Amie KaufmanFantasyInterviewMeagan SpoonerPopular fictionScience fictionSpeculative fictionThe Garret At HomeWriterYA

At home with Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner are New York Times bestselling author duo. They have now published three YA series together, and in this interview Amie and Meagan discuss how they write together (even when living on different continents), how they ensure so many gripping pay-offs for their devoted readers, and even how they achieved the impossible - combining fantasy and science fiction in one novel.

Their first series together was The Starbound Trilogy (These Broken Stars, This Shattered World and Their Fractured Light), followed by the Unearthed duology (Unearthed and Undying). They have just released The Other Side of the Sky, the first in a series.

You may also be interested in Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff talking about their writing partnership.

Amie Kaufman_Meagan Spooner_The Garret

TRANSCRIPT

ASTRID: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner have written three internationally successful YA fantasy science fiction series. In this interview, recorded with Amie in Melbourne and Meagan in the US, they discuss a love of genre, writing such great payoffs for their readers, and of course, their brilliant writing.

Welcome to The Garret at Home, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.

AMIE: It's so lovely to be hearing your voice again.

MEAGAN: Thanks so much for having us.

ASTRID: Oh, look, I am so thrilled to be talking to both of you. Obviously 2020 is a strange year. We are all at home. Amie and I are in Melbourne. And Meagan, you are in the United States. Thank you for joining us.

MEAGAN: Thanks so much for having us. I just have to give you great congratulations. Your most recent work together, The Other Side of the Sky has just come out. But I can't emphasise enough for those who are listening, I am sitting next to a giant stack of Kaufman and Spooner books. These are certainly not the only books that you have both published. You are both very prolific and really gorgeous writers. I grew up reading fantasy and science fiction. I wish you were both writing when I was a teenager. So, I didn't have to read a lot of boring old white guys. Am I allowed to say that?

AMIE: Look, I'm doing an entire PhD thesis on exactly that. If we can't say it, I'm in a lot of trouble.

MEAGAN: Yeah, you can certainly say it around us. That's for sure.

ASTRID: Excellent. This is going to be an odd thing to say, Amie, but your PhD sounds like something I would want to read.

AMIE: I keep hearing people say that. I'm like, ‘It will be quite boring and academic’. But I think it might be the first PhD that ever gets read.

ASTRID: Yeah. Yeah. Look, look, I'm here for it, Amie. One day I will interview you about academic writing, but while we are here talking about the exciting things of beautiful fantasy and fiction, my first question to you both is, I know that you are friends, but you do live on the other side of the world from each other. And writing fiction requires so much creativity and imagination and that kind of creative genius, the spark. When you're at the beginning of a story, how do you work together on that when you're on the other side of the world?

AMIE: I'm going to tell you what, it's not easier right now than usual. First of all, we try to be in the same place at the start. You know, Meg comes. We literally have a room we call Meg's room at our house. The other day I was trying to find somewhere quiet to work and I was saying to Meagan chat, ‘Oh, I'm in your room right now’.

MEAGAN: When we first started writing These Broken Stars, I was actually living with Amie and her husband at the time. We were able to do some of that preliminary brainstorming and sort of early character work together, which is wonderful and something that we're missing terribly right now.

AMIE: And I mean, when it came to... Our second series was Unearthed and Undying, we actually had just finished a tour in the US and I had arranged to stay on for an extra week. The entire plan was, go to Meg's house, emerge with the start of something. At that time, we talked about The Other Side of the Sky at that time. We also talked about Unearthed. We just felt like we weren't quite ready for The Other Side of the Sky yet. We didn't know what was missing or we could have put it in, but you can sense the gaps where something needs to go.

MEAGAN: Yeah, and with The Other Side of the Sky, there was definitely a sense when we first had the idea, that we weren't quite ready to write it. That we needed to level up our writing skills a bit, that we needed to get just a little bit better. Because it is a complicated book. There are a lot of elements in it that are hard to do. Part of the reason we wrote it was to challenge ourselves. We wanted to do these things that we thought were difficult, but we weren't quite ready to do them.

