Book Launch: The Boy from the Mish by Gary Lonesborough

Last week I attended the virtual book launch for Gary Lonesborough’s debut YA The Boy from the Mish. The event was hosted by Better Read than Dead bookshop with fellow YA author Will Kostakis as moderator. The interview was fun and friendly and having seen Will interview a range of authors he has a wonderful mix in his interviewing style that makes it both fun and informative.

Hearing about Gary’s story and his journey to becoming an author was interesting. Originally from Bega Gary told us that he went to film school and loves to write and loves to be creative. The Boy from the Mish came about because Gary saw a gap in the market for queer Aboriginal protagonists written by an Aboriginal author. It was a story he began writing when he was 23 but he had been thinking about what would have helped him when he was a teenager. Gary told us that as a teenager he struggled a lot and a lot of his experiences and struggles are in the book through the character of Jackson.

Will mentioned that so often first books are steeped in lived experience and asked Gary how much of himself is in Jackson and what he goes through. Gary replied that roughly 40-50% of himself is in Jackson. All of the things that Jackson felt he’s felt, and things like the experience of being racially profiled more than once, and Jackson’s inner monologue comes from a train of thought but Gary also made clear that everything is still a fictional story and hasn’t happened to Gary exactly.

When discussing the subject of queer identity and its role in both the book and Gary’s life, Will asked how the experience of writing Jackson’s story was, especially the aforementioned struggles. Gary revealed he started writing not long after he came out and it felt incredibly vulnerable writing down the story, sitting by himself at a desk but also with no intention of showing the story to anyone. He also admitted that the experience was also pretty freeing – he had the power to put in scenes that are nice and portray the romantic side and express himself that way, not to mention the excitement to write an Aboriginal character who was gay.

In fact Gary told us that through the entire writing process the love story was the whole focus. Before subplots and side stories and anything else there was the love story. From early drafts when the story was told through Thomas’ perspective, the love story was the continual drive and motivation to finish. Built upon an idea from a short film script Gary wrote about two Aboriginal boys in love the story evolved and one month, a change of narrator, and 65 thousand words later Gary had his first draft.

What was interesting to hear was that US author David Levithan heard of the book and the book is now in the process of being released for US audiences. I will admit when I heard this I was wary, confirmed instantly when Will spoke to Gary about how while the US market is a big deal, they often edit out the “Australianness” of it which takes out a lot of nuance and the voice by changing all the words. The pair spoke about US audiences often love the Australian language and are intrigued by words like ‘ute’ and how some Aussie authors now are putting glossaries in the backs of their books which is a fantastic idea.

Will gave Gary some excellent advice in how to approach being edited for the US while still keeping his text unique and not Americanised which was amazing. I am so glad Aussie authors are getting to push back against changing our stories to suit their audiences. If I have to spend my life never knowing the difference between a sophomore, a junior, and a freshman or have a reference for any of their food then they can learn what a ute is.

Back on the writing process, Will asked what the most challenging part of the process was to which Gary replied adding all the extra things like subplots, but also to stop himself self-editing and allowing himself to write intimate scenes.

When asked about his own reading influencing the writing Gary admitted he has a love/hate relationship with reading and has always come in and out of it. But The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian drew him back in when he was 17 or 18 and after reading it he thought he could write his own story about Aboriginal kids growing up.

Being a zoom event the audience questions were scattered throughout and people asked general questions about the writing and editing process, but there were some great ones from people like fellow YA author Holden Sheppard who asked Gary about considerations made when writing regarding harder topics and subjects. Gary said it was absolutely something he considered when he was writing. He wanted to approach the sexual scenes with feeling rather than making them graphic. He treaded carefully with drafting and worried about the sexual scenes, but not much was edited in the revision, it was mainly the amount of smoking scenes that were cut down.

Will asked Gary about whether he had a second book and Gary revealed he had a manuscript underway, and even has a few more stories up his sleeve. Since Gary wrote to fill a gap, Will asked him whether he was worried he would be pigeonholed. Gary admitted he was worried but that there was a lot more ground to be explored. Will added that being pigeonholed is not always a bad thing because readers love it as do publishers.

Gary admitted trying to write the second book is hard because he’s not writing something as good as The Boy from the Mish but that he needs to get through the doubt. Will advised Gary that as queer writers they write from the margins anyway and not to listen to what reviewers say on Goodreads or the people on the back of the book because it’s not important. The idea is to compare first drafts to first drafts, not first drafts to finished copies, it’s instincts that created the first book.

After an absolutely rewarding hour the interview wrapped up with a crucial question left till last – what was Gary’s favourite Kylie Minogue song (a question with several wrong answers according to Will) but Gary seemed to pass with his answer of the album edit Disco Needs You.

