#LoveOzYA Author Q&A With Tara Eglington
Tara Eglington grew up in Byron Bay, New South Wales, wrote The Long Distance Playlist by the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, and now lives in Sydney. She is the author of four YA novels: How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You, How to Convince a Boy to Kiss You (titled Kissing Games in the USA), My Best Friend is a Goddess and The Long Distance Playlist, the third of which was a top-ten bestselling Australian YA title in 2016 and a notable for the 2017 CBCA Older Readers Book of the Year. Tara’s hobbies, when she’s not writing, include watching endless cat videos on YouTube, planning pretend holidays to the Maldives, and daydreaming about who would play Hayden Paris in the film-adaption of How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You.
Welcome to the LoveOzYA blog, we’re so happy to have you here!
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 wasn’t one of those kids who said at eight years old – I want to be a writer. I knew I LOVED books, and that stories were my favourite thing in the world – but I don’t think I understood (or perhaps believed) that writing could be a career. I grew up in Byron Bay, which was (along with being an incredibly beautiful place) a community that championed creativity, but I also grew up very poor – most of my childhood experience was living below the OECD poverty line. Books (especially the ones that made me laugh) allowed me to escape into a different reality, and so libraries were magical places for me. I had a really active imagination, and if you met me as a kid, I would have been the one starting most sentences with ‘Imagine if….’
I definitely wrote stories and looking back, I can see the genesis of my desire to be a writer, even if it wasn’t immediately obvious to me at the time. I remember writing my own fan-fiction Baby Sitters Club novels at age eight, for example, and at age ten, for a school assignment, I wrote a two-part action-adventure story about my classmates and I, being shipwrecked on a deserted island. I remember it was read out for library class, and all my classmates waited on edge for their ‘cameo’ in the book. As a teen, I spent quite a bit of time daydreaming in class about characters and scenarios for hypothetical novels. The Long Distance Playlist was an idea that popped into my head when I was 15-years-old, so it is really amazing, twenty years on, to see it on bookshelves!
Tell us about your new book
The Long Distance Playlist is my fourth YA novel, and I am so excited to be able to finally share it with readers!
A little synopsis:
17-year-old Taylor Hellemann is a former pro-snowboarder, fifteen months out from a life-changing accident. Known in the boarding scene as ‘Hellfire Hellemann,’ he once pulled off tricks on the slopes that made heads turn and jaws drop. Post-accident though, he’s wondering if anyone will ever see him the same way.
15-year-old Isolde Byrne is focused. For as long as she can remember, she’s made ballet everything in the hopes of eventually winning a place at the prestigious National Ballet School. But when her boyfriend dumps her – for another dancer – and she messes up the audition she’s spent years working towards, she goes from focused, to lost.
Taylor and Isolde used to be best friends – before THAT FIGHT, 18 months ago.
It’s been radio silence between them ever since – especially as they live an ocean apart (Taylor lives in Queenstown, New Zealand, and Isolde’s in Sydney, Australia) – until Taylor emails Isolde to sympathise with her breakup. Isolde intends to email him back just that onetime, to be polite. But what starts out as break-up themed Spotify playlists, and shared stories of bad ex’s, quickly becomes something much deeper.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
I adored (and still adore!) Jaclyn Moriarty’s books, particularly ‘Feeling Sorry for Celia’ – her novels are always so unique, and tremendously clever. I’m in awe of her writing.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
My father definitely did. He read to me from a really young age, and actually taught me to read long before primary school. When I was older, he would take me to our local library (Brunswick Heads, Byron Bay) at least once a week, where I would max out my own library card (20 books) and then add a few onto his card as well, ‘just in case.’ He has been the biggest champion of my writing, as well.
I also had two incredible English teachers in high school, who not only introduced me to a wide range of texts, but who also encouraged my writing. One of these women – Catherine – had been an editor at a major publishing house in the UK, so when she told me in Year 11 ‘I think you are going to be a writer one day’ this really fostered in me a strong sense of self-belief in my ‘voice’, which was amazing.