ASTRID: This fascinates me. We're not going to do spoilers because this book is just out. But can you identify for me, Meagan, those things that you thought you needed to level up? Like what writing skills did you need to gain when you were both highly published authors already?

MEAGAN: Well, for one thing, I think no matter how many books you publish, I think any author will admit that they have weaknesses in their writing. They have certain elements that they know that they do really well. Then they have certain elements that they may, either consciously or subconsciously avoid, because they know that it's maybe not their forte. With this particular book, there were quite a few things that were challenging. I mean, it's complex in terms of world building and plot. There are some intricate sort of almost palace intrigue elements that can be quite tricky to navigate.

I think the biggest challenge that we wanted to see if we could do, well, there's two actually. One, was to see if we could write a book that so carefully straddles the line between fantasy and science fiction, that readers aren't really sure at any given time, what kind of book they're reading. And do it in such a way that didn't make readers uncomfortable, but rather felt like a cohesive real world that they just didn't know whether it was science fiction or fantasy.

The other challenge that we wanted to see if we could do, was whether we could write a compelling romance between two characters who cannot touch each other. I mean, that's something that, I mean, Amie's, and my relationship is not romantic, but we are friends who live on opposite sides of the planet. Most, like 99 per cent of our friendship has taken place when we can't even be in a room together, much less like sitting on the couch next to each other. So, writing about a couple, how do you express your love for another person when you can't hold their hand or sit next to them or hug them? It just happened that after we wrote this book, the world became a place where you can't hold your friend's hand or sit with them or hug them. It ended up being kind of timely as well as an interesting challenge.

ASTRID: Meagan, I got chills sitting here staring at the Zoom screen as we all do, as you described that, because that is such a universal experience at the moment. I'd like to go back and ask you both for your opinions or kind of your working definitions of fantasy and science fiction. I have always read both and I do appreciate the beauty of both. I did notice that you were combining these in The Other Side of the Sky. I get why that's a writing challenge. But for our listeners who maybe don't play in genre as much, can you outline what makes fantasy and what makes science fiction and why they don't naturally sit together?

AMIE: Yeah, there's this line I think a lot of people have heard that they might not know where it came from, that says, ‘Any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic’. Which, if we were all to see something from the year 2300, right now, it might as well be witchcraft to us, because we would have no idea how it was being done. You could see that back in time as well. You know, someone comes up with a medical procedure and suddenly it must be magic, because we don't understand how it got done.

That's sort of where the different sits. There are also big differences in terms of sort of the types of questions that the genres ask and the themes that they explore. But in science fiction, a good kind of rule of thumb is, you get one thing that you don't have to be able to scientifically explain right now. You get a faster than light drive or you get the ability to teleport or something. Then everything else has to be either scientifically possible or plausible. The laws of physics aren't going to change in the future, so everything has to sort of be something you can explain.

Those scientific elements should be such an intrinsic part of the book that if you took them out, you wouldn't have a working story anymore. Whereas in fantasy, you're creating your own world, which although it needs to be consistent, it doesn't necessarily need to be consistent with our world.

MEAGAN: Yeah, for me, the line between science fiction and fantasy, there's the sort of aesthetics, superficial differences where it's magic versus science or it's mythological creatures versus aliens. But for me, the actual structure of the fiction and the themes and the questions that it asks of the reader tend to be very different.

I think in fantasy, you often see the hero's journey, you see this epic quest. And the pleasure of reading fantasy is watching the hero grow in ability and heart and power until they can triumph over evil. It's this wonderful like, ‘Yes, good will conquer all’ moment that is so pleasurable to read. And science fiction is much more about asking questions. Like who are we? Where do we fit in the universe? Where do we fit in the world around us? Where are we headed? I think that's why it works so well with YA, because YA is all about asking, Who am I? How do I fit as an adult among the rest of the adults in this world?

