Q&A: Honni van Rijswijk, author of “Breeder”
We chat with first author Honni van Rijswijk about her debut novel Breeder, which is a new YA science fiction novel from Blackstone Publishing. Honni talks about all things Breeder, writing, book recommendations and more!
Hi, Honni! Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
Hi! I’m an academic in law school — I was a lawyer — and I also write novels. I like genre fiction and TV / movies, from detective stories to horror / thriller.
How did the first half of 2021 go for you?
It was much easier than in 2020! I can’t wait for life to open up more in the second half of 2021.
Quick flash tour! Tell us about the first book you remember reading, the one that made you want to be an author and that you can’t stop thinking about!
- Book 1: I had a little book on Australian frogs and lizards that I “read” and carried in my purse when I was two years old. I still have it.
- The one that made me want to become an author: that of Judy Blume Tales of nothing from fourth grade
- The book I keep thinking about: Alison Bechdel’s Are you my mother? So moving and brilliant
When was the first time you discovered your love of writing?
In 4e grade, a visiting nun facilitated an extraordinary workshop for us, where she explained the steps of writing, editing and revising a story for publication. She had us all write, edit and “post” one story per week for several weeks.
Your first novel, Breeder, released on July 13e 2021! If you could only describe it in five words, what would they be?
Global queer burnout youth revolution
What can readers expect?
A fast-paced, high-stakes story, following on from Will, who lives in a brutal world that offers no clear or easy options. BREEDER really digs into the gray area of morality. As readers are witnessing, Will will be making decisions, I hope this gives you a chance to think about what you would do in extreme situations.
Can you tell us about the challenges you encountered while writing and how you were able to overcome them?
The book goes to dark places (as well as many light / fun moments), but it took me a while to get comfortable “going” and staying there, and confident that this. Sometimes dark history would resonate with people. In the end, I came back to the idea that this is the book I would have liked to read at 15 years old.
Are there any favorite moments or characters that you really enjoyed writing about or exploring?
I really enjoyed staying with Will, the main character of BREEDER. At the start of the story, Will just wants to be normal and have a good job, find a girlfriend and possibly have a child, even though these things are basically impossible in Will’s world. Will’s stubborn desire not to disturb their world resonated with me, even in the face of the literal world collapse and a bunch of comrades trying to push Will into revolution. I really like to inhabit moral gray areas in fiction.
What was your journey to becoming a published author?
Winding! I am also a lawyer and an academic.
What’s the best and worst writing advice you’ve ever received?
Best: Write the book you want to read. I always come back to it when I’m lost or stuck.
Worse: fiction should be literary fiction, “genre” fiction is below real writers. Most of my favorite books are genre books, and some extreme human experiences need gender excess to make sense. The best novel about law, history and trauma is by Toni Morrison Beloved, which is also a horror story, as you usually have to go beyond realism to capture the experience of trauma.
What’s the next step for you?
A literary detective / thriller (adult) and a ghost story about gender violence (YA)
Finally, do you have any book recommendations for our readers?
- Please miss, Grace Lavery — brilliant villain and so good and funny
- The lost girls, Heather Young, a beautiful haunting story about family and gender-based violence
- Endangered Falls, Poppy Gee, a terrifying Australian Gothic with a main character I couldn’t get enough of
- Summer son, Lee Mandelo