Interviewed by Helen Stubbs.
Marlee Jane Ward is a writer, reader and weirdo from Melbourne, Australia. She grew up on the Central Coast of New South Wales and studied creative writing at the University of Wollongong. She attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2014.
Her debut novella, Welcome To Orphancorp, won Seizure’s Viva La Novella 3 and is available in paperback and ebook formats. It won the 2016 Victorian Premiers Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction and was shortlisted for the the NSW Premiers Award, the Aurealis Awards and the Norma K Hemming Award.
Can you tell me about your most recent publication? It would be great to hear about your award wins.
I’ve just finished book two of my series that began with Welcome To Orphancorp. Orphancorp was my first book and it was published after it won the Viva La Novella Prize. After that it won the Victorian Premiers Award for Young Adult Fiction. I’ve been amazed at how well it’s been received. The next book in the series is due out early next year and I hope it does as well as the first one!
When you look back on yourself starting out as a proto-writer, are there any tips you would give past-you?
I would tell myself to just write. Even if it’s not perfect, even if it seems silly, no words are ever wasted. Every story teaches you something. They say you should practice something for 10,000 hours to become adept. I wish I’d spent less time worrying that I wasn’t making perfect stories in the beginning and had just written them.
I didn’t write for six years after I finished my creative writing degree. I started blogging in 2012 to get myself back into the mode of writing every day. My early stories are quite obviously early stories, but with practice I’ve gotten better, and I hope to continue learning as I make more.
What do you plan to work on next?
I’m going to write the third book in the Orphancorp series, though after the first book it does stop being about Orphancorp and follows Mirii Mahoney, the main character, out and through the world that I’ve created. I feel like this series is teaching me stretch my work out to longform. The first book was 26,000 words, the second 43,000. Maybe I’ll be able to get to novel-length by the last book! It’s a strange thing, learning with an audience, but I hope they are enjoying this process as much as I am.
After that I have a standalone novel for adults that I’d like to write about a band of former ‘sexy teenage assassins’ that sounds wacky but will actually be about being lost in early adulthood and living with the things you’ve done and cannot change. As well, I’d like to start a new series for young adults and I’m going to do some research on that while I’m in the US this month.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
My fellow Viva La Novella winnners, Christy Collins’ The End of Seeing, and Jane Rawson’s Formaldehyde are both wonderful. I also love Jane Rawson’s A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists and I’m really looking forward to her next book, which I’ve heard a bunch about. I’ve got Justin Wooley’s A Town Called Dust and Maria Lewis’ Who’s Afraid? on my to-be-read pile.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
Stephen King. He’s so prolific and has taken horror hugely mainstream. I adore his writing voice and the way he tells a story. His non-fiction book On Writing has been really helpful to me learning how to tell stories. I think he’d have a lot to talk about and it would definitely help distract me from my terrible flight phobia. Or maybe he’d make it worse. Either way, he could sign my first edition of The Shining and that would be amazing.