And the pleasure you get from it is sort of exploring these big, deep, dark questions that kind of haunt us, I think. When you combine the two, there's often not a lot of room to do both of those things in one book. Which is, I think why you don't often see a lot of true science fiction that is heroes questy. I would argue that Star Wars is fantasy rather than science fiction.

ASTRID: I don't think you'd get a lot of argument among the Sci-Fi community about that one.

MEAGAN: Yeah, it's the perfect example of how it's not so much the trappings or the aesthetics that makes something science fiction versus fantasy. It's a deeper difference than that, which is why we don't often see them mixed together.

ASTRID: Now, I grew up reading both fantasy and science fiction and dips in and out of one at different times, depending on what I was looking for in life. I remain fascinated to this day by the writing partnership between Janny Wurts and Raymond E. Feist. They both wrote fantasy and they wrote together the Empire trilogy. While I enjoyed both of their work, that they wrote individually, for some reason as a reader, I always felt that trilogy was perfection. Maybe because of the age I read it or what I was looking for at the time. That trilogy meant that they were more than the sum of their individual parts and they just hit something perfect or close to perfect.

My question to you both is, how do you think your particular writing partnership changes and what do you bring each other? You both write individually, but when you choose to write together and create a story together, what is that magic that happens when the two of you come together?

MEAGAN: Well, we've often said that when we write together the whole ends up feeling like greater than the sum of the parts. When I heard you say that phrase, I got the biggest smile on my face. I think part of it is that we have complimentary skills. I was talking earlier about how authors, no matter how many books they publish, always have strengths and weaknesses. I think Amie and I have different strengths and weaknesses, which is a great thing to have in a partner. I also think a big part of it is that we, while having immense respect and admiration for each other's writing ability, we also challenge each other. We don't let each other off the hook.

When I'm writing by myself, sometimes I'll be writing apart and somewhere deep in my heart I'll know that I'm not doing it very well, or I'm not fully explaining something or I'm just sort of saying, ‘Well, maybe readers won't notice if I don't explain how this happened’. But when I'm writing with Amie, she doesn't let me get away with that and I don't let her get away with it. I think it ends up being so much stronger.

AMIE: And you've got with you in those moments. Because the thing is, you're not actually... Like when you were writing something individually and you sort of paper over something and plan to come back to it later. You're not doing that because you're fundamentally lazy. You're doing it because you don't know what the answer is. If you knew what the answer was, you would do it. Because it would probably be about the same amount of work as whatever careful house of cards you're constructing over the haul.

I mean, the thing about having someone else there with you, is if you get stuck, you can literally... If I'm writing something and I reach a point where I think, ‘Oh, what we've planned doesn't make sense’. And there's not an obvious alternative, I'll just leave Meg a note. And when she wakes up right before I go to bed, we'll just jump on the phone, have a quick chat about it, brainstorm. It often only takes 10 minutes.

But you've got someone who's as intimately familiar as you are with the story and ready to jump in on the spot in a way that no one else can ever do and is more familiar than anyone else could ever be, because it came from them. It's those complimentary skills. It's that you lift to meet your partner. It's also just frankly, that when you hit those stumbling blocks, there's two brains.

MEAGAN: We often get asked what happens when we disagree about what should happen in the book.

AMIE: People want us to fight, I swear.

MEAGAN: People want us to tell stories of like massive friendship wrecking fights. They want some drama in our relationship. The truth is we never actually fight. Honestly, we never actually even disagree. I mean, sometimes going into a scene or into the next act of a story, we will have different ideas about what should happen next. But whenever that happens, it actually is happening, not because one of us is right and one of us is wrong, it's happening because we're both wrong. It's because neither of us has come up with the right answer. Because when the right answer shows up, you know it. You know it all the way down to your core. And anyone else as intimately familiar with the book as you are, would recognise it as being right, too.

