Fremantle Press author Jon Doust has already seen huge success with his novel Boy on a Wire, which garnered a longlisting for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Now he’s bringing this tale of bullying, mental health and coming of age to a different audience with a new YA edition of the book.
Boy on a Wire has already had such a great response from adult readers. Why did you feel it was important to bring it to a new, young adult, audience?
This time it's for the YA reader and its message will not be hidden from their view on the adult fiction shelf. The issues of bullying, mental health and religious confusion are probably even more acknowledged now than they were when the book first appeared and this makes a re-release for this particular audience timely and important, in my opinion.
What do you think teachers, students or even parents could learn from the book?
The most important lesson, I think, for the adults involved in a young person's growth, is that they need to pay attention to an individual's psychological makeup. Listen him or her, know that how they are set up for adult life will have consequences. In an ideal world those consequences will be overwhelmingly positive.
How do you think schools have changed since you were there in terms of providing support for mental health issues and bullying?
Every year I visit my old school and I can see, even in the school yard, the dramatic changes. Many issues, such as bullying, still exist, but their manifestations have altered. Clearly there are many schools that still have difficulty dealing with challenging issues and even others that have misunderstood the need for care and have become overly precious and protective. But overall there seems to have been a positive change.
Some of the things Jack goes through in the book are pretty difficult to deal with. How did you find the experience of writing these scenes? Was it emotionally difficult?
It was a tough process. As I worked on the final manuscript, I found it helped to employ a psychotherapist. It assisted with some of the content, and also helped with my ability to deal with some difficult memories.
What advice would you give to young writers looking to explore something that was emotionally difficult for them? Can you give them any tips?
Go for it. Be brave. Do not hold back in your first draft. Later, you can temper the text and play with it if you need to; you can mould it into a work of art. And make sure you are not setting yourself up for a lawsuit, of course.
Are you still writing? What are you working on now?
I am working on the final instalment of the Jack Muir trilogy. Boy on a Wire was the first, about how the boy was set up to be a man. The second, To the Highlands, was about the fall of the young man. The third is The Man at the End of It, and I think that title speaks for itself.
Boy on a Wire by Jon Doust is available online at www.fremantlepress.com.au and in all good bookstores.