Q&A with Alison Evans, author of Ida
We chat with debut Australian author Alison Evans about their debut YA crossover novel, Ida, an evanescent story of doppelgangers, time travel and deciding what to do with your life.
Your protagonist Ida has the intriguing ability to move between parallel universes – an ability that grants her power and control, but also brings her much confusion. What were the origins of this idea?
I was working in a cafe at a tourist railway and had finished for the day. I was in my car and about to pull out of the car park when I remembered I was going out to a party after. So I turned off the car, got out and got changed. When I got onto the road I turned a corner and saw there had been a car accident and I wondered if I hadn’t got out of my car, would I have been in that accident? I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I eventually wrote Ida as a kind of thought experiment.
Your writing combines speculative, romantic and realistic elements. What has helped you to develop your individual voice and style?
I read pretty widely and don’t really have preferred genres in any kind of media, whether it’s TV, movies, music, whatever. I think all genres have interesting qualities and so I just write about what I would like to read. The things that keep me invested in media are always the characters and for me, as long as I like writing these characters, it doesn’t really matter to me what genres their stories belong in.
Your new novel can be described as queer sci-fi YA/new adult fiction. How do you feel about categories and labels for your work and its audience, and are they on your mind during the writing process?
I think that labels make stories easier to find if people are looking for a certain thing. They make marketing a lot easier and it gives an idea of what people should expect when reading. In those ways, they’re pretty great! I don’t really think about them at the time of writing the first draft, but that’s definitely on my mind in the rewriting process.
You’ve been published in a wide variety of places and forms, and you are also the co-editor of the collaborative zine, Concrete Queers. Can you tell us what you enjoy about the zine world in comparison to the experience of book publishing?
Zines are my favourite medium. My co-editor, Katherine Back, took me along to a talk about them a few years ago and that was my first introduction to them. After the talk, the two of us met Thomas who helps run Sticky Institute, Melbourne’s zine shop. Sticky Institute is one of my favourite places. Zines are great because they’re so DIY and being surrounded by them in Sticky makes you feel like you can do anything. There are no gatekeepers for zines. They’re also usually a physical thing, so there aren’t any online trolls, and the audience is generally pretty small, so they feel very safe to me. There are a lot of zines by marginalised people too which is awesome. As long as you can make it, anyone can publish a zine.
Not that I don’t love book publishing, of course. I love that it’s so easy to get my book to a huge amount of people, and that it’s in book shops where queer teens can find it. The two worlds are very different but they both have their own excellent qualities and I’m very glad I’ve had the opportunities to publish across both.