Getting to Know Lil O'Brien

October 8th 2020

Telling the story of her coming-out journey with a refreshing frankness, writer Lil O'Brien will be appearing on stage at Verb Festival this year. Her debut memoir, Not That I Kissed a Girl was published in July and after great success, has already been reprinted. We caught up with Lil to talk Verb Festival and her talent for reading multiple books all at once!

Grab tickets to see Lil at this year's Verb Festival events:

Bad Diaries Salon #Play, Saturday 7th November at Meow.

Not That I'd Kiss a Girl, Sunday 8th November at Meow.

What is your day job? 

Freelance Copywriter & UX Writer.

What is your connection to Vic Books?

Vic Books kindly stocks my books, and I'm looking forward to meeting some peeps from there at Verb in Wellington this year!

What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently in a pre-writing stage of many ideas swirling around and notes being written, without settling on anything! I'm mainly just enjoying all the fun stuff to do with Not That I'd Kiss A Girl. I have a few things to write or create for upcoming New Zealand writers festivals, plus I may have an exciting opportunity related to the book that I am hoping comes to fruition. Watch this space!

What is your latest publication?

Not That I'd Kiss A Girl – a memoir centred around my coming out experience – was released in July this year, which seems like aaaaages ago but has actually only been 3 months.

Not That I'd Kiss a Girl has been a top seller since publication and gained a lot of media attention. What has this year been like writing a memoir and having your story out there for all?

To be completely frank (of course – memoir writer here), this year has been the most rewarding years of my life and also one of the hardest emotionally. I knew that publishing this story would have major consequences for my relationships with my family members, so I've grappled with a lot of anxiety pre-publication, then added grief post-publication as the consequences of publishing the book hit. So the media attention was a bit like a double-edged sword!

I was also suddenly aware of the responsibility I had. I wasn't just being asked about the book focusing on my life, I was asked broader questions about LGBTQ+ issues, coming out, and dealing with parent-child relationships etc. So I had to think about the messages I wanted to send, and tailor that based on the audience of each media outlet I was being interviewed by. So that was a steep learning curve. I care so much about our community and especially young people who are still figuring things out. I want to make sure I can do the most with the platform I have to help them.

I will say though, overall the experience of having my story out there has been amazing, and the feedback from readers has made my little heart explode over and over again. Every moment has been worth it.

What are you looking forward to most about appearing at Verb?

Just being at a writers festival like Verb is so thrilling, and it's almost not about the individual talks as it is about the experience of being surrounded by other passionate readers. So I can only imagine that this year, being there as an artist and getting to meet a lot of the other NZ writers I've been chatting to since my book came out, will be even more incredible. It will also be the first time I have had a WHOLE hour to talk about Not That I'd Kiss A Girl in front of a large (hopefully), live audience, and I think that will be really special to me.

Some quick fire book recommends please!

I've been going on a real NZ writers binge this year, and Rose Lu's essay collection All Who Live On Islands has been a fave. Also Freya Daly Sadrove's Head Girl, which can be quite intense! Rose Carlyle's success with The Girl in the Mirror has been well deserved too – I burned through that in a day.

In terms of LGBTQ books, I'd love everyone to read We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim memoir by Samra Habib, and the manga My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata.

I've also just got my hands on the new Allie Brosh book Solutions and other Problems (author of Hyperbole and a Half), and am enraptured with her work all over again.

What are you reading at the moment?

Don't judge, but I am simultaneously reading Someone's Wife by Linda Burgess, The Nancys by R.W.R. McDonald, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, The Girl from Revolution Road by Ghazaleh Golbakhsh, and Solutions and other Problems by Allie Brosh. And at least a couple of Supergirl fanfics.

What do you like about it?

Well, I guess that I have something to read tailored to every mood!

Which literary character do you most identify with? Why?

Some strange combination of Kabi Nagata in her (autobiographical) story My Lesbian Experience of Loneliness, and any protagonist from a Marian Keyes book. Because I am part introspective introvert, and part exuberant booze hag.

Hardback or paperback?


Favourite coffee?

A flat white made with Anastasis 'Rapture' coffee beans (an Auckland roastery), with a slug of vanilla if I'm feeling jazzy.