Get to Know

Artist Interview: A.J. Betts

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To what do you owe your love of storytelling?

My curiosity. I’ve always been interested in the stories behind things, and the possibilities which might come out of any moment. I also love language and what it can do. I enjoy the sound of words and how playful they can be.


Why do you write for young people?

Adolescence is an exciting and important time in which anything is possible. You’re working out the things you value and how you want to live your best life. I like writing stories which are ‘forward-looking’, impelled by hope and energy.


What were your all-time favourite childhood books or stories?

As a child I loved rhyming stories, preferably with a sense of mischief or nonsense. When I was in primary school, my favourites were Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl) and Hating Alison Ashley (Robin Klein). 


As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot or avatar?

I’d be a ninja!


What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I lived in England for a few years and made a number of visits to Shakespearean landmarks, such as The Globe and Stratford-Upon-Avon. In London, I’d go in hunt of historic buildings (identified by the blue plaques) of writers such as George Orwell and Oscar Wilde. In Prague, I became obsessed with Franz Kafka and visited all of his homes.


If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

“Have fun. Don’t worry about what other people think. And keep your stories (your older self would love to read them).”


What do you think most characterises your writing?

Honesty. I want to get to the truth of each moment rather than rely on cliché. I like to think there’s a lyricism to my writing too, so that the sentences flow and you want to read them aloud. 


What do you do when you are not writing?

Teach. Ride my bike or go for a walk. Watch movies. Read. Think about writing…


Where do you find your ideas?

Everywhere. (They find me.)


How do you know when a story is finished?

When the publisher tells me I have to stop tweaking it. A story is never finished!