Published by Penguin Random House on July 31, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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Seventeen-year-old Iliad Piper – Ily for short – is named after war and angry at the world. Growing up with a violent father and abused mother, she doesn’t know how to do relationships, family or friends. Her love-hate friendship with Max turns into a prank war and she nearly destroys her first true friendship with misfit Mia. She takes off her armour for nobody, until she meets Jared, a local actor and someone who's as complicated as she is.
Today I’m participating in the blog tour of The Build-Up Season, a new LoveOzYA book that will be released next week by Penguin Random House Australia. I think the author provided some honest, thoughtful answers below and I hope you enjoy reading it!
1. What was your inspiration behind The Build-Up Season?
I work at the ABC in TV news and the number or stories we ran on women killed by their partners really disturbed me, and the Rosie Batty story especially affected me. Later, we ran a story about how women between the ages of 18 and 23 are twice as likely as their older peers to be in an abusive relationship. This struck me as significant because most DV narratives we hear involve older women. In my early 20s I was in a relationship with a guy who I’d now consider abusive, he was controlling, jealous and sometimes physically violent, but I didn’t think it was DV because he ‘only’ pushed me so I’d fall, but he didn’t punch me.
When speaking to friends, I was shocked by how many had similar stories. We accepted the behaviour because we didn’t have enough experience to understand the relationships were unhealthy and women are raised to believe that it’s romantic when guys get jealous (Edward Cullen is not a good role model). I wanted to take this idea and flip it on its head and show young women that controlling, co-dependent and jealous behaviour isn’t romantic, cool or acceptable.
I also wanted to show how the issue isn’t black and white. Sometimes you don’t stay out of fear, sometimes you stay out of love. Sometimes abusers can be really nice. Sometimes abuse doesn’t show itself as black eyes or broken bones. However, I wanted to show the early warning signs of abuse, and to show how those behaviours can ‘build up’ and how they can escalate to violence.
2. How did the writing process differ between Yellow and The Build-Up Season?
With both books I started with the characters, sitting with them and listening until they told me their stories. I’d write notes with sentences or imagery which I thought embodied the tone of the books, then I’d plot out the key scenes. Once all this had been done, I then started writing. The major difference was that I was a bit more confident while writing The Build-Up Season, because I’d had experience writing a novel, and the knowledge that I’d done it before helped me keep going in the moments when I doubted myself.
3. Iliad is a character who has a traumatic past, and she’s got a lot of anger to work through. Was it difficult creating her character, who is often unlikable at times?
I really loved writing her, and I think she’s really likeable! I’m totally fine with some audiences not liking her, because we all have our own opinions, but I do think the word ‘unlikeable’ is a problematic one.
Firstly, it’s a word that is generally used to describe female characters but not male ones. If male characters have flaws they often get called ‘complex’ whereas women get ‘unlikeable’ or ‘bitchy’ for the very same behaviours. Society often has very narrow parameters dictating how girls or women should behave, and if they display anger or act out in ways that aren’t traditionally feminine or ‘nice’ they’re often not given the same forgiveness or freedom as male characters. Holden Caulfield isn’t ‘likeable’ but gosh he’s interesting, and I’d like female characters to be judged by those same standards. We should ask, ‘are they behaving truthfully’ rather than ‘are they likeable’?
Ily is sarcastic and headstrong and she doesn’t hide her anger, and she sometimes makes really bad decisions, but lots of young women act in those ways too, and they might really relate to her. I think you can totally say you don’t like certain behaviours, if those behaviours aren’t for you personally, but to then mark all people who act that way with the blanket term ‘unlikeable’ – it’s sort of telling young women that if they behave in a way that you personally don’t agree with, well then they’re not someone who can be liked. I don’t think that’s true and it’s not a good message to send out.
I think that Ily is a good character at heart, maybe she’s not for everyone, but I think she’s funny and strong and I like her very much. Much like we should stop calling women ‘bossy’ rather than ‘assertive’, or ‘emotional’ rather than ‘legitimately upset’, we really need to stop defining female characters by their ‘likability’ – especially when we don’t do that for male characters. Perhaps we can just say ‘she sometimes acts in a way that I personally don’t like’?
4. Who is Iliad’s character based off?
I based her character on my favourite protagonist, Rick Blaine from Casablanca. He’s abrasive and he has walls and he tells the world ‘I stick my neck out for nobody’ – but through his actions you see he actually does stick his neck out, on multiple occasions. Even though he pretends to not care about anyone, he does care, very deeply. I love that complexity about him.
5. What research did you conduct into Iliad’s character?
I tried to write her with an emotional truth, and so I held off researching the typical behaviours commonly found in children who’d been raised in abusive households until I’d written the first draft. It was uncanny, once I did my research, realising that Ily acted in a text-book way, displaying every trait often found in children raised in violent homes -the acting out, the way they can’t concentrate at school, because of stress, the way they build up defensive shields and withdraw from friends, the way they are statistically much more likely to find themselves in abusive relationships.
6. How does The Build-Up Season explore the impact of domestic violence on a family?
I wanted to show how violence can have a ripple effect long after the punches have been thrown. I wanted to show how it effects not just the victim, but the children. Even though the novel starts with her father in jail, the legacy of violence shapes all of Ily’s interactions with others around her.
7. How does the Darwin setting influence the characters and the book?
This book couldn’t have been set anywhere else. I spent my childhood in Darwin and the harsh beauty of the landscape has a strong pull for me. The natural environment is almost a character in itself, and I wanted to the weather to mirror the actions in the book – the humidity slowly makes the sky heavier, and the heat gets more oppressive and the clammy air grips the characters tighter and tighter and everything just ‘builds up’.
8. What types of love did you want to explore in the book?
This book is at heart about all the different kinds of love – romantic love, selfless love, self-love, controlling love, love for family, and the idea of unconditional love.
QUICK FIRE ROUND
Sweet or savoury? Sweet! If I could survive on nothing but chocolate and jelly snakes, I would.
Hiking or swimming? Hiking, but swimming in the ocean or swinging from a rope into a tree-flanked river comes a very close second.
Contemporary or paranormal? Contemporary, but I do love a really imaginative plot too!
Past or future? Writing? It’s funny, Yellow is set in the (recent-ish) past, and my third book is set in the future. I guess I’ll say future because that’s where my head is at the moment.
City or town? City, the bigger the better, but I prefer the remote outback to both. There’s nothing like camping in the middle of nowhere, with no phone reception and the shape of the whole universe mapped out in the stars above.
GIVEAWAY – Win a copy of The Build-Up Season (Aus only)
To celebrate the release of The Build-Up Season, I’m giving away a copy of The Build-Up Season to a lucky winner! Just fill in the form below. No cheating on your entries – we can tell!
The winner will be announced below and will need to respond within 48 hours. We take no responsibility for lost or stolen packages. Ends 13 August.
Thanks to Penguin Random House & Megan Spooner for the blog tour!