Interview with Alison Evans for Reading Matters 2017
Alison Evans’ work has been published in various Australian and international journals, magazines and zines. They are the co-editor of Concrete Queers, a zine about fun queer stuff created by fun queer people. Alison has also published three books, of which Ida is their latest release. They will be appearing at the Reading Matters conference in June. Click here to book your tickets now!
Inky: What do you love most about writing for young adults?
AE: I think it’s really fun. With YA I think a lot of that high brow vs low brow argument just doesn’t exist. The readers are so enthusiastic, and so are the authors! I think it’s just a really nice community, especially with #LoveOzYA taking off.
Inky: What are you currently reading, loving and recommending?
AE: These are my most recent reads, and I’ve loved them all and would definitely recommend them:
Laurinda by Alice Pung
Psynode by Marlee Jane Ward (the sequel to Welcome to Orphancorp, out in May)
Finding Nevo by Nevo Zisin (non-fiction, out in April)
Rose of No Man’s Land by Michelle Tea
Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki
I’m currently reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and it’s amazing.
Inky: What are some of your favourite Australian YA books?
AE: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
The Old Kingdom books by Garth Nix
The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis
Girl Defective by Simmone Howell
And the ones above that are Australian (Laurinda, Welcome to Orphancorp, Psynode, Finding Nevo) have all made it to my favourites list.
Inky: If you could rewrite the ending of any book, what would it be and why would you change it?
AE: I would probably say that Anne and Diane should have got together at some point in the Green Gables books, honestly.
Inky: Which one of your characters would you most like to have a coffee with and why?
AE: I would actually really love to grab a coffee with Frank from Ida. He’s Ida’s cousin and he’s just one of those people that’s really enthusiastic about everything. He’d get there late but then he’d have a funny story to tell, so it wouldn’t really matter. And then by the end of it you’d have ten new different albums recommended by him.
Inky: What are you currently working on and when can we expect it out in the world?
AE: I’m currently writing a book set in the Yarra Valley. Its working title is ‘spooky hills story’ (very catchy, I know). In a nutshell, my main character Ivy goes home for the summer to stay with their Mum. There are rumours that their mum’s house is haunted, and well, the rest is pretty spoilery. It’s got a bit of magic, bit of romance, and lots of trees.
Inky: What do you love the most about the YA sci-fi/fantasy genre?
AE: I think there’s some really cool stuff you can do with SFF. I really like taking pretty ordinary settings and then just tweaking something that makes everything really other. Like with Ida, the main character can travel between parallel universes and so her understanding of time is really different. With the spooky hills story, there’s some kind of presence in and around the house so Ivy’s perception of what is real is altered.
Inky: What was the first text you saw yourself in?
AE: The first time I saw a girl fall for another girl (back when I thought I was a girl, ha) was in The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce, which was honestly so relieving for me. I read that when I was about fifteen. Then the first text to actually use the word bisexual I think was in Young Avengers comics where David Alleyne says that he is bisexual, which was only a couple of years ago. Killjoys by Gerard Way has two characters that are never gendered, which were the first characters that I had seen that were genderqueer, although it’s never explicitly stated. The first story I read that used the actual words was Defying Convention by Cecil Wilde, where one of the main characters is genderqueer.
Inky: Why is it important for you to have young people read stories that explore gender, sexuality and queerness?
So that they can understand themselves, realise they’re not alone. I think with the internet being what it is now, it’s a lot easier for teens to get access to that information. And it’s also just so important to see yourself in fiction. Plus, for people who aren’t queer I think it’s great that they see characters not like them but to who they can still relate to.
Inky: You’re a creator of zines – what are some of the similarities and differences you found between the zine world and the book publishing world?
I like zines because they can be anything, they can be as polished or as rough as you like. Mine are mostly just in my own handwriting, made on photocopiers. The community around zines is really cool too, everyone’s just making zines because they love them. There’s no money in zines and they’re not really about that, and that’s pretty freeing.
With books there are a lot more people involved, and there are more people who have an input into my work. There’s the editors (Ida was read by at least six, at different stages) who suggest changes and tweak things, the marketing team, the cover designer, the person who does the layout of the book, everyone else in the publishing house, and then there’s me too. Plus the audience is way bigger!
So they’re both super different, but in the end they’re both about telling stories.
Inky: Thanks for chatting with us Alison! See you in June!