Kathryn Lomer has written several YA books, all quite different from each other. Her latest book continues to explore her interest in environmental issues. Kathryn graciously agreed to answer our questions. Thanks to Kathryn, and her publishers UQP, who facilitate such conversations.
How did you get started as a writer?
I began by writing short stories as I really loved that genre. I was very much inspired by stories by Canadian writer Margaret Atwood and also Australian writer Carmel Bird. I won a competition or two, had a few stories published, and continued from there.
Which author(s) were/are your inspiration as a child/young person?
I loved Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five which I discovered at the house of a friend of my parents. I read anything else I could get my hands on from the small local library. But I didn’t receive much guidance – no teacher librarian to help an avid young reader!
What does your typical day look like?
I wish there were such a thing as typical! Sometimes I go to work at my day job and don’t do any writing at all. But if I have some time and freedom (which means some money) and I’m in creating mode, rather than editing mode, I love to write hard in the morning, starting early and finishing around the middle of the day. And then walking is good for thinking. So are baths.
Can you describe your workspace?
My workspace is chaotic. I’d like it to be tidy, but it never stays that way for long. Sometimes the chaos leads to interesting connections; sometimes it’s just frustrating. I have a big desk with my books and papers all close by. A sort of magic circle. But sometimes I go to the library to work so that I have other people around. And it’s warmer in winter!
Any words of advice for young readers and writers?
Keep reading! Read all sorts of books. And keep writing. Carry a notebook with you all the time because you never know when that particular observation or snippet of conversation will come in handy. Find someone you trust, preferably another writer, to read your work and give you some feedback. Send your work out to competitions and magazines.
Do you have a favourite book or character (your own or somebody else’s)?
I’m really fond of all my YA characters. Perhaps they’re like substitute children.
If you were not a creator of books for young people, what would you be?
In another life I would love to be a marine biologist, or zoologist, or some other sort of scientist. The science story is an endlessly fascinating one.
What is your favourite food to eat and/or your favourite music to listen to whilst you are working on your books?
I make big pots of soup in winter so I can quickly heat some up for lunch. Lately I love to play Erik Satie. I can only have classical music on while working; words are too distracting.
How much of yourself or people you know is in your books?
A lot of myself and my own experience is in my books. Other people I know are there, too, though their character traits are more mixed in together.
If you could have one wish for the world what would it be?
Tell us about your latest book.
Talk Under Water is the story of a friendship which develops between a deaf girl and a hearing boy.
How significant is social media for you as an author trying to either promote yourself and your books, and /or trying to connect with readers?
I have to admit to being a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to social media. I just don’t know when I would have the time.
There is a growing group of YA authors in Australia promoting their books under the hashtag #LoveOzYA. Do you believe such movements are necessary? Worthwhile? Viable?
I think any form of promotion of books and reading is worthwhile. Reading is such an enriching part of life. I really can’t imagine life without it.
Another significant hashtag is #weneeddiversebooks. Can you talk about your new novel in this context?
I think it’s true that we need books with characters and situations reflecting diversity. I didn’t deliberately set out to write one. I have simply followed my own interests as usual.
Do you feel obliged to write books that fit into the Australian Curriculum? Does anything impinge on your stories?
Simply put, no. I follow my own interests.
How do you respond to the point of view that ‘teenagers’ time is already too committed to study, sport, part-time work and socialising. They have no time to read. There is little point to recreational reading anyway. They get plenty of opportunities to read while they are on their computers’. How do we as passionate advocates of reading for pleasure counter this argument?
I tell my teenage son, who is an enthusiastic user of gyms, that reading is a workout for the brain and fun at the same time. (He assures me that gym is fun, too, but I’m not sure I agree!) A friend’s son, who is now a lawyer working in Europe, recently said that he learned a lot of what he understands about people and the world from reading fiction. And that understanding is now extremely important in his work as well as his life. Good feedback!
Personally, I think people simply live much richer lives if they read. There’s the pleasure of curling up with a book. It’s calming, and really important down-time from those other busy activities. It grows imagination and understanding of the world, to say nothing of improving literacy! If you’re sick you can still read, or listen to recorded books. Story is ancient and has lasted for a reason, passing on more wisdoms and insights and scenarios and characters than we could otherwise amass in one lifetime through direct experience. And it’s accessing inner lives.
It’s always important, too, for parents to be modeling reading around their children and taking the time to discuss books with them. We can’t ask kids to read instead of being on computers all the time if they see adults doing the opposite.