Tara Kelly’s debut novel is a realistic portrayal of a girl navigating her way through the confusing maze of adolescence… who just happens to have Asperger’s. Today at The Hiding Spot, Tara shares her thoughts on raising awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorders through literature, music’s role in her writing process, and writing the romantic element of her novel!
Tara Kelly is a Jill of all trades–a YA author, one-girl band, web/graphic designer, video editor and photographer. She lives in Broomfield, Colorado with her ten guitars, supercool bf, and a fluffy cat named Maestro.
Give a short statement describing HARMONIC FEEDBACK.
Eek-I’m terrible at summaries! Harmonic Feedback isn’t a book about Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s about a girl who is trying to figure out what normal really means—and if normal is something she really wants to be.
The number of people I know that have autism or a similar syndrome is remarkably high and it seems like more and more people are being diagnosed, so I was intrigued by the fact that Drea has a “touch of Asperger’s.” Why did you decide to write a main character with Asperger’s and do you think it is important to raise awareness about this syndrome?
For one, my little brother was diagnosed with mild autism/Asperger’s (they switched his diagnosis back and forth). This was in the 90s when autism wasn’t quite the household name it is now. And I myself had social problems growing up. So I’ve always wanted to write about a character who sees the world differently than most. I also think—despite all the media attention autism has received recently—the majority of people have a skewed view of what autism is and what autistic people are like. Many don’t realize how very different two people on the spectrum can be. Nobody fits a box of symptoms perfectly. So, yes, I do think it’s important to raise awareness with variety. A variety of stories featuring characters all over the spectrum who each have their own distinct personality—the latest crop of YA and MG fiction featuring autistic characters is a GREAT example of this. And I’m so glad to be part of it!
Music is a huge part of your life; does it play any part in your writing process?
Definitely! I can’t write without music and I can’t make music without a story to tell. I design playlists for each character so I can get into their head (sometimes this means listening to music I hate). When I write songs, I often write about the characters in my stories—they are far more fascinating than I am.
I love Justin’s character! He opens Drea’s eyes to a whole new world and a whole new sense of self. Was their romance easy to write or was it stubborn, like Drea?
Romance is my favorite thing to write, hands down. And the romance between Drea and Justin actually flowed really well for me—despite Drea’s protests. I had a blast writing their scenes together, especially the awkward moments. Although, I admit…there were times where I kept thinking…just kiss her already! I had to be patient and wait for the right time, though.
Can you tell us anything about your next YA novel?
My next book, C-Side Tales, comes out next year, and I’m very excited about it. Harmonic Feedback deals with music, obviously, but C-Side focuses solely on what it’s like to be a band in today’s music world–which has changed significantly in the last ten years. To steal my agent’s summary–the story revolves around a 17-year-old girl who has to battle wicked stage fright (and a crush on the superhot bass player) to convince the members of her new band that she can hack it as their lead guitarist.
I read on your website that you hate balloons and it stuck in my head. Why the aversion to balloons?
Ha—this stems from a childhood fear. When I was a tot, I had a huge aversion to the sound of popping balloons. Whenever someone was around with balloons, I’d cover my ears and squeeze my eyes shut, anticipating the loud ‘bang’. And honestly? I still cringe whenever I hear the squeaky rubber…I might still cover my ears.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
Books, for sure! Especially YA. No matter how old I get, I love getting lost in a book about first time experiences and adventures. But, also, my acoustic guitar. There’s nothing more calming to me than sitting outside and strumming my guitar, making up a song.