Hi Tara! I hope lockdown is not going too badly for you, thank you so much for agreeing to be on my blog. Can you tell us about FADE TO WHITE?
Thank you so much for having me! I can’t wait for the next time I can travel across the pond to your neck of the woods! Lockdown has been an emotional rollercoaster for me with disheartening moments of loss but also many hidden blessings, including more time to share about my debut novel with amazing bloggers like you!
Fade to White is a contemporary young adult novel with a touch of magical realism and a dusting of inspirational hope. It is the story of Thea Fenton, an anxious teen girl who despite having a picture-perfect life is falling apart on the inside. Wracked by anxiety no one seems to understand or care about, she resorts to self-harm to deflect the pain inside.
When a local teen commits suicide, Thea’s anxiety sky-rockets. Unexplainable things happen, leaving her feeling trapped within her own chaotic mind. The lines between reality and another world start to blur, and her previously mundane issues seem more daunting and insurmountable than ever.
Then she meets Khi, a mysterious new boy from the coffee shop who seems to know her better than she knows herself—and doesn’t think she’s crazy. His quiet confidence and unfounded familiarity draw her into an unconventional friendship (cue romantic subplot).
Khi journeys with her through grief, fear, and confusion to arrive at compassion for the one person Thea never thought she could love.
Sometimes when I read a book, I recognise myself in a character. Is there any character in your book that you see yourself in?
When I first began writing Fade to White, Thea was almost entirely me. It was more memoir than fiction really, but as it transitioned out of my journals and into a make-believe city and high school setting everything changed, and rather intentionally. I wanted to share my emotional experiences with anxiety, but I also wanted to create a story that was exciting for readers and not invasive to my own family, friendships and quirky traits. She does maintain my love for tea, a theatrical flair and an affectionate furball named Woolie.
Did you ever feel any pressure when writing this story?
Incredible pressure, but it was not the bad kind. Have you ever discovered a new hobby or interest and found yourself wishing you already knew everything you needed to know to be proficient? This is what happened with writing. Once the passion to write a YA story about the interplay of faith and mental health planted itself in my mind, I needed to fight this internal pressure on a daily basis. I wanted to study every craft book, read both widely and within my subgenre, outline extensively, while mastering short story writing and then draft an entire novel as though it were a simple feat. I’m a perfectionist at fault and writing is something I’ve discovered that you can’t master, perhaps ever, despite my obsessive efforts.
The pressure is still there, but I’ve managed to tame it a little for the time being. But that pressure is what drives me to improve and share with greater clarity and purpose. So, I supposed that’s not all bad.
Fade to White tackles both faith and mental health, is this something that is important to you when writing?
Absolutely, I actually just finished writing a guest blog post for the Teen Librarian Toolbox about this exact topic. Both faith and mental health are huge parts of my life. Not a lot of people spoke about mental health when I was in high school, at least that I was aware of, and I was not the kind of kid who you would assume needed help. I was the super keener, med-school bound class president type. Nothing about me screamed existential crisis, but that’s exactly what I was going through.
Anxiety is something I’ve struggled with ever since high school, and perhaps even before then. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but my overwhelming fear of dying seemed to have the greatest impact on me living. And that fear stemmed from not knowing why I was hear, and even more so no knowing what would happen to me after I wasn’t. I was fortunate to grow up in a loving family who deeply respected and trusted my need for answers. So, they let me read widely, from philosophy, religion, and science texts to fiction from every genre.
When I found YA novels, it was like I’d found my very own personal support group. What I didn’t find as frequently though were fictional teens struggling with what happened after death. You know, the great unknown? I wanted stories that went beyond illness, dying and grief and explored the hope that some people have even within and after death. That’s where faith became a huge part of my journey. That hope will look different for each writer and reader, but I strongly feel that teens need to hear a diversity of voices that tackle faith and how it impacts their physical, social and psychological health.
Finally, With the situation currently going on around the world, mental health is more important now than ever. I know you never imagined your book being released in the middle of a pandemic but if anything, what do you want readers to take away from this book?
As I shared above, I would be thrilled if one reader emailed me and shared that Fade to White helped them to not feel alone, and offered them a glimmer of hope. It may sound cliché, but fiction is powerful and healing and, pandemic or not, there are a lot of teens and adults out there right now who are feeling more disconnected than ever before. Stories bind us together despite geographical, cultural, or political affiliations. They tackle questions that every human at their core asks. So, yeah, hope. If they take away hope, I’ve not wasted a minute of my life writing this story.
I would also like to add after reading Fade to White recently, that the description of Thea’s anxiety is extremely realistic which makes it amazing to read for someone, like myself who has anxiety. If you want an honest description of anxiety You can buy FADE TO WHITE from:
Tara K. Ross lives with her husband, two daughters, and rescued fur-baby in a field of cookie-cutter homes near Toronto, Canada. She works as a school speech-language pathologist and mentors with local youth programs. When Tara is not writing or reading all things young adult fiction, you can find her rock climbing the Ontario escarpment, planning her family’s next jungle trek or podcasting/blogging at www.tarakross.com.
FADE TO WHITE is her debut novel.