Hive and Rouge are a stunning duology set in a world only A. J. Betts could create. It’s a masterpiece of world building with characters you will love and connect with.
All I can tell you is what I remember, in the words that I have.
Hayley tends to her bees and follows the rules in the only world she has ever known.
Until she witnesses the impossible: a drip from the ceiling.
A drip? It doesn’t make sense.
Yet she hears it, catches it. Tastes it.
Curiosity is a hook.
What starts as a drip leads to a lie, a death, a boy, a beast, and too many awful questions.
I had the amazing opportunity to interview A. J. Betts thank you Pan Macmillan Aus and AusYABloggers for this opportunity. I’ve previously met A. J. Betts at the launch of Hive where I fell in love with her writing. If you have an opportunity to meet her I highly recommend going.
When growing up did you ever dream of being an author? Did you enjoy reading and writing?
I loved reading and writing! I would read anything/everything I got my hands on. I was naturally a curious kid, and would often make up stories. But I never contemplated being a real author as I felt that authors must be special. It felt unattainable, I guess, and I was merely an ordinary girl in a very small town in a very big world. I became an author not through trying to ‘be’ one, but by ‘doing’. In other words, I just never stopped writing. I submitted poems and articles in various journals, and I learned all I could about the craft. When I was 23, I set myself a challenge: to write a novel in a year. (It’s an adult rom-com, unpublished, and very flawed!) My goal was to see if I could do it, rather than to get it published. Then when I was 27, I was ‘bugged’ by an idea that wouldn’t go away. It was about a teenage boy whose life is about to change because of a photo. That story kept growing into a novel which I felt proud of. Unlike the previous novel, it seemed this one was written for an audience other than me. I bravely tried my luck with a publisher and it was published as Shutterspeed.
Tell us the story behind the story. How did Hive and Rogue come to be?
The story behind Hive and Rogue came to me 2005, at a time when I was editing Shutterspeed. I was driving through the Graham Farmer Freeway Tunnel in Perth and I noticed drops of water dripping from the ceiling (it was raining outside). I liked the strangeness of it. I then had the image of a girl reaching up and wondering where the water came from. It got me thinking about the mystery of it: how someone might not know about rain, or about other sources of water. I know it sounds strange, but I soon visualised an underwater world filled with people who didn’t realise they were underwater. That was enough to intrigue me, and in 2012, between edits of Zac & Mia, I began writing it.
What is your schedule like when you’re writing?
I don’t like to impose a schedule. I’ve always preferred to write when I want to. Mornings are best for me. Ideally, I’d go for a bike ride or a run, then sit down for a couple of hours at home, before doing another couple of hours at a café. This is all with the absence of internet or phone. If my brain is still functioning in the afternoon, I’ll do another hour or two. I never evaluate a writing day by words written. Sometimes the best days are those when I remove words!
Hive and Rogue are a masterpiece of world building. How did you create this world and how much research did it take?
Thank you so much for the compliment! Creating the worlds took a lot of time, sketching, and research. For Hive, I had to research topics including soil, sustainability, fish farming, underground farming and seed propagation. For Rogue, the research was vastly different – and I would tell you more about the topics but they’d count as spoilers. Let’s just say I had to spend time camping in the (real) settings, read a lot of futurists’ predictions, and extrapolate contemporary politics/movements into possible future scenarios. I need to wholly believe in a situation before I can write it, but luckily I enjoy research!
What was the process of getting your books published like?
I think my experience of publication has been mostly straightforward. The first publisher I approached (Fremantle Press) contracted Shutterspeed, then Wavelength. Zac & Mia won the Text Prize, which came with a contract. After this I signed with an agent for I’d realised that I wanted to be more conscious of shaping my career. The agent forwarded the Hive and Rogue manuscripts to six big publishers, and the interest was so strong that it went to auction. For the first time in my life, I got to choose which publisher was ‘right’, for not only the novels, but for me. Since signing with Pan Macmillan, the process has been brilliant.
What is the best advice you have heard on writing, and do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
The most common advice is to read every day, and write every day. But I don’t do this! I read and write when I feel like it. Things that have aided my writing include: keeping a journal (not for anyone else – just for me!); writing the stories that intrigue me, rather than be swayed by trends/influences; and being an observer of the world through travel and experiences. I travelled a lot during my twenties, and I felt that I was sponge, soaking up all I could. When I write, it’s never about me: it’s about what it means to be honestly, authentically human.
How can your readers connect with you?
Readers can find me on social media – most frequently on Instagram (ajbettswrites) – and can message me there. Alternatively, they can email me: email@example.com
A.J.Betts is an Australian author, speaker, teacher and cyclist, and has a PhD on the topic of wonder, in life and in reading. She has written four novels for young adults. Her third novel, Zac & Mia, won the 2012 Text Prize, the 2014 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, and the 2014 Ethel Turner prize for young adults at the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards, was shortlisted for the 2014 Queensland Literary Award, and is available in 14 countries. It was adapted for American television by AwesomenessTV, and will soon be available globally. Her fourth novel, Hive, was shortlisted for the 2019 Indie Book Awards and 2019 ABIA Book of the Year for Older Children, and is a notable book in the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards. A. J. is originally from Queensland but has lived in Fremantle since 2004.