For Educators, For Readers, Q&A 2 years ago

#LoveOzYA Q&A with Hayli Thomson about THE COMEDIENNE’S GUIDE TO PRIDE

Hayli Thomson is an author who lives in Sydney and writes novels about candid characters for anybody for ever watched Jo March leap a fence and longed to be her best friend. THE COMEDIENNE’S GUIDE TO PRIDE is her debut YA novel.

Hayli chats with #LoveOzYA’s Julia Faragher about the book, its inspiration and her advice for aspiring young writers.

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For those who haven’t read it yet, what is the book about?

The Comedienne’s Guide to Pride tracks the month after a teen is named a finalist in a Saturday Night Live search for marginalised writers, and suddenly has thirty days to come out as a lesbian to everyone she loves before the winner announcement outs her first.

What inspired the book?

I have Salem, Massachusetts to thank for everything here! After visiting Salem, I was so interested in writing a character who had a whole lot of snarky things to say about the witch kitsch that Salem has to offer, about the way the town blends the past and the present… Salem absolutely gave me the bones of the book. Three months after my visit to Salem, and deep into writing the first draft, I won tickets to Saturday Night Live—that definitely felt like a sign from the writing gods!

What is your process for creating characters?

I’ve always started with the setting—for me, character voice sprouts from there. I find it so much fun to figure out how my character fits into their world and what the stakes might be in that world. I take parts of other characters I’ve written, or qualities of characters I’ve loved (or who’ve frustrated me!), and I mould my characters from there.

How did you approach writing Taylor’s emotional journey?

It’s so testing to be closeted, let alone to be closeted and know that your ‘coming out clock’ is ticking because you’ve put that pressure on yourself. In writing Taylor’s emotional arc, I pulled on some of my own experiences being closeted when I was a teenager, but of course, the stakes were very high for Taylor because she knows the sand is slipping through the hourglass—so I needed to give her something lovely to balance out those angsty emotions. In the midst of her coming out crisis, she falls in love with her classmate Charlotte, and it’s Charlotte’s self-confidence that drives Taylor to want more for herself.

Why did you choose to write about comedy and Saturday Night Live?

Above all else, I needed Taylor to be inspired. I needed to give her a great love that would push her to take this huge leap of faith and put herself in such a terrifying position. Women in comedy have shattered glass ceilings, flaunted their range, never cared what they looked like—and most importantly, they’ve told the truth. Taylor is riddled with imposter syndrome as she hums and haws over submitting her finalist sketch to Saturday Night Live, but the love and admiration she has for the women who’ve come before her inspires her like nothing else.

Also, that old adage ‘write what you know’ has a whole lot of truth to it!

What advice would you give to aspiring young writers?

Write as often as you can, and sacrifice Good Times for writing time (but, really, when isn’t writing a good time?!). Stock up on patience and the confidence that your voice is extraordinary. Also, plot. Plot like your life depends on it (because Draft No. 53 of your manuscript sure will!).

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