#LoveOZYA Author Interview: Sarah Ayoub
I love Aussie YA. I love reading books from authors that live in the same country as me, that know things that people out of Australia might be so confused about. I love how sometimes they can incorporate this into their book and it is fabulous.
So in saying that, I have decided to start a new feature on Angel Reads spotlighting Australian YA Authors. Each Friday for the next couple of months, I am going to interview an OZYA Author. I thought it would be a fun way to share my love for Australian Young Adult authors with not only fellow Aussies, but everyone around the world. I want more Australian YA books to be read because they are amazing.
To open this new feature I am interviewing the lovely Sarah Ayoub. Sarah is the author of Hate is Such A Strong Word (2013, HarperCollins Australia) and The Yearbook Committee (2016, HarperCollins Australia). Let the Interview begin.
Hi Sarah, welcome to Angel Reads. First can you introduce yourself to everyone? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi everyone! I’m a Sydney-based journalist and author of two novels published by Harper Collins (Hate is Such a Strong Word and The Yearbook Committee). I teach Journalism at the University of Notre Dame Australia and run writing workshops in high schools. My work has been published in Marie-Claire, Sunday Style, CLEO, Girlfriend, Cosmopolitan, Shop Til You Drop, Yen, Frankie and more. I wanted to be a journalist from the age of 10 – I was a big fan of Superman and basically wanted to be Lois Lane. I love cake and afternoon tea, am a hopeless Francophile, and often feel like I was meant to be born in a different time. I’m definitely an old soul, with a big sense of wonder and wanderlust.
What has your writing journey been like? When did you start? Why?
I suppose I started writing in my late teens, but I wrote a lot of rhyming poems that were very ‘young’. I went to university thinking I would wind up in PR, before realising in third year that I was a hopeless suck up and sales person and that my sense of curiosity and unabashed penchant for asking questions would suit feature writing better. I didn’t plan on writing books – they were never a part of my ‘plan’ – but I started writing Hate on a whim and eventually had ten chapters to show an agent. I just felt like Sophie’s character was strong and she had an important story to tell.
What was the process of getting your first book published?
I was really lucky in that it happened without too much effort on my part. I had ten chapters which I took along to a manuscript assessment day at the NSW Writer’s Centre. Following my session (which had its fair shares of compliments and criticisms), I sent my ten chapters to an agent I had been introduced to and she immediately said that while the story had potential, my writing needed a lot of work. I hadn’t studied creative writing so there was a lot of trial and error. I wrote my manuscript three times (the third time on trains as I travelled round Europe) before sending it to the agent from a remote village overseas. I returned home two weeks later and found that I’d had an offer from a publisher. It was all incredibly exciting for me.
Was it different when getting your subsequent books published?
Writing my first book was simpler because I had no expectations. I just wrote because I didn’t know what would come of it. I wrote with complete freedom. Writing the second book was harder – I wrote it in a short space of time because by then I had the creative writing skills (showing not telling) that I had not had before – but this time I had a publisher who had expectations so I didn’t know if I was meeting them. It was a very anxious time.
You are an OZYA author, what are some of your favourite Aussie YA books?
I love Australian stories and I love that Australian YA leads the charge in areas of diversity and intelligent books for its readers. I loved reading John Marsden (So much to tell you, Letters from the Inside, Winter etc) and Jaclyn Moriarty (The Brookfield/Ashbury stories) in my teens and Melina Marchetta’s books are constant faves (I seriously can’t choose between Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, and On the Jellicoe Road). Lately I’ve loved Kirsty Eager’s Summer Skin, Fleur Ferris’ Risk, and Claire Zorn’s The Protected.
Hate is such a Strong Word by Sarah Ayoub
I hate being invisible.
I hate that I still can′t fight my own battles.
I hate that I can′t keep up with the demands of high school.
Sophie Kazzi is in Year 12 at an all-Lebanese, all-Catholic school where she is invisible, uncool and bored out of her brain. While she′s grown up surrounded by Lebanese friends, Lebanese neighbours and Lebanese shops, she knows there′s more to life than Samboosik and Baklawa, and she desperately wants to find it.
Unfortunately, her father has antiquated ideas about women, curfews and the Lebanese ′way′. Bad news for Sophie, who was hoping to spend Year 12 fitting in and having fun – not babysitting her four younger siblings, or studying for final exams that will land her in an Accounting course she has no interest in.
Just when it looks like Sophie′s year couldn′t get any more complicated, Shehadie Goldsmith arrives at school. With an Australian father and a Lebanese mother, he′s even more of a misfit than Sophie. And with his arrogant, questioning attitude, he also has a way of getting under her skin…
But when simmering cultural tensions erupt in violence, Sophie must make a choice that will threaten her family, friends and the cultural ties that have protected her all her life.
Are her hates and complaints worth it? Or will she let go … and somehow find her place?
The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub
Five teenagers. Five lives. One final year.
The school captain: Ryan has it all … or at least he did, until an accident snatched his dreams away. How will he rebuild his life and what does the future hold for him now?
The newcomer: Charlie’s just moved interstate and she’s determined not to fit in. She’s just biding her time until Year 12 is over and she can head back to her real life and her real friends …
The loner: At school, nobody really notices Matty. But at home, Matty is everything. He’s been single-handedly holding things together since his mum’s breakdown, and he’s never felt so alone.
The popular girl: Well, the popular girl’s best friend … cool by association. Tammi’s always bowed to peer pressure, but when the expectations become too much to handle, will she finally stand up for herself?
The politician’s daughter: Gillian’s dad is one of the most recognisable people in the state and she’s learning the hard way that life in the spotlight comes at a very heavy price.
Five unlikely teammates thrust together against their will. Can they find a way to make their final year a memorable one or will their differences tear their world apart?
And that is it for this week’s #LoveOZYA Interview. What did you think of Sarah and her books? I hope you enjoyed it. Come back next week for some more Aussie fun. If you want to know more about the #LoveOZYA movement check out the website for all the details.