JMW: Hello, this is Jean Marie Ward for BuzzyMag,com. With me today is author Jo Walton whose 2011 novel “Among Others” just won the Nebula Award for Best Novel of the Year. Congratulations, Jo.
Jo Walton: Thank you.
JMW: “Among Others” is your first YA novel, set in a decade most of us would like to forget. Yet it’s on everyone’s list of favorite books. What’s the secret that makes this book so special, and resonate so strongly with readers?
Jo Walton: It’s not a YA book, it’s not published as YA, and it is not a YA book. It just happens to have a young protagonist. Not every book with a 15-year- old protagonist is in fact, YA. Because you know what, practically all grownups alive today used to be 15.
JMW: This is true.
Jo Walton: It’s kind of hard to meet somebody who wasn’t. This is a book for ex-15-year-olds, not particularly for today’s 15-year-olds. No, in fact, today’s young people will have been enjoying as far as I can tell. I think that is the secret. Everybody used to be 15. Everybody can identify with somebody who was 15.
JMW: I was wondering if part of the resonance was the importance of Science Fiction, and Fantasy, and how that informed the characters relationships.
Jo Walton: Yes, I think so. I think that’s a lot of it, particularly within [inaudible 01:30] and within [inaudible 01:32], that people are reading this book because – or at least they are identifying, they’re liking it, because it is a female intellectual coming of age.
Generally, within YA certainly you get books that are about men; boys having intellectual coming of age, and women have emotional coming of age. Women get to fall in love, and be fulfilled, and have an emotional coming of age, whereas men gets to have an intellectual coming of age. This is a female intellectual coming of age. I think that’s one of the things that makes people like it.
JMW: Again, science fiction and fantasy play a similarly large role in your own period as a 15-year-old . . .
Jo Walton: Yes.
JMW: . . . prior to becoming an adult.
Jo Walton: Yes, yes, of course.
JMW: So, basically this somewhat reflects your own experience in that regard.
Jo Walton: Yes, that’s true.
JMW: Are there more novels with younger protagonists – I won’t say YA – in your future?
Jo Walton: The thing I’m writing at the moment is set at the Congress of Vienna and the protagonists are in their ’40s. My previous novel “Life Load” has a middle-aged woman as a protagonist. But, young people starting out in life are at an interesting point in their journey, and so are older people. So I guess, it’s very likely if I’m spared to write a lot more books, some of them will have young protagonists, and some of them won’t. And they’ll all be different.
JMW: Yes. Well, that’s something that you have mentioned; that you don’t want to get bored.
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.