Kylie Fornasier’s new YA novel The Things I Didn’t Say has just been published by Penguin Books.
It’s about seventeen-year-old Piper who has changed schools at the start of Year Twelve in the hope of a new start, particularly of finding her voice.
Thanks for speaking with Boomerang Books, Kylie.
Hi! It’s my pleasure to be talking with you.
Where are you based and how involved are you in the YA and children’s lit world?
I’m live in the beautiful Hawkesbury area, north-west of Sydney. I’m a strong supporter of the LoveOzYa movement and I try to be as involved as I can be.
What’s your working background and how else do you spend your time?
I’m a primary school teacher librarian, so between working that job, writing and trying to be a proper adult by keeping the house clean, I don’t have a lot of time left to spend doing other things. But I do always make time for family and friends, the occasional episode of The 100 and yoga.
What inspired you to write The Things I Didn’t Say?
I came up with the idea for The Things I Didn’t Say when I was reading books like Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and The Fault in our Stars by John Green. I was fascinated by the way everyone approaches love from a different angle. Some people are really open to falling in love, some aren’t. Some people think love lasts forever, others don’t. Some people believe in love at first sight, and so on. The way you approach love depends on so many things about a person. This led me to ask the question, if you couldn’t speak, how would that effect the first time you fall in love?
Could you tell us something about your setting and main characters?
17-year-old Piper has been dealing with a condition called Selective Mutism for most of her life. This is a condition where someone who is normally capable of speaking finds themselves unable to speak in most social situations. So at home, Piper can speak normally with her family but as soon as she is around someone else or outside the home, she is silent. She changes schools at the start of Year 12, hoping for a fresh start and on her first day she meets West. He is the school captain, star soccer player, the boy everyone talks about. But although his life seems perfect, he struggles to make his voice heard. As you might’ve guessed, they fall in love without Piper ever speaking one word to West. But the question is, can a love mapped by silence last?
What draws hot School Captain, West, to Piper?
West meets Piper for the first time in German and is drawn to her by her contractions. She studies a subject that mostly requires speaking and the first thing he notices about Piper is that she doesn’t speak. She seems quite anxious but there’s also a gentle confidence he notices about her. On top of that, she is beautiful, new and mysterious. He wants to know more about her.
Why have you given Piper photography as her major interest (rather than another visual or other art form such as music)?
I’ve always believed the cliché that a picture speaks a thousand words. For Piper, photography is her way of speaking. However, she only ever takes photos of the bush near her house. She comes to learn that she has much more to say than she realises. I don’t think I ever deliberately choose photography over another visual art form. One of the first images I got in my mind of Piper was a girl with a camera around her neck and that stuck.
Piper is a skilled German student. What’s your favourite German word?
It would have to be ‘ohrwurm’, which translate to ‘earworm’ and relates to having a song stuck in your head. Though, for me it’s often a story or a character.
What’s the importance of forgiveness in your story?
Forgiveness is very important in The Things I Didn’t Say. Not only in terms of forgiving others but forgiving yourself.
I know it’s only just been published but have you received any responses from young readers about The Things I Didn’t Say that particularly resonate with you?
Oh gosh, so many! What has resonated so strongly with me is the way that people are emotionally connecting with the characters and story. I keep hearing how the story has made people cry in public and go through boxes of tissues. There are also people who emailing trees now (you have to read the book to find out the significance of this – yes, it is a real thing!) and leaving Post-It notes in copies of The Things I Didn’t Say that they come across in bookshops. It’s hearing about these responses that make it all worth it.
What advice would you give to people who prefer not to express themselves verbally or are shy?
It depends how significantly it is affecting their life. If it is impacting their life, then I strongly advise they seek help. They can start by letting someone they trust know what’s going on. There are many services available that can be very successful.
But if it’s not significantly affecting their life, then I simply suggest expressing themselves in the way they feel comfortable, such as through music, writing, sport, art, dance, photography, whatever that may be!
I think it’s important to think of a person as a whole and how certain qualities have both flaws and strengths. If you are a shy person, you’re probably a great listener or a really keen observer. It’s about embracing the qualities we have but also recognising if we do need to seek help.
What else have you written and what are you writing at the moment?
I’ve had a couple of books published for children and young adults, including: Masquerade (YA, published by Penguin Books Australia in 2014), The Prince who Shrank (picture book, published by Koala Books in 2015), and The Ugg Boot War (chapter book, published by Omnibus Books in 2014).
At the moment, I’m working on the first book in a funny chapter book series for children. As soon as I’m finished that, hopefully within the next month, I’ll start my next young adult novel.
What have you enjoyed reading?
Since I’m expecting my first child in October, I’ve been reading a lot of books on caring for babies! But in terms of fiction, I’m currently enjoying The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly. I typically read YA and while this book is not YA, I started reading Matthew Reilly books as a teenager and have read every book he has written since.
All the best with The Things I Didn’t Say, and especially with your baby, Kylie.
Thanks so much!