Media graduate launches second novel

6 August 2013

Will Kostakis
Media and Communications graduate and author Will Kostakis. Image: Revka.

Not many first year students arrive at University with a debut book already under their belt, but Media graduate Will Kostakis was not the average undergraduate.

Kostakis began his Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) degree in 2007, having already enjoyed breakout success in his final year of high school by securing a publishing deal for his first book Loathing Lola (Pan Macmillan). After the book was published in 2008, it made the official selection for the Australian government's 2010 Get Reading! campaign, and was shortlisted for the Sakura Medal in Japan.

Now the talented author is back with his second novel, The First Third (Penguin), an endearing coming-of-age story about "growing up Greek" and the importance of family. The book follows 17-year-old Billy as he completes his grandmother's bucket list, stitching together his family's fractured lives by completing such bizarre tasks as finding his mother a husband and "fixing" his gay brother Simon.

Infused with self-deprecating adolescent angst and tongue-in-cheek humour, the book confronts life's hard truths, with a story inspired in no small part by Kostakis' real-life grandmother, or Yiayia.

"I like to think it's as close to memoir as it can be while still being fiction," he says. "I've show it to her [Yiayia] and she loves the fact the cover is bumpy. Beyond that she can't read English or Greek, so she doesn't actually know what it's about, which is good! If she found out it's about her mortality I think she would have a cry."

Kostakis says he felt destined to pursue a novelist career since childhood, achieving writing awards from an early age and even taking out the title of Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer of the Year in 2005.

But once the dust had settled from his meteoric introduction to the world of publishing with Loathing Lola, Kostakis was forced to take a different approach to launching his next work.

"No one was exactly knocking my door down for a second book," he says. "I thought, if I only had one more book left in me, what would I write?"

Armed with new skills from his Media and Communications (MeCo) degree, Kostakis set about creating his self-described "do-over book". He created his own website using production skills gained from online media coursework, and drew on his past internship experiences to handle much of the book's publicity. Applying these lessons enabled Kostakis to "hit the ground running" with his newest book.

"I've lived and breathed media for four years and I really think that helped," he says. "When I'm taking an interview, I know what it's like to be on the other end.

"My whole university degree has really brought me up to this point. While I did get a book deal while I was in high school, I wouldn't be in the position I am now without having gone to Uni."

Now that The First Third has hit the shelves, Kostakis will split his time between a national book tour, penning his third novel, and freelance work as a corporate content producer at Channel Nine; a position he was first introduced to through the internship component of his degree.

"It was actually my internship and it turned into bread and butter money," he says. "I always saw MeCo as a safety net in case my writing career doesn't work, but now I see that it's what is really boosting my career."

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