Today's guest is debut YA author Taryn Bashford, author of The Harper Effect, set in the world of pro tennis. Here are some details from the Pan Macmillan website:
Taryn has had a lot of adventures around the world and done a lot of different jobs before settling in Sydney with her family. She knows a lot about how professional tennis works and uses it in her novel. This interview is a part of the blog tour organised by Clare Keighery of Pan Macmillan. Enjoy!
GR: What inspired this story?
TB: I wrote this story when I was 14 years old. Obviously, it’s had a fair few re-writes since then! But the seed was sown. As an adult, I’m fascinated by teens who surpass the norm – in sport, music, academics – and so it was natural for me to pull this novel out of the trunk it had been stored in for decades, and re-visit it. I also have a deep belief in the benefit of sports for teens. I believe I learned many skills from my own days in athletics, skills that I use every day of my life, and skills that probably helped me get published; the dedication to one thing, the self-motivation, the extreme focus needed, the ability to get up again and keep going after a rejection, and the knowledge to know my future is down to me and the effort I put in, and nobody else. I also search for YA books with a sporting theme – and there are some great ones out there – but just not many. So, I wrote the book I wanted to read.
GR: I believe your brother was a pro tennis player, now coaching - did you ever feel as if you were basically Aria, the sister left at home?
TB: That’s a great question, but I actually didn’t. I think this was because both my brother and I were chasing a dream. Mine was the Olympics. And I wanted to be a concert pianist and a novelist. I got one of my dreams! But as a teen, while he played tennis, I was training hard at the 400m track event and practicing the piano to be the best, and writing stories. I don’t think I had time to think about what he was up to on the other side of the world. All I knew was that I was incredibly proud of him, and that’s why I dedicated The Harper Effect to him.
GR: Are any of your characters, including famous tennis players, inspired by real people?
TB: No, not at all. Not even my brother is in there as ‘himself’.
GR: Who, if anyone, is your favourite character? Why? (Mine is the coach, Milo!)
TB: I have to say a few people have said the same thing about Milo. I liken him to Mr Miyagi in The Karate Kid. But I think my favourite character is Colt because he really gives me the feels – to have been through what he went through as a kid, and to refuse to give up on his dad and his dream, I did shed a few tears for him. Then when he must make the choice to give up his dream or lose his dad – well, that got me too. He’d retreated behind a wall to protect himself, he’s hurting so badly and is so alone, and when he begins to blossom and come out of himself, I was so thrilled for him. I just wanted to give him big hugs!
GR: Playing pro tennis seems, judging by your novel, to be very expensive, requiring coaching, travel and complete focus on the sport, which means being unable to make a regular living while you train and travel - is this right? How would a gifted young player who had no money manage to get started in his or her career?
TB: You’re right. It’s not an easy sport to excel in because of that. My brother travelled the world in a florist’s van (with a mattress thrown in the back) so that he could play in as many tournaments as possible. It’s a vicious circle – the more tournaments you play, the more money you earn and the higher your ranking so the more money you make. But if you cannot afford to be at loads of tournaments, the less money you make and the lower your ranking is, so the less money you make. You can see where the determination comes in. I’m talking about the 80’s though, so things may have changed. It seems you still need to compete as much as possible, and play for your State, then Nationals and so on. This then leads to sponsorships to pay for the tournaments you must attend. There are more local level tournaments these days that do get you ranking points, so that’s the place to start. Tennis Queensland has a lot of information on their website. The Harper Effect also covers this: Colt cannot afford to go to a big tournament in Europe so he increases his participation in the local tournaments in Australia.
GR: This seems to be a novel about learning to move on. What does this mean for each of your main characters?
TB: Yes, it is about moving on – well, leaving childhood behind I suppose. For Harper it’s about leaving behind the place she felt the safest, represented by the Purple Woods, and also leaving behind the people she feels the safest with. For Colt it’s about leaving behind the things he’s had to endure in the past, dumping his guilt, and reaching for the stars so that he reaches his full potential.
GR: What is your writing process - plotter or pantser? And why?
TB: Pantser for sure. When I start a new novel, I ensure I have a clear two weeks ahead of me. Then I write voraciously - non-stop about 18 hours a day (I do stop to feed the children – sometimes). I do it this way because I find that I can fully immerse myself into the story world and the characters. Then about a quarter of the way in, the characters feel like they come alive and they tell me the story and tell me what they’re going to do next. I’m then left trying to type fast enough to keep up with them. Without that continuity of writing, that doesn’t happen for me. It sounds odd, doesn’t it? But I’ve chatted with other pantsers and they have a similar experience. I find the story is then more dynamic and the characters more authentic.
GR: Tell us about Taryn Bashford. I see from your bio that you did quite a lot before arriving in Australia - has any of this had an effect on your writing?
TB: Yes, I’ve somehow divided my life into decades starting from being an athlete, to being an advertising professional, to running my own recruitment business, and now writing. Everything I did in my past has helped develop and hone the skills I need for writing. I covered how sport helped already, but being in business helped me understand the commercial realities of publishing. It’s important to realize that publishing is a business. I also did a lot of travelling and this comes into my novels, both in The Harper Effect and the current manuscript I’m working on in which Jacob is in Vienna and London.
GR: How did you celebrate your first sale?
TB: I jumped around the room a lot, whooping and cheering. Then I phoned my mum. And then I got back to writing. I have a very fixed work day, because without that, it would be too easy to go for coffee, go shopping, sit by the pool and read. But that night, I did share a bottle of champagne with some friends.
GR: Do you have anything else in the works? Tell us about it!
TB: I’m writing a companion novel to The Harper Effect. It can be read out of order, so it’s not a follow up. My beta readers really wanted to know what happened to Jacob after The Harper Effect ended. So, this is his story. It’s set in the world of music, but still explores teens who go above and beyond the norm. Harper makes an appearance in one scene – unless she’s edited out before the publication date!
Thank you for visiting The Great Raven today, Taryn!
For anyone who would like to learn more, here are some links.
Author website: www.tarynbashford.com
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vs7zV9t8YPY