Six Questions with Karys McEwen
Karys McEwen is the current vice president of the Victorian branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia. She is also a school librarian, and she is passionate about the role libraries and literature play in the wellbeing of young people. She has been a columnist for Books+Publishing and her work has appeared in library journals such as Synergy, Incite and Connections. All the Little Tricky Things, her debut middle-grade novel, was published in 2022 by Text Publishing. Visit Karys' website to learn more about her and her work.
1. How did you begin your journey as an author?
Long before I started writing, I was a reader. I have always loved children’s literature, so much so that I ended up becoming a school librarian and working with the Children’s Book Council of Australia. One day, a publisher emailed me to ask if I had a book in me. They said they got in touch because “readers make the best writers.” This prompted me to start writing, and All the Little Tricky Things just poured out of me. I loved the experience of creating my own story after being such an avid devourer of stories for such a long time.
2. Who was your favorite author when you were a child? Why?
When I was a teenager, I read to feel less alone. I liked books about ordinary kids with the same small problems and big feelings as me: friendship woes, dealing with puberty, my changing relationship with my parents, not being sure about where I fit into the world. Of course, I turned to Judy Blume. Her books offered all the counsel I needed during the tricky parts of growing up. I also loved Australian writers like Melina Marchetta, John Marsden, Jaclyn Moriarty and Robin Klein. It makes me so happy that all these authors are still in print, and most are still writing for young people today!
3. Where did you get the idea for this book? What was your inspiration?
The idea for All the Little Tricky Things came from two places. Firstly, as I work in a school, I am privy to many of the challenges that young people encounter when they transition into teenagedom. The concept for the book was sparked during one particular conversation I had with two students who were telling me all the things they were worried about before starting high school, and how silly those things seemed in hindsight. I also personally started high school in a whole new city, far away from my hometown and all my friends, so I wanted to incorporate that extra hurdle into the story - of growing up and growing away from everything you have known.
4. Was this always the title for this project? If not, what other titles did you consider and how did you land on this one?
I didn’t come up with the title until the very last minute! My editor and I researched and brainstormed for so long, and we both couldn’t settle on anything. Eventually, I stumbled across the Sylvia Plath quote that is in the epigraph of the book - “Doing all the little tricky things it takes to grow up, step by step, into an anxious and unsettling world.” It really summed up the story perfectly for me.
5. Who should read this book?
Anyone who is worried about growing up and dealing with change. Everyone who is starting high school soon. Young people who are experiencing conflict in friendships. Those that wish to feel less alone. People who like coming-of-age stories about everyday kids.
6. What are you working on? What’s next for you?
I am just about to finish my second middle grade novel, The Itchy Tree Committee, which will be published by Text Publishing in early 2024. This story has similar themes to All the Little Tricky Things, including growing up and dealing with change, but the protagonist is a 13 year-old boy called Art, and the narrative focuses on a sibling relationship. I’m hoping this will be the perfect book for young people who aren’t quite sure where they fit in.