There’s a quote by Anne Dillard that I love: “She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” I feel as if that epitomises who I am, but for writing as well as reading. Quite simply, I can’t not write. It’s too important to me—just like breathing. The very idea of not being able to put pen to paper is tantamount to the death of my imagination.
How did you come to writing?
I basically just decided to write the book I wanted to read. To expand on that a little, I started writing a few years ago in the post-Twilight era when the young adult market was saturated with books (mostly paranormal or dystopian). There were just so many YA novels being published, and while I enjoyed a lot of them, nothing was quite clicking with me. I loved certain elements I was reading, but I wanted all those elements from different books put into one book. So one day I thought, “Why don’t I try and write the book I want to read?” and Akarnae was a result of that decision.
What were your greatest obstacles starting out? How did you overcome them?
*Laughs* The main obstacle was having no idea how to write a book! I’d never, ever, had any interest in writing, so to suddenly one day decide to sit down at my computer and start punching out words was quite the experience. It helped that I’ve always been an avid reader, and I was naturally quite OCD when it came to spelling, grammar and all the rest… but there was still so much I didn’t know, and so much I had to learn through experience—and, admittedly, through failure.
How do you keep yourself motivated and disciplined?
To quote Nike, you “Just Do It.” But seriously—isn’t that what discipline is? Something you make yourself do, even on the hard days? Olympians don’t become star athletes overnight. There’s training involved—blood, sweat and tears. The same is true for writers. As Ernest Hemmingway said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
It also helps that I have a great support network these days. My agent, Victoria Wells Arms of Wells Arms Literary in New York, is an absolute champion and lifeline for me, as is her fabulous assistant, Brigette Torrise. And my Australian publishing family at Pantera Press are all incredibly encouraging and supportive. In a way, I’m accountable to both my agent and my publishers, but also to my fans. I don’t want to let anyone down, and that helps keep me motivated on the days when all I want to do is curl up and disappear for a little while.
How do you manage your writing time with everything else you do? How has that changed from when you were starting out?
This is also where that self-discipline has to come in. It’s challenging, juggling deadlines, especially when I now travel so often for author events—schools, festivals, conferences, writing camps, bookstores, libraries… anything and everything, really. But like anything in life, if it’s important to you, you just make it work. I tend to sacrifice sleep a lot more than I probably should, but it’s all about finding some kind of balance in life.
Where do you write? How do you arrange your working space?
I can really write anywhere as long as it’s a closed environment. I’m a bit like that dog in the Disney/Pixar movie, Up, when he’s in the middle of doing something and then is like, “SQUIRREL!!” That’s basically me. I need no distractions whatsoever when I write. I often wish I could be one of those authors who frequent trendy cafés and have great stories about where their books were written. But nope. I need dead silence. And my best writing times are usually in the 10pm-3am hours when the rest of the world is asleep.
What are your essential writing tools?
A laptop and silence. Those are my two prerequisites. But it also helps to have a working internet connection since I research as I go. Oh! And I’ve recently fallen in love with Scrivener since it helps keep all my research and character documents amazingly organised. I’m not sure how I survived so long without it!
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you were starting out as a writer?
It’s not something I wish I’d known so much as something I wish I’d had. And that’s a core group of writerly and/or bookish people around me. Since I’ve started attending author events, I’ve met some incredible writers and publishing-professionals and made some wonderful friends, from authors to illustrators to editors to publicists to agents to everything in between. There’s just something magical that happens when writers come together. It’s such a solitary career, so having that support network around you really helps make you not feel so isolated and reminds you that you’re not alone, even when, technically speaking, you are alone—at least when you’re in your writing hobbit hole for days, weeks and months on end.
What do you read and how do you read as a writer?
Honestly, I’ll read anything. But I’m also not one of those people who has to finish a book if I’m not enjoying it. One of my personal mantras is: “Life’s too short to read books you’re not enjoying.” So I’ll start any and every book but I may not finish all of them.
When it comes to preference, of course I have to give props to the YA genre. There’s just something so special about coming-of-age stories and the myriad of sub-genres available under the parent category. Whether you’re nine or ninety, you’re bound to fall in love with whatever is contained within the pages.
How do you overcome ‘writer’s block’?
Sometimes it helps to gain a fresh perspective—get outside and climb a mountain or visit the beach or spend some time with family or friends. Maybe watch a movie or a TV show, or even better, read a really good book that inspires you to want to jump back into the writing (often a re-read of an old favourite). But mostly, this comes back to that self-discipline again. Writer’s block is a very real thing, but it’s also controllable—by you. You just have to push through it. Even if whatever words you’re using to break down the block are terrible, you can always go back and edit or cut them entirely. Just get the words down and you’ll eventually get back on a roll again.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write first and foremost because you love to write, and for no other reason. I only say this because the reality is, a lot of people write because they want to get published. And there’s nothing wrong with that, except that it might not ever happen. It’s hard to get a publishing deal. And more often than not, it can take many years filled with rejection. You have to truly love what you’re doing in order to stick it out, and hopefully that will end up paying off. But there are no guarantees. And because of that, I think it’s important for people to write because they can’t not write, and fingers crossed the rest will come. No matter how hard it is and no matter how long it might take, all it takes is one ‘yes’ for all the ‘no’s to mean nothing. So if you truly love writing, never give up on your dreams—because the end result is so worth it!
Lynette Noni has always been an avid reader and spent most of her childhood lost in daydreams of far-off places and magical worlds. She is the author of the five-book young adult fantasy series, The Medoran Chronicles, and is a regular speaker at local and national events, with a rapidly growing international following.