The following is a really cool interview I did with YA writer and reader, Jo Carter. I really loved some of her questions which is why I’m re-blogging it all here, but feel free to jump over to her page and check out the rest of her site by clicking here.
An Interview with Lynette Noni: Author of Akarnae
With Akarnae being dubbed a combination of Harry Potter, X-Men & Narnia, you can say I was ecstatic to have my questions answers by its author Lynette Noni! Below we chatted about writing inspiration, what it’s like to publish a novel without an agent, books, the Medoran Chronicles, and much more!
For those readers who haven’t heard, can you please tell us about yourself and Akarnae, book one in the Medoran Chronicles? How do you pronounce each of those names?
Certainly! For starters, I pronounce Akarnae like Ah-Kar-Nay. It’s a young adult novel about a girl who finds herself stranded in a parallel fantasy world where she has to attend a school for teenagers with extraordinary gifts while she searches for a way back home. As for me, I’m a dreamer with an overactive imagination and a passion for words!
What was your inspiration for Akarnae?
A few years ago when the YA market really started booming I was reading some amazing books with some really cool elements, but I couldn’t find anything that had everything I wanted in the one novel. So I pretty much decided to try and write the book I wanted to read. Akarnae is the result of that.
I’m a stickler for routine, especially when I’m in writing mode, so an average writing day looks something like today where I woke up, had breakfast, spent some time writing while I digested and then I went out to exercise (healthy body, healthy mind—and I find exercising to be great for story brainstorming). Then I basically just wrote for the rest of the day, with a break for lunch and a break for dinner (where I watched an episode of Arrow—and omigosh, it was traumatic). I tend to do my best ‘flow’ writing at night when there are no distractions, so I often spend a chunk of the daytime researching what I need to know in order to make the next scenes legitimately realistic. (For example, today I studied up on the Taronga Zoo in Sydney and learned all about the animal enclosures and the various exhibits they currently have). And finally, after I send this Q&A off, I’ll write for a few more hours and then surrender to sleep.
Wow – so you must write thousands of words per day. How do you find the time to keep up with social media?
I generally try to respond as soon as I receive something that requires a reply. (Which, for me, is pretty much everything, since I’m a strong advocate for connecting with anyone who takes the time to contact me). That way it doesn’t pile up too much. But it’s definitely becoming a struggle more and more these days to stay on top of it!
Do you find whilst writing you read less?
I tend to either be in reading-mode or writing-mode at any given time, and at the moment I’m definitely in a writing-mode. I can read a little on the side, but I only manage a chapter or two before I get itchy fingers and need to find a keyboard. It’s only when I’ve finished a project—writing or editing—that I can usually fall back into reading-mode, in which case I devour books like air.
How would you describe your journey of writing Akarnae?
In a word: surreal. Every step of the way has been incredible beyond words.
What was the time frame for publishing Akarnae in conjunction with working on other novels?
Umm… I’m not sure I completely understand the question, but to (sort of) answer, there was about a year from when I was offered a publishing contract until Akarnae was released to the public. Comparatively, it only took about 3-4 months for me to write the entire manuscript (which was about 4 years ago, with me spending those years in between pitching to publishers and agents in Australia and overseas until I found a publishing home with Pantera Press).
Sorry I should have given an example! I meant how long did the writing & publishing process take – as you answered above – and were you working on other things whilst waiting for Akarnae to be published? For example: I’ve sent my debut novel away to a few trusted readers to give me their opinion, and whilst I wait (on the edge of my seat!) I’m writing a synopsis for it & working on book two.
I went from writing Akarnae straight onto writing the second book in the series, Raelia, and from that, I went straight on to write Dreamscape (the first in another series that is currently on the back burner while I work on a few other things). So there was always something I was writing in the background while I searched for a publisher/agent. There was also the continual upgrading and fine-tuning of query letters and synopses as well!
When you said you found a publishing home with Pantera Press – does that mean you don’t have an agent? If yes, how did it feel to publish without an agent since it’s recommended for debut novelists to have one?
