The energy generated among guests and participants at GenreCon continues apace. The Siren of Brixton wrote a great post about how GenreCon re-booted her writing practice; while David Witteveen, whose brilliant sketch I featured on a previous post, is rolling out a series of interviews with people he met at GenreCon on his blog, including yours truly. I decided to reciprocate by interviewing David here.
We first met online, I think.
Yes, via Twitter. I was livetweeting an event that featured your partner, Andrew Nette. Ever since, we keep bumping into each other at writers’ festivals.
Most recently at GenreCon. So, tell my readers what your genre is, and what drew you to that field.
I’m an aspiring Young Adult author.
When I was a teen, a friend told me “Stay you, David. Stay weird.” And that’s who I’m writing for: the teenagers who feel a bit weird and a bit different from their classmates. My adolescence was emotionally intense and confusing. Books helped me get through. My hope is that my books will help a new generation of teens.
The manuscript I’m submitting at the moment is a YA fantasy manuscript set in the ruins of an enormous library about a teenage thief, wizard and talking booklouse who try to stop two kingdoms from going to war. And I’m working on a contemporary YA romance about black metal and computer games.
“Stay you…Stay weird.” What wonderful advice. And I love the idea of a fantasy novel set in the ruins of an enormous library. So where are you at in terms of publication?
I’m very much an aspiring author. I have a manuscript that I’m submitting to agents and publishers. But it’s a slow process, and I have to balance that with work and relationships and everything else.
The Stray Swans sounds amazing. Good luck with that.
In light of all you have going on, what’s the biggest problem or obstacle you currently face in your work?
I’ve had some serious health issues this year. And while I’m much better, I’m still recovering and still struggling to get back into my productive writing schedule.
You said up at GenreCon that writing is important for your mental health. I’m the same way. I need to feel that I’m making progress. If I don’t, I can get very down and frustrated. I’ve had to push and fight to make that progress. I wrote on my blog: I’ve needed to be a wombat to get better: blunt, stubborn, nocturnal, all muscles and claws and whiskers in the dark.
Great work channelling your inner wombat — though I associate you more strongly with insects than marsupials…
Ah. You’ve read my zine.
We think of books as miniature worlds, right?
So: late one night I was idling through Wikipedia. And I stumbled across the entry for booklice. And I fell instantly in love.
Booklice are tiny little insects, the size of a full stop, that eat the mould that grows on the binding glue of old books. In turn, booklice are preyed upon by another insect called book scorpions.
I loved that. I loved that books, these miniature worlds, have their own self-contained ecosystem. Also, I think booklice are really cute. So when I started writing a fantasy novel set in a library, I knew I had to include booklice in it. YA fantasy novels often include talking animals. I thought, why not a talking booklouse?
The Booklice zine is charming. Your fascination for this tiny creature is as infectious as those other lice that torture primary school children and their parents throughout Melbourne…but I digress.
Let’s get back to GenreCon: what was the most useful thing you learned?
Do the work. Write the book. Submit it. Write the next one.
Conferences and festivals are a great time to reflect on writing, and to connect with other writers, and to recharge your creative energy. But at the end of the day, you had to go home and type the words into the computer. As Kylie Scott said in her keynote:
“You know the books that get published?”
“The lucky ones?”
“The ones that get finished.”
Visit David’s website: davidwitteveen.tumblr.com
I highly recommend following David on Twitter; he’s a master of the medium: @davidwitteveen