Spotlight On

Ellie Marney

Ellie Marney talks writing YA, eavesdropping on teens, and how she got the title of one of the most borrowed books in Australian libraries.

She reveals what she thinks are the most important ways to reach teenage readers including: variety in subject matter, formats, and availability, and also what she loves most about indie publishing. You can find Ellie at and share your books with libraries when you publish with IngramSpark.


Justine Bylo [00:00:08] Welcome to Go Publish Yourself. These are the Author Spotlights. I'm Justine Bylo, the Author Acquisitions Manager for IngramSpark. We have such a fun guest for you today. We are joined by the fantastic Ellie Marney all the way from down under in Australia. Ellie Marney is an Australian teacher and YA author of the Every series in a highly-awarded crime trilogy for young adults. In 2015, Every Breath was named by the Australian Library Information Association as one of the Top Ten Most Borrowed YA Books in Australian Libraries. Ellie has helped spearhead a collaborative group of literary-sector professionals under the banner, #loveozya, to advocate for and promote Australian YA literature. She is one of the contributors to Begin, End, Begin, a #loveozya anthology out now through HarperCollins, and she hosts a book club, #loveozyabookclub, online. She is an ambassador for the Stella Prize Schools Program and is a regular speaker at schools, events and festivals. In 2017, Ellie released No Limits, a companion novel to the series. Her latest novel is White Night. Thank you so much for joining us. It is like, so early in Australia and we are so excited to have you.

Ellie Marney [00:01:42] Hi Justine. It is an absolute pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for having me!

Justine Bylo [00:01:48] It's so great! I think you win the prize for the longest distance podcast guest we've had, Ellie.

Ellie Marney [00:01:57] Yeah, I definitely get the gold medal for that one.

Justine Bylo [00:02:00] And also the best accent for a guest we've had, for sure.

Ellie Marney [00:02:06] We always think our accent's pretty normal.

Justine Bylo [00:02:09] Oh, totally, but here in the States, it's pretty amazing. I absolutely love that you're a teacher. What do you actually teach?

Ellie Marney [00:02:22] I am a teacher. I love being a teacher and at the moment I teach Indonesian at primary school level and also I teach creative writing at a tertiary level, but--

Justine Bylo [00:02:36] Hold on, hold on.

Ellie Marney [00:02:39] You alright?

Justine Bylo [00:02:39] Indonesian? Yeah.

Ellie Marney [00:02:40] Yes.

Justine Bylo [00:02:41] Wait, we have to go back. So, here in the States you take Spanish, French, you know, but Indones... that's an offering in Australia?

Ellie Marney [00:02:54] Absolutely, absolutely. In Australia, Indonesia is one of our nearest neighbors, and I lived there for about four and half, nearly five years, so I learned to speak the language pretty well, and so now I teach it locally.

Justine Bylo [00:03:10] Wow, that's crazy; that's amazing. You also teach creative writing, which makes sense.

Ellie Marney [00:03:16] Yes. Well, I teach English whenever I'm given the chance, but I also teach creative writing all over the place, all over the state, when I'm called out to do author visits in schools.

Justine Bylo [00:03:33] Oh, that must be so great.

Ellie Marney [00:03:33] Yeah.

Justine Bylo [00:03:36] What age is the most fun to teach when it's the creative writing?

Ellie Marney [00:03:40] For creative writing, probably, I really love teaching year nine and ten, which I guess is 14, 15-years-old.

Justine Bylo [00:03:51] Yeah.

Ellie Marney [00:03:51] What is that in the American system? Is that--

Justine Bylo [00:03:56] That's freshman year

Ellie Marney [00:03:56] Freshman.

Justine Bylo [00:03:57] of high school.

Ellie Marney [00:03:58] Yeah, I quite like to teach freshman English

Justine Bylo [00:04:00] Yeah.

Ellie Marney [00:04:01] and creative writing, so, they're a pretty good bunch to teach.

Justine Bylo [00:04:06] I bet, because they're still super creative and not jaded yet.

Ellie Marney [00:04:11] That's exactly right and they haven't reached their final year of high school, so they're not really concentrating on testing and getting their final marks. They're not really stressed out.

Justine Bylo [00:04:25] They're not worried yet.

Ellie Marney [00:04:28] Not yet, no.

Justine Bylo [00:04:29] Do your students inspire you in your work?

