. I was first published at age 12 and I was published quite a lot throughout high school. My first proper book came out at 24.
I: Wow, that’s impressive! What moment did you realise that you were like a real author?
L: It comes slowly, not for the first several books I don’t think. It’s a bit like imposter syndrome. I guess working at the library I was more known for promoting other peoples work… I genuinely don’t know.
I: That sounds pretty surreal. Following the panel, Sensory Overload, how do you think you’ve had to change your writing style to continue to appeal to young adults?
L: I haven’t consciously changed my writing style, my writing has changed but I think that was just me developing as an author. I guess the world around me influences me, I’ve become more aware and I pay more attention. I also just make up my own pop culture references in my books, it’s easier that way.
I: Fair enough. Now, what is your biggest fear as an author?
L: The biggest fear I have is when I submit a new draft to my publisher, I’m afraid that I’m going to get rejected. I spoke to her about it recently and she feels the same way with sending feedback to me, we kind of share fears.
I: That’s understandable. Do you see writing as more of a creative outlet or work?
L: Both and outlet and for work. Nobody enjoys their job 100% of the time. There are some moments where I just don’t want to write but I really do love it. It is an outlet for my creativity but sometimes I just don’t feel like it. Another outlet of mine is knitting, I really enjoy making something beautiful that doesn’t require a vast amount of brain power.
I: It makes sense that you don’t want to do it all the time. So, what research did you have to do for ‘After The Lights Go Out?”
L: I watched a lot of YouTube videos. I’ve found that preppers like to keep the locations of their bunkers a secret but they love documenting everything. I read this book that they’re (preppers) are obsessed with called ‘One Second After’. I hated it. It was very masculine and women were really objectified. I wanted to write about strong women in my book.
I: It’s so weird that they feel the need to document all that. Anyway, what do you want readers to take from ‘After The Lights Go Out?’
L: I want them to think ‘that was a really great book,’ I don’t want to dictate a message to a reader. I respect young people too much for that. If I had to have a message, I would say to look at the world critically, not negatively, but to question if it could be better.
I: That’s a good message. Finally, what is the most important thing you’ve learnt?
L: Don’t judge your success in comparison to the success of this around you, you’ll never be happy. I’ve also gained the ability to handle criticism, I don’t take it so personally anymore. I embrace it, I don’t mind when people have to rip it apart and put it together again.
I: Thank you so much for this interview, Lili.
L: No problem, thank you.
I would just like to thank Lili Wilkinson, Williamstown Literary Festival and insideadog (Julianne) for making this interview possible. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. Good luck to Lili Wilkinson for the Gold Inky awards!
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