Author Interview: Tahlia Newland
Award winning author Tahlia Newland writes contemporary fantasy and magical realism with a metaphysical twist.
When not reading, writing, reviewing or mentoring authors you may find her being an extremely casual high school teacher or making decorative masks. Tahlia began writing full time in 2008 after twenty years in the performing arts and a five-year stint as a creative and performing arts teacher in a High School. In 2012, she set up the Awesome Indies List to showcase quality independent fiction. She has had extensive training in meditation and Buddhist philosophy and lives in an Australian rainforest south of Sydney. Creativity is her middle name!
Stephanie: Hello, Tahlia! Congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion! That is great news! Please tell me about your book, “You Can’t Shatter me.”
Tahlia: Hi Stephanie, thanks for having me over.
You Can’t Shatter Me is magical realism, so it’s like a contemporary fiction but with very extended metaphors. Many readers say that the main characters have a great imagination, for others it’s like a cross between contemporary fiction and urban fantasy. So, it’s different in style to most YA books.
It’s about a couple of sixteen-year-olds, a girl, Carly, and a boy, Dylan. The girl steps in to save another kid from a bully, but the bully turns on her and starts hassling her. Dylan takes a stand with her, and that begins a relationship between them. The rest of the story is about them trying to find a way to handle the situation without Dylan punching the guy. The story deals with the emotional struggles of the two in their budding romance and their daily life as teens as well as with the bully.
Stephanie: Is there a message you want your readers to grasp?
Tahlia: The message is one of empowerment, that you can make yourself strong by learning to stay calm and clear (through the practice of mediation) and by taking a compassionate view of the situation. There are informal mediation instructions in the story as well as more formally in an appendix, so in some ways it’s a self-help book written as a novel.
Stephanie: There is a problem with bullying in school-everywhere in fact. Was there a particular situation that happen to inspired you to write this story?
Tahlia: I’m a high school teacher as well as an author and I have seen enough bullying to give me plenty of material to work with. I’ve also used the ideas in the book to help kids to handle bullying, and they’re very effective. A large part of the reason I wanted to write a book like this was to share these methods. I use analogies to help kids to remember an effective way to handle a situation and these form the magical elements in the book.
The worst bullying episode in the story is based on an actual event.
You Can’t Shatter Me
Stephanie: What are the challenges to writing in the Young-Adult genre?
Tahlia: Getting the teen-speak right. Luckily my daughter checks everything and soon tells me if I’ve written something that a teen would never say. I think that some authors have trouble with making the characters real; some of them come across as an older person’s idea of what a teen is like rather than what a teen is actually like, but I don’t think I have that problem because I’ve been surrounded by so many teens that I do know what they’re like. At the same time, it’s hard to satisfy every reader in this, because there’s a wide variety of levels of maturity in kids at any age, so what seems right for me for the age may seem young for someone else. My characters are quite innocent, but that’s not unusual for sixteen-year-olds where I live.
Stephanie: How long did it take to write your story?
Tahlia: About 6 months
Stephanie: What is the current book project you are working on?
Tahlia: I’ve just published Demon’s Grip, book three in the Diamond Peak Series, and am working on the fourth book for that series. I hope to have out at the end of September. This series is a contemporary fantasy, but some also call it magical realism because much of it as an analogy for a person’s path of self-development and in this case emotional maturity. The big question in the first book, Lethal Inheritance, is how do you kill a demon that feeds on fear?
Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?
Tahlia: An author friend of mine posted something on Facebook that said she’d won a BRAG medallion so I looked it up.
Stephanie: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Tahlia: Don’t be in a rush to publish. I advise everyone to try the traditional route for their first book because it makes you wait, and if you read lots of other books and don’t look at your ms for several months while you’re waiting to hear back, then when you look at it again, you’ll find lots of ways to improve it. An absolute must buy for all fiction authors is ‘Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
Stephanie: What is your favorite quote?
Tahlia: ‘Be spacious.’ It’s from the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche.
Stephanie: Thank you, Tahlia!