Book Week: Kate O'Donnell

For Book Week, we shine a spotlight on Victorian writers like Kate O'Donnell. Author of Untidy Towns and new book This One is Ours, O'Donnell writes stories that help young adults escape.

Book Week conversation series

For Book Week 2020, we put the spotlight on five Victorian writers, each with a unique voice and story to tell.


Was there a particular moment you recall when you fell in love with reading and/or books?

"I think this love was set in motion long before I had memories, but I am always trying to recapture that intense and complete absorption in story that I had when I was a kid – when the real world would fall nearly completely away and it’d just be me and whatever hijinks were happening within the pages of my book."

What is the most rewarding aspect of being an author?

"First of all, and selfishly, I just like letting myself get lost in a world of my own creation. I can invent people and then get them to (mostly) do what I want them to. But that’s more about being a writer. 

The best and most rewarding part of being a published author is hearing from readers who’ve been moved by my books. And best of all, my target readership is teenagers. And when teenagers reach out to let you know that not only have they ENJOYED your book, but that it has made their life a little bit richer or easier or better – well that’s the best feeling around."

What creative work of yours are you most proud of?

"I was meant to travel to Nottingham in the UK during March and April this year, as part of a Melbourne City of Literature Bookseller in Residence fellowship. When that was nixed because of everything, the Nottingham City of Literature asked me to write about working as a bookseller in the age of Covid-19 .

That piece felt cathartic and important, even if just as a way to mark this time on paper. I’m also kind of amazed I was able to put words together at a time when everything felt very strange indeed."

How has the pandemic impacted your work as a creative?

"I did the final edits for This One is Ours over the months of April to June, which included some rewrites and required some serious concentration and late nights while the whole time feeling this constant undercurrent of fear and worry about this looming unknown.

At the same time, we moved to remote working in my day job and my writing space became my working space. And how did my publisher and editor focus to guide me through it?

It feels wild to think of how we’ve all coped with the pandemic. The biggest impact it has made for my creative life is in prompting the difficult decision to leave my job as a children’s book editor for something that leaves a bit more room in my brain for writing."

What has been your favourite piece of writing in 2020?

"I just devoured –within 24 hours – the young adult novel Future Girl by Asphyxia, published by Allen & Unwin. It reminded me of the YA books of the 90s in the best way, with its instantly interesting protagonist Piper and its eerily familiar near-future Melbourne on the brink of an environmental catastrophe.

This fully illustrated book is also a completely absorbing and insightful exploration of Auslan and the Deaf community, as Piper learns more about her own Deafness and a future she can grow for herself."

You can follow Kate O'Donnell on Twitter and order her new book,  This One is Ours now.

Visit Kate O'Donnell's website

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