Meet Lili Wilkinson
29 Mar 2023
“Reading is a great way to learn about the world, about others, and about ourselves. It allows us to get inside the mind of someone who isn’t like us, which helps us learn empathy. The more we understand each other, the kinder the world becomes.”
Lili is the author of sixteen books, the founder of insideadog.com.au and the Inky Awards at the Centre for Youth Literature, State Library of Victoria. Lili has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne, and now spends most of her time reading and writing books for teenagers. A featured Creator in Story Tools Series 1, the Story Box Library team interviewed Lili about where she finds inspiration, ‘writer’s block’ and even characters based on real-life people!
Where do you look for inspiration?
To other stories. Whether it’s podcasts, articles, other books (fiction and nonfiction), tv shows, video games, movies, or even photos or works of art. There’s so many ideas out there, but when one gets kind of stuck in my mind, and I’m still thinking about it a few weeks (or months, or years) later, then I know that’s one I have to look into further. Not every idea becomes a story, but even just thinking through an idea is useful, teasing out the possibilities and options.
What do you do when you experience ‘writer’s block’?
First I have an emergency dance party to break the cycle. Then I write a list of fifteen things that could happen next. They don’t have to be good ideas - I like to start with something off-the-wall, like my character unexpectedly is abducted by aliens, and go from there. But there’s always something in that list that I can use.
When did you first realise you wanted to create/write/illustrate children’s books?
As soon as I could read. The idea that one day, someone might love one of my books the way I loved, say, Isobelle Carmody or Diana Wynne Jones or Lloyd Alexander… that’s pretty inspiring. And who wouldn’t want a job where you just get to make stuff up all day?
Why do you think it’s important to get kids excited about reading and learning from an early age?
Reading is a great way to learn about the world, about others, and about ourselves. It allows us to get inside the mind of someone who isn’t like us, which helps us learn empathy. The more we understand each other, the kinder the world becomes.
Have you ever based a character on a real-life person?
Heaps of times. In some ways, all of my protagonists are a version of myself. Some are closer than others, but I like to base a character on something that I can really, deeply understand. I’ve based other characters on people I know - some of them have recognised themselves, others haven’t. I based a character on a real person once, and she came up to me at an event and told me it was her favourite character - but she didn’t realise I’d based it on her!
What does your mum/dad/kid think about your books/stories?
My partner is always a great sounding board for story ideas - he knows all the right questions to ask. And my kid is super helpful too - when he was little, he described a terrifying monster he’d made up, and I used it in my first fantasy YA novel, A Hunger of Thorns.
Find Lili Wilkinson teaching Lessons 2: Hooking Your Reader and Lesson 4: All About Plot of Story Tools Series 1. Learn more about Story Tools.