Inspiration can come from many places, but if you’re looking to become a novelist, sometimes the best way to learn is from those who’ve come before you!
As part of our ongoing series with AustralianSuper, novelist and journo Maria Lewis runs us through ten of her favourite Australian genre authors, and how engaging with their work, can teach you all you need before you start creating your worlds!
Genre books are beloved by readers and retailers alike, with high-concept, thought-provoking fare like Game Of Thrones or Harry Potter often jumping boundaries from the shelf to the small and silver screen. They sell well and inspire feverish loyalty among their fanbases, but locally, getting genre books past the publishing gatekeepers can be a tough slog.
That’s not to say it’s impossible, it’s just not easy. Yet there’s a handful of Aussie genre writers who are not only getting it done, but their stories are living on long after you’ve closed the book on the last chapter. Meet the movers, shakers and rule breakers of the local scene below and discover ways to inspire your next big project!
Perhaps better known for his work at Empire Magazine as a film critic and his devilishly amusing Showgirls, Teen Wolves & Astro Zombies book (where for a whole year he set out to find and watch the worst movies ever made), Michael Adams has tapped into something unique with the YA genre. His post-apocalyptic series follows a young woman who seems to be the only one unaffected by a devastating global event that allows everyone to read each others thoughts and vice versa.
Secrets are revealed, murder and mayhem ensure, yet our central protagonist’s head remains securely locked as she navigates the ruins of a now dystopian Sydney. His trilogy of books (which begins with The Last Girl) is a refreshing setting and refreshing take on a genre that just when you think it has given you all it can, gives you a wee bit more. Adams is a master of pace and is someone you should definitely study if you’re having issues with keeping your narrative moving along.
Few people are doing horror writing as creepy or affecting as Kaaron Warren right now, a Canberra author behind The Walking Tree and Slights (both from Angry Robot). There’s also The Glass Woman, Mistification, The Grinding House and many, many more. She has a body of work that rolls deep, with each story being as ambitious and completely different from the last.
If you consider yourself a horror writer or simply want to inject some scare into your latest work, Kaaron is the woman to go to for inspiration.
One of the most prolific genre writers, you could almost fill a novel with the titles of all Garth Nix’s books alone – there’s that many. Spanning different age groups and different universes, his breakout series has been arguably The Old Kingdom.
As adventurous as they are darkly disturbing in parts, The Old Kingdom novels feature some of the best world-building in modern fantasy, so if you’re thinking of being the next Tolkien, an examination of his work is a must.
Yes, the lady behind Aussie classics Looking For Alibrandi and Saving Francesa is your new favourite genre author. Although her young adult work is incredible and – for many teens (like myself) – seminal, the depth and breadth of her fantasy work is something to behold. Finnikin Of The Rock is the first novel in her Lumatere Chronicles and worth tracking down.
Already with a bevy of books to his name before his Alex Caine series dropped, Baxter is a Kung Fu instructor by day whose writing is informed by his professional expertise. The urban fantasy trilogy – which is being re-released this year and begins with Bound – is rich with authenticity despite the fantastical elements of the genre. Grittier than the average, this is definitely worth a look for a more adult take.
Everyone from the makers of the latest Batman movies to YA novelists are chucking in that much-needed ‘grit’ of late, so if you’re going down a darker path with your writing, Alan Baxter is definitely someone you’ll want to imitate.
Better known for her sexy crime series – Makedde Vanderwall – or even her powerful and hella feminist autobiography The Fictional Woman, Tara Moss also has an enchanting supernatural series. Following a young woman negotiating New York’s cut-throat world of fashion magazines while uncovering abilities she never knew she had, the series is deeply romantic and fun while still being a touch gothic. There are three books, with a fourth – The Cobra Queen – due for imminent release.
Tara’s ability to weave in romantic sub-plots without taking away from other elements of her novels is among the best out there, so if you’re struggling with the “will they or won’t they” part of your fiction, give Tara’s work a solid look!
Read. The. Rook. The debut novel from Daniel O’Malley is truly a wonder to behold. Mixing humor, horror and high-brow hijinks, it has everything you could possibly want in a supernatural novel – plus a little bit more. Highly original, it still manages to invoke memories of some of your favorites (think X-Men, Buffy, and Men In Black) with its carefully organized paranormal hierarchy that resembles the players on a chess board (hence the title). Picked up by Stephenie Meyer’s production company for a TV adaptation, you can also grab the second book in The Checquy Files – Stiletto.
A master of the supernatural, O’Malley will help you nail down your next vampire/werewolf/whatever-the-heck-you-want themed writing project.
The pen name of Gillian Rubinstein, Hearn’s Tales Of The Otori series is one of the most magical and majestic epic fantasy books doing the rounds. Refreshingly set in Asia and with a cast of protagonists and villains that break the overwhelmingly Caucasian tropes of the genre, the franchise beings with Across The Nightingale Floor. Just dying to be made into a movie, these offer something unique and almost spiritual to the genre.
David M. Henley
Edgy, thought-provoking sci-fi is the name of the game with David M. Henley’s The Hunt For Pierre Jnr series. Philosophical as much as it is fantastical, it follows a stealthy organization as they hunt for an eight-year-old boy with potentially devastating powers. Another trilogy, this is well worth the read purely for ending up in a completely different and unexpected place from where you started in book one.
If you’re looking at painting a rich world over the course of a trilogy or a series, Henley is one to read to help you master the longer planning strategy you’ll need to keep the adventure cohesive.
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
These two are kind of a package deal, as they both share credit on Illuminae – one of the breakout genre books of last year and the first in a series. Already picked up by Brad Pitt’s production company for the silver screen, it’s a uniquely written sci-fi YA tale that needs to jump to the top of your must-read pile.
Individually, they’re also two of the most exciting genre writers at the moment with Kaufman’s co-written Starbound trilogy (which kicks into gear with These Broken Stars) and Kristoff’s The Lotus War franchise and upcoming Nevernight, the first book in The Nevernight Chronicles. If you’re going down a more science-fictiony path, these are the books you need to engage with.
Maria Lewis is a Sydney based journalist, producer, and author. Find out more about her and her debut novel Who’s Afraid on her website.
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