Resilience and Oleanders

Resilience and Oleanders

Author AJ Collins

Today I’d like to introduce you to AJ Collins, a prize-winning, Melbourne-based fiction author. Previously a devotee of adrenaline sports (including bungee, skydiving, parasailing, sky-walking, sky-jumping, and volcano climbing), AJ is now happy to be settled at home with her hubby and two fur-kids, writing her adventures instead of living them. Perhaps her adventurous past has taught her the importance of resilience, a theme that resonates through her work.

At the beginning of March (which seems like a lifetime ago!) AJ released not one but two mature YA novels. The first, Oleanders are Poisonous, introduces sixteen-year-old Lauren, whose life is turned upside down by a devastating combination of circumstances. In its sequel, Magnolias don’t Die, Lauren has moved on and moved from the country to the city, but her past returns to upend her life again. You can find detailed descriptions and links to buy the books at AJ Collins’ website.

Which writer or writers opened your eyes to the magic of storytelling and why?

In my era of childhood, I’d say most children were entranced by Enid Blyton. My Grade 3 primary school teacher introduced us to the bright yellow hardback version of The Magic Faraway Tree. I still have my 1971 edition marked 15 pence. It’s a bit crumbly and held together with papery cellotape, which just adds to its character. Nowadays, I’m a huge fan of Hannah Kent’s evocative writings. Although I don’t write historical fiction, I love learning history through story, whereas my high school history teacher used to put me to sleep.

Why do you think people need stories in their lives?

Two reasons: 1. The joy of escapism. 2. Vicarious living. The first, I would apply to the ability of fiction to draw us into another world, encouraging us to temporarily leave behind our own worries or mundane lives. The second, I’d apply to creative non-fiction and its life lessons, allowing us to witness trauma, adventure or resilience from a safe distance.

What is your greatest magical power as a writer?

Emotional engagement. For my stories to work, I need to feel each character’s pain, joy and growth myself. Then I know I’m being truthful and will move the reader’s soul, leaving them with a sigh of satisfaction at the end.

Which mythic archetype or magical character most resonates with you and why?

The everyperson (formerly known as ‘everyman’). Ordinary, everyday people facing challenges they never dreamed they would encounter. I think most people can see themselves in this role, feeling unequipped to cope until they’re forced to discover their own strength.

What themes or ideas do you find keep arising in your writing?

Resilience. Overcoming emotional trauma and physical danger. One of my uni tutors once said that authors always write the same story over and over, and I think she was right; I’m always inspired by characters fighting their way through barriers, real or imagined, to discover their true selves.

In these difficult times resilience is something that I’m sure resonates with all of us. Many writers make a living out of appearances, launches and teaching. If you can support writers like AJ Collins and myself, who have had book launches cancelled as a result of the disruptions, please do. And enjoy some great books at the same time!

You can follow AJ on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

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