#LoveOZYA Interview: Megan Jacobson
I love Aussie YA. I love reading books from authors that live in the same country as me, that know things that people out of Australia might be so confused about. I love how sometimes they can incorporate this into their book and it is fabulous.
So in saying that, I have decided to start a new feature on Angel Reads spotlighting Australian YA Authors. Each Friday for the next couple of months, I am going to interview an OZYA Author. I thought it would be a fun way to share my love for Australian Young Adult authors with not only fellow Aussies, but everyone around the world. I want more Australian YA books to be read, because they are amazing.
First week I interview Sarah Ayoub, then Fleur Ferris, followed by Will Kostakis, then Shivaun Plozza, and Gabrielle Tozer, followed by Jay Kristoff, then Kylie Fornasier and last week A.J Betts. This week we have none other than Megan Jacobson author of Yellow (2016, Penguin Australia).
Hi Megan, welcome to Angel Reads. First can you introduce yourself to everyone? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Heya you lovely little starlings, my name is Megan Jacobson and I live at Bondi Beach, Sydney, but I’m originally from Darwin and then the far north coast of NSW in a place called Kingscliff. In Darwin they actually teach you crocodile safety when you first start school! It’s an apt name for the place – nearly every deadly creature in the world lives there, on top of the tropical cyclones that whip through pretty regularly, so if you survive it really is Darwinism in action! It’s a beautiful, wild place and I go back as much as I can.
Right now I work at the ABC in Sydney helping to put the TV news to air, but occasionally I write for TV shows too, I’ve worked in the script department of a couple of shows, including the Channel 7 soap Headland and the ABC children’s drama Dance Academy.
Oh, and I’m also an author. There’s that. My debut novel, Yellow, was released by Penguin early this year. It’s about a fourteen year old girl called Kirra who makes a pact with a teenage ghost who speaks to her through a broken phone booth – she’ll prove who killed him almost twenty years ago if he does three things for her – makes her popular, gets her parents back together, and doesn’t haunt her, but Kirra realises that people can be haunted in more ways than one.
What has your writing journey been like? When did you start? Why?
I’ve always written stories since I was a little girl – I’ve always been drawn to telling stories and I can’t remember ever not doing it – even before I could spell I’d create elaborate dramas with my dolls.
After studying journalism at university I was lucky enough to be offered a job as a script assistant at the TV soap ‘Headland’. I’d been doing extras work on Home and Away and for about a year I’d pop into the script office after my shift and ask if they had a job for me yet.
Eventually a writer heard about a new Channel 7 show which was in production and they put me forward for the role. I worked my way up into a script storylining position from there. I’ve also written short stories in my spare time for most of my life. I began as a kid when I realised I could win small prizes in writing competitions, and I honed my craft from there, eventually winning the Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer of the Year when I was in year twelve.
I’d always wanted to write a book, and the characters from Yellow had been in my head for years and years, but I didn’t have the confidence to do it, and I was so busy with my day jobs that I put it on the backburner for over a decade.
What was the process of getting your first book published?
I began writing Yellow when I’d moved to New York in 2013, trying to find a TV writing or production job. That proved more difficult than I’d expected, and I had all this free time, and I’m not used to being idle, so I thought I’d write the story that had been knocking about in my head for so long. I plotted it like I would a TV show and began to write, and by the time my US visa had run out I’d had a third of a novel and I really loved it, so I used the rest of my meagre savings to move to Bali for the next three months to finish it. I chose Bali because I knew I could live cheaply, and I found a cheap, tiny little hut in the middle of the rice paddies in the outskirts of Ubud.
I finished the novel there and when I returned to Sydney I googled literary agents and decided upon Tara Wynne at Curtis Brown. Agents are extremely busy and it took months before I heard back from her, but I was lucky enough to have her accept me as a client. She then sent it off to all the big publishers and two were interested in publishing me. We decided to go with Penguin and I was so happy when I signed that contract that I had to step outside afterwards and breathe deeply because I wasn’t sure if I was going to hyperventilate or cry happy tears. It was a life’s dream come true.
What was your journey as a debut YA author in Australia? What was the hardest thing?
The process between signing a publishing deal and the book coming out on the shelf is quite a hard one. There are lots and lots of rounds of edits. My editor Amy Thomas is a genius – she knew exactly what the core of my story was and managed to help me draw out the strongest threads of the story and whittle away the bits that didn’t quite further the narrative. It was exhausting though – more exhausting than writing the actual book! It’s like playing jenga with words, you change some scenes or character motivations and that affects the rest of the book and the whole thing wobbles and then you’re frantically trying to fix it before the whole thing collapses! It was worth it in the end though. Totally worth it!
You are an OZYA author, what are some of your favourite Aussie YA books?
Oooh, there are so many great Australian voices, I love reading about my world in print! Obviously the queen of OZYA is Melina Marchetta and her beautiful book Looking for Alibrandi, and I adored Puberty Blues as a teenager – I loved the fact that the authors were young and female and Aussie and they wrote of their lived experiences and it wasn’t just old European men who could tell their stories. I love The Book Thief with a big messy love, and of course the books by my fellow Penguin Teen Australia YA Squaddies – The Sidekicks, Frankie and The Things I Didn’t Say. It’s a bumper year for Oz YA!
I have yet to read Yellow, but I plan to as soon as I can. You can find Megan on twitter at @ or check out her website for more information. Plus add Yellow to your goodreads.
Yellow by Megan Jacobson
Thank you Megan for joining me at Angel Reads. That is it for this week’s #LoveOZYA Interview. What did you think of Megan and Yellow.
Come back next week for some more Aussie fun. If you want to know more about the #LoveOZYA movement check out the website for all the details. Also if you have any Australian YA authors that you would like to see me interview, just let me know and I can see what I can do.