Monday, October 22, 2012

YAtopia Relaunch: Suzanne and Sharon

Today we're introducing you to new YAtopian Suzanne van Rooyen and reintroducing you to YAtopia old-timer Sharon Johnston.

Suzanne van Rooyen

Suzanne grew up in the concrete jungle of Johannesburg, South Africa. After a brief stint in Australia, she felt most at home in the forests of Finland where the cold, dark winters provide a perfect excuse to stay indoors and write. She is the author of the cyberpunk novel Dragon's Teeth (Divertir, 2011), the YA science fiction novel Obscura Burning (Etopia Press, 2012) and several short stories published by Storm Moon Press, Niteblade and others. Despite having a Master's in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When she's not doing that, you can find her playing in the snow with her shiba inu or eating peanut butter and watching science fiction movies.

You can find Suzanne on her website, on Twitter @Suzanne_Writer or on Goodreads.
Sharon Johnston

Sharon is a corporate communication manager and a former journalist from Australia who writes in her spare time. Sleeper is Sharon's first novel that she is currently querying. Although she normally writes about the strange and the weird, her first publication is a general fiction short story call "Growth" as part of The Australian Literary Review's anthology The Basics of Life.

Sharon loves YA, science-fiction, speculative fiction, paranormal and anything that comes from the deepest darkest parts of someone's mind. She draws inspiration from local writers who have made it in the tough Australian publishing industry such as Tara Moss, Kerri Arthurs, Karen Brooks and Emily Rodda.

Well-known for her fantastic taste in shoes, Sharon has actually been stalked by women wanting to know where she got her high heels from. She invites you to read her personal blog and she is a Twitter fiend so follow her @S_M_Johnston.

Suzanne, interviewed by Sharon:

Sharon: Dragon's Teeth is Cyberpunk. What makes a novel Cyberpunk?

Suzanne: Excellent question. Cyberpunk as a genre usually denotes a future where there is an emphasis on sophisticated technology, but a breakdown in society. Dragon's Teeth has exactly that! There's an emphasis on technology, specifically on medical procedures that increase longevity, including the use of cybernetic implants. There's also a huge breakdown in society. It's post apocalyptic, but more than that, in the world of Dragon's Teeth there is rampant corruption and an underground criminal network undermining the society that's trying to reclaim its place on a damaged planet.

Sharon: You've got a passion for music and dance. How does that influence your writing?

Suzanne: Music definitely influences my writing. I use music as a soundtrack for all my writing. It helps me capture the right atmosphere and character emotions and can even help with setting. As for dance, I'm not sure that influences my writing as much as music does. It certainly helps character creation though. Many of my works feature muscians and in my WiP one of my secondary characters is a dancer.

Sharon: How has your reading as a teenager influenced your writing for teenagers.

Suzanne: As a teenager I didn't read teen books. I mostly read fantasy by authors like Caiseal Mor, Stephen Lawhead and Juliet Marillier - none of which is YA as we know it. I think that has made me realise that teens don't need to be coddled or written down to. Today's teenagers are quite sophisticated and they expect a lot from YA authors. That definitely puts us writers under pressure, but also raises the bar on quality, which is never a bad thing.

Sharon: What are your top four favourite books and why?

Suzanne: Oh I hate this question! Only four? Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite because I love her description and the effortless ways she weaves together romance and horror somehow making the horrific aspects of her story rather dreamy - that takes skill! The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, that's an entire graphic novel series so I'm cheating here, but that series blew me away. Gaiman really is a genius and his Sandman creations are phenomenal: fantasy, science-fiction, horror - all rolled up into one with so many layers. Love it! The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater because she writes beautifully and her characters are so real. Stiefvater also manages to keep her book fantastic and yet totally believable, and I'm a sucker for creatures from mythology. The Crow by James O'Barr because this is the story that first got me into darker fantasy. O'Barr wrote the story and illustrated his own graphic novel - that's incredible. I love how visceral and dark but also how totally heartbreakingly poignant this story is. Ah, I could go on and on about all the books I love...

Sharon, interviewed by Suzanne:

Suzanne: Can you tell us a bit about Sleeper?

Sharon: I can, but will I? (Sorry, that's the influence of my English teacher sister coming through). Sleeper is a Speculative Fiction (Science-Fiction/Fantasy mix) about a girl, Mishca, who discovers that her adoption was a front and that's she's actually a sleeper soldier for a private army. Her programming is accidentally triggered by a life saving heart transplant operation. The rest of her "unit" have the same condition, so are deemed as defective and scheduled for termination. So Mishca sets out to save them.

Suzanne: What do you think makes the Australian publishing industry a tough nut to crack?

Sharon: We're such a small market and there's so many books from overseas that a lot of publicity here. Even published Australian authors aren't necessarily finding homes for the new stories. But I think this will change as teenagers are thinking more globally and want to read stories from other countries. Australia is one of those countries that everyone wants to know more about. I had not only one of the most popular Australian manuscript with an earlier version of Sleeper on a YA writing site, Inkpop (which was recently bought out by Figment, but was the site that discovered Leigh Fallon and Wendy Higgins), but one of the most popular stories on the whole site. So that definitely showed me that teens internationally love stories set in Australia. More and more Aussie authors are finding success overseas, especially with the rise of ebooks.

Suzanne: If you could be any fictional character for a day, who would be and why?

Sharon: Wow, this one is tough. A lot of characters I love face so much adversity that I really wouldn't want to walk in their shoes. I love Tonks from Harry Potter. She's a bit bad-ass and a bit goofy and I'd love to change my hair colour whenever I feel like it. She can handle a broom too.

Suzanne: Which 2012 YA book was your favourite and why?

Sharon: A Million Suns was just amazing. I loved Across the Universe so much. It's like a YA 1984. The insights into the flaws of society continue on into the sequel. And the twists! Revis is just a master. I can't stop at one. Pandemonium blew me away. I didn't mind the first one, but the sequel rocked. While it's not my usual YA, From the Ashes was also amazing. It really helped me understand writing from the male POV.

 For more info on the re-launch, including how you can win some incredible prizes, click here!


  1. I have just recently been thinking of getting more acquainted with foreign authors so thanks for bringing that up and inspiring me to venture forth. I've actually been to Australia and I want to go back SO BAD! I got to spend a day at the great barrier reef and a couple in Sydney and AAAHHH I could gush all day about how fantastic it was. Oh and Scorpio Races is also one of my favorites!

  2. I love Melina Marchetta. And I'm not even from Aus. I would def love to read more books set in Aus. You are right.


  3. For those looking for great YA authors writing stories set in Australia, check out Cath Crowley's 'A Little Wanting Song' and 'Graffiti,' both great books! :)

  4. Wonderful interviews by both of you fine writers.

  5. Kateri - I'm right near the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef =P

    I write at the beach whenever I can. It's beautiful.

    Xan - I'm actually friends with Cath Crowley. We presented together at a conference. I love Graffiti Moon.

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

  6. Australians are awesome, and I already met Suzanne who confirmed that ;) Glad to see new people come aboard.

  7. Nice to meet you guys! Dragon's Teeth sounds interesting. Looking forward to checking it out.

  8. Sharon, I'm officially jealous! Next time you see Cath Crowley please tell her I think she's awesome :)

    Thank you TheAMWriter! :)