This month we interview up-and-coming young adult fiction author, Erin Donohue, whose debut novel Because Everything Is Right But Everything Is Wrong will be published by Escalator Press in November.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing forever, I think. I wrote as a child and a teenager: fiction, poetry, and a lot about my own life.
What led you to Whitireia’s Creative Writing Programme and the Diploma in Publishing?
I found the writing course by accident. I was always going to study dance, but when I got too unwell to continue with that I didn’t know what to do. I found the Whitireia prospectus in a waiting room somewhere, and saw the creative writing page. From then on there was no other option.
Within the course, I really enjoyed workshopping other people’s work, something that, with my newfound publishing knowledge, I can now label as manuscript assessment. I wanted to do more of that. Books and words were so precious to me, and publishing seemed to be the best way for me to work with the things I love. The publishing class is right next door to the writing room, so I always knew about the course. In my last year on the writing course, I decided I had to do it.
Can you tell us about your writing process?
Both of my novel manuscripts were developed entirely on the writing course. Having only a year to write a novel is pretty intense, so I started to write 1000 words a day—no matter what. Often I didn’t have the time to wait for the urge to write. Some days, the 1000 words were useless and were deleted the next day. But sometimes I could write over 3000 good words in a day too.
It’s important to have a balance between planning and letting the story lead you. There has to be an element of surprise, or it can get tiresome, but not too much or the writing can become aimless.
Which writers have shaped you?
My favourite writers constantly change. In recent years I’ve loved Elizabeth McCracken’s short stories. In my creative writing degree, all of the tutors were hugely inspirational. I worked with Anna Taylor for the last two years, and her passion and love of words was, and still is, so inspiring.
Because Everything Is Right But Everything Is Wrong follows Caleb’s journey through his final year at high school, when the arrival of a strange new friend causes his life to take a dark turn. This young adult novel sheds light on the intricacies of friendship, mental health, and masculinity, in the ordinary lives of New Zealand teens. Available from early November this year.