Back in September, I had the chance to be part of the ALEA Meanjin Writers Camp held at Griffith University at Mt Gravatt, which was an incredibly fun day of working with young writers. I also got to present alongside one particularly inspiring young writer, thirteen-year-old Kyrra Wilks, author of The Seven.
It was awesome to see Kyrra speak to other writers the same age as her; it's so inspiring to see young writers achieving their goals. I think, even for older writers, there's always something to learn from other writers' perspectives and experiences. Kyrra was lovely enough to answer some questions for me about creating fantasy worlds, naming characters, her self-publishing journey, the benefits of being a young writer, advice she would give other young writers and more! I think a lot of her insights other young writers will definitely be able to relate to - I certainly do.
Steph: The Seven features a fantasy realm with rich mythologies, and clearly involved a lot of world-building. What advice would you give to people interested in writing fantasy for creating original and realistic worlds?
Kyrra: Sometimes to create something new, you must first look at something old. This is part of the strategy that I think about using when creating a new and interesting world. Sometimes looking around or thinking about different places that you have visited can give you the inspiration to create a new world. When creating original and realistic worlds it is important to think about the places that you have seen and then think how you can change or alter them to create the world that you imagine your character’s live in.
Steph: What inspires your work? Are there any particular novels, or people, who have been especially influential in shaping the writer you are now?
Kyrra: I definitely find a lot of my inspiration by looking at the world around me, and looking back on past experiences. Some of my main inspiration comes from other books and the amazing characters that other authors have created. I believe that if you are aspiring to be a writer, it is so important that you read, read and read even more. Other people that have helped me along the way are my parents, family, friends and teachers. They have all contributed in one way or another – by encouraging me, helping to read through my work, or teach me the basics at a very young age. Without all of these people in my life, I certainly would not be the writer that I am today!
Steph: Do you think being a young writer gives you a different perspective or writing process to older writers? (Can you better relate to younger characters, perhaps?) Or do you feel your age doesn't affect your process very much?
Kyrra: I believe that being a younger writer does give you a different perspective on certain things. I feel as though I can relate to people my own age quite closely, as I understand the thoughts that go through their heads and the different types of things that they experience. When I write about characters who are older than myself I feel that some parts of them may be a mystery, although this does not stop me from developing the character and making them interesting and unique. I believe that being a younger writer gives you a different perspective while writing, but also gives the reader a different perspective while reading which makes the book unique.
Steph: When I write, I tend to give my characters names that I like - which works for me, because I write character who live in our world. Your characters, on the other hand, live in a fictional world and a number of them have invented names - what's your process for naming your characters?
Kyrra: When giving characters invented names, the most important thing to do first is to establish the character’s personality and appearance. Based on age, appearance and character traits, I usually find that certain names fit the character, as if they were always intended to have that name. Sometimes I also look at names that are from a certain style and category and then match parts of words to create a suitable name.
Steph: You published The Seven when you were only twelve years old, which is awesome, and very brave - when did you decide you wanted to publish it? Can you tell me a little bit about the process of preparing the book for publication? What was it like getting feedback from people who read your book?
Kyrra: I decided that I wanted to publish The Seven, quite early on in the writing stages. I wanted to publish a book because I wanted to share my ideas and thoughts with other people, through a story that I had created. After I finished writing The Seven I let some people read through the draft and give me necessary feedback. Most of the feedback included fixing minor errors but the biggest change that I had to make was adding an extra chapter at the end of my book. I realised after this that it is so important to have other people read your book because what you might think of as finished and complete might not work when you put it onto paper, and it is up to the reader to decide that. After editing my draft and adding in all of the feedback, it was then time to start the publishing process. This process involved working with a Graphic Designer to create the front and back cover and then find a suitable publishing company. I decided to self-publish my book and I did this through the publishing company Blurb.
Steph: You worked on The Seven over the course of several years - did you ever get distracted by other ideas? What motivated you to complete the novel, years after having originally started it?
Kyrra: The Seven took several years to complete. The main reason for this was time, finding time to write a whole book while also attending school and doing assignments can be difficult. However, another main reason that The Seven took me a few years to complete was because my ideas, likes and dislikes changed. I found that when I re-read the book that I had originally created, my writing style and ideas had developed. Therefore I had to go back and edit, and rewrite many parts of the book. Yes, I did sometimes get distracted when writing The Seven and I was always coming up with new ideas and writing stories. However, I do not think that these stories were bad or slowed my writing process, instead they helped to develop my writing style and technique that could then be used in my book, The Seven.
Steph: Do you plan to continue writing fantasy, and to continue writing for younger people? Or do you think you will write for an older audience as you yourself get older? Can you give any hints on what you're working on at the moment?
Kyrra: At the moment I am experimenting with different genres and styles. I am currently working on a mystery and have characters that are more around my own age – because I feel as though I can strongly relate to them. I believe that I will continue to write for a young audience, although it may be slightly older than the audience that The Seven targeted. I am planning to see how my current book progresses and then work from there, to see if I want to continue with fantasy, mystery or perhaps another genre.
Steph: Finally, what advice would you give to other young (and less young!) writers embarking on the path? Imagining you could travel back in time and visit your younger writing self without tearing the fabric of the universe, what advice would you give her?
Kyrra: There are a few main pieces of advice that I would give writers who are about to begin the writing journey. Firstly, read, read and read more. It is so important that you read, because in books you can find inspiration and new styles that can add to your own writing. Secondly, be aware of how much time it takes to write a book. Once you have found a good idea, stick with it, and write all of your ideas and thoughts down then – because over time our ideas and thoughts change and you might find yourself questioning the story that you are writing. So, remember to use your time efficiently and stick with a good idea once you have found it. Lastly, make sure every word counts. Words make up sentences, sentences make up paragraphs, paragraphs make up pages, pages make up chapters and chapters make up books. Therefore it is so important that every single world is meaningful for you, the characters and most importantly the reader.
Thank you, Kyrra! I am very much looking forward to seeing what Kyrra writes next! You can find out more about The Seven here.