Personal FAQ

Q: Where were you born?

A: Sydney, Australia. In Paddington Women’s Hospital, which is now a block of flats.

Q: How do you pronounce your surname?

A: Lar-bal-est-ee-air. It can also be pronounced Lar-bal-est-ee-ay or Lar-bal-est-ee-er. Those are all fine by me. Friends at school used to pronounce it: Lavaworm. I have to really like you to let you get away with that one, but.

Q: What’s it like living with another writer?

A: Wonderful. I’m very lucky because even if I wasn’t married to him I’d be a Scott Westerfeld fan. This way I get to read and comment on everything he writes first. He’s also a fabulous editor and reads and comments on all my work.

Q: Do you both write in the same room? Or do you have separate studies? Isn’t it annoying having someone else working so close by?

A: Mostly we write in the same room, sometimes not, though we’re always within shouting distance of one another. Scott and me travel a lot and write in many different places on our trusty and very transportable laptops. Magic or Madness was written in three different houses in Sydney, one in New York City and two in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. Magic Lessons was written in two different houses in Sydney, one in New York City and one in Buenos Aires. Magic’s Child was written in San Miguel de Allende, Sydney and New York City. How To Ditch Your Fairy, Liar and Team Human were written in two different flats: one in NYC (the East Village) and the other in Sydney (Surry Hills). Razorhurst and My Sister Rosa were mostly written in Sydney.

It’s not even slightly annoying writing in the same room as Scott. We get to ask each other for synonyms, how to spell things, and whether Agnetha is an okay name for a character? (Apparently not.) It makes writing even more fun.

Q: What’s it like living in two countries?

A: (For those who don’t know, me and Scott spend half the year in Sydney, where I’m from, and half in NYC, where Scott has lived the majority of his life.)

Living in two places is most excellent. I have two sets of friends. Two sets of favourite restaurants. Two sets of everything really. When it’s six months at home and then six months in New York City I rarely get homesick and nor does Scott. Works out pefectly. Also lots of summer. I love me some summer.

Q: Why do you love Elvis so much?

A: Why doesn’t everyone? The story of how I came to love Elvis love is here.

Q: Why do you love sports so much?

A: Again I ask, Why doesn’t everyone? Explaining my love of sport is like explaining my love of breathing or eating. Without air and food and sport living is impossible.

Q: What kind of car do you drive?

A: I do not drive. I have never learned how. I dislike cars. I think they are the worst invention of all time and responsible for untold carnage. Not just to all the people killed in and by them but for making us so dependent on oil. I wish cars did not exist. Our world would be in much better shape. We need to switch to bicycles and horses. And airships. Transmat beams would also be most excellent.

Q: What’s your favourite colour?

A: All colours are good colours. Except vomit yellow.

Q: Have you ever played organized basketball?

A: Briefly in primary school. I have never excelled at team sports. I, um, don’t take direction well.

Q: What’s your favourite place in Sydney (apart from the cemetery in Newtown)?

There are so many! But right now—other than our home and my parents’ house—it’s the Botanical Gardens and Centennial Park.

Feel free to ask more questions below. I can’t promise a quick response but I definitely will answer.


  1. Steph on #

    I have two questions:
    As a very small child, what did you want to be? (I wanted to be a dolphin, for instance)
    If you could use one word to describe yourself, what would it be? (I’m distracted.)

    And one other thing; I think it’s wonderful you don’t drive. But don’t you have trouble getting around at times? And do people think you’re crazy?

    Thanks. I very much enjoyed the Magic or Madness trilogy.

  2. Justine on #

    Steph: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Though being a dolphin would also be cool.

    A one-word description of myself? Hmmm . . . Contrary.

    I’ve always lived in the inner-city so am able to walk or take public transport wherever I like. Only crazy car lovers think I’m crazy. I avoid them.

  3. -C on #

    Hi! When is your birthday? Sorry I come off as stalker-ish, but I just came up with this fantastic idea and I’d really like to know. Thankss!

