Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I am so pleased to introduce you to young adult author Tara Ross. I love authors who dig deep and write about hard topics, and Tara has done that with her latest release. One of my favorite parts of this interview is when she says that she loves reading books that are just oozing with Jesus – yes! What a perfect way to say that! I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did. Read on to see how you can enter to win a copy of her latest release.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Hello! My name is Tara K. Ross and I am the author the contemporary young adult novel, Fade to White. I have almost always lived in the suburbs of Toronto, but was born way up North in a pin-point town called Kapuskasing. I work as a school speech-language pathologist and mentor with local youth programs and am blessed with a ridiculously supportive family that grants me time to create stories which tackle the interplay of faith and mental health. When I’m not reading and writing all things young adult, you can find me rock climbing the Ontario escarpment, planning our family’s next jungle trek (for some time next decade) or podcasting as cohost of The Hope Prose Podcast.
Tell us about your current release. My debut novel, Fade to White, just released this past May 2020 through IlluminateYA/LPC Books. It explores tough topics like anxiety, self-harm and suicide through the perspective of a 16-year-old girl named Thea. Here is the back cover summary:
Thea Fenton’s life looks picture-perfect, but inside, she is disintegrating. Wracked by anxiety no one seems to understand or care about, she resorts to self-harm to deflect the pain inside.
When a local teen commits suicide, Thea’s anxiety sky-rockets. Unexplainable things happen, leaving her feeling trapped within her own chaotic mind. The lines between reality and another world start to blur, and her previously mundane issues seem more daunting and insurmountable than ever.
Then she meets Khi, a mysterious new boy from the coffee shop who seems to know her better than she knows herself—and doesn’t think she’s crazy. His quiet confidence and unfounded familiarity draw her into an unconventional friendship.
Khi journeys with her through grief, fear, and confusion to arrive at compassion for the one person Thea never thought she could love.
Have you always wanted to write a book? Nope! I am one of those strange cats who actually didn’t think she would ever write anything beyond professional assessment reports. I have always loved reading, from across genres and age groups. I fell in love with children’s books through my day job and have always participated in book clubs as an adult, but it was never one of my new year’s resolutions or bucket list items. When I had my first tiny human and my previous hobbies and volunteer commitments became difficult to maintain, I craved a new creative outlet that would also serve God and fell in love with writing.
What made you take the plunge and finally do it? At first, I thought that I wanted to write picture books, as this was my first love. I was extremely blessed to meet with a well-known Canadian author, Kathy Stinson, who gave me some brilliant advice. She suggested I try MG or YA, as that was the population I was the most familiar with from my volunteer and day job. She also suggested that I write about topics that I was passionate about and to enter writing competitions to help receive valuable critiques. That was all I needed to start. I wrote the first three chapters of Fade to White and entered into a Canadian writing competition for first-time writers, and won within my category. With the help of one of the judges, I then went on to write the rest of the book.
If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? Absolutely. I began writing Fade to White first as a creative outlet and then second as a form of self-healing and way to explore my own mental health and faith journey. As the story morphed into an entirely fictional journey for Thea, I realized how many teens own stories I was actually pulling on to create this one book. I can remember telling my husband, that it would all be worth it if I managed to have one young person read it and realize they were not alone within their own mental health struggles.
What do you think is lacking in Christian Fiction? I don’t know if it’s so much lacking in Christian Fiction as so much as young adult fiction in general. I would love to see stories that embrace a character’s faith as an integral part of their everyday life. Sometimes in Christian fiction, we get labeled as being clean, rather than faith-based. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading stories that avoid excessive language and sexual content as a personal preference, but I love stories that challenge me to think beyond myself to a worldview that is all-encompassing and so oozing with Jesus that even if His name is not directly referenced within a salvation prayer or confession scene, I know that He is there, impacting that character in ways that are transformational. I wish this type of transformation fiction could be found more frequently on regular old YA bookstore shelves.
How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher(or agent or audience if you self publish)? My writing is average, and I fully humble myself to this knowledge every time I send a draft to a critique partner or prepare the best version I can for my agent or editor. I am aware that I will always have room to improve and it is that realization that will prepare me to graciously accept feedback, to learn from award-winning novelists and to revise again and again and again. You will never improve in your craft if you are not bold enough to allow others into your process. And it is a process that can only improve with grace, grit and guts.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Finish that first draft. As painful as it may be to ignore all the other plot bunnies hopping through your mind, stick with one idea and work through all the story elements with that one concept. Writing a story from beginning to end is an education in itself, and even if it never makes it to publication, you will have figured out how to create believable three-dimensional characters, keep a plot moving forward, and discovered themes that you are passionate about sharing.
Here is where you can find Tara online:
Tara is giving away a copy of Fade to White to a reader! See below how to enter to win:a Rafflecopter giveaway