So when we have differing opinions about what should happen, we end up discussing it and figuring out, ‘Okay, let me try to figure out why this option appeals to me and we'll figure out why this other option appeals to you’. And we'll find something that incorporates both of those elements and is in fact, it's like secret option C that is better than either A or B could have been.

AMIE: Yeah, like disagreeing is, well disagreeing is probably even too strong a word for it. But having different ideas is like an invitation to curiosity. A fight is you're both trying to convince the other side of something and you can't fight if there's not two sides. It's much more of a standing side by side, staring at the whiteboard, figuring it out together.

ASTRID: I am not a fiction writer, but I'm going to pose something to you. I am a fiction reader. I know when I'm reading good stuff, because I am getting that payoff as a reader. That payoff is different in different genres. It's different in fantasy than science fiction. It's different in crime than literary fiction. And when I read your work, I almost feel like you're hitting the payoffs and I'm there coming in this steady stream, right? Like you are giving to me everything that I want when I choose to go into a world that you have created, that you have built for your reader and I'm-

AMIE: That's a huge compliment.

ASTRID: Oh, you're most welcome. I'm interested in how you do that. Obviously, it's plotting. And obviously it's a great idea. And obviously it is the teamwork when you know how to work together and you were both staring at that hypothetical whiteboard, looking for the perfect answer C. But it is a big deal. A, I'm interested in how you know when you have hit that payoff and how much of it is because you understand intimately what the reader of your genre is looking for.

MEAGAN: I mean, I think that is...

AMIE: I sometimes feel like when we think about this stuff, we're going to end up being like a centipede. Then someone says, ‘How on earth do you walk with a hundred legs?’ The second… I have no idea. I'll just sit here. I think part of it is that we quite genuinely write what we would want to read. We don't try to write to market. We don't try and think, ‘Oh, you know what the big hits this year did, let's just bundle that up and put it in our book’. We know what we as the reader want and we know as members of kind of the group who consume these stories, what we would want to happen. There's two parts to it. One, which is sort of knowing that stuff and the other is, then putting on your writer hat and thinking, ‘Okay, so we definitely know what people want from this moment, but when does the payoff come? Do we hold off a little longer?’

Because if we wrote the thing that we were most often asked to write, it would actually be a little coder to These Broken Stars in which the two main characters have a really nice time. He takes her home to meet his mother and they hang out in this beautiful garden that is described in the book. The thing is, although that's the thing we're asked for the most, we don't feel that readers would actually find it that satisfying. Because, when we are the readers, we are in the same boat. So this is not at all to be an author, sort of waving your hand at readers and saying, ‘You don't know what you want’. Because when I'm a reader, I don't know what I want. But what we think we want, which is those payoffs immediately, is not what actually makes us happy.

So, we sort of have our reader hats on when we're thinking about what is the payoff that will work. Then we have our writer hats on when we're thinking about how long do we delay before we give it to you and to what degree do we give it to you? There's a bit of a split personality there.

MEAGAN: I think what Amie was saying earlier about audience, is really key. I mean, we are writing the books that we would have wanted to read. This is especially so, when we're writing together, because honestly when we're writing together, our audience is each other.

AMIE: Yeah.

MEAGAN: We became friends by writing together. We've been writing together as long as we've known each other. And at the beginning we weren't writing books. We were just writing to entertain each other. We were writing characters and scenarios that were fun and romantic and compelling. we did a lot of that delayed gratification of payoff. It was so much fun and we were writing for each other and we still write for each other.

It turns out that, what one person wants is actually pretty similar to what a lot of people want. We all want these same sort of payoffs as readers.

AMIE: Oh, I think you're actually... I hadn't really thought about this before Meg, but you're so right. Because you know, one of the first things that Meg and I wrote together, which will never be published, it was just for fun, was this incredibly sort of almost Pride and Prej long drawn out romance with the guy. You would read masses into just the moment when he chose to reach for his drink and take a particularly long swallow of it. He would say nothing and give nothing else away. And you had to really intimately know him in order to know that meant anything.

