“Two dictionaries, a bunch of 1930s kids’ books, some NZ YA fiction” – these are the books gracing the bedside table of YA author L.J. Ritchie. He will be in-store on Wednesday 24th October 2018, 12-12:45pm, to discuss his new book Monsters of Virtue with editor and YA aficionado Madeleine Collinge. Below are his excellent author interview answers (including wise creative advice from John Cleese), author bio and information about this forthcoming book Monsters of Virtue.
ABOUT THE BOOK
New Zealand, 1932 – the height of the Great Depression. In the wilds of the Ōtaki River Gorge, the newly formed Eugenics Department gathers the best and brightest in an attempt to create perfection…. But what makes a perfect person?
Fifteen-year-old Eve knows she’s not one – but with her sister’s life on the line, she’d better convince her new classmates that she could be. With uneasy allies Orion and Nyx, she’ll pry into the dark heart of this fledgling utopia. Will the future that awaits them be one worth fighting for?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
L.J. Ritchie is a Wellington-based author of young adult fiction. His previous jobs include secondary school performance arts co-ordinator, lighting and sound technician, garden labourer, web designer, domestic cleaner, data-entry operator, and publicist for an Elvis impersonator. One perk of becoming a writer is that what was once a motley curriculum vitae can now be called professional development.
He completed the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme in 2013. His debut novel, Like Nobody’s Watching, was a finalist in the Young Adult Fiction and Best First Book categories at the 2017 New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING AND HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THE BOOK(S)?
The Oxford English Grammar by Sidney Greenbaum. It’s not the most thrilling book I’ve ever read.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WRITERS AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THEM?
That would be a long list. Anne Fine, Sherryl Jordan, John Marsden, Robin Hobb, Jack Lasenby, Ken Catran, Philip Pullman … to name a few. I gravitate towards books with a strong focus on plot, character, and theme. That’s one reason I love YA fiction.
WHAT BOOKS ARE ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE?
Two dictionaries, a bunch of 1930s kids’ books, some NZ YA fiction. Two bibles (NRSV and KJV), which I’m slowly working through in tandem – tough but rewarding work for an unbeliever like me. Every page or two, you say, ‘Ah, that’s where that phrase comes from.’ It’s amazing how deeply embedded that book is in seemingly secular aspects of western culture.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK-TO-FILM ADAPTATION?
Oliver! Dickens is great, but the novel has a serious lack of singing.
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU RE-READ THE MOST AND WHY?
Step by Wicked Step. Anne Fine writes messy families better than anyone. I wore out the library’s audio book of this when I was younger. I re-read it every year or two, and it still holds up.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY CHARACTER?
Plato’s fictionalised version of his real-life mentor, Socrates, is always a riot. I doubt any of my jokes will hold up in 2,400 years.
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN MEANING TO READ BUT STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN AROUND TO?
One day, I’ll finish Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. In high school, I got far enough to enjoy the page-long description of Fantine’s nose but never made it to the 15,000 word digression on the Parisian sewer system.
WHICH THREE WRITERS WOULD YOU HAVE OVER FOR DINNER?
You should never let strangers into your home, no matter how well they write.
WHAT WOULD YOU COOK THEM?
Some extra punctuation after ‘what’ would make this question far more exciting.
HOW ARE YOUR BOOKS SHELVED AND ORGANISED AT HOME?
Split by NZ / international and fiction / non-fiction, then ordered alphabetically by author. Someone tried to convince me to use the Dewey Decimal System for non-fiction, but I’m too lazy.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY QUOTE?
The spine of the 1990 hardcover edition of the Collins Concise Dictionary reads ‘The Collins Concise CONCISE’. It works on so many levels. I laugh every time I see it.
A QUESTION FROM PREVIOUS AUTHOR INTERVIEWEE, EMMA GILKISON:
“Do you believe in the creative muse?”
Not if it means sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike you. Creativity takes work. I love the way John Cleese talks about creativity: he says the initial idea that strikes you is often the most obvious and least interesting solution to the creative problem you’re trying to solve. The trick is fighting the urge to say ‘good enough’ to that first inspiration. Let it marinate. Work at it. Your novel is hiding in the umpteenth iteration on that glimmer the muse granted you.
Author photo credit to Rachel Kemp