Hey all! As you might know, the Sydney Writers’ Festival’s All-Day-YA sessions were yesterday. If you were like me and unfortunately couldn’t make it — or are based interstate — then you’re in for a treat.
I have the lovely Jenna Guillaume on the blog today, answering some questions that I’ve been dying to ask. From first fandoms to the trope she hates the most.
Read on to find out more!
Hi Jenna! For those that don’t know you, can you share a bit about yourself and your debut novel, ‘What I Like About Me’?
What I Like About Me is a YA rom-com about an insecure teen called Maisie who learns to love herself over the course of one very big Australian summer. It’s my first novel, but I’ve been writing for years, first at Girlfriend magazine, then BuzzFeed, and now as a freelancer. Like Maisie, I’m obsessed with pop culture and movies – especially love stories.
What inspired you to write a YA novel?
I began my career at a teen magazine, which really shaped my voice and interests. As an editor there, I would constantly get letters from girls who were worried about their bodies, or having problems with friends, or getting embarrassed around their crushes, or were worried about their parents. I really wanted to explore these themes in fiction in a realistic and hopefully relatable way. I’ve always turned to books to feel less alone in the world and to have fun, and I hope my writing does that for someone else.
At SWF’s All-Day YA festival, you joined a group of talented authors at a session called ’To All the Fandoms I’ve Loved Before’. Can you tell us about the first fandom that you were obsessed with, and how it’s impacted your life?
The first fandom I was obsessed with was Dawson’s Creek. It was the very early days of the internet, and it was all about discussion forums. I’d log on daily to a site that, I’m ashamed to admit now, was called I Hate Jen. At the time that character was really disliked, and I was a part of that fandom hate, but since then she’s become one of my fave characters of all time. Anyway, I was mainly there for the fanfiction.
Sometimes YA sets really unrealistic expectations. What’s the one trope that makes you bolt the other way? Or simply roll your eyes at because it’s so farfetched?
I hate really possessive male characters, and stories that romanticise jealousy and co-dependence. I think this has gotten a lot better over the years, but I avoid it in general.
Body positivity and the celebration of everyone’s differences are so important in literature today. How do you foresee the #OwnVoices movement changing the YA community in five years time?
What I hope the #OwnVoices movement achieves is the elevation of minority voices, no matter who or what they are writing about. There’s still a lot of work to be done in this area.
One word that describes the Australian YA community?
What are you reading right now?
I just finished The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta, which was wonderful, and have Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte and Making Friends with Alice Dyson by Poppy Nwosu at the top of my TBR.