How did the idea for Anything but Fine come about?
TM: I wrote a short story for the Underdog anthology that was set in the ballet world, and I had so much fun writing it that I decided to start working on a full-length novel about a young dancer. In the early stages of the brainstorming process, the first line popped into my head (‘The second it happens, I know my life is over’) and the rest of the plot just fell into place around it! It’s a very personal story about identity and finding your place in the world, drawing heavily on my own experiences as a professional dancer.
Which character do you most relate to in the book and also what is the most tweetable, cute quote from your book?
TM: I probably relate to Luca the most - given we’re both ex-dancers, both gay, and both grew up in the country - but he’s a lot more forward than I am, and definitely more sassy! I also highly relate to Amina’s nerdy side, which can be summarised by a cute quote from the book:
‘Amina smiles, and I’ve never seen anyone so happy about highlighters and timetables in my life.’
What was your favourite scene to write and why?
TM: I think my favourite scene to write was when Luca meets Jordan at the occupational therapist. It’s so cute and awkward, and it’s infused with a lot of my own teen experiences and thought processes. (Yes, I was very, very awkward haha).
What has influenced you the most as an author? Has lockdown affected your writing progress?
TM: I think the biggest influence on my writing has been my career in music theatre. I’ve spent most of my life on stage - or off stage poring over scripts - so I have a bit of an obsession with dialogue, and I love being able get into different characters’ heads. My training as an actor also taught me to be truly vulnerable, which I think is an essential trait for any writer.
I’ve managed to soldier on with my creative projects through lockdown. Having concrete deadlines has been really helpful, and walks and run have been my mental saviours!
Photo of Tobias Madden taken by Kate Williams
What do you hope to achieve from this book regarding your YA readers?
TM: I hope teen readers (and adults, too) come away from the book knowing that no one needs to have their life ‘together’ or ‘sorted’. We don’t always need to know exactly where we’re going or even in which direction we should be heading. Life is messy and complicated and our journeys are never straightforward. But that’s okay. The best things are often unexpected!
Give me your top 5 YA must-read titles.
TM: I could probably list fifty must-read YA books off the top of my head, but here are five that I adore:
How do you feel about your YA debut being chosen as our September YA Book of the Month?
TM: I’m completely thrilled/honoured/blown away! I work opposite Dymocks George St, which means I visit the store literally every day. I always love seeing the Book of the Month display, so it’s super surreal to know that, this month, it’s my book up there!
Anything But Fine is available in store and online now.