  4. Justine on #

    -C: It’s the same date as John Coltrane’s.

  5. Ella on #

    Losts of questions:
    What book that you have writen is you most favorite. You’r least favorite? Also, as a child, who was the author who most inspired you? Also, also, do you wear jeans, ’cause Scott-la doesnt’t and I was thinking maybe you didn’t either… Sorry, I’ve got loads of questions! I’ll stop now or else you’ll get you’ll probably get bored…

    OH, (sorry… ^.^’) You need a sufex like Scott-la’s!

  6. Justine on #

    Ella: What book that you have writen is you most favorite.

    I always like the one I’m in the middle of writing the best.

    You’r least favorite?

    The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction. It was my PhD thesis.

    Also, as a child, who was the author who most inspired you?

    Enid Blyton.

    Also, also, do you wear jeans?

    I do. I love my jeans. (Scott is crazy.)

  7. MItch Wagner on #

    One-word description of yourself? Shouldn’t that be “extremely contrary?”

    Get it? She asked for a one-word description and “extremely contrary is”… oh, never mind.

    My wife and I both work from home, and I think if we did not have separate offices, “Law & Order” would be doing a ripped-from-the-headlines episode about the horrible murder that ensued.

  8. Justine on #

    Mitch: That’s because you and your wife aren’t robots.

  9. MItch Wagner on #

    Don’t be so sure.

    (exits, clanking and whirring)

  10. Ashlie on #

    Ok I have to know you dont drive cars but does Scott? and really how many frequent flyer miles do you have? Other than that what age did you really start writing and how did you go about getting published?

  11. Justine on #

    Ashlie: Scott doesn’t drive either.

    I have no idea how many frequent flyer points I have. I use them all upgrading to business class.

    I’ve always written stories. From the minute I was able to write. Before that I told stories.

    I went about getting published by writing a lot and sending it out and being rejected a lot. It took me twenty years before I was finally published. You can read more about that here and here.

  12. Heather on #

    It makes me happy to see that I am not the only one opposed to cars. I share all the same reasons you gave. I didn’t know Meg and Scott don’t drive either. I’ve heard JK Rowling doesn’t as well. I always got asked why I don’t drive and why I don’t have my license. Everyone always makes it seem like it’s the worst thing in the world, like I’m some kind of freak. I used to dread going to my relatives house because I knew they’d ask me and apparently my answers were never good enough. It’s not like I sit huddled in my closet chewing on my shirt. I do go out, I do work, it’s called public transportation. In the novel I’m working on, not one character will drive a car, just because. 🙂

  13. Jon on #


    Do you know John Green? I can’t help but think I’ve seen your names together somewhere. John’s a great author as well, and I’m not sure if I’m just imagining the connection. I believe he lived in New York for quite a while before moving away, and maybe you met him there or something. Or, like I said, maybe I’m just imagining it. Regardless, I felt I should ask the question, lest it keep me up deep into the hours of the night.

    In addition, the boots in the picture at the top of this page are brilliant.

  14. Justine on #

    Heather: Yay, for those of us who are united in our non-love of cars!

    Jon: I do know John Green. All YA authors know each other.

    Thanks for the boot love. They are my most favourite things in the entire universe.

  15. Christianne on #

    Justine, you are one cool chick — I wish I were like you !!!!!

  16. Ellen on #

    How did you meet your husband?

  17. Bella Sims on #

    First of all I just have to say that I love both you and your hubby. I’m a HUGE fan and I have all of your books. (Both of you)
    My question is, What are your favorite places to write? I live in Sydney as well and I live in a house with 12 people so finding a place to write is really really hard. Just wondering if you have any good places that are good to write at.
    And again, HUGE fan! Seriously. HUGE!
    Bella xo

  18. Justine on #

    Christianne: Thanks! But, you don’t want to be like me. It means hating chocolate for starters and I bet you love chocolate.