My publishers, Pantera Press, are amazing. Like, seriously, seriously amazing. They are one of the very few publishing houses in the world who accept unsolicited manuscripts for consideration and who actively champion new authors. That said, it was scary going into that relationship with them at the beginning because you’re right about me not having an agent. But the team at Pantera allowed me all the time I needed to seek legal advice and anything else I wanted so that, more than anything, I was comfortable entering an agreement with them. And I can now confidently tell you that the risk was so, so, soooo worth it!
How do you combat all the different ideas running around in your head? How do you pick which one to work on first?
It’s definitely a challenge since there are just so many stories waiting to be told! But I guess it comes down to self-discipline. If a new idea comes to me, I create a folder and write up a Word document with whatever I’ve already fleshed out in my head (like a mini-synopsis) and then I resolutely save it and close it down, not allowing myself to go any further with it until I’ve finished whatever I’m currently working on. Otherwise I end up with a stack of half-written novels and nothing completed, which is extremely awkward! To give you an idea, I currently have 22 folders waiting for attention—most of which are for multiple books per idea. (Yikes!)
I read your two posts about Supanova, I’m ‘supa’ jealous! It looks like you had an amazing time. What was the highlight??
Asking me for a highlight is like asking what my favourite book is! That’s impossible! But I’m happy to cheat and name a few… Firstly, I loved spending time with incredible authors like Peter F. Hamilton, John Scalzi and Traci Harding (among others) while they shared their author-ly wisdom with me. It was also surreal to hang out with actors I’ve seen on TV, like Bob Morley (The 100), Georgina Haig and Sean Maguire (Once Upon A Time), and Kevin McNally (Pirates of the Caribbean)—and it was even cooler to discover that they’re seriously lovely people. A definite highlight was also travelling in a town car to the airport with Manu Bennett (Arrow and The Hobbit) and chatting with him for 30-40 minutes straight. It was also amazing to meet a stack of readers who love fantasy and science fiction, and I was incredibly humbled to learn that Akarnae was the highest selling single title at both Melbourne and Gold Coast events. All in all, I think it’s safe to say that the entirety of both events could be considered highlights!
Are you a paperback, hardcover, or kindle person?
Is there an option for all of the above? I’m an equal opportunity reader!
What novels do you recommend for fantasy lovers – particularly those who loved Akarnae?
Hmm… Other than Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, I’d recommend some great YA fantasy novels like Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series, Kristin Cashore’s Graceling, the Poison Study series by Maria V. Snyder, the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain, These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, the Tiger’s Curse saga by Colleen Houck, the White Rabbit Chronicles by Gena Showalter, and then of course the other crowd favourites like Divergent and The Hunger Games. I also personally loved reading Karen Hancock’s standalone novel, Arena, along with her Legends of the Guardian-Kingseries. Those books blew my mind.
What does it feel like to be named a combination of Harry Potter, Narnia and X-Men?
If I could, I would be in a perpetual state of happy dancing. I grew up reading about Harry’s adventures at Hogwarts while looking behind wardrobes for doorways to Narnia… not to mention, imagining myself with some X-Men-worthy abilities. So to have Akarnae considered a combination of these three is an absolute honour and an incredible delight.
If readers would like to find out more about you, where can they find you online, and where can they buy your books?
Akarnae is available at all good bookstores Australia-wide and online as an e-book from all the usual places (like Amazon and Apple iBooks, etc.). It’s also available as a paperback with free international shipping from www.akarnae.com (where you can also read the first few chapters for free to see if you actually like it).
As for me, my website is www.lynettenoni.com where all my news and events are listed, along with my blog that I update a couple of times a week with all kinds of everything—from writing tips to publishing excitement and random things in between.
Can you give us any information about book two in the Medoran Chronicles?
Akarnae was very much an introduction novel where the world of Medora is built and you get to know the characters as you settle into their fantastical lives. The second book, Raelia, really takes off from a story point-of-view. You’ll get to see a lot more of the world as Alex ventures into places unknown and meets incredible people who will—hopefully—imprint onto your hearts. There is a lot of action, a lot of danger, a lot of growth, a lot of joy, and a lot of pain. Overall, it’s a roller coaster of a journey, and I can’t wait to share it with the world!