Five Minutes with Robyn Bavati #LoveAusAuthors

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Robyn Bavati writes fiction primarily for readers aged 12-15. She says there are probably three reasons for why she chooses to write for this age group. The first is that she remembers herself at age 12, 13, and 14, and at that time (in the early 70’s) there was no such thing as YA fiction, at least, not that Robyn was aware of.

‘There were books for children, and books for adults, but very little in between. So I would read The Magic Faraway Tree one day, and Sons and Lovers the next.’

By the time she was 15, Robyn was reading books for adults, and that wasn’t a problem, but in early secondary school, it seemed that no one had thought to cater for readers her age, and since she was an avid reader, many of the books she was reading were either too young, or too old.

‘Books about teenagers and for teenagers were few and far between. So I think in some ways I write to satisfy the young teen in me.’

The second reason Robyn writes for this age group is that when she was a young teen, books made a huge impression on her.

‘Younger kids may forget what they read. Adults tend to choose books with messages they ‘agree’ with, books that reaffirm the views they already have. But teenagers tend to have open minds and are more willing to seeing things from other perspectives.’

Robyn has also written (but not published) books for other age groups, and some of these came close to publication. However, the first of her books that did make it into print, was Dancing in the Dark, the story of a girl from an ultra-orthodox Jewish family, who, forbidden by her parents to have ballet lessons, decides to dance in secret.

‘I did not set out to write a book for teenagers. Rather, when the idea came to me, I realised it was for teenagers, and wrote it accordingly. Which brings me to the third reason I write for young teens – once I started to do so, it seemed to be a natural fit. Since I aim for accessibility, my writing style naturally lends itself to younger readers.’

With each book, Robyn also likes to take on a technical challenge she hasn’t faced before. For example, Dancing in the Dark was written in first person, so with Pirouette, she took on the challenge of dual protagonists and alternating third person POV. She chooses to write only about subjects she loves or cares about deeply, because the process of writing a book takes many years, and it is important you are fully invested to stay the course.

Within These Walls was Robyn’s first book of historical fiction and says it came with many challenges, as any book about the Holocaust would. Finally, as her first three books all had female protagonists, she took on the challenge in her most recent book, A Weekend With Oscar, of writing from the perspective of a teenage boy.

While all of Robyn’s books are very different, she always writes about characters who are (or at some point in the novel become) isolated either physically, emotionally, or psychologically, sometimes all three. 

‘I do this for two reasons – firstly, because everyone has at some time experienced isolation and loneliness (even if surrounded by people), so the reader will relate to and be moved by the protagonist’s predicament, and secondly, because in this situation the character is truly tested and able to become heroic.’

Robyn signing her most recent book, A Weekend with Oscar

Five Things About Robyn’s History

  1. I am one of 5 children (number 4!), I was born and grew up in Melbourne, and every year we went to Frankston for the summer holidays – back then, it wasn’t a suburb of Melbourne, but a place you went to for holidays, especially if you could get a house not too far from the beach.
  2. I married an Israeli (to whom I’ve been married for 40 years), and we lived in Israel for 17 years, and our three children were born there.
  3. For the last 35 years, we’ve almost always had a cat – our current one is white-and-ginger and very athletic, and his name is Fudgie.
  4. For nearly 7 years, I’ve been an active member of Toastmasters, where I’ve learned a lot about public speaking and made wonderful friends.
  5. I have just become a grandmother to an adorable grandson.

Five Things About Robyn’s Books

  1. Dancing in the Dark, (a CBCA Notable Book, shortlisted in several children’s choice awards, and on the curriculum at several schools), was my first published book, and therefore the one that made me a ‘real’ writer.
  2. My second book, Pirouette, was optioned as a movie, though unfortunately, the producer who optioned it could not get the funding to produce it.
  3. My third book, Within These Walls, was sold to a publisher in Beijing, though as far as I know, it has not yet been published there. Then again, you could give me any book in Chinese and tell me it’s mine, and I would not know the difference.
  4. My fourth book, A Weekend With Oscar, came out in July this year, and I hope that people will manage to discover it, despite the lockdowns.
  5. The first draft of my 5th book is currently out with publishers and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I won’t tell you the title or what it’s about because I don’t want to jinx it – I generally don’t discuss my work until publication is in the bag – but what I can say is that it’s a departure from the others in that it is for readers aged 9-12. It’s an entertaining romp of a book with a touch of the supernatural about it.

Five Things That Help Robyn Keep Writing

  1. Trusting that someone will find my book valuable.
  2. The pleasure I get from reading emails or reviews by readers who have loved my book.
  3. Focusing on giving value, rather than on (often elusive) financial reward.
  4. Remembering what I get out of the writing process.
  5. Not knowing what else I could do that would give me the same satisfaction.

In the future, Robyn hopes that people will let other people express their opinions without ‘cancelling’ them. That people will rediscover actual living as opposed to virtual living, which, she says, doesn’t mean just because of lockdowns. She hopes people will learn to take better care of the planet, and of each other, always manage to find silver linings and that there will be more balance, love and friendship in the world.

You can find Robyn and all of her books at her website

Helen

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