Interview with Belinda Dorio

Friday, November 9, 2012

Belinda Dorio is a Melbourne-based, 22-year-old young adult urban fantasy writer (yay for young, awesome Australian writers!). Her most recently published work was in the YA short story collection Possessing Freedom. If you'd like to find out more about Belinda and her work, check out her blog.

Do you think being a young person makes it easier to write about and for young people? Do you think you'll grow out of writing YA as you get older?
 I'm 22 now, and I've found that as I've gotten older its actually been easier for me to write for young adults. Being out of the high school environment really let's you reflect on your years as a teen, and appreciate the growth each person goes through in that time.

I'd ideally like to write for both teens and adults one day, but right now I couldn't imagine not writing YA.
Books were my safe haven when I was a teen and I suppose I keep that thought in my mind when I write, hoping to be able to provide that for someone else.

I know that 'where do you get your ideas?' is a dreaded (and often answerless) question for writers, but I'm curious whether there is anything specific you do when either stuck in a story or trying to generate new ideas - read other books? Or newspaper articles? Were there any specific inspirations for the characters in Possessing Freedom?
For me, it's not so hard to answer. My ideas are usually generated from a place, and I get more ideas the more I travel and see new areas. I'm not talking about traveling the world necessarily, but even driving to a new suburb, or out in the country.

When working as a team to plot a novel, as we did in Possessing Freedom it really helped to discuss ideas to flesh them out. The idea for Alice came when we were thinking about what setting to begin the story in, I thought of a psych ward and then Alice just appeared in my mind, staring at me with her big grey eyes.
I also find reading other books helps too, especially if I haven't written in awhile it 'gets the juices going'.
When writing Faye, my second character in Possessing Freedom I really had to change gears from Alice as they are completely different. And because I was narrating from both perspectives I wanted their voices to be distinct from each other. I used a playlist to help me with this, specifically for the last story in the book. I found a song that fit the story perfectly and played it over and over until I was finished.

Do you prefer novel-writing or short story-writing? How does your writing process differ with each?
Tough question! I can be quite impatient, so I really enjoy the immediate satisfaction I get from churning a short story out. I've been writing shot stories for a while, so I don't write out a plan and they come quite naturally and quickly.

I've done much more short story writing, mainly because of time constraints. Though, writing novels is what I love to do. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen, but it needs a lot of work. I'm currently 20,000 words into a YA supernatural thriller which I hope to have finished by the end of the year.

My process for each is completely different. My novels are (now) meticulously planned, as I had often find myself getting stuck half way through. I have several completely planned novels but unfortunately between work commitments and university I haven't been able to get to them all.

What is your writing process like? Do you enjoy all parts of writing a story, or are you just happy once you have a finished product?
My favourite part is always the beginning because I love establishing new characters.

I begin with a setting the intrigues me, and a character will then usually present themselves. If a name doesn't pop into my head I spend a while thinking about that because I think naming characters perfectly is really important. A name can represent a characters personality, and it helps me to stay connected to them.

I'll usually write a vignette or first chapter to get my ideas down, and then start to plan the plot etc when writing novels. I get the initial burst of creativity written down and then reign it back in so that it is something I could really work on, not just a fleeting idea quickly forgotten.

Do you write based on reality, and reflect your own experiences in your work, or are the events in your stories very removed from your own life? If this is the case, how do you remain connected to a character with a very different life to your own?
Yes and no. Small parts of my own life can be seen in each story, it could be the best friend, the setting, or the love interest. But generally the stories I write are very far removed from my own. Picturing the character in my head helps a lot. I find as long as I can 'see' the character, I feel connected to them. I have always written from a female perspective and this helps as well.

Which authors (and novels) have inspired you the most?
There are too many to mention in one paragraph. That's for sure!
One book that will stay with me forever is 'Go Ask Alice' (seem to be fond of that name, don't I?). It's written by 'anonymous' and is a diary of a teenage girl who struggles with an addiction to drugs and alcohol and dies tragically young. I discovered the book when I was eleven, though it is intended for a much older audience. The book heavily influenced me as a person and as a writer as I began keeping a diary after reading it, and still do today.

My favourite author would have to be Kelley Armstrong. I don't even know how many books she's written, but I've read most of them and they are all fantastic. My favourites are her adult urban fantasy series 'Women of the Otherworld', and YA urban fantasy series 'Darkest Powers' and 'Darkness Rising'. The 'Otherworld' series changes narrator with each book but stays in the same 'world' over thirteen books, the characters intertwine and it is each is expertly written. 

Do you have a specific writing environment and set-up? Playlists, a writerly hat, a special computer program?
I'm generally a very messy person, but my desk has to be clean when I write, and It sits in front of a large window. I feel that the natural light helps me a lot. Sometimes if I'm stuck, I'll move outside and for some reason this helps too. I have playlists like I explained earlier, but mainly I just go into my own little world. Other than the playlists I need quiet, and my family knows that when I'm sitting at my computer for hours without talking its best to leave me alone!

If you could travel back in time and meet yourself when you first started writing seriously, what advice would you give her? (You? I don't know. Time travel is confusing.)
I started writing seriously when I was eighteen, but I wish I'd have started earlier. I'm not sure, I think I'd tell her to keep her chin up. Every writer faces a lot of rejection, and I've definitely had my fair share. All I ever wanted was to publish a novel, but I've learnt to be patient and that it will happen eventually. Every writers journey is different, and my writing has improved tremendously since I first started. I've been lucky and have had a lot of great experiences and worked with a lot of talented people.

I'd tell her to hold on to her dream, and to have fun with it all!
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