An Interview with Author Jes Layton!

Heyo Bookaholics!

A new YA author? Yes, please!!

Okay, so this is probably the best post ever on my blog! I’m not just saying that. I interviewed one of my favourite people in the writing industry who also happens to be a friend of mine and if you haven’t heard her speak about writing you really must!

Jes Layton is a freelance artist and writer and now a published author in a new release anthology titled Underdog edited by Tobias M. She has involved herself in the Australian writing industry for years and works for two Victorian bodies of writing: Melbourne City of Literature and Express Media. You can find her on the socials @ageekwithahat on twitter and Instagram and if you find her on Ao3 keep it hush hush 😉

Jes has a very informative and almost philosophical view on writing and storytelling. She is very dedicated to writing queer characters and crafting stories so that the plot isn’t around the character’s gender/ sexuality but something more. She likes to show that queer characters face the same problems that everyone else does. That’s the beauty of her short story; Chemical Expression.

About her story:

Chemical Expression is a short story Jes wrote especially for the Underdog anthology. During a reading of her story at a First Chapters event on Friday, Jes divulged that when the callouts were announced she had absolutely no clue what to write about. It took her four months before she actually had an idea. Coming from a small town, she used the prompt given for the story; something along the lines of “write about your Australia”, and drew on her own high school experience, adding drugs and changing the protagonist to be unlike her.

Interview Questions:

Did you have a plan to continue the story of Chemical Expression?

Chemical Expression came to me very much as a snapshot into Autumn’s life, and though I don’t have any immediate plans to continue on from Chemical Expression right now, the fact that people have been telling me they’d be interested in reading more of Autumn and Sheridan is really heartening.


Will we ever get to know what happens after the events of Chemical Expression?

I mean, you can always ask what I think? But I come from the school of killing authors. i.e fanfiction, meaning I love it when authors leave space for me, as a reader to continue on the story or fill in the gaps myself. That’s something I like to emulate in my own work. As a writer, I look up to John Green—who spoke about this drive readers have for authors to continue on a story while the authors themselves don’t necessarily know what that continuation would be—in a Lindsay Ellis video [link: ], I highly recommend it for any writers to watch.


What advice can you give to other writers for writing non-binary/ gender queer characters?

If you are not non-binary, trans, gender queer or gender diverse yourself, take the time to invest in a sensitivity reader, and work with the gender diverse people in your life (if they are willing!). There are nuances to being gender diverse that aren’t readily known outside of that experience. Similarly, there are pitfalls that cis and binary people often make when trying to portray gender diverse characters, sensitivity readers can help limit those proverbial LEGO blocks from getting stepped on by unsuspecting queer readers.


Does the multiple uses of “they” cause you any confusion while writing? Alternatively, what hurdles did you yourself face writing a gender queer character?

They pronouns have never been a real issue for me, I’ve written and will continue to write characters with a whole slew of different pronouns. The only issue I’ve really had when it comes to pronouns is when two or more people in a scene use the same pronoun since I write in third person limited! Although I guess this is more of a prescriptivist error rather than grammar issue, and a problem with the structure of my writing itself and not anyone’s pronouns. These things tend to get sorted out in edits/rewriting. Being gender fluid myself and embedded in gender queer communities and discourse, I didn’t really face any issues with writing my queer babies, and more so have faced issues (not with Chemical Expression/Underdog) with readers and in workshopping/editing settings. Some people just find pronouns outside of she/her and he/him confusing, and think it’s fine to take it out on the author.


When did you start writing, and when did you begin to take it seriously?

I’ve always been a writer, a storyteller, but I didn’t start writing fiction seriously until I was 11, where I forced my best friend to spend our lunchtimes workshopping my many ‘debuts’, and dedicated myself to writing fanfiction online. I didn’t see it as a viable career until Year 12 when I got a series of scholarships which allowed me to move to Melbourne and begin studying Creative Writing at RMIT. Tertiary study isn’t the path of every writer but it made ALL of the difference to my craft, accessibility and confidence.


Any writing lessons, you have learnt throughout your career (journey?) that you think all aspiring writers should know/ be aware of?

Shivaun Plozza [ author of Frankie and Tin Heart] gave me some great advice to own the label of a writer. Regardless of whether you have nothing published, publish things yourself or only have one small haiku in your school newsletter, if you write, you are a writer. That frank advice helped me pick up my game and beat down some imposter syndrome demons. Sue Lawson (Allie McGregor’s True Colours, Dragon’s Tear), also, one of the first people to ever read my work, gave 12 year-old-me the advice to just finish things. Finishing a project, I think is the hardest thing for a lot of writers to do, but it is the most important (and most addictive) thing. Once you finish the first draft, that is where the real writing starts.