    Ellen: Me and Scott have totally different accounts of how we met. You can read them here.

    Bella: Thank you. We’re both thrilled.

    My favourite place to write is at home. But I don’t live with 12 people. When it was trickier to write at home I used to retreat to Mitchell Library in the city. I just loved the oldness of it. The wooden desks. The shelves of books going up and up. The domed roof. But basically any library is pretty good. Good luck!

  19. Bitsy Anderson on #

    I just found out that you and Scott are married and I’m totally jazzed!!! I love the thought that you two are both writers and spend so much time in two places! Honestly, the way you two live is exactly my ideal for life. Question, have you always hated cars? Also, how do you pay for all the traveling? Do you guys just make bank from your books? Is it frustrating to make bank off books? (I ask because I’m considering making my career full time writer if I possibly can but am afraid that I would get stressed out with dead lines and such and eventually burn out of creative awesomeness)
    Also, I love love love all the Aussie slang in Scott’s Uglies series.
    Oh! and will you be in Utah with Scott on Oct. 30 this year? (2010)

    Yes, the name is a nickname for Elisabeth. No, no one calls me anything other than Bitsy. Ain’t it grand?

  20. Justine Vermey on #

    I would just like to say that I love your books. I am a bit of an addictive reader and was in chapters when I saw one of your books, I bought it because you have the same name as me and I was desperate for something good to read. haha. I am only 15 but have read more books than some adults have in their lifetime. I go through them so fast that chapters is beginning to be too small and I’m always searching for better books. Do you have any recommendations? And I was wondering if you have any books in the works that I should keep my eye out for or put on my future releases list. I also find it so cool that you are married to Scott Westerfeld. I am a huge fan of both of you and can’t wait to read more! I was also wondering if you have ever been to Canada. Or are planning on visiting in the future? she says hopefully? Thank you for your time!

  21. Justine on #

    Bitsy: Thank you! I think Bitsy is a gorgeous nickname.

    I’m not sure if I’ve always hated cars. There have always been some cars that I like the look of. Cars from the 1920s-30s are dead pretty. And I’ve always had a fondness for old Citroëns especially the ones that look like pregnant platypuses. I just don’t like being in cars very much. I get carsick over long distances and I don’t like the smell of petrol (gas). I find it an unpleasant way to travel. I vastly prefer walking, cycling, trains, ocean liners and airships. Also the horrendous numbers of people who are killed each year by cars makes me wish we were not so dependent on them.

    We are lucky enough to earn enough money from writing to support ourselves comfortably. When I say lucky I mean extremely lucky because, yes, it is very hard to make a living from writing novels. Most of the published writers I know have a day job in order to support their writing habit.

    Before I became a full-time writer I had loads of other jobs. I think it’s best to plan on a different career. For instance, I was an academic because I figured that would give me time to write on the side and during the summer holidays. That way you have a way to support yourself. You can still write and if your writing does really well than you can become a full-time writer. That’s what pretty much every full-time writer I’ve ever known did. Vanishingly few writers go straight into a full-time career as a writer.

  22. Justine on #

    Justine: Thanks for your kind words. We Justines have great taste, don’t we? 🙂 I’ve been to Canada many times including long stays in Toronto and Ottawa. I’m sure I’ll be back there again.

    My favourite book right now is Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves. I hope you like it too.

  23. Justine Vermey on #

    Awesome and thats funny that you said your favourite book right now is bleeding violet, I just finished reading it half an hour ago! that kinda creeped me out. It was an awesome book though! Its nice to hear that you visit Canada. I will have to keep my ears open for your next visit. Thank you for responding to my message, thats so sweet of you!

  24. Lucy on #

    Briefly, what are the major differences between Sydney an Nyc? I am from Sydney and was just wondering how someone who had lived in both places would see it. Love your books btw 🙂

  25. linda on #

    If you don’t drive cars how do you guys get around the city? taxis? chauffeur? Did you marry right away? or did you do the dating scene?
    I read how you met Scott Westerfeld but happens after? Did you encounter any problems along the way in your relationship? So you guys never live in the winter? So its summer year long for you guys? Did you get your interview with Daniel Keyes?