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
I’m going to be a bit cheeky and reference the reply that Alysha King gave in her Q&A, because I think it’s spot on – it’s the humour and authenticity that really sets us apart. I love that heart and humour sit side by side in #LoveOzYA novels – it’s a very special thing. I also think #LoveOzYA books generally also have a very strong sense of place – whether that’s capturing life in a small coastal or rural town, or the metro-environments of Sydney or Melbourne.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
Beachside Bookshop, in Avalon, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Libby and Dani (along with being so lovely!) are absolutely incredible in terms of recommending stellar reads. They specialise in Children’s books, and have a dedicated #LoveOzYA section. I pop in quite frequently to find great reads, and to say hello – so if you are looking for signed copies of any of my books – that would be the #1 place to find them.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
I was lucky enough to be given an advanced reading copy of ‘How to Grow a Family Tree’ by Eliza Henry-Jones (to be published by HarperCollins Australia in March 2020), which is a story brimming and bursting with heart. It was one of those books where the characters feel like family, and you want to hold onto them long after you reach that final page. ‘How to Grow a Family Tree’ has joined my list of all-time favourite #LoveOzYA books.
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
I love exploring creativity in many forms – for me, it’s the adult version of ‘playtime.’ I really love to cook – creating something that nourishes other people is the best feeling. I love to sing, and hope to get back into doing more of this. Travel is also a huge passion of mine – I find seeing new places, and having unique experiences, and find this frequently opens up my mind to new ideas and inspiration.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
Worst advice? ‘No-one gets published.’ I wrote my first book (How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You) back in 2006, when I was 21. I didn’t tell many people that I was writing a book, because I found they almost always responded along the lines of ‘That’s impossible/You know how many people want to be a writer, don’t you? /You’ll wind up on the slush pile for years/It’s nice that you’ve written a book, but don’t expect anything to happen with it!’
I would smile and say, ‘I know it’s really difficult’ but this little part of me always had this quiet determination and faith that one day I’d see my story published – and other people would get to meet Hayden and Aurora, my protagonists. It has been the most amazing experience to see that actually happen (in 2013), and to hear from readers all round the world, who have discovered the Aurora Skye series. So now, whenever I meet an aspiring writer, I give them as much encouragement and advice as I can. I always tell them – ‘being published is definitely possible!’
‘A career in writing takes dedication, commitment, passion, the ability to listen, and the understanding that no matter how talented you are, you still have to work hard’
This is a quote from my wonderful publisher, Lisa, and it is something that I reflect on frequently.
I signed my first publishing deal in 2011, so this year marks nine years in the industry. Along with the exhilarating moments (signing a new novel, receiving your author copies, seeing your book on bookshelves around the country) are a lot of real ‘hard-slog’ ones – massive structural edits that have you wanting to pull your hair out, periods of months or years, where you don’t have a ‘day-off,’ deadlines so major you wind up writing while sick (I’ve worked through pharyngitis and other horrible, nasty bugs that have hit me right when I’m over worked and run-down). I’ve definitely had (thankfully brief) moments of wondering ‘is this worth it?’ particularly in terms of sacrifices I’ve made in my personal life, but then I will receive a beautiful message in my DM’s from a reader, or I’ll think ‘Oh my goodness, imagine if I could go back in time and tell 15-year-old Tara, that she’s an Australian YA author’ – and bang – I know through and through that every hard moment is worth it. I am so thankful to do what I do – to have the opportunity to share stories! To have an incredible publisher to work with. To be surrounded by so many wonderful, kind, enthusiastic readers. I never want to take any of this for granted.
What do you love about OzYA?
The community! It is so incredible to be surrounded by enthusiastic booksellers, bloggers, vloggers, bookstagrammers and reviewers, who champion the work of Australian Young Adult writers! The writing community is also something truly special – so many wonderful authors, singing each other’s praises, cheering each other on, reading and recommending each other’s books – it’s so uplifting!
You can find out more about Tara and her books by visiting her website.
Photo credit: Ted Sealey