The whole name…

MEAGAN: Of course, the girl could read those moments perfectly and know exactly what was happening and know what she had said wrong and know what she had said right. Sometimes she would delight in making him reach for that drink.

AMIE: Yeah, but it was very much because we were writing for someone else. Even at the start, you were always thinking, ‘I'm not going to give you that just yet. I'll just give you a Victorian glimpse of ankle’.

ASTRID: I'm interested in both of your perspectives on where genre, fantasy and science fiction most obviously fits in the market. Now Amie in Australia, it's been my perception that genre, whilst it often still sells very well, has been looked down upon sometimes by parts of the industry. I like to think that that is different at the international level, but I'd like both of your perspectives on that.

MEAGAN: It is definitely still looked down upon. I think probably no matter where you go. I think anytime you have something that is popular, you will have people say that it is somehow worth less than the things that are less popular. Because there's this perception of elitism where only the true sort of dense literary kind of arcane novels are capital W, sort of worthy of admiration and sort of literary respect. I do think that that is changing, but it's funny, especially when you're writing young adult, you get a double whammy, because anything whose main audience is a bunch of teenage girls is going to be looked down upon as the most useless thing in the world unfortunately, because nobody likes teenage girls in our society.

AMIE: Right. Despite the fact that they appear to be the only ones doing anything to save it for the future. I mean, for real. I would say get a triple whammy, because it's genre and young people and those young people are more female than not.

MEAGAN: Yep. I remember once early in my career, I was on an aeroplane and it was before I started lying to people about what I did. Now I don't tell people what I do because they always want to talk to me about it. I didn't know any better back then. So, ‘What do you do?’ ‘Oh, I write fiction’. As the conversation went on, eventually this woman said, ‘So I'm curious. Do you ever have any plans to ever write a real book?’ I honestly don't remember how I responded, because I was so taken aback and so horrified and angry. I'm sure I said something polite because it was kind of before I stopped being polite in those situations. I think that that experience really showcases the sort of general disrespect for fiction for young people as well as genre fiction.

AMIE: Yeah. I mean, you only have to look at the programming at literary festivals to see this. You know that...

MEAGAN: Oh yeah.

AMIE: Despite the market share of not just genre fiction and not just YA, also sort of areas like romance for instance. If we were to programme literary festivals, according to the proportions in which books are both bought and borrowed from libraries and read, the programmes would look incredibly different to the way they do. But instead, we programme them according to, as Meg says, perceived worthiness. What that means is a very small slice of society gets what they're interested in. So, they should, but it comes at the expense of everybody else.

ASTRID: I am a reader who reads literary fiction, but I clearly also read genre fiction and I adore it. I have to say as a 30 something year old woman, I'm increasingly getting shitty about this. Because I find some of my most beautiful reading experiences and most intellectually satisfying reading experiences come from genre.

AMIE: Yeah, it's the home of the thought experiment. It's the home of big questions. It shouldn't be surprising to most readers that, that is where they are hit with the big questions and where they find themselves hunting for big answers.

ASTRID: I have another question for you that's related to genre and I'm just genuinely interested in the answer. Obviously genre tends towards series, particularly in fantasy and science fiction, but also romance, also crime. Series give a certain type of payoff to the reader. You can go into one book and you know, that there's two or three coming. I personally have loved that throughout my entire life.

That does mean that over the course of someone's writing career, the word count tends to go up, right? Someone might write a literary novel and it takes them, you know, five years to write one novel. That is less the case in fantasy, because an idea doesn't sit in one book, it expands across multiple books. I guess the question that I'm kind of grasping for here is, that's a really high word count and that's a really quality word count. I'm just genuinely interested in how you do that.

MEAGAN: Well, Amie is the one who is best equipped to answer this, because she is unbelievably prolific.

