Today I have a guest on my blog.
Sophie Hardcastle is a young Australian author. I had the chance to read her debut YA adult novel and loved it. So when Hachette Australia asked if I'd be interested in doing a Q&A, I jumped at the chance.
Hi Sophie, congratulations on your first fiction book release, and thank you for stopping by.
Grace and Ben aren't just brother and sister, they're twins. I'm curious, what made you write a story about fraternal twins?
I started writing a version of this book when I was fourteen. At the time, I was skating and surfing every day with the boys in my neighbourhood. I hung out with girls at school, my best friend was a lot like Mia, but on the weekend and after school, I spent most of my time hanging out with boys. They were some of my best friends, so I think writing a character that was, in many ways, one of the boys came naturally to me. I had always wanted a twin brother growing up. My sister has always and will always be my best friend, but I thought it would be awesome to have a twin brother to go surfing with. Writing this story at fourteen, I almost experienced what it’s like to have a twin brother, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
I've read that you spent some time in Bali while writing this book. Is that true? And if it is, what made you take such a step instead of writing the story in Australia?
The early version of this book was called Horizons. When I returned to it after writing Running Like China, I realised my fourteen-year-old self had known nothing about life, love or death so I left it in the cupboard and decided to write a story based loosely on the original. By this point, I’d fallen in love and understood how terrifying, heartbreaking and beautiful it is. In a way, you could also say I’d experienced loss when I became mentally ill and lost myself for a long time. But I don’t think I’d ever experienced loss and longing the way Grace had. I’d obviously never wish the events she experiences on myself, but I wanted to get as close to the feeling as I could. I decided to remove myself from the people I loved to see how it felt to truly yearn for someone. I put an entire ocean between us and felt the weight of that distance. Missing my love made my feel small, like the earth was getting bigger, pulling apart, like the sky was endless. He felt impossibly far away.
By chance, I also had to come off my medication after a toxic reaction and my emotions spiraled out of control. I experienced some of my deepest depressions and highest highs and I had no one around to help me get my bearings. Some days were so god dam awful, but when I came back to Australia, I had a wide breadth of emotional experience to draw on. It helped me to connect emotionally with my characters.
The surfing angle is very vivid, are you a surfer yourself? Or is surfing just something that captured your imagination?
I learnt to surf when I was four-years-old and was out surfing by myself on my fiberglass board by the time I was ten-years-old. Growing up, I surfed most mornings, most afternoons and all weekend. I couldn’t get enough. Surfing is unlike anything else, you’re part of something greater than yourself. You learn to read the waves and move in sync with the swells. It’s a love affair with something so powerful it has the potential to drown you, but also the promise to liberate you.
There were times during Grace's story that I didn't like her very much. She was totally spiralling out of control and frustrated me so much. Which was great, btw, because it's probably the emotion her actions were supposed to invoke. So my question is: did you do this on purpose? Or did Grace's actions develop while you wrote the story?
The part I enjoy most about my writing is when the story writes itself. My characters came to life for me in the second or third chapter and took control of their own lives. I feel like I know them as friends, and I have so much compassion and time for each and every one of them. I’d like to take credit for the emotions Grace’s actions invoked for you but the truth is, I feel like she did that all on her own.
And finally, what's next for you? Are you currently working on a new book?
I’ve just started working on my next YA novel. It is also set in Australia, which I’m really excited about. I’m only two chapters in and I’m still trying to get to know my protagonist. I don’t think I can give too much away, but I will say this…
Grace learnt to read the swells on the sea.
There you have it! I hope you enjoyed reading the Q&A as much as I did. Also, I can't wait to find out more about Sophie's new story. It sounds interesting!
I'd once again like to say thank you to Sophie for stopping by today and answering all my questions. I look forward to reading more of her books. Plus, a huge thank you goes to Hachette Australia for sending me an ARC and passing on my questions. :)
BREATHING UNDER WATER will be released tomorrow!