Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Interview with Kaz Delaney

Today I'm thrilled to bits to share my recent interview with Kaz Delaney, author of Dead, Actually and bling-queen. Below, Kaz shares her experiences about writing and publishing a young adult novel.

Firstly, what was your inspiration for Dead, Actually?
I’d been writing sweeter YA, and I wanted to write something kind of heavier, but still fun.  We were holidaying on the Gold Coast when the idea hit. We visit there as much as we can, and always stay at the same place in Surfers, right on the Esplanade and that has fabulous views. Views not only of the ocean but of all the people who parade past along that beach strip. I am soooo  a people watcher; this is just nirvana to me.  Anyway, I was watching this group of girls one day. They were obviously used to a lux life and were dripping in ‘designer’.  It was huge fun because it was all kissy kissy and ‘you’re the best! / ‘No you are!’ you could just tell that behind all that surface love was this huge rivalry to be the best, most gorgeous, most ah-dored... And so I start thinking, ‘What if...’.

What made you choose to set Dead, Actually on the Gold Coast?
I ah-dore the GC! It totally rocks!  I know, I know... It gets a bad rep sometimes but I often think that comes from people who have forgotten how to let loose and have fun! It’s vibrant and gorgeous and has fabulous energy. The weather’s great, the light is just magic, the restaurants are great and the people are great.  And actually, choosing that setting should have been a no-brainer given that the idea was born there, but initially, I was going to set it in San Francisco. I was just back from the States and my books were being pubbed over there at that time. So, I started writing it set in SF. Fast forward a year or so,  and we’re back on the GC for a conference and I found myself re-living those first moments of the story’s birth.  And I was seeing those girls: Gold Coast girls... Cue the first doubts. Added to that, throughout the following days, everywhere we went, I could ‘see ‘another scene.  So, I ditched months of work and set the story where it had always belonged: on the GC. And hoped someone would agree with me. Thankfully they did!

What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing Dead, Actually? What was the most enjoyable part?
Oh wow... Biggest challenge? Initially, Willow I think. Willow is the moral centre of the story; everyone around her has been, or is, living on the edge. They’ve all got secrets they’d like to keep buried – as most of us do. But while The Angels will do anything to keep their own secrets deep –sixed,  they’d throw their  friends under the bus at the slightest provocation. Although, I have to clarify that they’re not so-much amoral as they are self-absorbed. Except for JoJo of course... That’s a whole other thing...  

But back to Willow – who is kind of the light to their dark. Note I didn’t say white to their black because it’s not that straightforward.  So, the challenge for me was keeping Willow real. I wanted/needed her to be different to the others – but then if she was a saint, who’d want to read about her? She needed to have her own issues and her own flaws.
The fun part? Without doubt, creating JoJo. JoJo has no moral filter. Creating JoJo was like letting my inner mean-girl off the chain for a while. Not that I would ever think, say or do those things... Ne-vah! 

Creating JoJo was outrageous fun.  She’s ruthless and has no sense of accountability. She says what she thinks; does what she wants.  It’s awful! Really?  You wouldn’t want her as a friend – especially if you have any juicy secrets! LOL.
Although... if we’re honest there are times in life when we’d secretly all like to be JoJo or like her, just for a moment. Hasn’t there been a time – even one – in your life when you’d  love to have that freedom to just let fly and not be hampered by what’s socially acceptable and what’s not?  But then again look what happens of you do let go? Obviously JoJo  didn’t believe in karma. Maybe she should have... 

Click below for the rest of my interview with Kaz!

I liked that despite being wealthy, Willow wasn’t your typical ‘trust fund teen’ – she has a strong work ethic and a good head on her shoulders (yay!) Was this a deliberate decision? Tell us a little bit about writing Willow.
I’ve probably answered this above a little bit.  Willow had to be the antithesis of the others, but still be a part of the scene. She had to have access and be (sort of) accepted by them to gain entree into their lives.  It intrigued me to get to know someone so young who had everything but who wasn’t defined by that wealth. I wanted to find someone with all that and also a strong sense of self – and Willow was all that.  And who happened to also be funny.
On that wealth thing, the reason these kids lived such a luxurious life wasn’t necessarily a deliberate stroke at first. At first I was simply channelling the girls I’d observed and filling in the blanks based on my own experiences of kids who have everything – and yet conversely are often (not always) lacking so many fundamentals.   But then as I got into it, the prospect intrigued me more and I hoped that readers would also want to a glimpse into the rarefied atmosphere of the ultra wealthy. Funny thing is that when you peel back the layers? They’re just kids with challenges; kids with the same problems – just on a different scale. 