AMIE: I don't know. I'm asked a lot and I think it's one of those, like when you're not inside other people's heads, it's quite hard to answer. I mean, I do think that when you're co-authoring the fact that somebody comes through every chapter right after you write it and immediately sort of gives it a polish and gives it a boost makes a big difference. I think there's also, I don't know, there's a whole thing you can get into here with the barriers to having time to write and the barriers to writing. Right now in the pandemic, we're seeing so many pieces on how women are the ones giving up so much more than men to do childcare, to do home management. That even when their partners are home full time, the women are still doing most of the load.

I think it's very important when it comes to talking about how much you get done to highlight that Meg and I both write full time for a living. And that I have a spouse who is a stay at home dad who looks after the kid. I have a bit of a hobby horse about talking about this, because when my daughter was about three months old, I realised I had been getting this steady stream of comments from women. What they were doing was saying something lovely to me and backhanding themselves. They'd say something like, ‘I'm so impressed at your back writing and editing already. This is incredible. When my kid was that age, I hadn't even washed my hair yet’.

It started out so nice to me. Then it turned out clearly the real thought was, ‘So I guess I'm not doing as well as you are’. That has prompted me to try and be really, really open about the fact that, ‘No, I have the support a man usually gets. I have a spouse who does that childcare full time. I have a spouse who, I don't cook, he cooks. Who props me up and keeps me going’. And before that I was in the same position as Meg, where I didn't have to get to a day job, and I didn't have to get to something else. I don't know.

I think when you're talking about how much you get done, that's particularly important to talk about, because for women, they work and then they come home. Then there are so many home duties and there are so many just expectations even within their extended family. They might not live with about what kind of emotional, heavy lifting they'll do within their community. Even, at day jobs about what they'll volunteer for. Yeah, I know I'm repeating myself now, but that really is important to touch on. That it's a full-time job, so we write at the pace of people who have a full time job.

MEAGAN: I think it's also important to note that writing at the pace that we write at is very hard. It's not that it's easy for us and there's some kind of miracle that makes it so. It's actually very difficult. We all have different sort of milestones for, ‘Oh, what counts as being a success. Is it getting your book published? Is it getting on the list? Is it getting an award? When have you made it as a writer?’

For me, my sort of like milestone is the point when I am allowed to take more than a few months to write a book, because you're really stretching yourself to put forth the amount of creative material that you put forth when you're writing on the schedule of a genre author or a young adult author. It takes a toll. I think it's important to note that it is actually quite hard and not always sustainable.

I have a lot of friends who wrote a few books and then decided that they were going to do other work, because it wasn't something that was sustainable for them. I think it's an important thing for young authors, new authors to note that it is okay to feel tired and it is okay to feel drained. One of the best things they can do for themselves is learn how to do this work sustainably so that you're not losing the spark that makes you love what you do.

AMIE: Right. We have friends who work in libraries and who work in bookstores and who do totally unrelated to book work, which for them is perfect because it doesn't take the same brain. They're so much happier now than during those few years when they were trying to write full time. Not everything is for everyone.

MEAGAN: Yeah.

AMIE: Equally, I think some full-time writers would find it hard to juggle a part time job and writing and would find that as challenging as the reverse. I think it's not even 1 per cent, is it, ‘Oh, they couldn't hack it and they went and did another thing’. It's really life is for living and being happy and they found the way that makes them happy and productive and helps them write great books.

ASTRID: I really appreciate both of your answers. Firstly, in Australia, it's well known that many authors, and I would assume that this is mostly kind of literary fiction authors, where the sales are lower than genre, don't make enough money by writing alone to pay rent, et cetera. Also, I teach writing at university and writing is hard. It is impossible for anybody to put a time on reading and writing and the thinking that is associated with creating one good work, let alone more than one. Sometimes I think emerging writers think that they have to write it perfectly the first time or have to have brilliant sales the first time or have to hit an imaginary milestone in their head that isn't feasible for a first-time book.

