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

Stuff Happens: Sean by Will Kostakis

book-bite

Published: 27th August 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin Australia
Pages: 120
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fictions
★   ★  ★  ★  – 4 Stars

 

4 boys, 4 stories, 4 great Australian writers in an important new series.

Stuff happens sometimes.

Everyday stuff.

At school, at home, with sport, with mates.

For Ned it happened with a new teacher.

For Sean it happened starting at a new school.

For Michael it happened when he thought he was disappointing his parents.

For Jack it happened when a game at recess went wrong.

This is such a sweet story. It is a quick read and part of the wider series but there is a wonderful message in there about being a friend and finding your place in a new school. Despite the length the narrative is quite complicated which I was surprised about. Kostakis covers feeling scared of a new school and trying to make new friends. But he also explores how leaving one place doesn’t make the love of your old home go away. There are lessons about being helpful and making grown up decisions when you are scared of the consequences.

There are morals and messages but they are not obvious as they develop naturally around the characters and their actions. Kostakis doesn’t make it overly complicated either, Sean’s feelings and thoughts help tell the story as well as his feelings and the inclusion of the emotion chart at the bottom of some pages was a clever way to indicate how Sean was feeling.

I read this because it was a Will Kostakis book, now I might need to track down the others in the series as well to get the full scope of this fascinating set of books.

You can purchase Stuff Happens: Sean via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

How Will You Celebrate Reading Hour?

Stop what you’re doing for one hour and pick up a book. That’s the message.

Today is the day when Australia celebrates Reading Hour. For one hour pick up a book and escape for a little while. You can celebrate the day by doing this at home, at work, in a cafe, in a library or a bookshop. There are places all over the country holding events you can attend or you can even start your own impromptu one, it isn’t too late. If you’d like information on planning your own event check out the guide here.

I will be continuing to read Monuments by Will Kostakis for my hour today. Who knows, I might escape for a little longer than an hour if the world permits.

What will you be reading today?

 

The Book that Made Me edited by Judith Ridge

Published: 1st September 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Walker Books Australia
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/Non Fiction
★   ★ – 2 Stars

The Book That Made Me is a celebration of the books that influenced some of the most acclaimed authors from Australia and the world. Inspirational. Affecting.

A perfect collection of personal stories for book lovers!

Personal stories by fantastic authors such as Markus Zusak, Jaclyn Moriarty, Shaun Tan, Mal Peet, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Simon French, Fiona Wood, Simmone Howell, Bernard Beckett, Ursula Dubosarsky, Rachael Craw, Sue Lawson, Felicity Castagna, Benjamin Law, Cath Crowley, Kate Constable, James Roy, Alison Croggon, Will Kostakis and Randa Abdel-Fattah. Also features black and white cartoons by Shaun Tan!

I picked up this book because there were stories from authors that I love to read and the premise sounded really interesting. There’s always a risk with anthologies that a reader won’t enjoy all the stories equally and unfortunately this was the case for me. Sometimes it is only a few but I found with this collection I couldn’t engage with a lot of the stories. I wanted to enjoy them, I wanted to read about what books had an impact on these writers but I struggled to get through many of the stories. This may be my own personal issue and perhaps it was because they were personal essays and not fictional stories, but I kept putting the book down and finding reasons to skim.

I shouldn’t be too harsh, there are 32 stories in this anthology and some certainly were engaging; they were humorous and fascinating stories about how a single book, whether it was a massive dislike or a fascination with a concept, changed how the author saw the world and shaped who they wanted to be. Will Kostakis told how his hatred of a set book in primary school inspired him to write his own story, Benjamin Law wrote how he fell in love with Roald Dahl and reading things ten year olds probably shouldn’t be reading, while so many more mentioned that books were their treasures and offered them an escape. There were stories from indigenous authors and how their culture and stories impacted them, and there’s also voices from minorities in Australia who talk about never seeing themselves in books and how the culture of their parents affected the books they were exposed to.

These stories opened my eyes to how different people had access to different books, some read the same books I had read as a kid, and certainly the age ranges between these authors offered a wider range of books again. The reasons how and why these books made an impact were interesting in themselves. I’ve certainly felt this way about books I’ve read. My book was Checkers by John Marsden. I read that when I was in high school and it cemented my decision to want to write so I understand why these essays exist, I only wish I enjoyed more of them.

The format was not only essays, there were lists, comics, dot points, poems, and a few people had more than one book that shaped them. A nice surprise were the Shaun Taun illustrations sprinkled throughout. Tan asked random strangers why they read and seeing the responses sprinkled throughout with an accompanying sketch was an adorable and entertaining way to break up the stories.

Even though it wasn’t my favourite anthology, I still enjoyed seeing how so many books, especially ones I had read myself, had such an impact on these authors. Just shows you the true power of reading and how people can read the same book in so many different ways.

You can purchase The Book that Made Me via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology edited by Danielle Binks

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 24th April 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins Australia
Pages: 322
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/ Young Adult
★   ★  ★  ★  ★ – 5 Stars

With Anthology August underway I was fortunate to even have an anthology in my “read but not reviewed” pile. Begin, End, Begin is a fantastic example of Australia’s talent and YA capabilities. I loved all of these stories which is so rare with anthologies and I found some great new authors that I may never have discovered.

With a theme “Begin, End, Begin” there are so many ways it can be interpreted and I was astounded by the creativity of these authors. I think I loved almost every single one of these stories which is so rare with an anthology but with this calibre of talent who can really be surprised. I knew of, but had not read, a lot of these authors when this was first released and it was a great chance to see their writing style in small snippets, with a fabulous and engaging story. I still think about a lot of these stories two years later and is a testament to the quality and imagination of these writers. I’ve definitely read a lot more of their works since and it was a real benefit getting a chance to see their styles and fall in love with them first.

Some of my favourites would have to be ‘One Small Step’ by Amie Kaufman and ‘I Can See the Ending’ by Will Kostakis; both are amazing and certainly ones I have thought about often since. They aren’t the only great ones as there are some beautiful stories in here filled with heart and imagination.

There’s only ten contributors so there is a chance at a longer story from them all, but even so with a few short pages you are brought into these worlds or science fiction, contemporary, romance and diversity. If you are new to the #LoveOzYA phenomenon this is a fantastic way to get introduced to some great authors and see their talent in small, entertaining snippets.

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