I Wrote a Romance, a guest post by Gary Lonesborough
I wrote a romance. It was a story about a teen boy named Tomas. He was from Sydney and, at the beginning of the story, was headed to the south coast for Christmas holidays during the Australian Summer, with his mother, father and little sister, Annie. Tomas’s family did this every year and they always went to the same coastal town to camp, but at the start of my story, while hours into their drive, the family happened upon an Aboriginal village while making a rest stop. Tomas’s dad spoke with another man, a travelling tourist, at the rest stop, and learned that there was a great camping place nearby. They followed the man down a mountain, along a dirt road and into camping grounds. Tomas’s parents fell in love with this place and they decided to camp there instead.
As the holiday unfolded, Tomas met a group of Aboriginal boys who lived in the nearby village. Among this group of boys was Jackson, the protagonist of ‘Ready When You Are’.
As Tomas grew closer with Jackson, their friendship turned to romance and they fell in love, kissed a few times, cuddled. Tomas learned things about Aboriginal culture he didn’t know before. Jackson remained this mysterious character who never gave very much away, but began to open up as he fell in love with Tomas.
Tomas’s family holiday ended, he went back to Sydney and felt sad, and that was the end of the story.
Sounds great, right? Does this not sound like the best young adult story you’ve ever heard of?
That was the very first draft of ‘Ready When You Are’. Tomas was a white Australian, and he was the protagonist. I’ve learned many things through having my book published, but the most important thing I’ve learned, as a writer moving forward, is that writing a book is hard!
I’d always loved writing as a child and teen, and I always wanted to be a writer. I always wanted to be published, to have books on bookshelves with my name on them. Being a writer was always something I aspired to, but I think that if someone told me that I’d spend months working on a manuscript and then I’d change protagonists and perspectives and rewrite the whole story from scratch, I’d probably faint and decide to aspire to being a car salesman or something.
But that’s what I did. Jackson became my protagonist because I realised the story I wanted to tell was my own story. It changed and adapted in a lot of ways, but ‘Ready When You Are’ became the story of my own journey to accepting I was gay, understanding my Aboriginal identity and how it all fit together to make me who I am. Jackson was my vehicle to really understand who I am as a person, to articulate how I felt when I was his age and mostly, it was the story I wanted to write. It took me countless drafts, changed perspectives and a complete rewrite, but I got there. Yes, writing a book is hard, but if you love something, if you truly believe in something, you can do it. It was two years before the story was ready for a publisher, but through all the hard work, I found my voice as a writer, I discovered the story I really wanted to write and I learned that I loved writing more than anything else.
‘Ready When You Are’ is not based on a true story, I must stress, but its protagonist Jackson is very much my way of expressing how I was feeling when I was a teenager.
I was a closeted gay kid from a poor Aboriginal family who didn’t know how to figure out who he was. It feels selfish to say, but I wrote Ready When You Are for seventeen year old me. This book, this character, was exactly what teen Gary needed. I can’t even imagine how different things might have been for me if I was able to walk into my school library and pick up a book like ‘Ready When You Are’. I like to think I wouldn’t have felt so alone, I wouldn’t have felt so wrong in my own feelings and desires. I like to think I would have taken confidence from a book like this to be true to myself and to accept who I was at heart. Turns out, it took me two years, countless drafts, changed perspectives and a complete rewrite to finally express how I felt when I was a teenager.
My book was released in Australia in February 2021. A question I’ve often been asked is what advice I would give to aspiring writers. My answer changes slightly every time, but my advice would be:
Be true to yourself. Figure out what you want to say and then say it in every way you can. Be prepared, because writing is hard work, but it should also be fun and rewarding and it should really feel like the only thing you ever want to do.
That’s exactly what I tell myself as I move onto the next work and the next characters. Thanks to Ready When You Are, I know what I want to say and I know how to keep saying it.
Meet the author
Gary Lonesborough is a Yuin man who grew up on the Far South Coast of NSW as part of a large and proud Aboriginal family. Growing up a massive Kylie Minogue and North Queensland Cowboys fan, Gary was always writing as a child, and continued his creative journey when he moved to Sydney to study at film school. Gary has experience working in Aboriginal health, the disability sector (including experience working in the Youth Justice System), and the film industry. He was Bega Valley Shire Council Young Citizen of the Year, won the Patrick White Young Indigenous Writers’ Award, and has received a Copyright Agency First Nations Fellowship. Ready When You Are (published in Australia as The Boy from the Mish) is Gary’s debut YA novel.
About Ready When You Are
A remarkable YA love story between two Aboriginal boys — one who doesn’t want to accept he’s gay, and the boy who comes to live in his house who makes him realize who he is.It’s a hot summer, and life’s going all right for Jackson and his family on the Mish. It’s almost Christmas, school’s out, and he’s hanging with his mates, teasing the visiting tourists, avoiding the racist boys in town. Just like every year, Jackson’s Aunty and annoying little cousins visit from the city — but this time a mysterious boy with a troubled past comes with them. As their friendship evolves, Jackson must confront the changing shapes of his relationships with his friends, family and community. And he must face his darkest secret — a secret he thought he’d locked away for good.
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date: 03/01/2022
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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