Paranormal angel would like to welcome Ellie Marney, to our Sumner Interview series. Thank you so much for joining us, Ellie.
What can you tell us about your upcoming book White Night ?
It’s set in a rural Australian town, and it’s about a 16-year-old boy called Bo Mitchell, who makes a connection with Aurora Wild, a girl from an isolated radical-environmentalist commune called Garden of Eden. Rory starts to open Bo’s eyes to a new way of looking at the world, and when Bo’s family goes through a crisis, it’s Rory who offers him support. But Rory’s community isn’t as utopian as Bo has been led to believe, and when his friends organize a White Night event to raise funds for the local skate park, things start to implode…
Where did the idea for White Night Come from?
My parents became involved in a hardcore evangelical-Christian group when I was young, and I spent nearly ten years growing up in this very strange ‘community’ environment that promised utopia and salvation but was actually really unhealthy. I wanted to write about a religious group, but my agent suggested that might be a hard sell, so I changed the community into a group of radical environmentalists.
I believe in climate change and environmentalism, but a lot of the language and action surrounding these causes can be really elitist. I come from a working class background, and most working class people can’t afford organic groceries, and artisanal cheese, and all that stuff. And there’s actually a lot more to it than that. So I wanted to highlight that, and point out to teenagers that while environmentalism can seem like some left-y, middle class, adult issue, it’s actually not – it’s a real thing, that we all need to be thinking about and doing something about.
And I wanted to talk about grassroots activism and how teenagers can actually participate, plus raise a few issues about families, and how fathers and sons relate… There’s a lot going on in the story! I guess you’ll just have to read it to figure it all out [Symbol]
Did you base any of the characters on people you know?
Kind of? I mean, I kind of crib characters from all over the place. They’re an amalgamation of myself, people I know, people I see on the street, dialogue I overhear… Diana Gabaldon (Outlander) says that writing is a cannibal art, and she’s pretty much right.
What did you edit out of this book?
Ah – well, my original ending for the book was quite a bit darker and more pessimistic. There were a lot of changes made to the book as it went along. And I originally wanted to write Bo as an indigenous character, but then I realized that I didn’t have sufficient understanding to do that, plus a lot of the themes of the book would be lost underneath concerns about whether I’d done a proper job with portrayal or whether it was appropriation – I consulted with a number of people about that, and decided it wasn’t a good idea. I also had a rather nice epigraph about families and communes, by a film-maker who grew up in a radical commune, but that didn’t make the final cut either.
What has been the hardest and most surprising part of the publishing process?
Well this is my fifth book, so I’m kind of used to the publishing process now. It’s always a rather long-winded process, which never gets easier – but I know what’s going on with that now, so I just try to relax into it and make sure I have a good collaborative relationship with my editors.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Usually, writing gives me energy. I have done some marathon writing sessions though – when I’ve written 6000-10,000 words in one day, under deadline – and the next day my brain is completely mush and I could sleep for a week! I guess it’s just better to write consistently, rather than marathon like that.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If so what would you use?
No, I’ve never considered that – women frequently release under pseudonyms or initialize their first names, in case male readers are ‘put off’ by the idea of their book being written by a female. I don’t subscribe to that, although I can understand why some people do it.
I know some writers who wanted anonymity, which is okay. And some writers have struggled to find success with their books in one genre, so they switched genre or category – to re-start their career, they had to publish under another name. Fortunately I haven’t had that problem (at this stage, anyway!).
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would probably say, ‘Let go of your fear and nervousness about writing. Forget about voice and style and all that – those come over time. Just trust the story.’
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
This will sound a bit sad, but – teasing. I remember being in primary school and realizing how teasing and gossip could create a bad feeling within friendship groups. Language has the capacity to create an emotional response in people, just like music and visual art and dance. It’s how you use it that counts.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
A tiny little feminist spec fic novel called ‘The Wanderground’ by Sally M Gearhart. It’s set in a future where the earth has revolted against male predation (sexual, commercial, environmental, cultural) and spontaneously created a safe space for women. Machines, tech and male sexual energy won’t work in this ‘women’s land’. The women that escape to it develop strange paranormal powers, and live a balanced life uniquely in tune with themselves, their all-female community, and the natural world. And they have resistance groups in cities that work to help women still stuck in male spaces to escape.
It’s an extraordinary book – I’ve never read anything like it since.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Good question – every writer I know has a few books in the drawer
I have two and a half middle-grade fantasy novels in a series I wrote for my sons about six years ago – that series was never published. There’s at least two long fanfiction novellas that I never completed, still sitting on my computer. And I have at least half a dozen pitch ideas – stories that never quite came to birth, or were rejected by my publishers – in a folder called ‘Random Originals’ on my laptop.
Basically, I never throw anything away, lol.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
It is kind of meditative – it’s a bit like getting into ‘the zone’ when you’re running, or doing some sort of exercise. It has a flow, a natural rhythm. Like dancing. And it’s also about self-examination, mindfulness, empathy – you have to search back through your memories to find a way to reflect what a character is experiencing, or sink into another person’s point of view.
I don’t consider it a religious thing, but I suppose there’s a spiritual aspect to it.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex ?
Um, nothing! I actually love writing a male POV. I had the most fun of all writing Harris Derwent for ‘No Limits’ – Harris is a gem. And when I came to write ‘White Night’, I first started off with dual POV, but I just couldn’t get Rory’s voice to come out right at all. That’s when I started to expand Bo’s POV more, and decided it was actually through his eyes that we get to discover this story. I love writing guys – I wrote a lot of fanfiction through a male POV as well.
But here’s the thing: I’m married with four sons, I live with five guys every day… So that might have something to do with it!
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Ha, well, almost every writer I know still has a day job. We’re essentially working one full time job – writing – and trying to subsidize it with other employment. My other job is teaching. I relief teach in primary and secondary schools, and I have a couple of regular days teaching Indonesian or English every week.
Lastly is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
Mainly just a huge thank you! Readers make it all worthwhile. I mean, I would still write stories and put them in a drawer if I wasn’t publishing, but the idea that someone else reads and enjoys your stories is pretty mind-blowing. Thank you for reading, and reviewing, and buying the books. Thank you for loving the characters of Rachel and Mycroft and Harris and Amie and Bo and Rory and all the others like I do. Thanks for being so awesome [Symbol]
Thank you for having me over to visit, Kylie! My bio and pics and more info about my books is on my website – www.elliemarney.com – and you can find me on social media @elliemarney
Ellie Marney is a teacher and author of the Every series, No Limitsand a contributor to Begin End Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology. In 2015, her first book Every Breath was named as one of the top ten most-borrowed YA books in libraries nationwide. Ellie is an advocate for the #LoveOzYA movement, runs #LoveOzYAbookclub online, is an Ambassador for the Stella Prize Schools Program and speaks regularly at schools and events. Born in Brisbane, Ellie has lived in Indonesia, India and Singapore now she lives in a very messy wooden house on ten acres in north-central Victoria with her partner and four sons, who still love her even though she often forgets things and lets the housework go. White Night is her fifth novel for young adults.