Author Spotlight: Vanessa Len
Jan. 27, 2022
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for teens.
My name is Vanessa Len, and I’m a writer and editor from Melbourne, Australia.
I write for teens because when I was a teenager, I always wished that I could read about characters who looked and sounded like me having a big, exciting adventures. And then one day I realized that I could write that book!
I love young adult as a genre because characters often experience things for the first time during the events of the book – first love, first grief – and through those experiences they change and adapt and grow. I love following characters who are learning about themselves at the same time that they’re facing new challenges.
Congrats on your young adult debut, Only a Monster! Tell us about the book and what inspired you?
Thank you so much! Only a Monster is about a monster girl whose summer is ruined when the cute guy at work turns out to be a monster slayer!
The book was inspired by that feeling when the hero of the story isn’t the hero of your story. When I was growing up, I didn’t often see myself represented in movie and TV heroes. But I did sometimes see myself in ‘bad guys’ – nameless characters who would turn up just for the fight scenes, and would get beaten up or killed by the hero.
I have a line in the book about how in movies, the camera follows the hero after the bad guys have been killed. But I know that in my own experience, I find myself very aware of the few people who look like me in books and onscreen, which often means being very aware of people lying dead on the ground as the focus of the narrative moves away from them.
Only a Monster was inspired by that feeling when a hero – maybe even a hero portrayed as decent and good by the narrative – is fighting against you rather than for you.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
It took me a long time to write the book – years of thinking about the worldbuilding and characters, and then five years to write the manuscript itself!
But once I’d finished the book, things happened so quickly that it all felt very surreal. I was lucky enough to get agent offers within a couple of weeks of querying, and then also lucky that the book sold foreign rights, and went to auction within three weeks of being on submission!
Did you have a playlist or mood board when writing your book?
I don’t listen to music while I’m writing, but I use visual references. As I’ve been writing this series I’ve collected lots of photos of buildings and gardens; street fashion; interesting and mysterious objects; and anything else that strikes me as ‘monstery’!
What projects are you working on now?
I’m working on books 2 and 3 of Only a Monster. Beyond that, I’ve started to sketch out a heist novel set in a magical world!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Writing can be a solitary pursuit, but it doesn’t have to be. Try to connect with other writers. Nothing helped me to finish the book more than being able to talk to, and problem-solve, with writing friends.
What is something most people don't know about you?
I love The Fast and the Furious movies!
Where can people find you online?
Vanessa Len is an Australian author of Chinese-Malaysian and Maltese heritage. An educational editor, she has worked on everything from language learning programs to STEM resources, to professional learning for teachers. Vanessa is a graduate of the Clarion Workshop in San Diego, and lives in Melbourne. You can find her on Instagram at vanessa.len_writes and via her website at https://www.vanessalen.com