You had your first novel Girl Saves Boy released at 16. What inspired you to write a novel at that age, and why that particular novel?
I’ve loved writing since I was a little kid, mainly because my parents read to me a lot when I was small. My first novel was not the first one that I wrote (there were two really terrible ones before that), and I started writing novels because I loved reading novels so much. I am also terrible at being concise. I’m not sure why that particular novel was the one I wrote – I never have a sole, specific inspiration for my stories, rather everything inspires me and I have tons of little ideas that all end up in the same story.
You have a recent article on your website titled Self promoting authors on the internet: this is what you’re doing wrong, which has some sound advice for authors. How would you describe your own experience of promoting Girl Saves Boy and do you anticipate it being much different with your upcoming novel All This Could End?
Promoting Girl Saves Boy was terrifying because of my shyness. I’m a lot more comfortable now with public-speaking and interviews and everything else one has to do to promote a book. I was a lot more excited about promoting Girl Saves Boy online than I am about All This Could End – I think the internet and author-marketing can be tiring after a while, and criticism on the internet brings up tricky emotions. So I think there’s been a shift towards preferring in-person promotion over endless blog posts for me.
You have also shared on your website how you got your agent. How has having a literary agent helped you out and do you recommend aspiring novelists get an agent?
It’s wonderful to have someone who is really on your side and champions your work. Girl Saves Boy has been published in Spanish, Catalan and Dutch, which I doubt would’ve happened without the aid of an agent. I think if you only really want to be published within Australia, a literary agent is not at all necessary.
You have written, “My goal as a writer is to become the best writer I can and make sense of my world. And I hope that as long as I am writing, I’ll have the opportunity to share that with other people, and entertain them.” Who are some of your favourite novelists who write well and help readers make sense of the world through their novels?
I love Melina Marchetta’s work, especially On The Jellicoe Road. I also very much like Cath Crowley’s novels. Really, I could list many YA novelists here – especially Australian ones – there are so many people writing about the search for identity and self which all teenagers (and adults) can relate to, and writing very well about it.
If your next novel had to be set before 1900, what might it be about and why?
It would have to be about time travel. I don’t have a specific interest in an era in the past, but it would be terribly fun to write about a character who is perhaps randomly jumping through time. I do love time travel.
You have written, “I tend to come up with characters first, because characters are easy. Observing other people is a good place to look for interesting traits and behaviours. Sometimes a plot will spring from the characters, once I know them and what they want out of life. Other times I’ll just think of things that would be fun to write about.” In your opinion, what tends to make a good character who a good plot will spring from?
A character who desperately wants something, but has major obstacles in their way. That’s a basic plot already. The character should also be flawed and have aspects that readers can relate to – that’s very important. I also like characters that are yearning and trying to figure out who they are and how they fit in.
You have written of Gracie’s List, the first full-length novel manuscript you wrote, at age 13 or 14: “It was great and unpublishable. […] I hope to reuse the characters one day, because they were a lot of fun.” What made Gracie’s List great and what made it unpublishable?
It was unpublishable because there was not much plot to speak of, the writing was spectacularly average and it was really just a lot of ridiculous dialogues and situations. And I’m obviously the only person who thought it great, because when I used to write I wrote only for my own entertainment – as lame as my early writing might be, I still think I’m funny.
What can readers look forward to in All This Could End?
1. Some hopefully entertaining albeit quirky characters including a dysfunctional family of bank robbers.
2. A story about the realisation that your parents are not always right (especially if they’re criminals).
3. A novel much more plot-driven than my last (half of it occurs during a bank robbery!), but which is really about difficult family relationships and trying to figure out who you are and where you fit in.
4. It’s both silly and heartfelt, and I hope readers like it.
Steph Bowe author site: www.stephbowe.com
The Australian Literature Review