AMIE: None of those things are feasible. 1 per cent of people get that and they get it because all the moons and stars and tides collided at their publisher and they got a giant marketing push. Otherwise, nobody, I mean, literally 0 per cent of people write it perfectly the first time. That's simply not a thing you can do. And if you do think you have, it reflects on your lack of craft and nothing else. There's just no such thing as a perfect first draught. No one takes off.

When Meg and I had These Broken Stars come out, I think people often say, ‘Oh, your first book was a New York Times best seller. You bolted out of the gate.’ What they don't realise, it was a New York Times bestseller 13 months after publication.

MEAGAN: We worked our asses off to get it there.

AMIE: You know, we didn't get sent on tour for our first book. We did a tour of couches. We were lucky to be able to afford to do that. We penny pinched our way around sleeping in friend’s spare rooms and did events…

MEAGAN: Eating ramen and getting rides from our long-suffering friends to and from events, because we couldn't afford taxis.

AMIE: Yeah. We made it happen by sheer good luck. I think by honestly of it being sort of 2013, 2014 when fewer people were doing this. You could make more of an impact with it than I think it would necessarily have today. We answered every tweet and every post and we spoke to every reader. Yeah, and 13 months later, it paid off. But that's...

MEAGAN: And, I would like to just point out, it was not my first book. I had a whole trilogy that I had written before These Broken Stars, that people don't even really know about now, because it wasn't a big deal. It was at a smaller press. It sold very few copies. Barnes and Noble decided they didn't like the cover so they didn't stock it.

Basically on a sales front, my first foray into the publishing world was kind of a failure. Except that I think that they're lovely books and the people who did find them love them. There's no way that's actually a failure in my mind. But it took me years to get to thinking of it that way. I used to just try not to think about that poor series, because it made me feel like I had failed. Because there's this expectation that the only way to measure success is the number of your sales or the size of your marketing campaign.

AMIE: I mean, here we are, all these years later, still writing books, still publishing, still living off it.

MEAGAN: Yeah.

AMIE: I think there's a lot to be said for a gentler start. You see some writers who charge out of the gate and the absolute pressure of following up. Wow...

ASTRID: Is I really enjoy what you both said about engaging with your readers and answering every tweet and doing that work, couch surfing and building your audience to the point where they always want to buy your books and they always want to turn up to your events, whether they're in person or online or whatever we do these days. You built that audience because not only do you both write beautifully, but you have created this online community that just can't wait for your next event and your next sneak peek and your next cover reveal and your next book, it's gorgeous.

AMIE: The thing is without them, we don't get to do this. I think sometimes you see, not as often as people think, but sometimes you see authors who misunderstand that relationship and who really enjoy the admiration and who... Yeah, sort of misunderstand…

MEAGAN: Who's doing more of an exercise in ego.

AMIE: Yeah.

MEAGAN: Really, then a sort of exchange of love of stories, which is how I see it. I mean, we've talked about before, Amie and I, in fact we talk about it often, that once we finished writing our books, those stories don't really belong to us anymore. They kind of go out into the world and become the creative property of the readers because it's a two-part process. We write the book, but the way that you read the book changes the story. So, the story that you see is yours and yours alone. The way that you love it or don't love it and the way that you kind of think about it afterward and follow up and maybe buy more books or maybe don't. That's your own part of this process. There's never going to be a time when we lose respect for what readers bring to that two-part process.

ASTRID: So well said, Meagan. Can I ask, simply because I find you both so impressive, The Other Side of the Sky has just come out. I know there is a sequel, when could we expect that sequel?

AMIE: Oh, well, good question. We're writing it right now. You actually leave us to another thing that I think it's really important to talk about right now.

MEAGAN: I already know what this is.