You can purchase The Boy from the Mish via the following

Better Read Than Dead | QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Interview with Nikki Rae

Today I am very lucky to be interviewing Nikki Rae, author of the paranormal/romance Sunshine Series. The third and final book Sun Damage comes out on Friday and I’ll be running a giveaway along with a guest post by Nikki on Monday, but before all that happens I’m asking Nikki about reading, writing, and her wonderful series.

Where did the idea for The Sunshine Series come from?
The initial idea for The Sunshine Series came out of a trip I took with my family when I was 14 or 15. I got sun poisoning on that trip, and I was stuck inside for the whole vacation. I started to wonder what would happen to someone if they got sun poisoning every time they went into the sun, and the story and characters took off from there.

What are your thoughts on writing a book series? Are you someone who plans out all the details of their stories or do you work it out as you go along and see what new things you think of on the way?
I do a little of both. I never plot out the entire thing because for me, writing a book is like watching a movie. It isn’t as exciting getting to certain parts if I already know what’s going to happen. So as you can imagine, my first drafts are really, really sloppy and I have to edit and revise a lot, but that’s when I start to really learn new things.

What was it about this genre that drew you in?
I’ve always loved vampires and I’ve always loved stories that dealt with difficult subject matter. It was a no-brainer to push the two ideas together.

Was there a certain author or book that made you want to start writing, or was it just a dream you’ve always had?
I can’t name one specific book that made me want to write because I think it’s pretty much anything I’ve ever read leading up to becoming an “official” writer. Reading for me was a means of escape and a way to not feel alone. Once I realized this in writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Ellen Hopkins, Anne Rice and Augusten Burroughs, I wanted to be that for people as well.

Is there any author now that has influenced how/what you write?
Again, I feel like every time I read something it influences how I read and how I write. I learn because I read as a writer. I find out what techniques certain authors use and I try to mimic them, or I find things I don’t like and never want to try out.

You started writing Sunshine in high school, having just finished the series and looking at where you are now you must be proud. How have the public reacted to your series?
Yes. Beyond proud of how far the story and how far I have come. The public, for the most part, seems to like the series. Most of the feedback I get is really positive and even sometimes goes deeper than “I liked this book”, which is really amazing to see.

Are you a person who scours reviews to see people’s opinions? Do you obsess over negative ones or do you take them as a chance to improve your work?
I try to read every review but I think that’s because I’m a workshop person. I like feedback. Positive or negative, it teaches me what to work on for next time. I used to get upset over bad reviews, but now they don’t really bother me. What’s important is that people are reading and thinking about what I wrote.

There is a strong music connection through the series, not only with Sophie’s band but each chapter opens with lyrics. Is this your type of music? Do you get any inspiration and motivation from music and lyrics?
Oh yes. Most of the music is what I listen to on a daily basis, but a few bands are favorites of Sophie’s, Myles’, or Jades. Music plays an extremely important role in this series and I found myself not being able to write without it, which is completely out of the ordinary for me. I found that the more music I listened to, the easier it was to slip into Sophie’s voice.

Do you have a certain process or any quirks when writing? Did you have any routines or do anything in particular when writing the series you didn’t realise you were doing?
I drink a lot of tea. Like, more than any one human being should consume in one day. When I’m writing, if my mug isn’t full, I get thrown off for some reason and I have to make more tea. It’s really weird.

What book/s are you currently reading?
Right now I’m reading Switch by Janelle Stalder and The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Marakami.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
The Sandman Series. It’s such an amazing and complex idea and I love it so much.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write! Also, make friends who like to write. They’re good to have because writing is such a solitary thing and it’s nice to be part of a community and have people to bounce ideas off of, read your work, and give you honest advice. Other than that, read a lot. Research your options as to publishing, and have fun. Try to remember when things are hard that you do it because you love it and it’s worth doing. Your ideas are special and no one can tell you different. : )

You can check out all about Nikki and her series with the links below, and don’t forget to check back for the release day blitz and my review of Sun Damage on Friday, plus Nikki’s guest post and giveaway on Monday!

All Your Bits and Pieces Needs
Other stops on the blog tour
Author page
The Sunshine Series page

Where to find her books
Sunshine (Book #1) on Amazon
Sun Poisoned (Book #2) on Amazon
Barnes and Noble 

Aurelio Voltaire Interview

I have been excited about this for weeks. I was given the opportunity by the amazing Spence City Publishing to interview Aurelio Voltaire about his new book Call of the Jersey Devil and I am finally able to share it with you all! Now as we know from my previous post, I am a huge Voltaire fan so I was ecstatic and freaking out all at once. Now, I don’t want my dreams crushed by the revelation that it was via email, and I probably wasn’t the only one, but I will not have these dreams squandered. So, as we get the air of faux professionalism about us we can stop reducing our minor credibility we inflict upon ourself and get on with it.

