Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Interview with Ambelin Kwaymullina

Ambelin Kwaymullina’s debut novel The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is a fresh new entry into the Young Adult genre. Kwaymullina deftly creates a dystopian world where society is divided between the Citizens, the ordinary but oppressed population, and the Illegals, runaways who possess strange powers. The author’s first venture into fiction tells the story of Ashala, the leader of an Illegal tribe captured by the Citizens and held in a Detention Centre for interrogation. The survival of her beloved Tribe hangs in the balance, and Ambelin Kwaymullina tells Ashala’s story with such ease that it was impossible to put down.
- Review by Willem Proos, 14, from our Teen Book Club

Ambelin will be at Shearer's on Wednesday July 25th at 4.30pm. To give you a little taste of what she might talk about, here's an interview we did with her.

Why did you choose to write a young adult novel rather than an adult or children's novel?

Let’s face it, teenagers are way more interesting than adults (no, just kidding – sort of). Really, I wrote the story that was there to be told. It was Ashala’s story, and she is sixteen so that made it a young adult novel. I didn’t see much point in writing a novel about a teenager for adults, because we all know that teenagers are very mysterious and adults will never understand them. Except for me of course, but I feel like a teenager on the inside. It’s very disconcerting to have people around you expect that you’ll act all confident and mature when I feel about 18 most of the time.  When I was writing Ashala I felt sixteen, because I was writing from her perspective and sharing her thoughts and emotions. Because of that I think teenagers will understand Ashala just that little bit better than adults do. And I think they’ll know, too, what it’s like to challenge the world the way she does.

What were your main inspirations for writing The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf?

My brother Blaze originally thought of the title to the book. Blaze is very good at thinking up titles and names. But he didn’t have a story. So for a few years there was this great title hanging about. All my family write books, and sometimes we’d have conversations about what a fantastic title Blaze had thought up, but it didn’t go any further than that. Then, one day, Ashala’s story started coming into my head. The first line of the book has been the same from the very beginning – ‘He was taking me to the machine’. When I wrote those words, I didn’t know what the machine was, or who ‘he’ was, or where Ashala was. But that was alright, because I knew I had a story. I figured I’d find out eventually, and I did, as Ashala and the other characters in the book revealed their world to me.

Did you base any of your characters on anyone you know?

Not consciously. But on re-reading the book recently I think there’s a lot of myself in Ashala. She shares my fear of spiders, for a start, although she has far less of a phobia than I do. And she’s probably about as stubborn as I am, or maybe even a little more, and I think we both have a bit of a slightly off-the-wall sense of humour. There’s a few occasions in the book when Ash makes jokes in serious situations and nobody laughs – yeah, I can relate to that. Also, anyone who reads the book and knows my family immediately identifies Jaz with my younger brother Blaze.

Have you always wanted to be an author?

Oh yes! I have always, ALWAYS wanted to write a novel. I’ve done picture books before, but writing a novel has been my goal for a very long time. I’ve been writing various novels anytime for the past twenty years, although I never finished most of them. I am the proud owner of a box of unfinished books, and I don’t think any of them are very good. The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is the one that worked and I think the reason for that is Ashala herself. She is so strong, and I heard her voice so clearly, that I had to write a good story to do justice to her, and all the rest of the Tribe.

I still can’t quite believe I’ve actually done it. I catch sight of the book in a bookstore with my name on it and think – wow. That’s me. That’s my book, right there on the shelf with all those other books. How cool is that?

Unfortunately I don’t think writing a novel has actually made me any cooler than I was before. I still tend to trip over my feet and make jokes that no one laughs at. I’m also the person who walks up to the automatic doors and they don’t open for me even though they’ve opened for dozens of people ahead of me (those doors see me coming, I swear). But you never know. Give me a few years and few more books and I might just be a little bit cool – or at least be able to get the doors to open...  

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