Ella West has been voted for by hundreds of teenagers all over New Zealand as a finalist in the Children’s Choice Young Adult Fiction category, for her fourth YA fiction book, Night Vision. Night Vision is one of the seven books selected not only by children, but also by judges to be a finalist. This is the first stand-alone book she has published, since completing the Thieves trilogy. According to our reviewer, Angela Oliver, “A quick-paced read, Night Vision is perfect for young teens.”
So how did this idea come to fruition? And how did it get published? Ella has generously answered all of our questions, below:
1. As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this book in particular?
Two things made me write this book, no maybe three things. Firstly, I try to go as often as I can to the University of Otago Marama Hall lunchtime concerts on Wednesdays. If you’re in Dunedin I thoroughly recommend them. It’s really cheap and the music is incredible. I know very little about classical music but I just sit there and wow – it’s so great. It was there that I thought of the first line of the book (which is now at the start of chapter two): My name is Viola, not like the flower, the poor cousin of the showy pansy, but like the musical instrument.
Secondly, I was channel surfing one night and came across a short 60 Minutes documentary on Moon Children – kids with XP (Xeroderma Pigmentosum). And it got me thinking. Kids who only go out at night – now, what would they see? On NBC in the States there has just been another documentary on Moon Children but this time it was two hours long. Here’s the link to part of it. My agent in New York told me about it. He said he kept yelling at the TV, “That’s Viola, that’s exactly Viola,” which is kind of cool.
Thirdly, people just don’t get farming. We have sheep and cattle and when I talk to people (non-farmers) they don’t get it. Farmers do everything they can to keep their animals well fed and healthy – a dead or sick animal doesn’t make you any money so it’s really important. I wanted Viola to tell people how it is.
2. Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?
Getting this book published was really difficult, and several times in the two years it took I thought about giving up writing, everything. My last book Real Life came out in 2009 so it was a big gap, a huge gap. My agent kept me going and, after pretty well every New Zealand publisher turning us down, we found Allen & Unwin in Australia. They have been amazing. It is the best home for this book.
3. How did you tailor this book to the age-group it reaches?
This was difficult, because Viola had to be young enough to be naïve about the danger she brings upon herself, but old enough to be allowed outside at night. She swayed between twelve and sixteen for a while until I finally settled on fourteen. Kids tend to read up to the age of the main character so it’s really for ten to fifteen-year-olds, which is why it’s so short. I like short books – they’re so much easier to write!
4. Who have you dedicated this book to, and why?
Night Vision is dedicated to Trish Brooking who is the person at the University of Otago College of Education who “looks after” the children’s writer in residence. Not only did she make my residency in 2010 (which is when I wrote the book) an amazing experience but she is also a great advocate for children’s writers and for getting kids into reading. And she still takes me out for lunch! In the Italian version of Night Vision – L’Arte Ingannevole del Gufo it’s “Per Trish”!
5. Can you recommend any books for children/young adults who love this book?
Hmmm. How about we do favourite reads of the year so far for me (they’re all YA) – How I live Now by Meg Rosoff (I’m still to watch the movie), Trash by Andy Mulligan which is amazing but the best has got to be We Were Liars by E Lockhart – just incredible. Now why can’t I write such great stories? Sigh.
6. What is your favourite thing to do when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?
What’s keeping me busy at the moment is chasing chickens! We’ve just bought some new hens so we’re getting lots of eggs but they keep getting out into the garden and we don’t know how. They’ve shredded the silver beet (which isn’t so bad because I hate eating silver beet) and have now started going walk-about down the road! So why did the chicken cross the road when it has a perfectly lovely orchard paddock to live in and a cosy chicken house?
by Ella West
Published by Allen & Unwin
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This is the second entry in our blog tour for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Our review, posted earlier today, can be found here. The next entry, accompanied by a giveaway, will be at NZ Booklovers for the book Awakening, by Natalie King.