Tuesday, 16 August 2016

YA Shot Tour With Maria

Hi everyone, 

This particular blog has been in the planning for months, I can't thank the team YA Shot enough for this opportunity and Chelley. I have been reading many YA Authors who live in the US for most of my life and I am even ashamed to admit that I could not even name any UK authors *hides*. But that is all about to change thanks to this tour, today I have the lovely Maria Farrer, please welcome her with open bookworm arms (did I just make up a word? Yes. Does it make any sense? Nope)

An exclusive interview with the lovely Maria...

1. First of all, introduce yourself …

Firstly, a huge thank you to the amazing Aneesa for hosting me on this YA Shot Blog Tour and to everyone who is supporting the wonderful and inspiring event that is YA Shot.

My name is Maria Farrer and I have been writing YA books and books for younger readers for a few years now. My fascination in YA has always been with the complex layers of psychology that play a part in any ‘real-life’ story. What makes us who we are? How are we affected by those around us and how do we affect them? During YA Shot I will be running a workshop on researching and writing sensitive subjects and will be highlighting how important it is to know ourselves and where we stand in relation to the various characters in a story (whether we be writers or readers).

I was catapulted into A Flash of Blue in a moment of gut-wrenching anxiety as I watched an ambulance overtake me on the M1. It was a race against time, I knew. Inside the ambulance was my 16-year-old nephew and his heart had stopped working. Later he suggested I should write the story of what happened to him - but I knew I couldn’t. It would have been too personal. That said, his story inspired and informed A Flash of Blue in many ways. So I’m going to dive in and tell you a bit about a couple of the characters and give some insight into why this was such an important book for me to write. I will try to avoid too many spoilers!

… and tell us a little bit about Amber (for those who haven’t read Maria’s books including me!)

Amber is an amazing girl - more amazing that she’ll ever know or give herself credit for. But things happen in life which knock you sideways, which smash the air out of your body and send you crashing into a place that you never imagined you would find yourself. Grief is one of those things — grief and guilt and fear and loneliness. And when you hit rock-bottom, the hardest part is finding the courage to claw your way back to some kind of normality and begin to live again. Amber is 16 at the start of the book and nearly 18 by the end. During those two years her world is tipped on its head — but it’s not ready to give up on her, nor she on it. She is very human, very fallible, but very strong.

2. What was it like to write a character like Amber?

Emotional! I knew her very well, right from the start, and it was demanding to live through her experiences with her. There were times when I wanted to scream at her, “Noooooo,” or force her to change direction, or just hug her and tell her everything would be OK. But it wouldn't have worked. There was a lot of Amber’s story that needed to happen for her life to move on. There was a lot of healing to be done, both for Amber and for her family and friends. In many ways, what happened to Amber was the catalyst that set that process in motion. It probably wasn’t the story she would have chosen for herself — but there are some choices we’re not given in life.

3. Based on your personal experience, did you find the process of writing this particular story difficult?

Moments of it — yes, definitely — actually more than I had anticipated. But in a work of fiction, it is never your own experience you are writing about,it is the experience of the characters you have created. Everything is passed through a fictional filter. Personal experience can inform a story, but it cannot BE the story. That said, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that there were times when I felt emotionally exposed when writing this particular book. Having lost my own brother in a tragic accident when he was 14, I could relate quite closely to certain characters and events.
On the plus side, the inspiration for this story came from a rash promise I made to my nephew when he was waiting for a his heart transplant. He’s now happy and healthy and I kept my promise - good result!

4.  How would you say writing this book helped you? Was it therapeutic?

No, not therapeutic. Interesting though — particularly all the research into the Youth Justice System and restorative justice. I heard so many real stories, many of them deeply moving and not all of them with the happy ending I would have liked to have given them. Writing this book made me realise how easy it is for anyone - anyone - to get caught in a downward spiral. I have huge respect for young people who manage to turn their lives around, often against all the odds. Sometimes all it takes is a moment of kindness and understanding from someone along the way — someone to give them back some self-respect and self-belief and to show them that things can be different.

