YA author Lyndall Clipstone released her highly anticipated dark fantasy debut earlier this month. Telling the tale of orphan Violeta Graceling, Lakesedge is a lush gothic fantasy about monsters and magic, set on the banks of a cursed lake. Spine-chillingly atmospheric, this is the story fans of gothic romance have been waiting for.
We sat down with Lyndall to talk writing inspirations, the author’s journey, and the YA scene in Adelaide.
G: Congrats on writing such a captivating and original book! How did you come up with the ideas that eventually became Lakesedge?
L: I did creative writing honours at the University of Adelaide and one of the things that I wrote for it was a short story that was the very early shape of Lakesedge. It felt like the story wasn’t done. I always thought if I ever wrote a longer piece, I wanted to revisit it. But it never felt like the right time.
I really love The Secret Garden and the ‘90s movie of The Secret Garden and wondered what it would be like to rewrite The Secret Garden as a gothic romance.
How would you describe the process of writing your manuscript?
It required a lot of persistence. I have worked on it for such a long time—lots and lots of revisions to get it to the shape that it’s now at. It took a lot of persistence and believing in myself.
I was definitely really lucky to have the support of my literary agent and editor. It was helpful to have a whole team to help tell the story. It wasn’t until I did the revisions that I found the heart of the story. It was a lot of work, and it was my first manuscript so I had a lot to learn.
The sense of place and atmosphere in Lakesedge was truly amazing in its power to immerse the reader in Violeta’s world. In your mind, are parts of the environment, like the lake, the manor, and the forest, characters too?
Yeah, I see them as characters.
It must be said that the prose in Lakesedge was absolutely to die for! Do you think your ability to write so poetically comes down to your Bachelor’s in Creative Writing, your talent, or just practice?
Every writer has strengths and weaknesses. Prose comes easiest to me and is the most enjoyable part of the process. I have to work harder on structure, but prose and getting into the flow of the writing comes more naturally.
Are the characters in the novel based at all on people you know (or don’t know) or are they entirely fictional?
There was probably little elements of experiences I had that I gave the characters but they definitely weren’t based on anyone. They emerged as their own people to me. It was more that I wrote characters with books that I loved as a teenager in mind.
What books would they be?
Lots of Australian YA. Sonya Hartnett was the first YA author I saw that wrote the kind of books I wanted to write. She wrote contemporary, but weird atmospheric dark contemporary.
There’s also Poppy Z. Brite, who wrote lots of grungy goth horror that was visceral and queer. His earlier work was very interesting—prose heavy, lush and romantic. I’m very drawn towards books that are character focused rather than epic blockbuster-type books. And Anne Rice [author of The Vampire Chronicles].
What other authors do you feel have inspired your writing style?
Margot Lanagan and Juliet Marillier.
What are your thoughts on the local YA fiction scene in Adelaide? Would you say there’s plenty of support available for emerging and established YA authors?
There’s definitely a strong reader culture, but I’m not so sure if there’s a crossover with YA writers. I’ve got a strong community of authors I work with online. There’s definitely a strong readership, like book events have such a good turnout. That could be because I’m just starting to get to know people in the local community. But they’ve all been supportive.
There is lots of excitement for homegrown authors here. The reception I’ve had from readers in Australia and other authors here has been really welcoming. We don’t work together as a “writers’ group” as such, but as colleagues, and there’s lots of support.
In your opinion, what makes a great YA novel?
I can only speak to fantasy, but it needs to be written to speak to a teen experience rather than a teen audience. It’s such a beautiful time of life where you’re almost an adult and everything in the world feels so big and your emotions and decisions feel so big and important. That’s why it translates so well to fantasy, where everything is actually big. It’s lovely for teens to see that on the page. It’s also good for teen readers to see another character who makes messy selfish bad choices because that’s real.
A good YA is written with the teen reader in mind but also with the memory of what it’s like to be in that time of your life.
When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?
I always loved writing even, when I was really tiny. I never really felt like being an author was achievable, being afraid of failure. It was always in the back of my mind but never felt real. I knew I wanted a creative career, though. I was a librarian for a very long time and considered being an illustrator but that didn’t resonate with me as much. I did the interior illustration of Lakesedge!
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Stick at writing stories that you love and that make you happy to write. I think my younger writer self would be amazed to see where I’ve ended up.
We’re beyond excited that the sequel to Lakesedge, Forestfall, is set to drop in 2022. Can you give away any hints to keep fans satiated until then?
Think Orpheus. There’s a lot more of the world below and you’ll get to know the Lord Under’s real name. There’s also differing points of view as you’ll get to see some chapters from Rowan’s perspective.
Reviewed by Vanessa Elle