Tell us about Because of You, what inspired you to write this book?
Because of You was inspired by a few years I spent volunteering with a creative writing program in a homeless shelter in Darlinghurst, Sydney. The time I spent with the writers in the group was so inspiring, and showed me the power of stories to build confidence, spark friendships and fostetr communication.
What are the main themes you explore in Because of You, and why did you choose to focus on those themes specifically?
Because of You explores themes of identity, friendship, hope, acceptance and belonging. It also examines the power of words, the cathartic experience of sharing stories and the importance of being heard. It focuses on the homeless experience and its many challenges.
I specifically wanted to focus on the healing powers of storytelling in Because of You, as I had seen how beneficial it was to the homeless writers I worked with to share their experiences through stories, poems, songs and other writing. I knew this book needed to have at its heart the life changing friendship of Tiny and Nola. I wanted these teenage girls from very different backgrounds and circumstances to find common ground and develop a real and lasting friendship that transcended their current life circumstances. Even though the story is at times gritty and confronting, there needed to be a strong sense of hope for the characters.
Diversity and inclusivity, why are these topics so important to you and in YA writing in general?
As an author for young adults I look to highlight a range of different voices and experiences in my novels by including characters from different races, cultures, social groups, sexual orientations and abilities. Diversity and inclusivity are especially important in YA, because all young people have a right to see themselves accurately represented in the books they read. Diverse books also offer a place for young readers to gain empathy, insight and knowledge about different experiences.
Tell us about your main characters Tiny and Nola, was it a difficult process to find and refine their individual voices?
Tiny is 18, homeless and has been sleeping rough for many months. She has lost touch with her family and everything she used to be. Nola is 17, studying for her HSC and forced into completing at least 20 days of community service in a homeless shelter writing group. The girls meet during the writing program, and their friendship changes both their lives.
Refining Tiny and Nola’s voices was one of the biggest challenges of writing Because of You. Initially, Nola came off as too whiny and spoilt and early readers didn’t relate to her as well as Tiny. I had to make Nola more relatable and strong. I also had to work on making their voices distinct through subtle language differences and making sure they didn’t use the same words and phrases.
What do you hope readers of Because of You will take away from your book?
I want readers to be left with hope and happy tears in their eyes; realising that humans are kind and do look out for those who are struggling and that, with the right support, it’s possible to pick yourself up after falling over. I also hope readers will have more empathy and understanding for the homeless community and other marginalised groups.