5. How would you describe Amber and Tyler in one word?

AMBER: Superstitious
TYLER:  Insecure

6. What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood?

AMBER: Finding the ‘lucky’ stone with a hole on the beach with my brother.
TYLER: Getting his first guitar. Ever since he started teaching himself to play, it’s been his means of escape.

7. Most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to Amber?

Ran to school one day with running tights under shorts. Unfortunately forgot to take undies so ended up wearing shorts under school uniform all day - not ideal as skirt is short and quite tight. Stupid but felt really self-conscious.😊

8. What is in Amber’s opinion her greatest achievement?

The success of her organ donor campaign - best feeling in the world.

9.  Was there ever a defining point for your characters? (so if fear was living their life, the moment they decided to stop letting that happen)

For Amber it was her restorative justice conference. It was the start of getting her life back on track.

Tyler: Hundreds of them. Liam dying, for sure. But perhaps being badly beaten up made him realise that something had to change. After that there was nothing much left to lose and, in a sense, that gave him the freedom to try to regain control of his life.

10. Where do you see your characters in 10 years?

Quite early on Amber sets her heart on becoming a paediatric intensive care nurse and she’ll pursue that ambition, I’m certain. She’ll be the first to admit that she has a few hangups and that life isn’t all easy. For a start, she’ll always try to avoid living in a ground-floor flat and I think she’ll always hold back on meaningful relationships. Her fear of loss is very powerful.

Tyler turns his life around and never looks back. He and school never really mixed, but post school he gets it together and goes through intermediate and advanced apprenticeship schemes ending up as a lighting technician in a theatre in London. He’ll remain committed to helping kids going through a rough time and will probably volunteer in various mentoring roles. I’m pretty certain he’ll keep running as he’ll need an outlet for his enormous energy. He’ll become a very strong character who is comfortable with himself and others.

Rapid Fire with Tyler and Amber

1. Morning or night person

Tyler: Night
Amber: Morning

2. What did you have for breakfast today?

Tyler: Don’t do breakfast. Coffee though - always coffee.
Amber: Granola with fruit.

3. What foods do you dislike?

Tyler: Yogurt (is that how you spell it?).
Amber: Scrambled Eggs. Blue cheese (YUCK). Cooked carrots.

4. What are your pet peeves?

Tyler:  Casual prejudice
Amber:  People who complain a lot but never do anything about it.

5. Chris Hemsworth or Chris Evans?

Tyler: Chris Hemsworth
Amber: Neither

6. Favourite superhero

Tyler: Quicksilver from  X-Men
Amber: Black Widow from The Avengers

7. Every person needs……… (fill in the blank)

Tyler: caffeine
Amber: To learn to ask for help … oh yes, and cake

8. One item currently obsessed with:

Tyler: New Senheisser headphones
Amber: Hmmmm … possibly the new charity shop down the road — has masses of cool vintage stuff in it.

9. Favourite place to travel

Tyler: Really want to go to LA one day
Amber:  Dorset Coast (happy and sad memories)

10. What are you most afraid of

Tyler: Hospitals - hate ‘em.
Amber: Being home alone.

That's not all folks, GIVEAWAYS is what needs to happen! And we hear you, there is a chance for 2 of you to win SIGNED copies of A Flash of Blue! Don't forget to enter and share this wonderful news! Best of all this giveaway is international, ends on 12th September. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy reading!

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  1. The reviews for this say it's a beautiful book and that is will make me cry... sold!! Need to read it now!

  2. There have been some fantastic reviews for this book. Can't wait to get my hands on a copy!

    1. Thank you for entering, I hope you enjoy the book once you do get it!

  3. Just reading the summary of this book makes me want to read it! I'm a fan of books when the MC life falls apart and then somehow they are able to turn things around. Looking forward to reading this book!!!

    1. I am starting to get into those books too, I hope you enjoy it! :)