Call of the Jersey Devil is Voltaire’s first fiction novel, one which is classified as a horror/comedy style, and is filled with wonderful artwork and an entertaining story about a Goth singer, five teenagers, and a legendary figure from Jersey known as the Jersey Devil. This is the story of these five suburban mall rats and the washed up Goth singer who find themselves stranded in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey where they discover two horrifying truths: The Jersey Devil, hellspawn of folklore, is in fact real; and New Jersey is the gateway to Hell.

As a homage to 80s horror and genre films I think what I liked most was this book has been described as having “Frankensteined together elements of Evil Dead, The Breakfast Club, Poltergeist, and This is Spinal Tap”, and this creation has created something that is funny, as well as terrifying at the same time. Fans and followers of Voltaire have been kept updated on the novel’s development via Facebook, Twitter, as well as Voltaire’s Nooseletters and website, and those lucky enough to attend shows have already been privy to an author reading of a chapter or so. I myself have been awaiting its release and I am over the moon to be able to participate in its promotion.

Once again I thank Spence City for giving me this opportunity, and thank you Voltaire for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to reply to my questions.

Did any of your music or film history influence the way you wrote Call of the Jersey Devil?

V: Absolutely! For starters, the book is populated by a handful of Gothic mall rats and so there are many songs from the genre that are referenced. They have conversations about The Cure, Black Sabbath, Danny Elfman.. there’s lots of stuff like that. And in general, the book is really an homage to the films I grew up loving in the 80s. Films like Evil Dead, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Breakfast Club. I think that someone who is familiar with those references is going to get a big kick out of this book.

A few years ago your advice to aspiring authors was “First you have to create the art; once the art is created the rest will come.” Is this still the case?

V: Yes, it still holds true. LOL! Unfortunately, having written a couple of books, I get a non stop stream of aspiring writers asking me how to get published (and for the record, I still don’t really know the answer). The problem is that the great majority of these people have NOT YET WRITTEN A BOOK! It’s kind of crazy. It’s like calling NASA and asking them to tell you in full detail the correct way to exit a lunar lander. Why should they waste their time? First you have to put in the work and become an astronaut. Then you have to go out in space a few times and THEN.. maybe someday, you get to land on the moon. But many people are not really interested in putting in the work. Sometimes they are not even interested in the art form itself.. They have no passion for writing or storytelling, they just like the idea of being a published author. They romanticize the idea of it. Honestly, I can’t even wrap my brain around it. For me, the most basic part is that I like to create, I live to create. If I was homeless and had no occupation, I would still be creating. I know this to be true because I’ve been homeless and I’ve been unemployed and I spent my days creating! LOL! The concept of being successful at it, making a living from it, that needs to come AFTER the deep seated desire to… create. Of course this is just my personal opinion. There are many people who are very successful who see it as a formula. They consider what’s popular. They write something that fits comfortably into the current trend and they find out how to get it published quickly. Those people suck.

So many other authors tell aspiring writers that they must read in order to write. You’ve mentioned before that you are not a reader of books, and yet reading Slaughterhouse-Five made you want to begin writing yourself. Did you find it more of a challenge because you were not a reader, or do you think a good story can be written regardless if you work hard enough on it and have a great story to tell?

V: I think the easy to answer to that is that there is a difference between writing and storytelling. I’m a storyteller. I have always been one. I’ve told stories all of my life. In my songs, in my comic books, in my films. Being a writer is different. There are rules to being a writer that you must follow, trends in writing you should know and perhaps emulate. Taking my storytelling and turning it into what people think of as writing today was a challenge, but not a huge one. I had an amazing editor, Trisha Wooldridge who was stern but kind and she guided me. I learned a lot from her and her input made for a much better book.

The reason Slaughterhouse Five inspired me to write, in short, was because when I read it, I instantly thought.. hey, this is how I speak! I imagined that if I already speak in a similar tone, that I could write a book, too. I was not aware at the time that you have to be Kurt Vonnegut to get away with it! LOL!

I think the end result on Call of the Jersey Devil is a book that’s written in a way that won’t startle anyone but still has enough of my irreverence coming through to perhaps have a unique slant. That’s my hope, anyway.

You have another book in the works with Mezco Toys, The Legend of Candy Claws, what is it about legendary figures that appeals to you, if there is any appeal at all?

V: Well, I guess you’ll be the first to know, but that deal fell through. Apparently Mezco bit off more than they could chew this year and sadly, my book was one of the casualties of them scaling back. It simply means that I’m back to where I was in the start, which was having what I think is a really great story on my hands and needing to figure out how to bring it to the world. It’s nothing that doesn’t happen all of the time in the world of business and nothing I’m not accustomed to.

