I am so happy to introduce Pip Harry to inkcrush. Pip is a #LoveOzYA author who writes contemporary novels for young adults. Her award winning novels are not just faves of mine, but of readers everywhere around the globe. She shares with us a bit about her inspriation for her lastest novel Because of You, her writing process, advice for writers, recent favourite reads and more...
|Author Pip Harry|
Hello and welcome to inkcrush, Pip Harry :) It's so good to chat with you on here right after the release of your 3rd YA novel Because of You. (I feel honoured for you to be stopping by!)
Hello and thank you lovely Naomi for having me!
You've mentioned before that your best writing comes when you can personally relate on some level to the story. Can you share some of your own life experience that sparked Tiny and Nola's story?
I definitely need to emotionally click into the story on some level, so that’s always a big part of choosing what to write about. It takes me a couple of years to complete a novel, so I have to care deeply about the characters and story to stay interested and engaged! In my own life I met many tenacious, funny and intelligent homeless people while working as a volunteer once a week in a shelter, helping to facilitate a creative writing program. My experience with that program and those incredible writers sparked the story of Because of You. We even took our group to the Sydney Writers’ Festival to perform, which echoes a later scene in Because of You!
[N: I think the way you care for your characters reflects in the way readers also come to deeply care for them! And I am so thrilled that the later scene in Because of You was sparked by real events ~ incredible!]
I love both Tiny and Nola, who have not only different backgrounds and circumstances, but have unique voices and ways of looking at the world. Did the voices of Tiny and Nola come to you strongly formed or did it take a while to get to know them before you were able to flesh out their story?
Tiny and Nola couldn’t be more different, so their friendship initially presented me with challenges. How would they first talk? What would they talk about? In the end, I realised they are still teenage girls, so initially they talk about boys and eat baked goods!
Tiny came to me pretty much fully formed and ready for action – but Nola was a problem child. In early drafts, she was coming off as very self-centred and whiny and my beta readers said they couldn’t relate to her as much as Tiny. They were right! I kept a little of Nola’s spoilt side in the final version, but explored her home life and relationships more deeply to give her more edge and depth.
[N: Haha! Yes to boys and baked goods! ;) ]
One of my favourite things about your writing is meeting and falling in love with -- and being inspired by -- your characters. You write characters who are flawed, make mistakes, and struggle with all kinds of conflicting emotions and insecurities. At the same time, these characters are courageous, brave, true, and have moments of startling empathy, wisdom and honesty. How do you approach crafting your characters? (Plus any tips for budding writers?)
Oooh, that’s such nice feedback, thank you! I’m a very flawed person myself and I make all kinds of mistakes and I’m incredibly insecure at times … so all that goes into my characters! You will never find me creating a perfect human in my books, because they just don’t exist. I’m especially careful to write parents who have their own problems and inconsistencies, as I think that’s true to life. Tips for budding writers: don’t be afraid to be honest and get your character’s flaws down on the page, but also allow them to have moments of true courage and emotion. Allow them to be vulnerable and true.
[N: That is so true about parents ~ being one myself ;). It's your vulnerable and courageous characters that make your stories resound long after reading the last page]
I know you're more of a pantser than a plotter. Can you tell us a little bit about how that works for you? Do you get a lot of surprises along the way? (Any awesome surprises while writing Because of You?) Do you fly through your first draft and then face massive structural edits once you have found the story, or do you feel out the story over lots of versions and then plan once you know where you're headed?
Oh yes, always a pantser. I enjoy the surprises along the way, some of the things my characters do are SO unexpected. That keeps it interesting for me. In Because of You, I had no idea Mari (Tiny’s friend) was going to show up in the city. She just popped up! And the poetry was a bit surprising, I’d never really written poetry before.
I do not fly through any stage of writing books. 😉 More accurately I plod along, sometimes speeding up, sometimes dragging my heels, until I can type ‘The End’. I always print out the first draft and force myself to read it in raw form (and it’s usually pretty terrible) then I radically edit and polish before sending it to a few trusted readers. I do feel out the story as I go, and Because of You was changing right up to the final days before printing.
[N: Oh! The poetry was definitely one of the fave elements of Because of You for me. I reread some of those passages a few times over. You definitely have a poets way of capturing moments and sharing secrets and emotions through verse]
What is it you love most about writing? Was there a writing highlight while working on Because of You?
I love being in another world with my characters and taking them on a journey, and then I love sharing that journey with readers. My highlight while working on Because of You was taking the manuscript to the Djerassi Artists Retreat outside San Francisco. There, I did a YA workshop with 11 other writers and facilitator Nova Ren Suma. It was magical, and set the book on the right path and made me believe in it again.
What is something you struggle with as a writer?
Starting the first draft is difficult for me, and I always put it off until the characters are screaming at me.
What is one of your favourite things about writing for teenagers?
Teens are so open to new ideas, so engaged with the writing and super smart. I feel really privileged to write for and about them. I really, really love school visits.
[N: As a teacher-librarian I know how much students love author visits! At a recent author visit for Book Week, one student told me (after talking to the author in a writing workshop) it 'was the best day of his life' :) ~ and students always leave so inspired and affirmed.]
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Do not ever give up or listen to the voice that says you’re no good. That voice is wrong. Keep at it, keep learning and keep writing.
Can you share some of your favourite books? (Everyone loves a good book rec!)
Ooh, yes please! This year I have been blown away by the wonderful romances and relationships in Gabrielle Tozer’s Remind Me How This Ends, Steph Bowe’s Night Swimming and Cath Crowley’s Words in Deep Blue.
[N: Three gorgeous #LoveOzYA novels! Speaking of author visits, my daughter met both Cath Crowley and Steph Bowe in July (a couple of weeks ago!) at a readers/writers festival and came home very inspired and full of excitement. Of course, I made her nearly repeat their sessions verbatim ~ hoping to catch just a sprinkle of their magic!]
What did you do to celebrate the book birthday of Because of You?
The weekend before my book came out I flew to Bali and stayed in a villa with four girlfriends. We raised many a cocktail glass in celebration!
Thank you so much for sharing with us!
Thank you Nomes! I’ve had so much fun.
[N: Me too! All the best with your writing projects, school visits and continuing to celebrate!]
Pip Harry is the author of YA novels I'll Tell You Mine, Head of the River and Because of You (Aug, 2017). A freelance writer and editor Pip has worked on a stack of women's magazines like Woman's Day, TV Week, New Idea and NW as well as for non-profit organisations. She currently lives in Singapore with her family and eats way too many noodles. When not at a keyboard her favourite things to do are swim laps (really), try variations of eggs and toast in hipster cafes, unravel on a yoga mat and read fiction. Her favourite hashtag is #LoveOzYA. (source: goodreads)
Q & A at #LoveOzYA
My reviews for Pip Harry's novels:
Have you read Pip Harry yet? ;)