6 April 2018
Lynette Noni is one of Australia’s most popular YA authors. Her fantasy series The Medoran Chronicles has proven popular with young audiences across Australia. She has a new YA psychological thriller, Whisper, coming out on May 1. She graciously agreed to be interviewed at The Coffee Club in her home town of Buderim.
Your new book Whisper is published on May 1. Can you tell us about it?
Whisper is basically Divergent meets Stranger Things meets Jason Bourne. It’s about a girl who’s been locked away for two and a half years, and in that time, she hasn’t spoken a single word. The question is why? It’s told in a first-person narrative, so we’re inside her head, but at the same time, we don’t really learn anything. We follow her on a journey and we have questions answered and we end up having more questions that need answering. It’s full of twists, turns, betrayals and lies, and is more like a YA psychological thriller, which is something I’ve never done before.
You have the Hunger Games editor Kate Egan editing? Has that changed the book in any way?
No, because I wrote it initially for the story and the entertainment value, but it became a book. Then I ended up getting an American agent for it. So with her — she was formally the editorial director of Bloomsbury YA in the States, and had been editing for twenty years — I ended up doing a lot of editing for Whisper, before we submitted it to publishers. We did two revisions, I think, and through that a few of the Australianisms are wiped out. For example, they don’t call a punnet of strawberries a punnet, they call it a pint. So, then it went to Kate Egan. She bought it and acquired it for her publisher. With her — because she’s a structural editor — there was not really any changing from Australian to American, it was more getting the story straight.
What’s the best advice Kate’s given you so far?
It wasn’t verbal advice as such. I’ve learnt so much from seeing the way she edits, that I’ve taken on board — almost like a sponge — her techniques to better myself as a writer. Kate is all about minimalism and very big on the cutting. The original manuscript for Whisper was about 105000 words. But in the line-edit stage, she got it down to 90000 words. When you see all that red you realise it was all nothing words. Then the prose becomes sharper. Whisper is a very fast read, and that was what Kate was all about, to make it punchy.
For the few people that have never read your YA fantasy series, The Medoran Chronicles, give us the elevator pitch?
In a nutshell, its Harry Potter meets Narnia and X-Men. It’s about a sixteen year old girl called Alex who steps through a doorway and finds herself stranded in a fantasy world called Medora, while she searches for a way back home.
What character do you most identify with in The Medoran Chronicles?
My natural inclination is to say Jordan, but probably Bear, especially as you get to know him more. He’s sort of — I don’t know, I kind of identify with all the characters, even Aven, because they all come out of me. They’re all a little bit of me, even the bad guy, who’s someone I would never want to be. I created him so therefore I have a fear of becoming him. So, in that way, I can relate to them all.
We at VOICES ON THE COAST love libraries — in particular school libraries — and in The Medoran Chronicles, you have the coolest, sentient library in the multiverse. So tell us what libraries mean to you and why are they so important? We love Bear’s use of the term ‘library folk.’
I actually had a friend at school and we used that term. I can’t remember who came up with it, whether it was her or me. At the time you were called a nerd or geek and we said, ‘let’s not call them that; let’s call them library folk.’ And we loved it so much, we all wanted to be library folk. I really wanted that in the book. Libraries offer something that we need. Not everyone has money were they can go and buy books, and everyone should be reading books. A library offers that chance to borrow a book and read something that you may not have read before. There’s so much in a library that’s a safe space for everyone as well.
In September, We Three Heroes, book 4.5 in The Medoran Chronicles, will be published? Can you tell us about it?
It all happened by accident. We Three Heroes is three novellas, told from the point of view of the three best friends of the main character — Jordan, Bear and DC. The whole premise is that Alex might be the hero of The Medoran Chronicles, but really she couldn’t do what she does without her best friends by her side. To her, they are the real heroes. In a way, they’re the heroes of their own stories and there is a need to share those with us. I’ll also say We Three Heroes is a bridging book, which links books four and five.
What hints can you give us about the last book in the series?
I’m going to be careful with spoilers. At the end of Graevale, it finishes on a cliffhanger and that means we know the opening of the final book, which is called Vardaesia. So it opens up in an unexpected place, and we are there for a little while, as we try and figure out how to stop Aven, which is the point of the whole five books. There are answers in We Three Heroes as to how things may play out in the final book.
What made you want to become an author, in particular, one of fantasy?
I didn’t want to become an author. I had no intention of becoming an author. But when I decided to do it, I put a lot of work into it. When I started writing, I had no intention of anyone reading my book. So I planned to go overseas for a six month trip and got sick after six weeks, and I was stuck in a volcano.
