The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Tess Sharpe

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Tess Sharpe


Summary: Robert thought that Far From You by Tess Sharpe was very difficult to review without giving away too much of the plot - but he had lots of questions ready when the author popped in to see us.
Date: 27 March 2014
Interviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James

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Robert thought that Far From You by Tess Sharpe was very difficult to review without giving away too much of the plot - but he had lots of questions ready when the author popped in to see us.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Tess Sharpe: I see teenagers. They are why I got into writing YA. Their struggles, their secrets, their joys, it’s all so intense and can be very painful. Books ease that pain. It’s nice to be a part of that.

  • BB: Far From You is your debut - which I'm still finding hard to believe, given how good it is! What are you most looking forward to about being a published author?

TS: Talking to the teen readers, definitely! I love talking with people about books in general. Reading and taste is such a subjective thing, it’s always so cool to hear what works—or doesn’t--for one person, and how they see a book.

  • BB: And is there anything you're nervous about?

TS: Public speaking! I sound like a stereotypical California Girl. Totally!

  • BB: I have so many embarrassing stories about reading on public transport I could write my own book about them, but one of the worst was probably struggling to find my way off a bus as there were so many tears streaming down my face after finishing Far From You. What's the most embarrassing thing related to books and/or public transport that you've ever done?

TS: Aw, I’m sorry I made you cry!

When I was ten, my mom bought BARREL FEVER by David Sedaris. I could hear my parents cackling all the way through reading it, but when I asked for it, she said “No.” (to Mom’s credit, most of the stories in Barrel Fever are not appropriate for a 10-year-old). So naturally, I needed to read it even more after that. She’d never told me I couldn’t read something before!

So I stole the book while she was sleeping and hid it in my room. But I knew my sister would rat me out if she saw me reading it (we shared a room), so I’d sneak it into the bathroom, lock myself in, and read.

The problem is, even if the stories weren’t terribly appropriate for a ten year old, they were still really funny, and my laughter coming from the bathroom drew my mom’s attention.

When I refused to open the door (I had the book! Where to hide it?!) she got my dad to unscrew the doorknob, and there I was, clutching BARREL FEVER, still red-faced, part from laughter, part from fear. I totally thought I’d be grounded.

Mom just shrugged and said, “Well, if you’re that determined to read it...”

I’m still a huge David Sedaris fan, even though I no longer have to lock myself in the bathroom now.

  • BB: And tying into that last question, has a book ever made you cry uncontrollably? If so, what was the last one?

TS: I cry all the time. Over books, cat food commercials, if I’m happy. It’s a thing.

But the last book to make me ugly cry for hours is the upcoming WORDS AND THEIR MEANINGS by Kate Bassett (It’s out in the US on September 8.) Kate’s work is very emotional, but also sometimes it’s just so beautiful, writing-craft wise, you cry because she has such an exquisite turn of phrase. I’m very lucky I get to see her work in manuscript form before anyone else does!

  • BB: One of the hardest-hitting things about Far From You for me was the stunning portrayal of Sophie and Mina's relationship. Who are some of your other favourite fictional pairings - either friendships or romances?

TS: That’s so nice of you! My favorites include:

Mia and Lilly in THE PRINCESS DIARIES by Meg Cabot. Love their friendship. Love how it changes and even breaks sometimes throughout the series.

Reena and Sawyer in HOW TO LOVE by Katie Cotugno. Such a complicated pair! Their love is flawed, like them. There’s a lot of anger, and redemption and forgiveness in this book, and I love all these things.

Aileana and Gavin in THE FALCONER by Elizabeth May. As much as I love Aileana and her smoking hot tension with a certain faery, Aileana’s friendship with the human Seer Gavin really draws me in. I like that they’ve known each other for years, but have kept these huge parts of themselves a secret—a great parallel for the attitudes of the day between men and women. I like that their friendship is bonded together by those secrets, and by the things that make them other.

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen. I mean, who doesn’t love them? Elizabeth refuses to compromise herself or her ideals, and Darcy has to learn all about compromise, because his ideals are gross and elitist. Also he proposes very badly at first. (Don’t ever propose that way, y’all. Bad, bad idea).

  • BB: I'm not the biggest fan of split timeline stories but loved the way you used flashbacks to show us Sophie's past, her problems with drug addiction, and developing romance. It seems like writing so many flashbacks at various points in Sophie's life would take huge amounts of planning - did you spend a long time working out the order before you started actually writing?

TS: Thank you! I actually had a weird experience with FAR FROM YOU in that I didn’t write anything down in an outline. I spent a month contemplating the paragraph that the entire book stemmed from and why everyone was so sad, and I spent a lot of time thinking about Sophie’s life before and after Mina’s murder, and then I just started writing. It was the most bizarre writing experience of my life. It’ll likely never happen again. Drafting it was pretty straightforward. Revising it was almost impossible, because most of the flashbacks couldn’t move! But I figured it out, slow but sure.

  • BB: I know that you studied theatre at university. What was the best role you ever played?

TS: Probably Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. But the corset and wig were a pain. I kept tripping over the dress during the dancing scenes.

  • BB: What was the last thing you Googled?

TS: I’m researching belay devices right now for rock climbing. I don’t climb—I’m such a klutz I would fall and kill myself—but there may be a character in my new book who does.

  • BB: What's next for Tess Sharpe?

TS: I am working on my second book. I can’t really say much, but it’s about two best friends who are more like sisters, and the choices you face when someone loves you enough to die—or kill—for you.

  • BB: Thanks for talking to us, Tess. There's lots for us to look forward to there.

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