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Inky Awards Shortlist: Interview with Justine Larbalestier

Sep 12,2017
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This interview with Justine Larbalestier about her book My Sister Rosa by 15-year-old Inky Awards judge, Josh, certainly packs a punch! Ka-pow! (That's an in-joke about the book.) Good luck in the Inkys, Justine!

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Q: What is your book about?

A: My Sister Rosa is about the evilness of little siblings. Truly, they’re all terrible. Um, except for my little sister who is an angel.


Q: Where did you get your inspiration for this book from?

A: My novel was inspired by William March’s The Bad Seed (1954) which is an amazing book about a psychopathic child told from the point of view of her mum. Made me wonder what would it be like to be the older sibling of a psychopath? Especially if hardly anyone believed you. Seemed to me it would be awful which is always an excellent premise for a novel.


Q: Let’s pretend you had to babysit Rosa for one whole week, how long do you think you would last?

A: I wouldn’t last. Rosa is literally the worst. She cannot be babysat. I would run away and leave her to burn down the house.


Q: How did you come up with the amazing names for the characters?

A: Thank you. I’ve lived in NYC for almost twenty years and I’ve long been fascinated by how different the names are here (I’m in NYC at the moment). But my naming strategies are more driven by my belief that characters need to have the kind of names that their parents would realistically give them. I’m always thrown out of books when one twin is named Jane because she’s plain and the other twin is Zephyra because she’s beautiful. Um, nope. That’s not how naming works. That’s like naming a kid Lawyer or CEO because, clearly, that’s what they’ll be when they grow up.

Sojourner (Sid) is named after the famous anti-slavery, feminist and anti-racism campaigner of the nineteenth century, Sojourner Truth. Read up on her. She’s incredible. As Sid’s parents are also anti-racism and feminist campaigners it made perfect sense they would name their daughter after Truth. Likewise, Rosa is named for two famous revolutionaries, Rosa Parks and Rosa Luxembourg, because her parents fancy themselves to be revolutionaries. (Despite not actually doing anything remotely revolutionary.) Che is named after the revolutionary, Che Guevara, for the same reason. But he’s also a shout-out to both the white Aussie Ches I’ve known who were named by their leftie parents and kind of hate their name. Sorry!


Q: If you won the Gold Inky Award you would…

A: OMG. I would pass out from joy. It’s my favourite Australian YA award because it’s the only one decided by teenagers. This is the third time one of my books has been on the shortlist and to finally win would be AMAZING. I might not survive that level of joy. It definitely could kill me.



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