Q&A with Leanne Hall, author of Queen of the Night
Young Adult author - and Readings' own - Leanne Hall talks to Andrew McDonald about Queen of the Night, the sequel to her Text Prize-winning novel of 2010 This Is Shyness. Also mentioned are nocturnal plants, the wafflelessness of YA fiction and the movie Blade.
Queen of the Night continues the stories of Wolfboy and Wildgirl that began in your debut novel This is Shyness What attracted you back to the world of Shyness?
I thought I was writing a stand-alone book with*This Is Shyness*, but in the final stages of editing both my editor and I started to suffer from severe separation anxiety. And when I started to come into contact with readers, they often told me they’d like to find out more about Wolfboy and Wildgirl and Shyness. The final straw was when my mum demanded a follow-up – I couldn’t disobey my mum!
As we begin to reacquaint ourselves with Wolfboy and Wildgirl, six months have already passed since their first night together. How did that initial night of adventure – and romance – influence their lives once This Is Shyness was over?
Even though they are both disappointed not to have had contact with each other in the intervening six months, I think they’d both agree that first night had a positive influence. Wildgirl has changed schools, gotten a new job, and is getting along better with her wayward mother, and Wolfboy has been busy being an uncle and babysitter extraordinaire to Diana. They had some pretty big discussions on the night they met! There was no messing around – they tackled the important stuff, so I’m not surprised big changes ensued.
As the cover hints, flowers play an important role in the novel. How did you come to the idea of decorating a place of perpetual darkness with plant-life?
During the writing of This Is Shyness I had to consider how much foliage and greenery and plant life would still be around after three years of darkness. I became so curious about it that I started to do some research into nocturnal plants, and uncovered a whole world of weird and wonderful plants that fare well at nighttime. I bought a fantastic book that I highly recommend to anyone (bearing in mind also that I have a black thumb and no interest in gardening), called The Evening Garden: Flowers and Fragrance from Dusk til Dawn by Peter Loewer. Loewer is passionate about his subject, is an extremely vivid storyteller, and also contributed the beautiful botanical illustrations.
Both Shyness books contain many mysteries; some that yield answers, some that don’t. Are there aspects to the world that elude even you?
I’m not 100% sure about all aspects of the Shyness world, but I have a hunch or feeling or opinion about every single one of the mysteries. It’s quite obvious that I don’t like things to be set too much in stone; I think it’s nice to leave some room for readers to speculate and come up with their own theories.
Queen of the Night features some pretty intense/bizarre dream sequences. Given that dream sequences are notoriously hard things to execute, how did you approach these scenes?
Oh, I was so nervous about writing the dream sequences! There’s nothing naffer than a badly executed dream sequence, in books or on the TV/movie screen. I read a lot about dream theories, and I observed my own dreams, and then I crossed my fingers. I underwrote at first, and gradually added details in until I felt I’d reached the right balance. There are symbols in there; but I’m not too worried about whether the reader gets them or not. More than anything, I wanted to the dreams to be exciting and strange.
Book #1 This Is Shyness drew inspiration from some of the darker corners of Melbourne. What local inspiration and/or research inspired the elements of book #2?
I still had my master map badly drawn in blue biro pen from writing This Is Shyness. As I came up with new locations for Queen of the Night, I drew them into the old map. As Panwood is supposed to be located across the river from Shyness, I based it on St Kilda. Plexus Commons is similar to the Carlton Housing Commission Flats, and to the housing estates I observed when living in London. The nightclub Umbra, well I’m afraid that is inspired by the opening scenes of the movie Blade!
You’re a big advocate of Young Adult literature – you write it, you read it, you talk it. When people ask you what’s so cool about YA what is your standard response?
I usually mention its lack of pretension, and its immediacy. I tell people that YA fiction has far less waffling on in it than adult fiction, that it works to capture and maintain the reader’s attention immediately, and that it seems to be less constricted by rules and genres than adult fiction.
Have you been reading any good YA novels lately that are worth noting?
I am in the middle of reading The FitzOsborne’s in Exile: The Montmaray Journals Book Two by Michelle Cooper, and I am absolutely captivated. You know when you have to drop everything to keep reading a really good book, and you don’t want it to ever end? That’s what’s happening right now!
What’s next for Leanne Hall and are you done with the world of Shyness just yet?
I am…mostly done with Shyness, I think. I am a little bit interested in checking in with Diana when she is a teenager, but I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. I’m currently working on a book that I don’t feel ready to talk about yet! But I am enjoying meeting new characters and building a new world.
[missing asset] Andrew McDonald is Readings' Online Manager by day, a children’s author by night and asleep the rest of the time. His debut novel for kids is called The Greatest Blogger in the World and he is currently writing his second book.
Queen Of The Night
The sequel to the 2009 Text Prize-winning This Is Shyness is about the difficulty of recreating the past--about how the Darkness no longer sets Wolfboy and Wildgirl free
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This Is Shyness
In the suburb of Shyness, where the sun doesn't rise and the border crackles with a strange energy, Wolfboy meets a stranger at the Diabetic Hotel. She tells him her name is Wildgirl, and she dares him to be her guide through the...
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