#LoveOzYA Q&A with Pip Harry
Let’s go back to the beginning … have you been telling stories since you were a kid or was writing something you fell in love with as an adult?
I’ve been telling stories since kindergarten, but I really fell in love with writing fiction after I turned 30 and began studying creative writing after work at UTS. In those night classes I found my writing tribe and started believing in my work.
Tell us about your new book.
Because of You was inspired by a few years I spent volunteering in a homeless shelter writing group in Sydney. The story focuses on two very different 18-year-old girls: Tiny, who has nothing and is living on the streets and Nola, who has everything she could wish for, but still feels empty. They meet at a homeless shelter writing group, and somehow become friends, sharing a love of words and their secrets. It’s a book about hope, compassion and the magic of books and stories.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
I adored So Much to Tell You by John Marden, which was released during my first year of high school. It was such a powerful story and the character of the damaged girl without a voice was so strong and made a huge impact on me.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
My parents were very encouraging of my stories, and we had a huge reading library at home, which I was free to choose from – nothing was off limits. At school, I had a tough, exacting English teacher, Mrs Boyce, who pushed me to explore my fiction in the classroom. I remember getting an A- from her for one short story and feeling like I’d won a gold medal. She set incredibly high standards!
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
Our incredible sense of place, voice, creativity, diversity, characters … everything about Australian YA sets us apart from the rest of the world. It’s the greatest!
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
I live in Singapore and the Marine Parade library is my favourite current bookish hidey hole. I often go there to escape the heat and browse the incredible kids and YA sections. I also have a big soft spot for Readings books. They’ve been a huge supporter of my work and OzYA in general, and their children’s sections are top notch.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
I just finished reading Too Many Friends by Kathryn Apel. It’s a lovely verse novel for children aged around 6-7 about a girl with an abundance of friends. My next novel is written in verse, so I’ve been reading lots of it!
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
I’ve dabbled in mediocre life drawing, recently learnt how to make pom-pom animals with my seven-year-old, did a class in French chalk painting furniture and I like baking … but to be honest the one thing I find consistently reboots my creative mind is swimming, either in the ocean or in a pool.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
Worst: Only write what you know – absolute rubbish, the best stuff is when you explore the unknown.
Best: Write what scares you.
What do you love about OzYA?
All the things! The community spirit, the passion for YA, the support and encouragement for Australian young adult authors and its sense of fun. I’m truly blessed to be a small part of this important and exciting movement.