Interview: Nova Weetman, middle-grade and YA author

An interview by Shelley Carter

Nova Weetman has been writing since she was a preteen and has not stopped since! True to the Underground Writers’ aesthetic, her writing career began with an old, black typewriter. I spoke to Nova about her writing career and what it’s like to write for a middle grade and young adult audience.

Firstly, tell us about your writing career—how did you become an author?

I wrote my first book at 12, inspired by a fabulous school principal. I had an old, black typewriter as a child and used to spend all my time writing Agatha Christie-style murder mysteries. Basically, writing was the only thing I ever wanted to do. I had my first piece published in The Age at 16 because my English teacher sent it in without telling me. Being published sealed my fate. From that point on, I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

I was writing children’s television and developing my own series that we couldn’t get the funding for. I realised that I loved writing for younger people and I was desperate to write my own stories, not someone else’s like you tend to in television land. My eldest child was very little when I started writing my first book, The Haunting of Lily Frost. I used to wake up early and write before she woke, and it just sort of eventuated from there.

Your books tend to focus on hard-hitting, emotional subjects. Is there are certain approach you take when writing for a younger audience?

I think I write the sorts of stories I liked reading when I was younger. Actually, I still like reading emotional, hard-hitting stories, so maybe that’s why I write what I write. I remember being 12 and what that felt like. On the cusp of teenager-hood, and feeling confused and often out-of-sorts. I think I write from that place because I’m still trying to work out everything I felt back then. I like characters who haven’t worked it all out but are messy and overwhelmed.

Are there any lessons you have learned over the course of your writing career? Any tips for aspiring authors?

I really thought that when my first book was published my life would change overnight. It didn’t and I’m still waiting! Writing books is like any other job—some days are awful and hard and you wish you’d chosen anything else as a career, and some days it’s the best. Now I look at it more pragmatically. If one person somewhere likes a book I’ve written and it moves them in some small way then that’s about all I can hope for. I think if you want to be an author then write. As much as you can, as often as you can, without fear and in secret. Don’t show anyone until you know what it is you have and trust it.

Why do you think creating literature for a younger audience is important?

When I was young, books were my life. They got me through friendship dramas, parent dramas, relationship dramas. They were my happy place, and they still are. I think young people use books for all sorts of reasons and they need access to diverse stories, honestly told. I’ve watched my own kids process all sorts of things because of the books they’ve chosen to read. They turn to sad books when they need a cry, happy books to pull them out. They like being able to see themselves on the page and in the fictional worlds.

Lastly, tell us about your books! Is there a favourite book you’ve written so far?

My favourite book is always the one if I’ve just finished. I don’t really like my books much once they are published and in the world. I see all the faults in them and how much they broke me to write. So, my favourite right now is Sick Bay—it will be out in June and it’s about an unlikely friendship between two Grade 6 girls who are stuck together in their school sick bay. It’s about wanting to be ’normal’, until you realise there is no such thing.

Nova’s published works include Frankie and Joely, Everything is Changed, The Secrets We Keep (series) and The Haunting of Lily Frost. Check out her website here!

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