Is there any possibility (pretty please!) that we will hear from Willow, Macey or the Angels again?Well... I’m not really at liberty to say... What’s that? You’re stealing my shoe collection? And my nail polishes? My gorgeous hot pink Guess handbag?  No! No! I can’t stand the torture! Okay, okay! I’ll spill: YES! There will be another story. And maybe it will feature Macey. No! Not the lime green leather...  Oh, okay! You win! It WILL be  Macey’s story. Happy? Sheesh!

What was your journey to publication with Dead, Actually like?If you mean the actual journey from  signing with my agent (Jacinta di Mase of JDM Management)  to sale? Not too bad. I was lucky. I got some great advice early on from a very astute beta reader. After all the revisions we sold the book in just five weeks which was amazing. Allen & Unwin have been great to work with and they’re blown me away with their promotion efforts. A full page ad in Girlfriend mag? Come. On! That’s awesome.  If you mean from day one of deciding I ‘really’ was going to be a published author. I hope you’ve got a week or two to listen...

I won’t bore you with all the deets, but I have a serious car accident and my husband to thank for initially getting published.  I’d wanted to write for years, but was really busy with kids and work and life, but then I had a whopper of a car accident.  It resulted in two years of physio therapy, five days a week, dire warnings of not being able to write and having to alter my life completely including giving up lots of things I loved – like competition sport (squash) and heaps of other things. Falling into a mini depression and finding myself at a loss, prompted my husband to suggest it might be a good time to write seeing as I had more time. I did – and amazingly the road to publication was pretty smooth. I worked really hard and honed my stories, joined organisations and started writer’s groups. Within five years, I’d achieved publication and quickly racked up about six acceptances – that have grown to about 60 now (under my other name), but mostly they’re for younger children.  Fun memory? I knew I was an author the day my first contract came through from Pan Macmillan for a romance  - and in the same mail was a letter from another publisher saying they wanted to publish two of my kids books. 

I know you’ve previously written romance novels – what lead you to write young adult fiction
Ahh, but I haven’t... LOL.  It’s true I’ve had a long association with Romance Writers of Australia and am internationally recognised as such (I was a the first National Vice Prez and held a load of other positions over a number of years) but I’ve only written one adult romance, and it was my first publication and it was with Pan Macmillan – but that was more mainstream.  Actually, it featured death. Wow. I wonder if I have a death fixation??
I started off writing romance and got side-tracked by writing or kids and YA. And loved it. I think I’m where I belong.

As a writing teacher and published author, I’m sure you’re full of excellent writing tips! What advice do you have for aspiring YA authors? (Feel free to give a top 3 tips etc)
I don’t think any of these will be very original – but maybe that’s what makes them so important.

1. You honestly, first and foremost, have to like teenagers. There’s no getting away from this, and it’s advice I find I give all the time. Especially more recently as YA is so hot. Heaps of authors and aspiring authors think it’s an easy way to either rack up a few quick sales or get onto the publishing train. But if you don’t really like teenagers and respect who they are, and are fascinated by them – then don’t even think about it because it will show in your writing. For some of us it helps if you’ve never grown up... Sigh...  But basically? If you don’t scream to the movies to be first in line every time there’s a new teenage movie out because you think it’s a bit silly – then maybe you need to rethink whether YA is for you. But on the other hand if your heart breaks for the 15 year old who’s just been dropped,  or  can empathise with the physical pain and stress of the girl who changes clothes twenty times to go out because she’s worried about fitting in or running into THAT guy – or cries along with the girl who cries herself to sleep because the  jerky guy she’s in lurve with doesn’t know she’s alive  because he thinks he’s cool and she’s not – then this could be a match made in heaven for you.   Sheesh – that was sooo preachy. Sorry.
2. Read the genre.  Read as many titles in as many YA subgenres as you can.  See? I can be short and succinct.
3.  If this is ‘you’ and you love it and you want to be here – then never let go of that dream. And then save all your pennies and hot foot it up the CYA (Children/ Young Adult) writers conference in Brisbane. This year it’s on July 7th  (2012).    http://web.me.com/qmsa/CYA/  It’s where I met my fabulous agent Jacinta di Mase of JDM Management. There are fabulous opportunities to learn, to submit to competitions  and have face to face meetings with  editors and agents – that could lead to the stars!

