Born in 1989, Allyse Near counts Neil Gaiman, Angela Carter, Francesca Lia Block and the Brothers Grimm among her biggest literary influences. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts from Deakin University, majoring in Professional and Creative Writing, and won Deakin’s inaugural Judith Rodriguez Prize for Fiction for her short story ‘Venus In The Twelfth House’ while in her second year.
Allyse writes deconstructed pulp-fairytales that almost always revolve around women, the wilderness and witchcraft. Her debut novel is ‘Fairytales for Wilde Girls’.
1. Your debut novel, Fairytales for Wilde Girls, recently won Aurealis Awards in both the Best YA and Best Horror Novel categories, and was shortlisted for the Children’s Book of the Year Awards. First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to have your first novel garner so much positive attention? Did you ever think that you were writing something that would win and be shortlisted for national awards?
Thank you – and not at all! It was supremely cool and unexpected to win both Aurealis Awards I was nominated for. I didn’t even write an acceptance speech beforehand – it felt too optimistic! The CBCA nomination is great, too – I can tell relatives that it’s the one that puts the little golden-bronze medallion on the book cover and they know exactly what I’m talking about.
2. Fairytales for Wilde Girls is your first novel, and a pretty spectacular debut. Can you tell us anything about what inspired it, and about the process of writing it and getting it published?
I wrote it in a feverish whirlwind, actually spending much longer on the subsequent editing than the initial book-crafting, and I’ve got to say, if you don’t enjoy line editing then you won’t like being a writer since that’s the bulk of it! ‘Fairytales’ was two projects originally, the major one being a book of short, original Grimm-style fairy-stories, and the second a vague scrap about a girl with six magical guardians who represented facets of her personality and past. Those projects collided and made a baby, and that baby became Fairytales for Wilde Girls. I sent the first fifty pages to Pippa Masson at Curtis Brown Australia, and then she got me signed up with Zoe Walton at Random House Australia.
3. What do you have planned next for your writing career?
Next up I’ve got The New Book, which currently has two warring titles (neither of which is ‘The New Book’ – it’s just a placeholder). I think of it as a big, poisoned wedding cake of a novel, about a teenaged mother trapped in a cult, and the twistedness of child beauty pageants, and the memories contained in childhood dolls. I’m hoping to wrap it up in the next month, so it can be sent off for publishing in 2015. In the future I’d love to collaborate on a graphic novel, write something spooky for adults, and one day write a princess movie for Disney. Those are the ultimate dreams!
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
Well, it’s awards season, so there’s so much on my to-be-read pile! Most recently, I’ve enjoyed Margo Lanagan’s ‘Black Juice’ – I love short stories, and she’s just so, so good it – and I’ve just started on Melissa Keil’s ‘Life in Outer Space’, which promises to be a super-fun read.
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
If books are to survive in the digital world – and they will! – then I want to see a return to leather covers, embossed spines, gilded edges, art, texture – that’s my dream! I want to see book designs become more sensory, to play up the differences between digital and physical books. If people are going to spend more on paper books then I want them to be worth it. For example, I specifically asked for character portraits in my novel because I wanted it to have that tactile feel of a proper book of fairytales, which always had those bookplate-style illustrations inserted between stories.