A.J. Betts had the idea for Hive eight years before she commenced writing it and 13 years before it was released. In between, she published three books, won an Emmy Award and did a PhD in the topic of wonder. A.J. said the idea for Hive came to her while she was on the Graham Farmer Freeway in Perth: ‘The traffic was really slow and I noticed the drip in the tunnel and I thought, that’s weird … In what situation would a drip be a problem or a danger?’
By contrast, Holden Sheppard wrote the first draft of Invisible Boys in two months and within six months had completed and polished a third draft ready for submission into the City of Fremantle Hungerford Award, which he won. Holden said his novel was a tribute to his home town, Geraldton, and he was careful not to write it like a tourist ad, but rather to portray it as he saw it, focusing on its urban landscape rather than its typical portrayal of stunning nature.
The road to publication might have varied, but both authors agree the success of their books has created a conundrum. How do you juggle day jobs and book promotion while nurturing ideas and writing?
Holden says, as a debut writer, he feels he can’t say no to anything because he’s afraid that he may never get the same opportunities again, but A.J., with five book tours under her belt, says at some point writers have to get back to what the point is – writing. She says, ‘Writing or presenting and doing interviews all takes from the same basket of energy and it really is one or the other … There are seasons where you are either in promotion or in writing.’
Listen to the rest of their fascinating discussion below.
This episode is produced by Fremantle Press for Love to Read Local. To listen to more episodes, subscribe to the Fremantle Press Podcast on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts.
About Love to Read Local by Writing WA
Love to Read Local is a statewide, online celebration of Western Australian stories, books and writers. While we remain at a social distance in the physical world, let’s get socially closer in the digital world. Visit the Love to Read Local website to connect with other readers, tell us which local books you love to read and perhaps inspire others to read those books too
About this week’s guests, Holden Sheppard and A.J. Betts
Holden Sheppard is an award-winning Young Adult author born and bred in Geraldton, Western Australia. His debut novel Invisible Boys won numerous accolades including the 2018 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award. Holden’s writing has been published in Griffith Review, Westerly, Page Seventeen, Indigo journal, and the Bright Lights, No City anthology (Margaret River Press, 2019). He has also written for 10 Daily, the Huffington Post, the ABC, DNA magazine and FasterLouder. He serves as the Deputy Chair of Writing WA, and as an ambassador for Lifeline WA. Holden is a misfit: a gym junkie who has played Pokémon competitively, a sensitive geek who loves aggressive punk rock, and a bogan who learned to speak French.
Invisible Boys (Fremantle Press)
Holden online: holdensheppard.com
A.J. Betts is a Perth-based author, teacher, speaker, and cyclist. Her first novel for teenagers, ShutterSpeed, was published by Fremantle Press in 2008 and was followed with Wavelength in 2010. Her third novel, Zac & Mia, won the 2012 Text Prize and was subsequently published by Text Publishing. It has gone on to win the 2014 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, and the 2014 Ethel Turner Prize for young adults at the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards. A.J. grew up in Queensland and spent many years travelling abroad, before moving to Perth in 2004.
Shutterspeed (Fremantle Press)
Wavelength (Fremantle Press)
Zac and Mia (Text Publishing)
Hive (Pan Macmillan)
Rogue (Pan Macmillan)
A.J. online: ajbetts.com
Love to Read Local recommendations and books discussed
‘The Woman at the Writers Festival’. p. 322 of Well-behaved Women by Emily Paull (Margaret River Press)
Devil’s Ballast by Meg Caddy (Text Publishing)
Margaret Atwood referred to science fiction as ‘talking squids in outer space’ on BBC One TV Breakfast News
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
The Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth (HarperCollins)
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Walker Books)
Music: ‘Letter to a Daughter of St George’, from the Meat Lunch EP: Songs from Floaters. Written by Alan Fyfe. Performed by Trevor Bentley (guitar and vocals – @trevormb) and Chris Parkinson (harmonica). Produced by Blake Carnaby of Nuglife studios with impresario work by Benjamin P. Newton.
Producer: Claire Miller
Mastered and edited by: Aidan d’Adhemar
Sponsor: This show was made possible with a grant from the Copyright Agency's Cultural Fund