Ellie Marney [00:04:33] Yeah, always. I mainly teach teenagers, so I do get plenty of inspiration. I teach English and YA writing and I write YA, so being around teenagers all day, you get to eavesdrop a lot and also get to figure out what young people are really interested in and listen to…

Justine Bylo [00:04:56] Yeah.

Ellie Marney [00:04:58] …what they're saying, so that's a really important part of the things that I write.

Justine Bylo [00:05:05] Have you ever been stuck in your book and then somethings happened in your real world and then it's helped you with the block, the writer's block?

Ellie Marney [00:05:18] Absolutely. And in fact, not only do I teach teenagers, but I live around teenagers, because I have four boys and two of them…

Justine Bylo [00:05:32] Oh my goodness.

Ellie Marney [00:05:34] I have a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old, so I'm living with teenagers, as well. I often consult them if I'm really stuck. "What do you think my character would do now?"

Justine Bylo [00:05:52] Yeah.

Ellie Marney [00:05:52] "If it were you, what would you do?" I do steal ideas from my students and from my kids all the time.

Justine Bylo [00:06:01] They're good consultants in the field.

Ellie Marney [00:06:04] Very handy.

Justine Bylo [00:06:07] Yeah, that's super handy. If you have them around, you may as well pick their brains.

Ellie Marney [00:06:13] Exactly.

Justine Bylo [00:06:15] It makes sense.

Ellie Marney [00:06:15] They can be a walking resource.

Justine Bylo [00:06:20] Yeah, that's great. Now, you have the moniker as one of the most borrowed books in all of Australia, which is amazing, and you have a very good relationship with the librarians. Here at IngramSpark, we love the librarians. They're amazing. What has made your relationship with them so strong through the years?

Ellie Marney [00:06:49] We have a really strong public library system here in Australia and libraries are still my favorite places in the whole world. Librarians and authors have a lot in common. We're all basically big "word nerds." We have a mutual interest in books and reading, but every author I know promotes and advocates for literacy and reading programs and actively encourages the use of the library. It's just a really great way for librarians and authors to work together for the benefit of the community. Maybe librarians see me as a bit of a kindred spirit.

Justine Bylo [00:07:35] Yeah.

Ellie Marney [00:07:35] I try to support them as much as they support me, so I do try to spread the word about libraries and basically encourage people to continue to go and continue to support the system.

Justine Bylo [00:07:50] You just hit the nail on the head. If you send people into the libraries to support them, that's the greatest thing for the librarians, and so they'll continue to support your books.

Ellie Marney [00:08:03] Right.

Justine Bylo [00:08:03] And it's the symbiotic relationship, you know?

Ellie Marney [00:08:08] I do sometimes confess to them that I might have become a librarian, if I hadn't become a teacher and a writer.

Justine Bylo [00:08:18] Totally.

Ellie Marney [00:08:18] Yeah, absolutely I spent a lot of time in the library when I was in high school.

Justine Bylo [00:08:25] My entire childhood was spent in libraries, specifically at lunchtime.

Ellie Marney [00:08:34] They have a great smell. They have that.

Justine Bylo [00:08:37] Yeah. You can't beat it, you really can't. You said that if you hadn't become a teacher, you would have wanted to be a librarian.

Ellie Marney [00:08:47] Yes.

Justine Bylo [00:08:49] But did you always want to be a writer, then?

Ellie Marney [00:08:51] Yeah, well I've always wanted to write and I started writing really young, when I was in primary school. But I knew that I would probably need a way of supporting myself, so I did think about being a librarian, and I even thought at one point about being a veterinarian before I became...

Justine Bylo [00:09:10] Ooh.

Ellie Marney [00:09:11] I decided to veto the veterinarian thing. It was a lot of study and I was more attracted to books than I was to animals, in the end.

Justine Bylo [00:09:21] Yeah, and books are a little less…can be less temperamental. As much as we love animals...although sometimes, a character can be very temperamental. What am I saying? You never know. So, you also run a book club?

Ellie Marney [00:09:39] I do.

Justine Bylo [00:09:44] I was in a book club with my mom for eons, so book clubs are also super near and dear to my heart. What do you think is important for kids and teens to read?

Ellie Marney [00:09:55] Well, teens are actually really good at self-selecting their own literature, if they're given a choice of options. An important thing with teenagers, is to cover their interests, you have to keep throwing books at them until they find something that matches up with what they're interested in. I guess variety.

Justine Bylo [00:10:19] Yeah, that speaks to them.

