Thursday, 4 July 2013

YA Crime Report: GUEST POST - Lili Wilkinson

I promised you some guests would be dropping in for a chin-wag, and I do try to make good on my promises.  So today I am very excited to be playing host to…the lovely Lili Wilkinson!! 

Lili Wilkinson (excuse me Lili, but I have to say this) is kind of like literary royalty at our place – her mum Carole wrote the first chapter book my son ever read (Dragonkeeper), and Lili has also written many other books we’ve loved, including Scatterheart, Angel Fish, Pink (awesome), and my personal fave, A Pocketful of Eyes.

Lili’s most recent book is The Zig Zag Effect, in which Sage Kealley tries to unravel a mystery involving a magician, a series of very nasty stage tricks, and a haunted theatre - with the somewhat distracting assistance of Herb, a magician-in-training.

Every book I read of Lili’s has me admiring the craft and skill in the writing, and loving the realness of the characters, so please give a very big welcome to Lili Wilkinson!!! *cue dry-ice smoke, the wave of a wand, a red-cape swirl*

Hey Lili!  Lovely to see you, how’s it going?

*pulls rabbit out of hat, and egg from rabbit’s ear* Eggcellent! (sorry)

I just finished reading The Zig Zag Effect, and the way you pulled all the elements of the mystery together was beautifully done.  I particularly loved the refs to Conan Doyle and Houdini, and Sherlock (of course).  Was it a lot of fun, writing a detective-style mystery?

Yes! It’s the third mystery I’ve written – after Pocketful of Eyes and Love-shy. The first one was dreadfully hard, because I wrote the first few scenes and just threw interesting clues all over the place without having any idea how they were going to pay off. I learnt my lesson, and now I have a much better strategy – solve the mystery first and then work backwards. But there are always a few hairy moments where you have no idea how it’s all going to come together.

And  can we deduce you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes too? (I always love meeting another Sherlockian!)  Do you have a favourite Conan Doyle story?

Probably The Adventure of the Speckled Band – I love a locked room mystery. I’m also loving all these new versions of Sherlock Holmes that are popping up! (For the record, Elementary is my favourite because of the Holmes/Watson relationship, and Holmes’s beautiful vulnerability. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is fascinating, but a bit too cruel for me.)

You’ve obviously done a fair bit of research into the history of magical mystery with this book – did you find anything really interesting along the way that you’d like to share?

Ooh, so many things. Some of which I can’t divulge (I promised I wouldn’t spill any big magic secrets). I was definitely fascinated by the role of women in stage magic – and how creepily violent their jobs are – getting tied up and cut in half and everything. The history of magic is just fascinating – especially people like Houdini and his confrontations with Arthur Conan Doyle.

Love is a pretty popular theme in so many YA books – I thought you drew Sage and Herb together in a genuinely realistic way.  How do you handle the romance factor in your novels?

I love writing romance, and I love reading it. I can never quite fathom why romance in books is seen as being somehow trivial or trashy – isn’t love one of those fundamental defining characteristics of humanity? Isn’t it something that we’ve all felt or wish to feel? Adolescent romance is so much fun to write – falling in love for the first time as a teenager is probably the most intense thing you’ll ever feel. I try and approach romance with respect, honesty and humour, and then throw in steamy makeout scenes on the backs of stuffed tigers or in close proximity to bucketfuls of urine.

There’s a great piece of dialogue early in Zig Zag (well, there was plenty of fantastic dialogue, but I loved this bit especially!), where Sage and Herb get the connection between their names.  So…character names – are they plucked like magic from thin air?  Or do you think the characters choose their own names?

Sometimes I’m very nerdy and figure out what year my characters were born in, then look up ABS data and pick a relatively popular name. Sometimes they  come from thin air (I just liked the name Sage). Sometimes they’re named after real people (in Pink all the stage crew kids are named after real people). I hadn’t realised the Herb/Sage thing until I’d written a couple of chapters. By then I was so attached to their names that I decided to make a joke out of it.

What time of writer are you?  An early bird?  A day warbler?  A night owl?  Okay, enough with the bird analogies – when do you do what you do?

I’m pretty boring, really – a 9-5, Monday-Friday kind of girl. Not to say that I write for eight hours a day – that would be ridiculous and impossible. But I do some kind of work – boring tax stuff or research or interviews or school visits. And I try not to work on weekends.

And do you have any little rituals or routines in your writing practice?  (Are you a bit superstitious about it?)

Like Herb, I don’t have a superstitious bone in my body. I have plotting routines or techniques – like whenever I’m stuck I go back to the question of What does this character want, more than anything? Otherwise I think I’m pretty boring in the actual writing process. No special hats or pens for me!

Lili, you’ve been a very gracious guest, so thank you so much for visiting!  Folks – give her a round of applause!

If you’d like to read a bit more about Lili, you can find her at or @twitofalili.

The Zig Zag Effect can be found at most good bookshops, or online both physically and electronically.

That’s it for the guest post today, but I have another special guest lined up for next time, so please stay in touch.

Remember, you’ve got another week to put your name in the hat for the EVERY BREATH Cover Reveal Competition - it’s easy to join in, just comment here, or at my Facebook, or throw me a mention on, and I’ll put you down to win a special EVERY BREATH prize pack, including a copy of the book. The comp closes in about a week, so put your name in the hat!

ALSO – there’s a big new review competition being organised for Castlemaine Secondary College, so if you’re a student there, keep an eye out.  It will start the first week back at school (so that’s something to alleviate the end-of-holidays pain, I hope) and there will be flyers and stuff all over the place telling you to Contact Your English Teacher To Enter.  So…y’know, go enter!

Thanks for coming along for the ride today, and next time…tea and bikkies with another Crime Guest J Have a good week!



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