(At this point, I had to get some clarification. Lynette was not stuck inside a volcano but was grounded by the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, whose cloud of ash disrupted European air traffic for a significant period of time. Although one really does wish she had been stuck in a volcano — and with Lara Croftesque daring and cunning — escaped death by a troll’s whisker. But I digress…)
I was sick enough that I had to come home, but couldn’t fly. So I was stuck for two weeks while air traffic cleared. When I got home, I was totally traumatised and really sick, so I needed time to recover. During that time I read books. In the end, I just decided I would write the book that I wanted to read and Akarnae became the result of that. This was post Twilight, when a lot of YA books were saturating the market, so I was struggling with what elements to put in my book. I write fantasy because that was the genre I liked reading. In Year Seven we were made to read Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn, as part of the curriculum. I read it and it opened up my world to the wonder of magic. I didn’t grasp what I was reading at the time because it was so incredible. After that I fell into Narnia, Harry Potter and all my brother’s high-fantasy books. Fantasy was the natural genre for me to fall into when I started writing.
What’s a typical day for you?
Depends if I’m in reading or writing mode. Let’s say I’m in writing mode — I write for as many days during the week as I need to. I don’t stop, because I want to punch out a book quickly. It’s all about multitasking and time management. For example, this week I’m working on Whisper 2, but I know next week the proofing of We Three Heroes is coming in, so I have to prioritise that because of deadlines. A typical day is I get up, have breakfast, check my emails, do my social media, admin and all that. Then I go out and exercise for at least an hour, because mental health is important. It helps to clear my head if I’m at a tricky plot point. Getting fresh air can also help me not to think about the book for an hour. Then I go back home, try to write a bit, have lunch and then I pretty much write all afternoon, give or take. Most of my writing is done between 10pm and 3am when the rest of the world is asleep. I don’t sleep all that much when I’m in writing mode.
You graduated university with a degree in human behaviour. How did that inform your writing?
It really helped with character development. My books are heavily focused on the growth of a character and their relationships. I like to have this development as realistic as possible. Faults and fears and failures need to be realistic, and a lot of that comes from studying what it means to be human.
Recently I overheard a young student say she wanted to be a ‘famous writer.’ What advice would you give to her?
I would say be careful. Fame is subjective and fame comes with a price. A lot of famous people I know are dealing with a lot of horrific sides to fame that we don’t necessarily get to see. I’m not saying ‘don’t want it,’ but in order to dream big, you have to work hard for those dreams. At a foundational level, you should never write with that (fame) as your aim. Realistically, you may never achieve the fame and the money, and that can be really shattering. Because of that, you might resent your dream and in no way do you want that to happen.
Which authors inspire you today?
I still go back to Sarah J. Maas and Maria V. Snyder. I get inspired by — not so much authors — but a good story or a good book. The series that inspired me the most is the Harry Potter series. They were the books that pushed me over the edge and made me want to create.
Why is it important for school age children to read for pleasure?
In this day and age, it provides an escape from reality. It offers a sanctuary. Kids in school are at a difficult stage in life due to the world that we live in. To be able to escape to another place, whether it’s a fantasy world or Sydney in a different person’s head, offers an avenue for them to release a bit of whatever they are going through. On another level, it’s really important to expand their imagination. Creativity in any form, whether its finger painting, dramatic arts or knitting is so integral to our development as human beings. Reading is certainly not the least of these creative activities.
A large number of students attend VOICES ON THE COAST. What advice would you give them about meeting your favourite author?
Depends on the author! I would just say be yourself. Authors are normal people, and 99% of the time, are just as fanboy or fangirl as our readers are. We get that you’re nervous and afraid and excited to meet us, and that’s totally cool. Just be yourself. And don’t be afraid to come up and say hi.
Finally, what is your oddest fan experience?
This is not odd per se. I’ve had a few people cry, which is odd because the idea of crying around me is strange, as I see myself as a normal person.
[Note: This article has been edited for clarity and length.]
Lynette Noni is a YA fiction author whose fantasy series, The Medoran Chronicles, has been a best seller since the publication of the first book, Akarnae, in 2015. Her second YA series — the first book is titled Whisper — will be simultaneously published in Australia and the U.S. on May 1, 2018. Lynette lives on the Sunshine Coast and will be a presenter at Voices on the Coast in 2018. She also has a strange addiction to classic Disney movies and much to her embarrassment, has trouble remembering famous faces. You can find out more about Lynette by visiting her at lynettenoni.com.