XY, a new YA novel exploring biological influences: An interview with author Shanta Everington
Your name: Shanta Everington
The title of your book (please include the publisher, genre and buy link):
XY, young adult dystopian novel, Red Telephone Books (an imprint of Bridge House Publishing)
How long have you been a writer?
It all depends on what you count as 'being a writer'... My debut novel, Marilyn and Me was published in 2006 but, of course, I was writing for a long while before that!
What was your biggest obstacle in getting your book published and how did you overcome it?
Getting a debut novel published is always tricky. I had a literary agent when I finished Marilyn and Me, and the book received lots of 'rave rejections' from mainstream publishers, but things didn't work out. After having the book rejected from mainstream publishing houses, I started submitted to smaller presses and literary competitions. Marilyn and Me was shortlisted for the Cinnamon Press First Novel Award, and although it didn't win, it was taken on by Cinnamon.
How did you end up getting your newest book published?
XY was the joint winner of the Red Telephone Books YA Novel Competition run by Bridge House Publishing. Winning the competition led to publication. My debut poetry chapbook, Drowning in Cherryade, also reached publication after winning a competition (with US publisher, Bedouin Books). Similarly, I have had short stories placed in competitions... So, I guess you could say that I am a fan of writing competitions! I think they are a great springboard for writers seeking publication.
How did you get the idea for your book?
Jesse's story in XY came out of my fascination with the question: What does it mean to be male or female? Is gender identity biologically, psychologically or socially constructed? Writing helps me unravel questions and make sense of the world. Often several unconnected threads come together to form an idea for a book.
When I became a parent, I was shocked at how much gender stereotyping still exists. You can't walk into a children's store without being bombarded with pink for girls and blue for boys. Why shouldn't my sons wear pink tutus or play with dolls? Why, as a society, do we tend to see this in a different way from girls wearing trousers and playing with fire engines?
I read an article about scientists' discovery that 'blended gender' in fish was linked to contaminants in the water, including pesticides, household laundry detergent and shampoo, and many pharmaceuticals. This led me to wonder what would happen if we lived in a world where humans were born with indeterminate biological sex. And Jesse's story was born...
What is the most important lesson you have learned as an author?
I have learned that determination, perseverance and flexibility are of the utmost importance if you want to be published.
What genres do you write in? If more than one, how do you balance them?
I write fiction for adults and young adults, novels and short stories, poetry, non-fiction and articles. For me, being creative is about having the freedom to experiment with different forms and audiences. My next big project will be life writing.
What are some of your other books we might want to check out?
I have published seven books - literary novel, Marilyn and Me (Cinnamon Press), young adult novels, Give Me a Sign (Flame Books), Boy Red (as S D Everington, Musa Publishing Euterpe) and XY (Red Telephone Books), poetry chapbook, Drowning in Cherryade (Bedouin Books) and parenting books, Baby’s First Year and The Terrible Twos (Need2Know Books). I also have stories and poetry in various anthologies including Seeking Refuge (Cinnamon Press), Mosaic (Bridge House Publishing), Even More Tonto Short Stories (Tonto) and Unthology No. 2 (Unthank Books).
What else do you do besides write books?
I currently work as an Associate Lecturer with the Open University in London, teaching creative writing. I am also a mother to two young boys.
It’s common knowledge that writers are also readers. What kind of books do you like to read?
I read widely across fiction, non-fiction and poetry. At the moment, I am reading biography and autobiography. I enjoy life stories such as Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters and Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay.
Do you read books in the same genre you are currently writing in? Why or why not?
My latest books have been young adult fiction and yes, I've read a lot of young adult fiction. But I write – and also read - in various genres. I am currently immersing myself in life writing, as this is going to be the focus of my next big project (after the sequel to XY).
What can we expect to see from you next?
The sequel to XY will hopefully be next. In the future, you should also expect to see life writing.
What is your advice to a writer trying to get a book published?
Get editorial feedback from a range of readers, redraft as many times as you need to in order to get your writing to the best possible standard and then submit widely. If at first you get rejected, take a look at any comments, rework where necessary and try again. Don't give up!
Bio: Shanta Everington is the author of seven books with small presses. She has had all sorts of jobs in the past, from baking vegan muffins and working as a private tutor to appearing as a guest agony aunt and running a teen sexual health helpline. With an MA in Creative Writing with distinction, Shanta currently teaches Creative Writing with The Open University. She lives in London, UK, with her husband and two children.
Publisher website: http://www.trtpublishing.co.uk/xy.html
Author website: www.shantaeverington.co.uk
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/XY-Shanta-Everington/dp/1907335323/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403088848&sr=8-1&keywords=9781907335327
Amazon USA: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1P1RPU
Goodreads page: www.goodreads.com/author/show/1419856.Shanta_Everington
Fifteen-year-old Jesse lives in a society where babies are born neither male nor female - Compulsory Gender Assignment is carried out at birth. Will the secret she closely guards be found out? Boyfriend Zeus, mother Ana’s Natural Souls, and new friend Ork, leader of We Are One, pull Jesse in different directions, forcing her to make her own mind up about who she really is.