Thanks, Matt, and thanks to Louis Greenberg for suggesting me for your YA in SA series. I’m a full-time writer and have been living in White River in the Mpumalanga lowveld for the last few years, following a move from my home city of Johannesburg.
2. You had close to 20 adult novels published before you started writing YA fiction, why did you choose to write for a younger age range?
The type of adult novels I was writing – romance – can become repetitive. Romance was never meant to be the whole story anyway, but it became a bit of a comfort zone, difficult to get out of. The move from Johannesburg turned out to be conducive to all sorts of other changes, and I started exploring new writing directions. The YA began almost as an impulse – I wondered if it was something I could do, and decided to give it a try. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed writing about teen characters and their issues.
3. Looking at the awards you have won it looks like it was a good decision – E Eights won the 2009 Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa, Stepping Solo was awarded the 2011 Maskew Miller Longman literature award for novels in English and you have had novels short-listed for the golden Baobab and the Sanlam Prizes. Does being an award-winning YA author put you under pressure to produce or can you ignore the pressure and just write?
The awards have their upside in boosting my confidence as a writer. The downside is a degree of anxiety about whether I can continue to get it right, but I try to ignore that and just get on with the next book, because once I get into the writing I forget the anxiety – at least until it’s time to submit!
4. Your short story Dineo 658 MP won the Maskew Miller Longman Silver Medal in 2009, do you think that short stories for YA readers are well-received or should they be given more exposure?
I think that with greater exposure, they’d be highly popular. Young adults’ lives are hectic, so dipping into a collection of short stories, whether in print or online, when time permits might be preferable to reading a full-length novel for some. It’s difficult to get YA short fiction placed. Another South African YA author and I have tentatively discussed an anthology featuring short stories from southern or possibly all African countries.
5. Do you still write for the adult readers or do you focus exclusively on the YA market?
At present, the only fiction I’m writing for adults is short stories, but that could change.
6. I see that you are also a poet, have you had any poetic works published as yet?
So far I’ve only had poetry published in print and online literary journals, and in three of the annual Breaking the Silence anthologies brought out by People Opposing Women Abuse.
7. What is your favourite part of the writing process?
I love it when I reach the stage of being truly immersed in the first draft of a novel – when my characters start surprising me, and things happen that I haven’t planned.
8. What do you think about the state of YA publishing in South Africa?
I think it’s increasingly exciting. There are more and more successful YA authors out there, and it’s a wonderfully supportive community.
9. Have you had much feedback from teen readers? What have their thoughts been about your writing?
Feedback has been good. The readers seem to appreciate that I keep my characters’ personal stories absolutely central even if I’m writing about the contemporary social issues affecting young people.
10. Do you ever visit schools or libraries in South Africa and have you considered Skype for international virtual visits and if you answer yes to either of those questions what is the best way to get into contact with you to arrange visits?
I enjoy the interaction I have with teens at a local school and would love to do school visits further afield. I have in fact just recently learned that I will be asked to do some, possibly early next year. People can contact me via Facebook or Twitter @JayneBauling, through my various publishers or by email to jayne_mb(at)absamail.co.za
11. Are you currently working on anything new or do you have anything planned for the near future?
The next YA novel is at the research stage, but because I believe in writing every day, I’m also busy with a few adult short stories.