An Indies Introduce New Voices Q&A With Tess Sharpe

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Tess Sharpe is the author of Far From You (Disney-Hyperion), a spring 2014 New Voices debut for young adults. Sharpe grew up in rural Northern California and interned for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival before studying theatre at Southern Oregon University. She abandoned the stage to work as a professional baker. She now lives, writes, and bakes in Northern California.

When her best friend, Mina, is murdered, everyone thinks Sophie’s past addiction to Oxycontin is the cause. After a short stint in rehab, it’s up to Sophie to discover the truth behind Mina’s murder. With every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina, and about the secret they shared. “Part murder mystery, part forbidden romance, this lovely novel is both chilling and poignant … The nail-bitingly tense action kept me up reading until late in the night, and the thrilling conclusion didn’t disappoint,” said Emily Ring of Inklings Bookshop in Yakima, Washington.

What inspired you to write this book?

Tess Sharpe: Far From You didn’t really have a core inspiration. It was more of a bunch of things I knew I wanted to write about, and when I put them together in my brain blender, Sophie and Mina came out. My only clear notion was I wanted to write about the different kinds of love: how messy it can get, how it twists you up and screws you over, how complicated and painfully joyous it can be, and how love can mirror — and sometimes be as harmful as — addiction.

What advice would you give a young adult interested in writing?

TS: The two obvious things: read a lot and write a lot. I’d also say: Live a lot. Love a lot. Do a lot. Feel and rage and cry and laugh and keep yourself open to possibilities and change. It’ll inform your work.

What is your earliest memory related to reading?

TS: Sitting on the arm of my Gramz’s Lay-Z-Boy, listening to her read me The Moffats by Eleanor Estes out loud. I was probably six or seven. She read me the opening sentence of the book and then turned to me and said: “Tess, you must always start your stories with something attention grabbing.” It’s still the best writing advice I’ve ever gotten.

Why do you think Young Adult fiction is so important?

TS: YA is such a transformative category. There is no other time in a person’s life when fiction can change you the way it can when you’re young — when it can leave its mark on you so deeply that it can save your life. Finding yourself and your strength in other people’s words tells you that it’s gonna be okay, that other people feel this way, go through this and survive, so you can, too. That’s a powerful thing to have at any age, but especially as a teen, when it can feel like the entire world is working against you, not with you. 

You blog about women and LGBT rights and YA fiction. Do you feel that women and LGBT are equally and accurately portrayed in YA?

TS: I think we’re making progress, but, as in society, there’s a lot of room for improvement, acceptance, expansion, and diversity of characters, cultures, and situations. There are still a lot more books about gay boys than gay girls, and definitely not enough books exploring the teen trans experience. It’d be great to see more books featuring non-binary or genderqueer characters, as well as asexual and bisexual characters. Representation matters, and every kind of teen deserves to be able to find a character like them in the YA section. I do consider myself lucky, though — I was a teenager when a lot of the groundbreaking LGBT books came out by authors like Malinda Lo, Brent Hartinger, Julie Anne Peters, and Alex Sanchez. To be able to see the expansion of LGBT YA in the last decade has been wonderful.

If you were a bookseller, is there a book you would say YA readers just have to read?

TS: Okay, I’m gonna cheat and name two: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three titles would you want to have with you?

TS: A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute, The Princess Diaries (Book 1) by Meg Cabot, and I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak.

Are you working on anything now?

TS: I am hard at work on my second book for Hyperion, but I’m not sure if I’m allowed to tell y’all what it’s about yet!

Far From You, by Tess Sharpe (Disney-Hyperion, Hardcover, 9781423184621). Publication Date: April 8, 2014.

Learn more about Tess Sharpe at

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