Are you currently working on something, be it a novel or short story, and can you tell us anything about it?

I’m always working on things! I have my YA spec fic novel, which I can promise is as queer and delightfully Australiana as a thing can be. I have the first draft on an older YA novel completed that is the story of five nerds at a convention (five different POVs), and I also have a younger illustrated fantasy middle grade mapped out! You can find some of those sketches on my Instagram (shameless plug: ). I’m always working on fanfic too!



Can you tell me any behind the scenes or secret insights that you haven’t told anyone, relating to your story Chemical Expression?

The people who know me well will know that there’s a lot of recognisable real-life nuances and influences in Chemical Expression. The high school and town are based on my own, my cousin’s name is Sheridan, my sister’s middle name is Rhiannon. I myself like Autumn did a lot of VCE unit’s in Year Ten (the rules are a little blurred in rural schools), and I love science. My Dad has also had a lot of health issues throughout my life and did duct tape a friend to the traffic lights in our home town for Year Twelve Muck Up Day while in school. I’m not going to say Chemical Expression has been a form of therapy for me, but…at the end of the day, they do say it’s best to write what you know.


Where can you find Jes’ writing?

You can find Jes’ story Chemical Expression in the anthology titled Underdog, sold at all good book retailers. You can also find more works at this link and on her socials as she mentioned above!

You can read about the Underdog launch here, and I will have a review for Underdog up (hopefully) on Monday.


Go follow Jes on social media @ageekwithahat on twitter and Instagram and give her all the praise she deserves for being a wonderful author and human bean xxx

Leave your opinions in the comments or alternatively on my social media channels!
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With Love Bree xx


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Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sarah Barnard | Author Interview

Heyo Bookaholics!

New Year, Same Books, New TBR!

Before I begin, I’d like to extend a huge huge thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia and #AusYABloggers for the opportunity to partake in this wonderful book tour. Today is the first day if the blog tour for Fierce Fragile Hearts, a novel by Sara Barnard to be published on the 12th of February 2019. This novel is the sequel to Beautiful Broken Things but can be read alone, much like I did.

You can find more about the blog tour via this link on the Pan Macmillan Australia website.

I loved this novel! Being part of this blog tour, I was given the opportunity to interview Sara Barnard which I was so happy about. The best part is that I hadn’t read the novel before I sent out the interview questions so you may notice that they are not specific to the novel, thus NO SPOILERS!!!

There will also be a NO-SPOILER REVIEW to be posted tomorrow as I have been promising you all for the past month. So please keep your eyes out for that. Notifications will be on my social medias @thebookishbree on Twitter & Instagram.


Fierce Fragile Hearts is the stunning companion novel to Sara Barnard's YA bestseller Beautiful Broken Things. It is about leaving the past behind, the friends who form your future, and learning to find love, in all its forms.

Two years after a downward spiral took her as low as you can possibly go, Suzanne is starting again. Again. She's back in Brighton, the only place she felt she belonged, back with her best friends Caddy and Rosie. But they're about to leave for university. When your friends have been your light in the darkness, what happens when you're the one left behind?


1. Does your writing come from experience?  If so is there anything anecdotal that you can share that has influenced your writing? 

I think all writing comes from experience in some way, but I tend to take my influence from emotions rather than anything else. So, for example, everyone has experienced loneliness at some point, including me, and I would then think about Suzanne’s experience of loneliness in the context of her life; how would it change, how would that affect other emotions and choices she makes? And so on.


2. Fierce Fragile Hearts is about fresh starts, what advice would you give to other 18-year-olds wanting to move out of home? 

That’s a tricky one because Suzanne isn’t choosing to move out of home – it’s a consequence of the life she’s had. So she’s trying to make the best of it but it doesn’t come with the usual exciting bits like furnishing your own place for the first time that other people usually experience when they move out for the first time. So for people moving out generally, I’d say, think about the boring stuff! Make sure you know how to budget. Think about what your support network is, and if you don’t have one, build one. It can be very lonely living on your own. And expensive.


3. I haven’t read Beautiful Broken Things as I was informed that Fierce Fragile Hearts can be read as a stand-alone. Did you intend for it to be this way, and what challenges did you face while writing this (if any)? 

Yes, my hope was that FFH could be read as a standalone, even though it’s a companion to BBT. The biggest challenge was knowing how much backstory to include from BBT – I never wanted to bore a reader who’d read BBT, but I didn’t want new readers to be in the dark, either. That was tough sometimes!