Now I  know you’re a woman after my own heart with your love of accessories!!!
What is your must-have accessory? What do you not leave home without?
Oh wow – this question has stumped me for days. Just one? Okay, I ‘will’ tell you I have been unfashionably and downright ‘rudely’ late for functions because I have turned back home to get forgotten earrings and to put on perfume.  Perfume is an absolute must. And I never leave home without earrings. They’re mostly gold hoops – I am The Lady of the Hoops – which my hub thinks is a throwback to my long ago Spanish heritage.  I had a special part of my wardrobe designed for handbags and shoes. Gasp! Am I really admitting this! (Though, I rush to explain it’s much simpler and humbler than that sounds by the way.)  And my dream is to copy a walk-in robe I saw on telly. It was in NY and this gal (former model) had all her handbags displayed on shelves like artefacts, and each one had its own overhead lighting.  Now that was truly gasp-worthy.  My current faves are a gorgeous light lime-coloured soft- leather bag that has the leather fashioned into petals; My hot pink Guess handbag that my husband brought me for Christmas, and a gold one from Target that just gets shrieks of delight wherever I go.  It’s huge and completely made of sequins and I guess you have to like that stuff – but I adore it.  

Footwear also plays a huge part in Dead, Actually – tell me about your favourite pair of shoes. Just one? I’ve loved shoes since forever. I remember when I was about 8 or 9 and I had these gorgeous blue thongs (sounds horrid but they had sparkly things and were v.e.r.y cute).  Anyhow, I had also teamed those blue, sparkly thongs with an orangey-red (give me a break! I was like 8 years old! My accessorising skills hadn’t been honed properly then) toe-nail polish. I was  Gor-jus! So gorgeous that I was totally mesmerised and as I walked.  I couldn’t take my eyes off those toes and thongs and  - you guessed right? Yep! I walked smack bang into a six feet high iron fence and knocked myself out!!!  I was hysterical when I ‘came to’ because someone had removed my thongs!!! I almost passed out again in distress...

But for the here and now? Two pair come to mind. Oh no – three. One is a pair of silver strappy silver stilettos that are almost all bling. The next pair are also silver and a gift from my husband – who obviously knows me well.  I’m including a photo. The last pair are sandals and have a gold metal beaded thing at the front. That piece is solid and they’re actually a cow to wear, but they look fabulous. Very Cleopatra. I’m adding photos but be warned - these aren’t new – I wear my gorgey shoes. I don’t just keep them for show, so if they’re showing signs of scruff – it’s because they’re loved.

What are you reading at the moment?Just finished Louise Rennison’s  ‘Withering Tights’. Funny.  Have ‘just’ started Dale Harcombe’s YA ‘Streets on a Map’, which I think I’m going to enjoy – and have been swapping those with Lisa Heidke’s  ‘Stella makes Good’ .  I’m a big LH fan and even though she writes for an older audience – there’s still that sharp, quick banter that you often find in a YA.  

Thank you for stopping by Kaz!
And I love that you share my dream of a walk-in robe with specially crafted accessory shelves!!
For more from Kaz, visit her blog


Mel said...

Great interview Steph!
I can't wait to grab a copy of the book. It sounds like it's going to be amazing, and Kaz seems absolutely lovely.

Miss Friday said...

Thanks Mel - Kaz is so lovely, and a complete hoot! Hope you enjoy the book :D

Post a Comment