You’ve read their book, now read their thoughts!
I sat-down with Alison Evans (and by that I mean, I was sitting down when I wrote these questions and I’m guessing they were also sitting down when they emailed me their answers back) to get their insights on writing AusQueerYA, author earnings and the importance of good WiFi. And they showed me their desk.
If you could pretend we had a witty back and forth banter in between each of these Q+A’s that would be swell.
GYWO: Your author blurb says you write about ‘people who don’t know what they want, relationships and Melbourne.’ I loved those elements in Ida (and it made me mega-home sick for Melbourne). Was the theme of ‘figuring out what you want’ something that always interested you as a writer, or were you inspired in some way?
AE: I think when I wrote the first draft of Ida in 2011 I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and so for me, that really came across in my writing (I mean I’m still floundering a bit now, if I’m honest). Plus I think it’s a pretty big theme in YA in general, when you’re nearing the end of school and wondering what to do I think that can be a pretty big thing to think about, and I know it was on my mind constantly.
GYWO: Can you send us a pic/describe your writing space? Do you have a dedicated spot or do you jump around (hopefully not into Alt-Universes though)?
AE: This is my desk (before and after, for honesty lol). The laptop is raised and I’ve got another keyboard so that I sit up straight when I’m working. I really need to invest in a proper desktop but right now this is what I can afford! I write mostly here or in cafes or at my writing group, which is held at in a group room at a library.
GYWO: You’ve published several books prior to Ida. What made you switch to Echo Publishing, and how has that journey been as a Queer writer with a Queer novel?
AE: I wanted an Australian publisher really, that was my main reason for switching. My first publisher LT3 publish some really great stuff, but at the end of the day they’re a romance publisher and I’m not really a romance writer. YA is my jam and the kind of YA I write isn’t really suitable for them, in my mind. So I went with Echo, who I have loved working with! They’re the best and have been perfect, they had already published Clinch by Martin Holmen which has a bi protagonist, so I knew I was going to be safe with them.
GYWO: No need to state actual figures if you’re not comfortable, but how do you author earnings (if any) work out in comparison with your overall living costs? Do you think the lack of money (like grants, prize money, privilege in terms of time/another income source to actually write in the first place) for Queer and young Queer writers especially has an impact on what is being published and who is getting published?
AE: For Ida, I got an advance of $2k. My first book made me about $500, my second maybe $700. So in comparison to my living costs, they are not nearly covered! But I am also working with smaller publishers, I’m not sure how authors at say, Penguin, go. I also get some money from festivals and freelancing, but right now I’ve got a day job at a call centre. My goals is to just do freelancing but I’m not quite there yet! I think it’s difficult for queer people to write because we are often part of lower socio-economic groups, and so often we can’t afford to not have a day job. Plus there’s still that mindset of “queer books don’t sell”, so some publishers are reluctant to publish them. And then with other kinds of writing, if it’s online then you open yourself up to abuse. I got an article published in the Guardian recently and a lot of abuse was sent my way. So even if I was fine from an economic point of view, there’s still the danger of being visibly queer in public spaces.
GYWO: I read this ridiculous review of Ida that claimed having genderqueer/genderfluid/transgender characters ‘plays havoc with (your) pronouns’, which I interpreted to mean this reviewer couldn’t comprehend anything beyond the cis-gendered binary of male/female. Did your editor get the them/they pronouns of yourself and Daisy easily or was there some difficulty having Daisy’s pronouns stay correct during the editing process?
AE: Haha, I know exactly which article you’re talking about! And I was actually really nervous about that because when I first signed the contract for Ida, Daisy’s pronouns were she. When I sent the next draft in, I had changed Daisy’s pronouns to they. But it was completely fine, no one kicked up a fuss at all!
GYWO: Favourite Queer character/s in a book or movie?
AE: I love Cameron in The Miseducation of Cameron Post by EM Danforth. She’s gutsy and trying to figure herself out but at the same time really seems to know who she is. Yuri from Yuri on Ice is so great as well, he’s just really sweet and the whole anime is so cute and wholesome. There’s just no queer trauma in it at all, I’d recommend it to literally everyone.
GYWO: I follow you on Twitter and you’re always teasing us about new Ida-world material. There were just so many things I wanted to know more about in this world(s). Are we going to get to read stuff soon?
AE: I knooooow I’m sorry!!! (I’m not) I hope so! I have so much story for Damaris and Adrastos, I really want to write some more about them. I reckon I’d like to write a book about Frank too, he’s super cute.
GYWO: What do you think is the biggest hurdle for Own Voices writers in the AusQueerYA genre and what do you think are some ways to overcome these hurdles?
AE: For me my biggest worry is seeming like I speak for a whole group. Like for example I am bisexual, and Ida is bisexual, but does that necessarily mean she’s the perfect bisexual rep? I don’t think so. She’s a bisexual character written by a bisexual author, but that doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily an expert, you know? Like I can only present my own view on what I think bisexuality is, and that’s not going to be other people’s views, if that makes sense. I think the most important thing for me, at least, is to remember I can’t really speak for a group, I can only speak for myself.
GYWO: Do you know any emerging AusQueerYA writers we should keep an eye out for?
AE: Well Finding Nevo by Nevo Zisin has just come out. It’s non-fiction and it’s great. I’m really looking forward to seeing what else Nevo does! Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde is another ausqueerya which I haven’t read yet but I have heard nothing but good things, she has written a few books before this one (and is a bestselling author!!) so she’s not really emerging, more established, but I’m super keen to check out her stuff.
GYWO: Would you rather be stuck on a tropical island with super-fast free WiFi or New York City, with zero WiFi?
AE: The tropical island. it’s warm, there’s wifi, I’ll be set.
You can connect with Alison over at alisonwritesthings and find them on Twitter @_budgie. The Guardian article referenced can be found here. And if you’re not overloaded on Alison Evans by this point, I reviewed their latest book Ida on the blog, which you can read here.