Taking the plunge

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
By: 
Amie Kaufman interviewed by Michelle McLaren

A portrait of Amie Kaufman
Amie Kaufman

Every story begins somewhere. But sometimes, getting started is the hardest part! Join Amie Kaufman, co-author of the phenomenally successful Starbound and Illuminae Files trilogies for Getting a Story Started - a special, hands-on session designed to help you get your manuscript off to a flying start. So, how did Amie get started...and what's she planning next? WV volunteer, Michelle McLaren got in touch with Amie to find out.

How did you get started on your first novel?

I wrote my first novel during NaNoWriMo – that’s National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated. It’s a month-long novel-writing challenge that takes place every November, and back in 2010, I decided to take the plunge. I’d been writing for years for fun, just bits and pieces, not really aiming to finish anything. That November, I decided I was coming back with my shield or on it, and by the end of the month I had a first (terrible!) draft in my hands.

You’ve written the Starbound trilogy with Meagan Spooner and you’re currently working on the Illuminae Files trilogy with Jay Kristoff. How has working with a co-author helped your writing?

I think it helps in the same way having great critique partners or a great editor works - you’re driven to do your very best work for your writing partner, and if you’re working with someone whose writing you adore (and I am) then you learn a lot from their strengths as well. In addition to that, you’ve always got a second perspective, someone to brainstorm or problem-solve with.

Your WV workshop encourages writers to find inspiration in the things that get you excited in life. What do you find exciting?

Gosh, good question! I find travel very inspiring, and I chase a lot of inspiration that way, absorbing new places and cultures, and considering the differences from home. It’s a chance to absorb new stories as well, to challenge your senses with all kinds of new input.

Why do some writers find it so difficult to start their manuscript?

I think this is a very common problem, and the reasons are as varied as the writers. Two particularly common problems are time and potential. Many writers feel they don’t have time to write—and time can be challenging, I learned that writing some of my novels in 15 minute increments—and some know that the novel in their head is always going to be better than the novel on the page. Before you’ve written the story, it’s perfect. It soars, it makes people laugh, it tears their hearts in two, it does whatever it’s supposed to do. But once the words are on the page, you’ve got to make them do the job in reality, and that’s a lot harder.

According to your website, you’re planning to write another two series after The Illuminae Files – Unearthed and Elementals! When you plan your writing so far in advance, how do you remain focused on the novel you’re working on?

We’ve actually just added yet another series, The Andromeda Cycle, to that list, so I certainly have a lot coming down the pipeline. It’s definitely easy to get excited about future projects—after all, they’re unwritten, and therefore perfect! But the key to staying focused on what I’m writing right now is making sure I’m excited about it. Every story I write thrills me, and I make sure I remember why I was so drawn to it in the first place.

About Amie Kaufman

Amie Kaufman is a ‘New York Times’ and internationally best-selling young adult author, whose award-winning books have been published in 24 countries. Her books have won the Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and Best YA Novel, been named the ‘Huffington Post’ Best of the Year, and are in development for TV and film. Amie has degrees in history, literature, law and conflict resolution.

About Michelle McLaren

Michelle McLaren is a Writers Victoria volunteer, a Melbourne Writers Festival intern and an emerging literary critic. She blogs about books at Book to the Future and procrastinates on Twitter.