In 2003, Every Breath
by Ellie Marney was published by Allen & Unwin.
Ellie’s contemporary Australian reimagining of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes characters was an instant hit, and the third in the trilogy was published last year.
In 2015, Every Breath
was named by the Australian Library Information Association as one of the top ten most-borrowed YA books in libraries nationwide, one of only two Australian books to make the top ten.
It was this data that helped establish the #LoveOzYA movement, and Ellie was one of the original creators and supports of the initiative. Ellie hosts the #LoveOzYAbookclub online, and is also an ambassador for the Stella Prize Schools Program.
Ellie is a true champion of Australian stories and we couldn’t think of a better person to end our week of Q&As with.
1. What was your favourite book growing up and why?
Probably have to say The Belgariad series
(David Eddings) – those books are so wonderful, and it wasn’t until much later that I realised it was actually the character development that kept me engrossed. I mean, the story is great but the characters are glorious.
2. If you could invite three fictional characters to dinner, who would you pick?
Sherlock Holmes, naturally. He would be obnoxious and interesting and probably get bored with dinner conversation after fifteen minutes and go wandering. Also I’d invite Tara Finke from Saving Francesca
and The Piper’s Son
(Melina Marchetta) because she’s wonderful, and at least she’d hang around to chat, unlike Sherlock. And maybe Hannibal Lecter, because he and Sherlock would be fascinating to watch together. Sherlock might actually stay at the table with Hannibal in the room…
3. What is your favourite part of the #LoveOzYA community?
It’s encouraging local teenagers to read their own stories – that’s the unique and amazing part. But also, the talking with all the other writers is so much fun! The way people make you feel so welcome. That’s for me personally, as a writer – I love it, the fact that people are so friendly and approachable, it really gives me all the feels.
4. What would you like to tell your 18 year-old self?
Maybe ‘don’t give up on your dream to be a writer’, or something like that? So I didn’t lose heart. But hopefully also something useful, like ‘don’t wear bubble skirts’ and ‘don’t date Sean, he’s a loser’.
5. If you could pick the next big ‘trend’ in YA fiction, what would you choose?
Ooh, tricky… Because so much of publishing is chance. I mean, it’s like throwing a hundred darts at the wall and seeing which ones stick…
But I would think that, after Brexit and the Australian election and the US election, people might like to read something lighter. So I’m thinking (hoping) we’ll see a few more funny books on shelves.
Also I think maybe a fair bit of Real-Life-reflecting literature, so there will be darker books that look at the outside world – so something looking at life under totalitarian regimes, perhaps. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of contemp and dystopian fiction yet, I think it might get a bit more overtly political, with characters wondering about personal choice and which path to go down… Whatever it is, I think it will be more diverse. More diverse authors, with a wider view of the world – yes please!
6. Who inspires you? (Doesn’t have to be limited to other writers.)
My kids, always. And my partner, who is endlessly interesting to me (and patient with me, thank god!).
As far as writers go, I’ve always admired Mel vina Marchetta and Helen Garner, they’re quite incredible writers. Peter Temple and Honey Brown and Thomas Harris and Margo Lanagan, too – they’re writers I often go back to.
7. What YA book absolutely needs to be adapted into a film?
. Hah! Okay, sure, do that. No, I’m kidding – that would be cool, but I’d actually love to see Marlee Jane Ward’s Welcome to Orphancorp
as a film, or Scot Gardner’s The Dead I Know
, or Ambelin Kwaymullina’s Tribe series
– they’d be dynamite.
8. What’s the best #LoveOzYA book you’ve read in the past 12 months?
Okay, that’s hard, that’s like choosing favourite children…
Honestly, I loved Illuminae
by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – you can understand why it’s a popular choice, it’s freaking amazing. They play with form, and story and the way it’s put together is unique. But I also loved Summer Skin
by Kirsty Eagar, that book should get all the love.
9. What is your number one tip for would-be writers?
Read. That’s always my first tip. You can’t be a writer if you don’t read – and by that I mean, take in story. So sure, if your story medium is visual, you need to be watching films and television and checking out graphic novels and zines and so on, to see how the good stuff is done. But if you work in words, reading is your Number One priority. Just…yeah, suck that story up. And work out how you’d do it, your way.
10. How would you summarise your latest book in 25 words or less?
Hah! My new book evolves into a different beast every day, at the moment… I’m in the middle of edits, so things are always changing. But okay, here’s my best try:
Rural boy meets isolated radical-community girl and discovers there’s no ‘you’ in ‘utopia’ – and that figuring out yourself and family is always hard.