  26. Justine on #


    Briefly, what are the major differences between Sydney an Nyc? I am from Sydney and was just wondering how someone who had lived in both places would see it.

    Eight years ago I wrote at length on this very question. My answer is pretty much the same now.

    Love your books btw

    Thank you!

  27. Justine on #


    If you don’t drive cars how do you guys get around the city? taxis? chauffeur?

    Mostly we walk. But we also take the subway and buses and taxis when we have to.

    Did you encounter any problems along the way in your relationship?

    Nope. Never. It’s all been perfect. 🙂

    So you guys never live in the winter? So its summer year long for you guys?

    Yup. The only cold I deal with is AC.

    Did you get your interview with Daniel Keyes?

    I did not.

  28. Rose Daniels on #

    Okay, I am totally Team Zombie in the whole Zombies VS. Unicorns thing, and i was wondering… what are the best songs to listen to while shooting zombies? I know this seems random, but i was just wondering. i have a good ones listed below:

    No.1: Headstrong by Trapt
    No.2: The Banana Splits theme (Dickies)

    No.3: Holiday by GreenDay
    No.4: Bjork “Army of me” Sucker Punch Remix
    No.5: We Will Rock you by Queen

    No.6:Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne
    No.7: American Idiot by GreenDay
    No.8: I love Rock ‘n Roll Jaon Jett
    Allrighty, please tell me what you think!

  29. Ruth on #

    I have a website, or at least a hosted domain. Actually, I have four domains. I have begun to collect them because I have run out of places to put books. I don’t have a website set up yet. I have begun a blog, but it isn’t so good, yet. I am aware of the grammatical issue. What I really want to say is (please take NO offense), “I did not know about you until today, this evening!” and I cannot believe that in all my reading (I average 2-3 books a week)and sewing and riding up and down the Interstate to visit grand-children and, yes, GREAT-grandchildren, I have missed such an interesting couple of authors. I shall go right out tomorrow to our wonderful library and pull your books.

    I know, this is too lengthy, so just delete it, but write it I must; I don’t like cars, either. That’s why I have this old, really well-kept little truck. I am an old lady (well, not that old) but, I can’t get around very well. I do intend to keep writing. Never have I been rejected because I’ve never been brave enough to let anyone see, much less read my stuff, not since sixth grade. Come to think of it, I won an award for that essay.

    I like all colors, also, except for puke-green. The yellow has a place in some quilts, but not puke-green. Go ahead and wipe me out, I won’t know. Don’t hurt my feelings by telling me you’re shooting me down, though. I really am going to read your books – and bookmark this page.

    Oh, pooh! I just started my pitiful little blog – it’s harder than it looks. Google won’t let me get away with much. And I did start in 2010. I lost it and only ran across it little over a month ago.

  30. Casey on #

    How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

  31. Justine on #

    Rose Daniels: What are the best songs to listen to while shooting zombies?

    Ha! Would depend on your mood I guess. If your list works for you then go for it.

    Ruth: Good luck!

    Casey: How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be a writer??

    I was little. I was telling stories before I could write them down. I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

  32. Josh on #

    Hey Justine, I am a big fan.

    I was wondering if you could write a little about your academic career? I want to be a writer, but am considering doing a PHD while I try, so I was curious how you found it? Also, just out of interest, where did you study?

    Thanks, look forward to more of your work in the future.

  33. Lucy on #

    Hi Justine! Firstly, thank you for all your posts about writing novels and the basics; I’m a young writer and your blog has really helped someone so inexperienced!

    I’m in high school in Sydney and if you grew up around here I assume you completed the HSC? Or an equivalent, if it’s more recent than I think. I was just wondering what subjects you chose. English is obviously essential for any student who wants to be a writer, but did you find any other subjects particularly helpful? Thanks!