Ellie Marney [00:10:19] Yeah. Variety is probably the answer, a variety of topic, and a variety of formats because you've got an amazing range of formats now. You can get eBooks, you can get hard copy novels, graphic novels, audiobooks, so they have plenty of choice, and the best thing is to give them the choice. Let the choice be in their hands. That's actually really important for encouraging them to keep reading. I know that's been important with my children and I see it in high schools and with other kids all over the country. So, I'm pretty convinced now that if you give teenagers options that they can figure things out for themselves.

Justine Bylo [00:11:09] If you point them in the right direction, they can find something that they really enjoy…

Ellie Marney [00:11:14] That's right.

Justine Bylo [00:11:16] …and gets them to be readers.

Ellie Marney [00:11:16] Yeah, and as long as you don't limit them by saying, "Oh, you shouldn't read that, it's trash." Or, "You shouldn't read that…"

Justine Bylo [00:11:26] Yeah.

Ellie Marney [00:11:26] "You should be just reading quality literature or something." They should be able to access a whole spectrum of literature from across the whole range of genres and format.

Justine Bylo [00:11:40] Yeah.

Ellie Marney [00:11:40] Yeah.

Justine Bylo [00:11:42] Exactly, because you never know what's going to take their heart and make them happy.

Ellie Marney [00:11:47] That's right, that's right. And we have an awards competition here in Australia called the Inky Awards and it…

Justine Bylo [00:12:01] Oh, great name.

Ellie Marney [00:12:01] Yeah. It's run by the Centre for Youth Literature, and it's actually all the books that are on the list, the short list and the long list. They're all nominated by teenagers and the award itself is judged by teenagers, which I think is really...

Justine Bylo [00:12:21] Wow.

Ellie Marney [00:12:21] It's a fantastic initiative and it's a great example of seeing what kids actually choose when they're given the freedom to choose.

Justine Bylo [00:12:31] Yeah, that is really fascinating. Because instead of the quote, unquote "tastemakers" deciding what gets the clout of the award. The kids get to, or not kids, the teenagers get to choose what they actually like. I love that.

Ellie Marney [00:12:52] Yeah, it's a fantastic idea.

Justine Bylo [00:12:54] That's an amazing idea. I love it. We have time for about one more question. I'm going to wrap up with this one. What's been your favorite thing about indie publishing?

Ellie Marney [00:13:07] My favorite thing about indie publishing is the control over every aspect of the process. Everything from writing the book to the covers to pricing to release day. That gives you a wonderful sense of control over the book itself, but also over your professional career, so that's really important. Also, I have to say that scene when new books go online for the first time, that feeling when you release a new book, that never gets old.

Justine Bylo [00:13:42] It's so exciting to let your baby out into the world.

Ellie Marney [00:13:46] I know. Thinking about seeing it come up, it's like, "Oh! Wow!" You get a real thrill.

Justine Bylo [00:13:52] And then have people read it. It's got to be the best.

Ellie Marney [00:13:56] It's amazing to think that you're sending out something into the world and people are now going to start reading it, and they're going to give you feedback. Like I said, I have a big family and my books are a part of my family now. I have a lot of babies, other children that I've sent out there into the world.

Justine Bylo [00:14:17] Oh, I love it. It has been so absolutely wonderful talking to you today, Ellie.

Ellie Marney [00:14:22] Thank you so much for having me.

Justine Bylo [00:14:23] Oh, of course. I appreciate you waking up so early to talk to me all the way from Australia.

Ellie Marney [00:14:31] We're getting a very lovely sunrise right now, as we're chatting.

Justine Bylo [00:14:37] Ah, there you have it viewers. You are hearing the Australia sunrise, all the way across the world. On that note, thank you so much for joining Go Publish Yourself. This has been our chat with Ellie Marney. Please go check out her books. She writes wonderful YA. They're all really wonderful. Please join us next time. Thank you for joining.

Robin Cutler [00:15:06] Hi everyone, this is Robin Cutler, Director of IngramSpark. Thanks so much for tuning in to this special spotlight, feature episode, where authors and publishers just like you, share their experience on what's worked for them. We hope these episodes inspire you on your own publishing journey. If you're ready to publish today, visit the IngramSpark website. For more tips on publishing like a pro, subscribe to our podcast and weekly blog or check out our new free online self-publishing courses, available in the brand new IngramSpark Academy. Thanks for joining us today and talk to you soon.

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