I started writing River Stone in 2015 because, as I talked about at the launch, it helped me re-find joy in writing. I had been living in Melbourne since 2009 but I had lost track of myself as a writer. Writing had slipped into that region of the tedious, the thing I was supposed to do, not what I wanted to do. I’d got caught up in judging everything I wrote against possible publication prospects, rather than enjoying the process itself.
Then came a tutorial with my creative writing first year students. I remember talking to them about what they were reading. One of them said Divergent by Veronica Roth and another The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Because I wanted to get a greater sense of what my students were “into” I read these novels – I missed them mostly when they came out because I was in small baby land – and became caught up in the dystopian worlds they imagined, and their kick-arse heroines. I couldn’t recall a whole bunch of strong female leads in my teenage readings: back then, Young Adult didn’t actually exist, so much of my reading was confined to the classics. (I do think Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice is quite kick-arse, but obviously in a very different way from Katniss Everdeen.) What struck me, though, with both Roth and Collins, was the lack of what I would call “realistic” vulnerability. So, in a rather arrogant burst of self-belief – and these only come rarely to me as a writer – I decided I wanted to write a Young Adult dystopia with a bit of bumbling, confused heroine who, nonetheless, falls in love.
Like most of my writing projects, I didn’t talk about this one for quite some time. I wrote when I was able – often after my two year old had been soothed to sleep, with her hand held, drifting off under the blue glow of my laptop – and only “came out” when I mentioned I was trying to write a dystopian trilogy to Anna Solding, director of MidnightSun Publishing. And just after Christmas in 2018 I got the phone call us writers love to take: Anna had read the manuscript and wanted to publish River Stone.
So far the reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. Shaye Wardrop at Kids’ Book Reviews writes:
River Stone will send chills down your spine and have you reading just one more chapter late into the night. It’s thought provoking and imaginative and filled to the brim with amazing and varied characters that see the world differently, providing readers with many different perspectives on the topics explored through the novel.
Joe Murray at ReadingsKids:
River Stone is a gripping Young Adult dystopia with a unique flavour, filling the genre’s bones with its vibrant characters, relentless storytelling and a phenomenal world. This is the future, but it feels more like the prehistoric past, and as the characters journey towards the city of Melney, they are shadowed by a violent history, one that the author uses to comment on present-day issues of environmentalism and war.
Recently I was contacted by the mother of a fourteen year old who’d been given the book for her birthday and had ‘devoured it’. She wanted to know when the next book in the series would be out. I’m busy re-drafting Book 2 (Mountain Arrow) right now. We’re aiming for release in May next year so Pandora will definitely be continuing her story, and I hope readers will continue to find her, and her friends, compelling.
More reviews at:
Reading Time – review website of the Children’s Book Council of Australia
Sarah Says – LoveOzYA reviewer
Here are some photos from the Melbourne launch: