Saturday, December 30, 2017

GUESTOPIA: YA Author Taryn Bashford

Woohoo! It's the last GUESTOPIA of 2017! And we're going out with an explosion as we've invited an Aussie debut author to answer our questions. Here we go ...


At five year's old Taryn declared she would be an author. She’s been an English Literature Honours student, an advertising rep, a Media Sales Manager and a CEO of an internet company, but now she plans to write inspiring, engaging novels until the day she can no longer type--or no-one takes her seriously (whichever comes later). She’s also the creator of Jeans Teen Army, a campaign to address the seemingly universal feeling teens have about themselves -- that they're not good enough.

Is this your first published book?


What’s it called?

The Harper Effect

Which genre?

YA Contemporary

Which age group?

The marketers say 12 – 18, but I like to think no one’s too old to read this one, so 12 - 120

Is it a series or standalone?

It’s standalone, but there’s a companion novel about to be submitted.

Are you an agented author?

Yes – I’m with Curtis Brown in Australia, and Jill Grinberg Literary Management in the USA

Which publisher snapped up your book?

It’s two publishers for me 😊 Pan Macmillan in Australia/NZ and then Sky Pony Press in the USA/Canada and they’ll also distribute to the UK and all British Commonwealth countries.

How involved have you been in the whole publishing process of your book? 

I’ve only been involved in the editing process – which was very in depth. And then I was able to put in my book cover preferences and have a say in that too. I was pretty lucky. I have worked on a lot of publicity for the novel too.

Do you have another job?

Not anymore. I used to run a media recruitment consultancy, and before that, I was the CEO of an internet company connected to a TV station in the UK, a bit like NineMSN. I’ve mainly worked in advertising, but I’ve also been a nanny, a chalet chef, and a freelance writer.

Did you receive many, if any, rejections prior?

Oh yes. Many. But each time I got a rejection, I took on board the advice/feedback and improved my manuscript. Then after several months, in a period of 2 weeks, I suddenly had 2 agents and very soon after that, a publisher. So never give up – that’s a really tired phrase, isn’t it? Maybe this is more accurate: always give 100%, have faith in your book, and never lose hope.

What created/what were you doing or watching when the first idea for this book sneaked up on you

That’s a long story. I actually wrote the first draft of this novel when I was 14. It was called Proud Now Ma? and focussed on playing tennis to please the parents. My brother was a tennis player on the international circuit, and I was training for the Olympics. I got to wondering about teens who surpass the norm in an activity, and decided to look into this topic. But the novel then spent some time in a trunk when I emigrated to England, and then again 20 years later to Australia. I was writing, but I was writing adult novels – and not finishing them. I had a stressful career in the world of media, and getting published got lost in all that. But at least I kept writing. I finally began writing full time five years ago, and the first re-draft of the novel was actually an MG. It was re-named BELIEVE. It was pretty awful. I had the voice all wrong. An agent said she didn’t like anything about it. The problem was I hadn’t done my research into this market – I’d been reading adult novels. The poor manuscript got top-drawered while I researched the market. It was Susanne Gervay’s, That’s Why I Wrote this Song that got me hooked on YA. After reading her book, I knew that had I read her book when I was 15, it would’ve helped with some dad issues I was facing as a teen. I knew then that I wanted to write books for teens, to be that helping hand, or that metaphorical hug, they might be in search of inside a book. I wrote three other YA novels (unpublished) before I got back to what is now The Harper Effect, and by then I’d read over 200 YA novels. It really helped!

How long did you plot/plan until you started writing it?

If I think back to the re-write from MG to YA, not long at all. I fixed on a scene with Colt in my head and just sat down and wrote.

Once you started, did the story flow naturally or did you have to step in and wrestle it into submission?

I wrote the first draft in about 2 weeks. I tend to writer feverishly when in the early stages, about 18 hours a day. I believe they call it the vomit draft! I am happy – and lucky – to say that I’ve never had writer’s block. I think that’s because I write the first draft so quickly. I find that I’m so absorbed in it that the characters take over the story and I’m just writing down what they want me to say. In fact, I need to learn to type faster!

How many drafts did you write before you let someone read it? Who was that someone?

At least 6. That someone(s) was my writer’s critique group called SWiG (it’s a long story but we swigged on tea more than anything else). I find that I write the first draft quite accurately in terms of structure – surely down to all that reading. Then with each draft I focus on one thing so there are always lots of drafts. i.e. the pace/plot, the characters, the layering of themes, the subplot, dialogue and so on.

Did you employ an editor/proofreader or did you have a critique partner/beta readers before you started querying?

I never did employ an editor/proofreader. I find I’m a pretty good editor, but I did have my critique group as well as online CPs – for this book about 12 in total – to highlight convoluted sentences or issues with pace/character.

Roughly how many drafts did it take before you sent the manuscript off into the real world?

Probably 8.

How many drafts until it was published?

The publisher took me through a big structural edit, then two more nitty gritty edits. I thought we’d take out wordcount, but we actually added about 8k words – to deepen a plot point.

Has the book changed dramatically since the first draft?

Since the first draft when I was 14? Yes, absolutely. It went from an MG to a YA and the sisters were twins back then. But from the time I began writing it again five years ago? Not so much. It’s pretty much the same story, but certain areas have been improved – for instance the Purple Woods weren’t in that first draft. It was more about adding depth.

Are there any parts you’d like to change even now?

Don’t get me started…I think every writer will say that each time they read a draft they can see something they’d change.

What part of writing do you find the easiest?

The first draft. I love that stage. It’s like being in a whirlwind, but a good one. It’s exciting and I’m meeting new characters and wondering what’s going to happen. Yes, I’m a pantser.

What part do you find hardest?

The waiting. Even after you have a book contract, there’s a lot of waiting on edits, waiting on publication dates, and book covers and so on. I love all the edit stages as each time I re-draft I can feel the story tightening and clarifying and at the proofreading stage it then feels like a ‘real’ book..

Do you push through writing barriers or walk away?

Once I have that first draft down, which always happens before I can get stuck, the pressure is off so there are no barriers or blocks. However, if I’m then contemplating a way to improve or change something and can’t reach the answer, I go to bed thinking about the issue. Without fail, I’ll wake in the early hours and in that half asleep/half awake few minutes, the solution comes to me. I get up and write. 4 am is my favourite writing time, when the world is still and calm and it feels like it’s just me and my keyboard on the planet.

How many projects do you have on the go at the same time?

One. Always one. I get so involved and my mind is so taken up with the novel I’m writing, that I always stay with one project until it’s finished. The plots will expand and layer up, the characters will deepen, as I go about my day – cooking dinner, showering, going for a bike ride, swimming…it’s in those moments that some great creative moments can hit me.

I’ve had to adapt now though, because while I’m receiving edits for The Harper Effect, they interrupt the project I’m working on – the next book. That’s been a new struggle because I dislike being pulled out of a story mid-draft.

Do you think you’re born with the talent to write or do you think it can be learned?

I think you’re born with the qualities you need to write – a love of writing, reading and words and the ability to see stories in everything – and that you’re born with the qualities you need to get published – determination, tenacity, a thick-skin, self-belief, a strong work ethic, and intrinsic motivation. But the actual writing can be learned. I can prove that: when I look at draft one five years ago, compared to three years later (after writing 3 more novels, attending workshops, working with mentors and critique partners, reading the books in my market), the book I re-wrote was so much better.

Some say you can teach people to love reading, but it’s not been my experience. With both my children, from the day they were born, I read to them, and then we read together as they grew older, and then we shared my king-sized bed while we all read our own books before bedtime. Today my daughter treats reading like slow torture, while her younger brother loves to read. Go figure.

How many future novels do you have planned?

Two more planned that are linked to The Harper Effect, but they’re not a series. They’re companion novels. And each time I get an idea for a new novel I grab a hardback A4 lined workbook (a hangover from my teens), and write down the idea/scene that comes to me. I may add a few more thoughts and character descriptions as time goes by. I currently have 36 of these books. I think I should’ve started writing earlier in my life!

Do you write other things, such as short stories, articles, blogs, etc?

I don’t write any other fiction items, but I have written articles and have my own blog on

What’s the highlight of being published so far?

Having someone else believe in me, and love my story and characters as much as I do. Writing is a lonely occupation!

Give me one writing tip that worked for you.

Write every day. Everyone’s heard this gem, but it’s because it’s true. It keeps writer’s block at bay, it keeps that creative pathway flowing with ideas, it ensures your characters keep talking to you, it helps you write the story on a deeper level because it’s so much a part of your psyche that the writing almost becomes a subconscious act. This is most true of the first draft, and I’d get up at early-o-clock to write on weekends and write at night to fit in family time. It’s less important on later drafts, or when you’re editing. I also have a separate writing room as I find my creative brain turns on in there. When I sit at my desk in the office, where I manage emails and the minutiae of life, my creative brain goes splat.

And one that doesn't.

Drinking umpteen cups of coffee does not enable you to keep writing all night. But seriously…many writers put their books in a bottom drawer for several months claiming that it needs space and distance. I find that three weeks is enough space. Any longer, and I lose touch with where my headspace was with the story. More importantly, if you’re writing your next book for a publisher, there’s no way there’s time to leave it for a few months. Best get into the discipline of not doing that.

Can you give us a clue or secret about the next book?

Sure thing. I’m about to submit the second book that Pan Macmillan contracted – in the same month that the first book is published. The second book is a companion novel to The Harper Effect. The Harper Effect tells Harper’s story, and the second book tells her neighbour, Jacob’s story. The third companion novel will probably be Aria’s story (Harper’s sister). They’re not meant to be read in any order.

What question have you always wanted to be asked but never have? What would the answer be?

Question: So getting your novel published is a dream come true, but do you haven any other dreams you’re chasing?

Answer: Yes. Seeing my novel adapted into a film is my next dream. To see my story and my characters come to life on the big screen, and to be involved in that process, is something that really excites me. If I weren’t a writer, I’d want to be a movie star – but I’m a terrible actress (I mean really awful), so I’ll have to stick to being behind the scenes.

Fantastic! Thank you, Taryn, for joining us today and for your insightful answers. It's so good to share other authors' journeys. We wish you heaps of luck with The Harper Effect and her companion novels. 

If you would like to follow Taryn on her journey or purchase your copy of The Harper Effect, these links should help! 


And that's it! Happy New Year, YAtopians! I can't wait to bring you more author interviews in 2018!

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