As to the second part of your question… what’s not to love about legends? There is an inherent epic quality to legendary creatures and hey, when you can invent one of your own… it’s even better! I think Candy Claws or ‘Hargoyle the Christmas bat’ as he’s known to his friends, will see the light of day one way or the other and I think there will be people in the world who will fall in love with this giant, black furry bat the way I have.

 Despite your music typically being categorised as “dark cabaret”, you recently said your music does not have any particular style, is this true of your writing as well or is there a general dark humour similar to that of your albums?

V: My writing, like my music is, I like to think, multi-faceted. There is definitely going to be dark humor, there is going to be pathos, there are going to be moments of true terror, moments of levity, moments of tenderness. I don’t find any of this odd. This is how life is and for one to ONLY write comedy or only write tragedy, to me, seems alien and strange. For me, realism and truth is found in a place where comedy and tragedy live side by side at all times.

 You are very interactive with your fans on YouTube, as well as on Facebook and Twitter, do you look for inspiration from them in your work or is any inspiration you get from them purely serendipitous?

V: My fans play a big part in what I do. I mean, I talk to them pretty much all day long on the internet and all night long at the shows. They tell me what they like, what they don’t like. As I converse with them I learn about the things that move them, the things that bother them, etc… Now, consciously, when it comes time to make art, whether it be music, writing, films, etc… I am in my own head. My philosophy is that if I’m true to myself, if I write something that makes ME laugh or makes ME cry, there will be people in the world who will get the same thing out of the work. I really believe that. I think nothing resonates more strongly with people than honesty. But I’d be a fool to believe that all of the things I’ve experienced with my fans don’t trickle in. No man is an island. We are, in the end, subconsciously if nothing else, a product of our experiences, our interactions and conversations with the world around us.

You mentioned recently that a song on your upcoming album refers to one mentioned in Call of the Jersey Devil, did you plan the entire album based on the story, or was the new album written into the narrative?  

V: It’s a symbiotic relationship. When I set out to write a book about a washed up Goth singer, I drew from some of the early songs I wrote, ironically, songs from a decade before I started recording music. Primarily, because back then I actually wrote what one might call “Goth” music (as opposed to the dark folk/cabaret sound I eventually became known for). However, writing a book is a very time consuming process and in the months it took to write Call of the Jersey Devil, I spent a lot of time thinking about those early songs. Somewhere along the line, I got really excited about the idea of making the only album Raised By Bats (the band in the book) had ever released. And so… that’s the album I’m making. And I have to tell you, giving myself a reason to record and release the songs I wrote when I was seventeen years old has been one of the most surprisingly beautiful turn of events in my life. I have truly revisited all of the pain and hope from that time in my life. It’s been like finding an old scrap book from high school. It’s been… an experience.

What made you move to novels from graphic novels and nonfiction? Was it a natural progression?

V: Well, while it wasn’t really a conscious decision, I do have to point out that my experience is that no one cares about comic books! My graphic novels rank right up there with the most labor intensive and ironically thankless endeavors in my life. I worked for no less than eight hours a day (above and beyond what I was doing to pay the rent) to draw the pages of my Chi-chian then Oh My Goth! then Deady graphic novels. As far as I could tell, based on sales, people really didn’t care that much for them. However, I could never keep the toys in stock! Eventually, I stopped making comic books and only made the toys of the characters. To this day, I can’t keep the toys in stock. They are always the first things to sell out. I honestly don’t even want to think about it because I will get very misanthropic if I let myself believe that people don’t appreciate the thousands of hours that go into telling the stories and drawing the pages, but go bananas to get their hands on a plush toy that took ten minutes to design. LOL! Okay, yeah, let’s just stop talking about it.

You are a dedicated fan of Star Trek and Star Wars, do you read or secretly write any fan fiction about either franchise?

V: Nope. An ex-girlfriend bought me a Deep Space Nine novel as a joke from the gift shop of a hotel at which we stayed when we were on some tropical island many years ago. And when a monsoon hit, I did actually read it. It was… pretty bad. LOL! But no, I can’t see myself investing time in writing fan fiction. I have far too many ideas of my own and if I live to be a hundred, I will not have anywhere near enough time to bring them all to light.

How is your other story The Nothing going?

V: Terribly! LOL! I’m presently writing an album, touring, promoting Call of the Jersey Devil, preparing five different toy releases for this year, wrapping up my children’s book, writing a script for a feature film and doing another dozen things I can’t even think of right now. So, sadly The Nothing has really fallen behind. I don’t even have a full chapter written yet. But like everything else in the pipeline, I will eventually get to it and I will eventually finish it.
It’s just a matter of… time.

You can find out more about Aurelio Voltaire, his other equally amazing works, and any additional antics by visiting his website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads profile, or his Youtube channel: The Lair of Voltaire

You also still have time for pre-orders before Call of the Jersey Devil is released on May 28th, 2013.