  34. Justine on #

    Josh: Thank you!

    I did both my undergraduate and postgrad degrees at the University of Sydney. Which I wouldn’t recommend. Think it’s better to go to a different university preferably in a different country for your second degree.

    I mostly enjoyed doing my PhD. I really loved the writing and the researching it involved.

    Lucy: I answered your question here.

    Hope that helped you both.

  35. Lamusiqe13 on #

    I had a lot of questions, but I’ll narrow it down to three:

    1.) Favorite character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
    2.) Who proposed to the other, you or Scott?
    3.) Are you a U.S. citizen, or do you get some sort of Visa?

    • Lamusiqe13 on #

      Wow, that last question strikes me as really personal, looking back. My apologies. I certainly respect your privacy – you don’t have to answer.

  36. Justine on #

    Lamusiqe13: My favourite Buffy character is Faith. Today anyway. It changes.

    I proposed.

    I’m a US citizen thus making me a proud Australian USian.

    Some people would think the second question was the super personal one. 🙂 But it is true that there are many who would not care to publicly discuss their immigration status.

    Sorry for the delay answering have been travelling.

  37. Juyo on #

    I very much hope this won’t offend you, it’s strictly out of curiosity. It seems unusual you dedicated to writing books for children the great majority of your career, yet you also choose not to have children or interact with many in your life. Then where does your particular fascination of writing for them come from?

    • Justine on #

      Juyo, you’re right, that can be an offensive question and you shouldn’t ask it of people you don’t know extremely well. Some people don’t have kids because they can’t and asking that can cause them a great deal of pain. Especially if they’ve gone to great lengths to have a child and not been successful.

      It’s also a question that’s pretty much only asked of women, not of men. So it’s more than a little sexist as well.

      I’m not offended by the question but I really think you shouldn’t ask it of other strangers who might be.

  38. Mary on #

    Hi Justine,

    I love how genuine you are in your blog, and I appreciate the time you take to answer all these comments!

    I was wondering what advice you would have for YA writers who are finally looking at starting to approach agents and publishers. I am struggling with trying to get a network of writers, editors and publishers to help me progress, as I am from a scientific background and am not sure of how to initiate such things. Any pointers would be great!

    I am very excited to read your next novel, by the way! My Sister Rosa sounds amazing, and I love the US cover!

    • Justine on #

      Do you mean you have a finished draft of a novel and would like help learning how to rewrite it and polish it for publication? If so I’d suggest starting with me How to Rewrite post. There are posts and comments after that one that talk about finding a critique group.

      Or do you mean you have a finished manuscript that you think is ready to be sent out to agents? In that case check out this post on How to Get an Agent. It’s more than ten years old but it’s still all true and includes a link to agent query which is still the go to site for finding agents. And has loads of information about the process of contacting agents, writing query letters etc.

      • Mary on #

        Thank you! I meant something along the lines of ‘I am trying to make some in real life writer friends because I want to connect more with people who love what I love, but also, so they can help me edit my book, which after 5 rewrites I think is very good, but I know probably needs more work, and writer friends can give me some necessary-but-tough writerly advice like “I know you love Peter but he is a useless character and you just need to get rid of him” ‘
        Because I’ve never been in writers circles, I don’t really know where to look to make writer friends. But your ‘How to get an agent’ page was very useful, as I hadn’t really thought about conventions or festivals before. For some reason, they seemed like ‘published writers only’ sort of things. Thank you for answering!
        Also I just finished My Sister Rosa and I loved it 🙂

        • Justine on #

          Thank you! So pleased I was able to help.

  39. Syd on #


    I was wondering if your friendships in high school or when you were a teen influences the way you write YA novels or friendship in your books.


    • Justine on #

      I suspect everything that ever happens to us, or around us, influences writers. So, sure. But if you’re asking are any of the characters or friendships in my novels based on my specific teen friends, then, no.

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