4. Do you plan your stories out fully before you write them or do you have another method of writing that you find works better?  

I have to plan them to some extent because I have to run it by my agent and editor before I start writing. So I need to give them a full synopsis saying what the book is about and what will happen right through until the end. I’ve got a lot of freedom to change as I go – and I usually do – but I do have to start with a basic idea of the book from start to finish.


5. What advice would you give to young writers such as myself with dreams of having a published novel?  

Read as much as you can, whenever you can. Write for the joy of it, and don’t get too bogged down in thinking about getting published. A book that you enjoyed writing is going to shine a lot brighter than one you didn’t.


6. Is there a fun fact about Fierce Fragile Hearts that you’d like to share? Something behind the scenes that readers may not know? 

There are a few Easter eggs in this book for my family. My nan’s maiden name (Gwillim), my grandmother’s maiden name (Ogley) and a secret message in Welsh. I also lifted a few of the university anecdotes directly from my own experience… I won’t say which ones, though 😉


I want to once again extend a thank you, this time to Sara Barnard to being so wonderful and answering all of my questions. To me now that I have read the book, the answers make so much more sense in relation to the story; but I hope that even if you haven’t read the book that you gained something from this.



Sara lives in Brighton and does all her best writing on trains. She loves books, book people and book things. She has been writing ever since she was too small to reach the “on” switch on the family Amstrad computer. She gets her love of words from her dad, who made sure she always had books to read and introduced her to the wonders of secondhand book shops at a young age.

Sara is trying to visit every country in Europe, and has managed to reach 13 with her best friend. She has also lived in Canada and worked in India.


Pick up FFH tomorrow and let me know your thoughts as soon as you finish!

Do you enjoy these kinds of posts?? xxx

Leave your opinions in the comments or alternatively on my social media channels!
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With Love Bree xx

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Lili Wilkinson’s Guide To The Apocalypse!

Heyo Bookaholics!

Apology: First off I’d like to apologise if you received a notification via email or other means about a book review; that isn’t being posted this week sadly as I need time to actually write it and get over how amazing that book was!

Lili Wilkinson’s Guide to The Apocalypse!

  • Know how to grow a veggie garden.
  • Help thy neighbour.
  • Keep your chicken/s.
  • Look after each other.

Today well be discussing the wonderful woman that is Lili Wilkinson, and her amazing new novel; After The Lights Go Out! This book is being marketed as an Australian apocalypse novel with strong female characters and a great lack of the National Anthem.

I came to the event straight from work and was there one whole hour early! I was sure to immediately purchase a copy of the book and I drove the staff crazy trying to look for my favourite Lili Wilkinson book Joan of Arc: The Story of Jeanne D’Arc. Luckily we had the whole night to find it.

The Interview!

The beautiful thing about a book signing for a Melbourne author is that all the other Melbourne authors come down to support them. Lili Wilkinson is a big inspiration for all and has been around in the writing scene for many many years now; Joan of Arc one of her first books she wrote way back in 2006.

Present at the event were Australian/ Melbourne authors such as Jay Kristoff, Danielle Binks, Alison Evans, Amie Kaufman and many more inspirational adults whom I look up to as an inspiring writer.

Amie hosted the event and had prepared many questions for Lili about the book, many of which included things Lili learnt while writing the book – including how to make a radio from things lying around the home – and ways in which she would recommend that we survive in the case of an apocalypse.

Lili also divulged the secret to her research which you can witness in the video. She spoke about how doomsday preppers looooooovvvveeeee Pinterest (almost as much as fangirls), and how for the months while writing this book her Pinterest feed was full of knives, zombies, survival guides, and the occasional veggie garden posts.

The Signing!

OKay this was probably the most magical experience of my life to speak to Lili about her old novel about Joan of Arc that I became all stuttery (like usual), but I did manage to convey that by reading about Joan of Arc all those years ago, I learnt that women can be powerful and strong, despite men trying to bring them down.

Many thanks to my friend Cate who took these lovely photos for me xx

The Cake!

Of course, we cannot forget the amazing cake made by Jess (@CakeandMadness on Instagram and Twitter). It features two main symbols in the novel: Unicorns and Snowflakes.

Read The Book!

What happens when the lights go off after what might truly be an end-of-the-world event? How do you stay alive? Who do you trust? How much do you have to sacrifice?
'After the Lights Go Out is a terrifying yet hope-filled story of disaster, deceit, love, sacrifice and survival.' - Fleur Ferris

Seventeen-year-old Pru Palmer lives with her twin sisters, Grace and Blythe, and their father, Rick, on the outskirts of an isolated mining community. The Palmers are doomsday preppers. They have a bunker filled with non-perishable food and a year's worth of water. Each of the girls has a 'bug out bag', packed with water purification tablets, protein bars, paracord bracelets and EpiPens for Pru's anaphylaxis.

