The next instalment in our month of #LoveOzYA goodness is a piece written by Aussie author, Taryn Bashford! We loved reading about her life as a writer and why she writes YA. We can’t wait to read her novel, The Harper Effect!
Thank you, Taryn!
From the age of five I wanted to be a writer. I have a trunk full of stories I wrote in coloured pens, books I stapled together, self-illustrated covers I designed. They included stories about the Smurfs, or a family of ants after the grass disappeared, or secret treasures to find. But when I became a teenager, I began to write adult novels with adult characters and adult situations.
When I look back and ask myself why this happened, given I loved reading books like Anne of Green Gables and The Outsiders, I think it’s because when I was a teen there wasn’t a YA or teen shelf in my library or bookstore. Anne of Green Gables was lumped into the children’s section, and as I was no longer a child, I no longer read those books or wrote in that genre.
So, for some twenty years I practised my writing craft, always in the adult contemporary genre, which is what I read. But five years ago, someone advised I read a young adult novel called That’s Why I Wrote This Song, by Susanne Gervay. At first, I hesitated at the idea of reading a book aimed at teens, but I read the book anyway.
There started my transformation.
After finishing Gervay’s YA novel I was convinced that had I read the book when I was 15 or 16, it would’ve helped me with some ‘daddy issues’ I was having back then. After closing the book, I had an epiphany of sorts. I too, wanted to write novels that could serve as that helping hand, that metaphorical hug, that Gervay’s book had provided. And then I set about reading every YA novel I could lay my hands on.
One hundred YA books later, I was certain that this was the genre I wanted to write in. The novels are fast-paced, issue and character-related, and provide an accessible format in which teens can see themselves represented. Young people, and even adults, can see their issues reflected at them, so that books not only provide an amazing escape from the pressured world we live in, but they can provide help, whether spiritually, emotionally or literally in terms of problem solving matters that are going on in their world.
YA novels provide a safe haven in which readers can explore new situations and issues. The point with YA books is the characters are experiencing these problems for the first time. Their reactions, their thoughts, and their loss of innocence (I’m not just referring to sexual innocence), as they move from childhood into adulthood is both a scary and beautiful time. Teen readers need to see they’re not alone with the issues they’re facing, whether it’s negotiating high school, facing fears, losing people they love, or choosing their futures. And adults like to go back and re-live that time.
That doesn’t mean the YA story must be didactic, it just reflects the real-life world of teens today. And after 40 years of honing my craft, and reading 300 YA novels to date, finally my debut YA novel The Harper Effect was bought by Pan Macmillan and is out in the shops on December 27th 2017. Harper’s story is about a girl who learns to win from a boy who has lost everything. The Harper Effect tells the story of 16-year-old tennis champ Harper Hunter and her struggle to make it on the women’s circuit. While she’s a teen who excels at sport, she also faces the usual teen angsts, from making bad choices, falling for the wrong guy, and being afraid to grow up. I couldn’t be happier to now call myself a young adult author.
Taryn Bashford lives in Queensland and is fascinated by teens that surpass the norm. This is what she likes to explore in her writing, remembering that elite teens have flaws too.
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