#LoveOzYA Q&A with Nadia L King
Nadia L King is a children’s author and award-winning short story writer. Her previous published work includes the novel for teenagers, JENNA's TRUTH, and now, she's celebrating the release of CAN THE REAL JR STAND UP, PLEASE?
Nadia spoke to #LoveOzYA's Bianca Breen about CAN THE REAL JR STAND UP, PLEASE?, and the messages within the book — check out the interview below.
What is CAN THE REAL JR STAND UP, PLEASE? about?
CAN THE REAL JR STAND UP, PLEASE? is about 17-year-old Jake Rollins surviving his challenging home life and the last year of high school. Jake’s life is a nightmare. His dad is determined to use his family as a punching bag, and Jake is powerless to stop him. This gritty urban story meets magical realism; it’s a coming-of-age story about what it means to be bigger than where you come from. CAN THE REAL JR STAND UP, PLEASE? is a hopeful novel about being true to yourself and learning to be brave.
Where did the inspiration for JR come from?
I was inspired to write CAN THE REAL JR STAND UP, PLEASE? because of the shocking statistic that one in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner, and horrifically, in Australia, one woman is murdered every week by a current or former partner. I started to think about the kids of these women and what horrible sights they must witness daily. I wanted them to know that they are seen and valued and that they can survive despite their atrocious home lives.
There are some really heavy and emotional scenes. Why was it important to you to include them in a YA novel?
I see YA novels and fiction as opportunities to highlight social issues. I tend to write about things that make me angry or upset me, so my stories often reflect social issues. I don’t necessarily set out to write about the things that distress me, but they seem to worm their way into my stories.
The book is snappy, in terms of word count. What was behind the decision to keep the story so succinct?
My first YA work was a novella. I purposely kept Jenna’s Truth short to widen its accessibility to readers who may be reluctant. I had a similar approach with CAN THE REAL JR STAND UP, PLEASE? but the story needed more space, and so it grew into a short novel. I don’t think of myself as a novelist; I worked as a journalist a long time ago, and my favoured genre in which to write is short stories. CAN THE REAL JR STAND UP, PLEASE? is my most extended work yet!
Jake’s big passion is art and manga. Is this something you’re interested in as well, or did it take a bit of research?
I hope you can’t tell, but my passion isn’t art or manga which meant I had lots of research to do for the story. I asked an artist friend about the process for making linocuts, and my daughter is a talented artist, so I was able to ask her lots of questions, too. Although I’ve read a bit of manga, I really enjoy watching anime and have a bit of obsession with Japan, so I passed on some of the things I love to Jake.
With such a big beautiful theme of bravery, can you share with us something brave you’ve done within your writing career (or beyond it, if you’re inclined to share)?
Writing has asked so much of me and taken me to places well out of my comfort zone. I naïvely didn’t realise that writing would mean I have to step out and do things that don’t come naturally to me. Public speaking isn’t something I particularly enjoy, but it is something I want to do well, so I put a lot of effort into my prep and delivery. Earlier this year, I worked at the Scribbler’s Festival, and I introduced authors Jessica Townsend and RA Spratt onstage at the Regent Theatre to hundreds of school children. I have to say the stage was mammoth, and I was a little daunted! I personally think living takes a lot of bravery, and I hope I’ll always have the courage to be brave when meeting life’s challenges.
What do you hope readers take from the book once they close the final pages?
More than anything, I hope readers are hopeful about the future when they finish read CAN THE REAL JR STAND UP, PLEASE?. It would be wonderful if my story helped readers know that they are just as brave and courageous as Jake.