Thanks for speaking to Boomerang Books Blog, Fleur.
Thanks you for having me on the blog Joy.
Your new YA novel, Risk (Random House Australia) is creating a buzz in Australian YA circles. I believe that it has a very important message, told as an engaging story. Is it your first published work? Have you met any other YA authors?
Risk is my first novel to be published. I’ve met a few YA writers in person, and many more online. It is great to be a part of the Australian YA community, everyone is very friendly and supportive. I hope to catch up with a few YA authors (in person) at the Bendigo Writers’ Festival in August.
Why did you write Risk?
A number of incidents involving predators meeting and grooming girls online and then luring them away occurred in my local area. I’m a family friend to one of the girls and was shocked that she was almost a victim to this type of predator. This girl (then 14 years old) is a smart, well-adjusted girl who doesn’t go looking for trouble. It frightened me that trouble found her. I started looking into cases and researching how predators use social media to find victims. I found out that anyone can use a proxy box to hide their identity, even from the police. During the process an idea for a book came to me.
Your character Taylor comments that the guy she meets online doesn’t seem like a stalker. What does an online stalker seem like?
Great question! I wish I had a great answer. Taylor, the fifteen-year-old character in Risk, thought that an online stalker would be outwardly creepy, or have other obvious, indicative traits. But once Taylor got chatting to one particular guy online she didn’t question him because he was so nice. It is impossible to know if people you meet online really are as they seem.
Apart from encouraging young people to read Risk how can we protect them?
I believe education is the key. Discussing online dangers and possible strategies to adopt will help people (of any age) avoid falling victim to online predators. Increasing awareness of online dangers will hopefully lead to a person making better, and more cautious, decisions about information they give out as well as meeting online friends in the real world. As long as there are online places to meet people, online predators will exist and education about this needs to start early.
Who have you modelled the two protagonists, Taylor and Sierra on?
Initially, Taylor and Sierra were modelled on my nieces who were fifteen and sixteen years of age at the time Risk was written.
Sierra likes Taylor Swift. Do you like her too or have you featured her for another reason?
I do like Taylor Swift and her music. Over the years I have enjoyed learning about her journey to stardom and I admire her. She is strong, intelligent, funny and artistic. Taylor (and her music) inspires me.
The neighbour by Julie Proudfoot is incredible. The pause by John Larkin, Cooper Bartholomew is dead by Rebecca James, Pieces of sky by Trinity Doyle and All the bright places (audiobook) by Jennifer Niven are all brilliant YA books. I’m also reading Jacqueline Harvey’s Clementine Rose Series with my kids and I am enjoying these books as much as my kids are.
Are you writing something else at the moment? If so, could you tell us about it?
I have just signed a contract with Random House for my next YA novel. The title is unconfirmed at this stage, but I can say it is another contemporary stand-alone and sits well alongside Risk. It will be out mid next year.
That’s fantastic news. All the very best with it, Fleur.