In Conversation with...

- In conversation with Saradha Koirala

Congratulations on having your novel published! Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to write your first youth novel? 
Thank you! I always wanted to be a writer and had started and abandoned a couple of novels in the past. I’ve had two books of poetry published, but one day just had the idea that I could write about being in a high school band – something I had a little bit of experience with.

Being a high school English teacher gave me insight into the world of teenagers again (without having to dredge my own past up too much) and also into the kinds of things I thought some of the young women I'd been teaching might want to read about. I wanted a cool female protagonist who was strong, without being violent or a complete loner. She’s good at what she does, people respect her and she doesn’t get too distracted by boys. 

How would you describe your writing process?

The process for writing Lonesome When You Go was rather long and messy because I had to fit it in around full-time teaching and a range of other priorities. I’ve managed to hone my process a bit more recently and tend to give myself daily word-count goals for novel writing and lots of reflective time with my notebook for poetry writing. I try to just keep going and trust that the characters will take the story somewhere interesting. I edit a bit as I go and like carefully crafted sentences.

I’m also kind to myself if I need a day of input – reading, conversing, walking and observing – rather than it all being about the constant output. But I have made a lot of space in my daily life for writing and I find that allows me to think about it more consistently and treat it as a priority, which really helps productivity. 

What have been the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of this process?

Sometimes I find it hard to justify the importance of my work, especially if the results are not immediately obvious. It also takes a lot of self-motivation – no one else is telling you when to get up and what tasks you need to complete before the end of the day. I think that’s both challenging and liberating and it's definitely a huge adjustment to make after working so long in the highly-timetabled routine of schools! I’ve always found the process of stringing words together and crafting them into something meaningful hugely rewarding. 

Do you have any advice for wanna-be authors?

Write. Write something every day. Write what you feel compelled to write, rather than what you think others might want to read. Read everything. Be open to feedback and absolutely write because you love doing it – it can definitely be hard work, but I don’t think it should ever feel like a chore. I also recommend having a few different projects on the go at once as it relieves the pressure from each a little.

What are you writing at the moment?

I think I’ve just finished a third poetry collection, but I always have more poetry bubbling away. I’m also writing a third young adult novel (the second one is finished, but I’ve just put it to the side to breathe for a bit). This third one is set in a few different times between 1981 and 2001 and is kind of a spin-off from my first two novels. It’s a bit of a challenge because I have lofty ideas about how it will be structured. I have no idea what will become of it, but I’m enjoying how different it is to other things I’ve written.

Thanks so much for your time. Some last questions...Can you list some of your favourite books? What kind of a reader were you as a child?

I have lots of different favourite books, but the novels that come to mind are: 
• Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
• The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger
• The Hours by Michael Cunningham
• Dear Vincent by Mandy Hager
• Cloud Street by Tim Winton
• A Fault in Our Stars by John Green
• The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
As a young kid I would get the same books out of the library over and over until I knew them really well. I also fondly remember having the Narnia series read to me. When I got older I loved anything a bit humorous, such as Douglas Adams and Roald Dahl – my brother and I would read bits out loud to each other and roll about laughing. Reading was highly encouraged and valued in our family and books were treasured gifts.

In my teenage years I struggled to find books and characters I really loved and connected with – especially ones with female leads. I think if I were a teenager these days I would find much more to relate to, as there’s some truly great fiction being written for young people at the moment.

Congratulations Saradha, Lonesome when you go has been selected for the Storylines Notable Books of 2017!