This week we had the pleasure of interviewing YA fantasy Elizabeth Foster, aka “Dizzy Lizzy”! A daydreamer and avid reader, she recently published her debut novel, Esme’s Wish, which follows Esme as she searches for clues to her mother’s disappearance in the magical island world of Esperance.
Join us as we talk about writing, publishing, and world building!
What made you decide you wanted to become a writer? Was it something you always wanted to do or did your interest develop over time?
I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer—it didn’t even enter my head when I was a child—but I always yearned to do something creative. I just didn’t know what that was until I was much older. Then my two (now twenty-something) oldest kids became obsessed with the Harry Potter series and reading it to them made me remember how much I loved to read as a child. That’s how this writing gig started!
What is the best part about writing Fantasy for young adults?
I love being able to keep one toe in the world of childhood while also exploring adult themes and ideas. I remember that time of my life well: I was no longer a child but I also didn’t feel quite ready for full adulthood. Now I get to help my protagonist navigate that transition. This in-between stage is both fun to write and challenging, too!
What do you like to read when you’re not writing?
I’m an eclectic reader. I love modern stories like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games but I also like classics as well, and some biographies. Australian authors like Melina Marchetta and Cath Crowley have written some wonderful YA contemporary, and for middle grade reads, Kate DiCamillo and Wendy Orr come to mind.
Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for your first novel, Esme’s Wish?
My kids adored fantasy reads so I decided to try and write one of my own. I love the ocean and magic so that was a natural starting point and it just grew from there.
There’s some great world building in your novel, from dragon riders and siren songs to magic origami and sunken ruins. How did you go about building the magical world of Esp
I wrote about things I liked. As a beginning writer, needing to learn my craft, I realized that the first book would take a long time to write (it did!) But because it was about things that interested me, I never lost my love for the story, even during the endless rewrites.
You’re part of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and a book reviewer for The Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Reading Time. Do you have any tips for authors who are looking to write stories for young adults or children?
Read well-written books for the same readership you are hoping to capture. Not only will you be unconsciously absorbing great prose but you will get a good sense of what your audience enjoys. I also think it is important to write what you love—but beware. My story is a case in point. Publishers have commercial constraints and prefer books that fit established marketing categories. My story best suits younger teens and some advanced upper middle grade readers who are keen to step up to YA, but aren’t quite ready for a grittier read. But this meant it was hard to find a publisher. I eventually found one in Odyssey Books, but plenty of heartbreaking rejection came my way first.
How was the publishing and editing process for you? Did you go it alone? Or did you have help from a publisher?
My son (Chris is twenty-three) edits my work and I edit his. Early on, though, I paid for a number of manuscript assessments and implemented advice that resonated with me. A professional eye is vital for a beginner author. My book had been edited so many times that by the time it was published it didn’t really need much done to it at all.
What differences are there between writing for adults vs different age groups?
I can’t really say, as I’ve never written for adults—but at the same time, I don’t think there would be all that much difference. While I always intended to target Esme’s Wish toward young readers, I never let that affect what vocabulary I wrote with, or what themes I explored: everything was in service of the story, and considerations like the age of my audience came later. And interestingly, while I’ve had adults comment on the complexity of the vocabulary, not a single young reader has had problems with it. Kids are smart, and it’s important not to condescend to them!
What’s next for you? Are you going to continue Esme’s journey or do you have something else in store for your fans?
I have always planned three books for the Esme series. The series ages with the protagonist (she turns sixteen in book two) and gets progressively darker, without losing too much of the whimsy of the first book.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our readers and aspiring authors?
Follow your passion, once you have figured out what it is! Reading is one of mine. I didn’t read much for a long time but now it is one of my favourite things in the world, on a par with writing (and coffee!)