LoveOzYA Author Q&A With Taryn Bashford
Taryn Bashford is the author of two YA novels, The Harper Effect, which was selected for the Varuna Publisher Introduction Program in 2016 and published by Pan Macmillan in 2017, and The Astrid Notes which was released earlier this year! Taryn is also completing a creative writing PhD and lives with her family in Queensland.
Welcome to the LoveOzYA blog, we’re so happy to have you here!
Thank you so much for having me. Having been a fan for so many years, I’m humbled to be 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?
As a very young child, one who didn’t have a TV in the house until I was seven years old, my most sought after gift was crayons and coloured pens. I’d then pilfer paper from my father’s office and start to write stories, and each line had to be written in a different colour. I called them my rainbow stories. I made little books with staples and covers to finish off each story. I still have many of them in a trunk in my roof. So writing really has been something I’ve loved doing all my life.
Tell us about your new book.
The Astrid Notes came out of a family tragedy that actually happened—the first chapter with Jacob and his band members is based on true life events. I spent some years wondering what happened to the survivors and reading about survivor guilt. In addition, The Astrid Notes explores a world I might have gone into, had I chosen ‘concert pianist’ as a career. Music has always inspired me and helped me through tough times—as a teen, playing the piano would take me away from the stress of exams and other teen issues. So I really wanted to explore the world of music, but also the world of elite teen musicians. It’s fascinating to understand how they think, what they do to become professionals, and also it’s inspiring to realise that they’re just ‘normal’ teens, struggling with normal issues that everyone must deal with from arguments with parents, relationship issues, and deciding what to do after leaving high school. I hope that by the end of the novel, readers are inspired to go after their own dreams.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
I’m originally from England, so I’m afraid my growing up books weren’t Australian. However, I’ve now been in Australia for nearly twenty years and have read almost every YA Australian author I can get my hands on. My favourites include Cath Crowley’s Words In Deep Blue for its lyrical quality, Fiona Wood’s Cloudwish for pure originality, Pip Harry’s Head of the River—I love a sports novel, Jaclyn Moriarty’s – The Colours of Madeline trilogy as it’s so clever and magical and fascinates me, and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief for the imagery… but I could seriously write a very long list.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
My Mum 😊 She never had to make me read or write stories, but she always encouraged me, and bought me the ‘tools of the trade’ including a typewriter when I was thirteen. She was always reading and writing short stories herself. To this day, she’s my most valued editor.
Do you think it’s important for Australian teens to read Australian YA stories?
I think it’s important for Australian teens to read about their own culture, whether that’s historical or geographical. Books innately or overtly give voice to important cultural issues. It’s also easier to relate to a character who is from the country they love, rather than a country they may never have visited. In addition, given the influx of movies based on young adult fiction, it’s important to ensure Australian YA fiction is being depicted in movies too, so that our culture, traditions and history are celebrated. It’s about raising and flying the Australian flag because as a country and a people, Australians matter, and we have a lot to say and a lot to offer.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
Yes, I do. I love my local book shop, Annie’s Books. It’s always packed with book lovers and Annie is always up for a bookish chat. I also borrow many books from Sunshine Coast Libraries as I read around two books a week and might end up broke if I bought them all. I think it’s important to support our libraries by using them too—they provide so many community services in addition to lending books. In fact, I work with Friends of Libraries Australia to promote libraries with my brainchild Book Feasts, which you can find on Facebook. It’s all about ensuring our libraries never close.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
I’m currently studying for my PhD in Creative Writing, so a lot of the books I’m reading now are exemplar novels in the YA magical realism genre. So the book I just finished is Isobel Carmody’s Greylands in which Jack confronts the grief he’s suffering by entering a liminal world (a bit like Alice in Wonderland’s foray through the mirror).
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
I’m very visual and so I actually enjoy designing my website, Instagram posts, Facebook banners, and it’s a new way to express creativity – through images. I’m soon to launch my new website and I hope you love my new design. In another life, I might have trained to be a graphic designer.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
The best advice came from an editor from Black Dog Books: Once you are about to submit a manuscript, believing it to be absolutely the best you can do, stop. Now go through each page and delete 20 words. Do not move on until you have deleted those 20 words. It is amazing how much this truly tightens up your prose.
The absolutely worst advice came from my nine-year-old son: He told me that I should give up because I’d been writing a long time and clearly I wasn’t good enough or I’d be published by now. I forgive him his direct and honest words, but sometimes you get the feeling that people around you are actually thinking this. Or secretly, you’re thinking this. I believe you need to dig deep to decide if you truly know this is what you love to do, and if it is, then never give up. I hope I showed my son that hard work pays off and that had I given up, I wouldn’t have just published my second novel. He’s very proud of me now, by the way 😊
What do you love about OzYA?
It’s a fabulously supportive community and I have made amazing friends with people I’ve met at writing conferences (it’s like you’re drawn to each other) and people online. Some I’ve never met and yet we chat often. I have American writer friends too, and many are envious of the OzYA community we’ve built up here. It’s really quite unique and I believe essential in ensuring Australian YA books remain published, read and loved.