One day while Rick is at the mine, the power goes out. At the Palmers' house, and in the town. No one knows why. All communication is cut. It doesn't take long for everything to unravel. In town, supplies run out and people get desperate. The sisters decide to keep their bunker a secret. The world is different; the rules are different. Survival is everything, and family comes first.

You can also listen to Lili talk about the inspiration behind her book, what started it all and the premise of the book in a more interesting way than I can!


What’s your favourite Lili Wilkinson book?

Instagram // Goodreads // Twitter // YouTube



Thank You, With Love Bree xx

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Melbourne Bloggers Brunch w/ Author Lili Wilkinson

Heyo Bookaholics!

I have never felt more like a proper blogger until I received that invitation to the most exclusive bloggers only event. Sitting with other known bloggers, YouTubers and bookaholics I had the strong feeling of: “This is where I belong”.

Photo credit @writtenwordworlds (Sarah)

In anticipation for Lili Wilkinson’s new book After The Lights Go Out, the lovely ladies from The YA Room hosted the most amazing brunch for Melbourne bloggers and YouTubers. Pictured above are all the beautiful people who attended, minus Tracy, who took the photo and Lily who was holding the book. You might recognise some of these lovely faces from their YouTube channels, blogs, or other bookish events!

After we ate, Sarah and Alex asked Lili a few questions regarding her new novel After The Lights Go Out, and we discussed what would be more preferable: a deadly virus or zombie apocalypse?

Lili told us that ATLGO is inspired by extreme survivalists, and a sexist apocalyptic novel she had read (which was obviously written by a man). She wanted to challenge that notion of men being the ones to survive in an apocalypse and wrote this book to show how a small town, mainly populated by women can band together to survive a disastrous world event.

She did admit that there was some bending of the rules of physics in this novel, though nothing too crazy and in her research, for the novel, she learnt many things, like how to build a radio from things around your house and a crystal.


Lili recommended us the following apocalyptic books that are similar to ATLGO: Dyschronia by Jennifer Mills, Parable of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler + This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers.


OH SHEIT! Looking up Lili Wilkinson’s books on Goodreads, I found out that she edited the book titled Joan of Arc: The Story of Jehanne Darc and I didn’t even know! I wish I’d spoken to her about it so I could tell her how it changed my life when I was only 15 and showed me that women are strong and powerful, and can do anything they want to do if only they believe.

Pictured below are some of the wonderful books that Lili has written over the years:


Below is the stunning invitation I was sent from The YA Room. It’s beautiful like all of their graphics they make and I needed to include it somewhere in this post.


Who are your favourite book bloggers/ booktubers?? Tag them in the comments below, shout them out and show them some love xx

Leave your opinions in the comments or alternatively on my social media channels!
Instagram // Goodreads // Twitter // YouTube


With Love Bree xx

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© Jasper+Spice 2018. All Rights Reserved. Please do not use without my permission. This post was not sponsored, all photos and graphics are of my own creation.

LIFEL1K3 BOOK LAUNCH & I Have 10,000 Words on my Book!

Heyo Bookaholics!

You’ve all seen the title, so let’s begin with what you all came here for.


LifeL1K3 by Jay Kristoff officially launched in Melbourne last night and it was amazing!

To celebrate the official Lifel1k3, Jay blessed us with AI facts from Google and Facebook, while MC Amie tried to reassure us that we are all safe, and won’t end us in the same situation as the characters in LifeL1k3 – and yes I’ll continue to spell LifeL1k3 like that.


Continue reading “LIFEL1K3 BOOK LAUNCH & I Have 10,000 Words on my Book!”

Melanie Schubert Author Interview

Heyo Bookaholics!

Before I start I would love to thank Melanie for being so wonderful as to answer some questions for me about her first novel Gregory and The Grimbockle. Melanie has been so open, and I feel like I have learnt more about her as not just an author but as a person and what she has been through to get to where she is today (and you will to by reading this Q&A).

I posted a review of Gregory and the Grimbockle, and can be accessed here, if you would like to read it before reading this Q&A.

I would also like to point out that this Q&A is spoiler free, though I would recommend everyone go read Melanie’s first ever novel! It can be purchased at The Book Depository or in-store.

Continue reading “Melanie Schubert Author Interview”