AMIE: Yeah. Which is how hard everyone's finding it to create right now. Because my experience of, as Meg will tell you, I love a chat. I'm in touch with just a bazillion authors and constantly chatting with everyone. I watched as the first lockdowns came, not just in Australia, but around the world, all the authors kind of rolled up their sleeves and went, ‘We have been training for this all our lives. We love staying home in our pyjamas. Like watch us flex. Watch us teach you all the little tricks we already know’. You'd have your publisher saying to you which is just a little disruptive, because we were working from home. And you'd be like, ‘Oh yeah. Tell me again, how hard working from home is. I've been doing it for a decade. I know’.

We were all, cocky would be overstating it, but we were all really confident that this wasn't going to affect us because in fact it changed our daily lives very little. Then it turned out of course, that ongoing existential dread does have an impact on you.

MEAGAN: Yeah, when the whole world changes around you, it does actually affect the way you do your work.

AMIE: Right. It took everyone quite a while to say this. Then eventually this wave kind of broke of everyone saying to everyone else, very apologetically, ‘I'm just having a bit of trouble writing right now’. Then it turned out everyone felt that way.

MEAGAN: Every single person. Every single person.

AMIE: Yeah. And so, if people who, I know how many of your listeners are writers. So, if they by chance haven't had that conversation with someone yet, then please consider yourselves to be having it with us. As we just discussed, I am famously prolific. If I am having trouble writing this year, you should be having trouble too. I mean, if you're not, that's great. If you're finding an escape, then I quite genuinely, I envy you and I am so happy that that escape exists for you because we all need one. But, for most people, it's really difficult right now.

MEAGAN: I think Amie talking about this is so important, because we all feel so isolated right now. If you are a writer out there and you're struggling and you haven't heard other writers talk about their struggles, just know you are not alone. You are so not alone. It's not even funny.

AMIE: Right, because we all have this tendency to think it's some kind of personal failure and everyone else is probably still writing, because outwardly they all look the same, even though they're not.

So, the answer to this is that the goal for the sequel to The Other Side of the Sky is for it to be out next September, a year after the first one. The reality is we're still rushing.

MEAGAN: I mean, we're behind. The publishers are behind. There's going to be a lot of disruption to the sort of expected yearly release schedule for a lot of these series. So while we would like to have it out September 2021, it is quite possible, perhaps even probable that it will be a little bit later.

AMIE: Yeah. Well, I was chatting to the greatest of all Australian YA authors, Gothics about this the other day and he very wisely said to me, ‘Amie better the right book late than the wrong book on time’. That's very much the approach we're taking is. We're doing the best we can, but if it's late, but it's right, then it's out there forever.

You don't get to publish the book with a little asterisk beside the sequel and then they flip it over and down the bottom of the back cover it says, ‘This would have been even better if there wasn't a pandemic’. You've got to make it right.

MEAGAN: We're not going to compromise the way that we write books together in order to do it more quickly. The thing is if Amie and I aren't having fun writing the book, the book doesn't end up being fun. So for us, it's so much more important to take the time we need to have fun and really enjoy and really dig and get all of the sort of juicy, meaty bits out of the story that we can. It's so much more important to do that than to get it exactly a year from the first one.

ASTRID: I am feeling so confident listening to you both. I am not as productive as I know I am this year, probably no one on the planet is, but also I am dealing with my existential dread by reading. I want to thank you both for filling my shelves with a happy place that I can go and get amazing reader pay off and not live in this reality in 2020. Thank you both so much.

AMIE: We pass the chain of thanks onto the people we're escaping into right now, because if we ever needed another world more... It's funny, I find the people who are accompanying themselves by writing like reading turnout, reading disaster play books. Fascinating, because I know some of their, they're clearly loving it. But for me, it is all about finding a world that is better than this one right now.

MEAGAN: I have been reading solid romance novels pretty much for the last three months because it's the farthest thing I can get from where we are right now.

ASTRID: Absolutely. Amie and Meagan. Thank you so much for chatting with me today.

AMIE: Oh, thank you for having us. It's always...

MEAGAN: Thank you so much, it's lovely to talk to you.