Tag Archives: young adult fiction

Interview with Dee White, author of ‘Beyond Belief’

7 Apr

Today, I chat to Dee White, who is the author of many works of fiction for kids and teens. Dee’s young adult novel ‘Beyond Belief’ has just come out with Scholastic. Welcome Dee!

LW: Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

DW: I was researching another manuscript set in Paris when I stumbled across the true story of Muslims at a Paris mosque who saved Jews during WW2. I knew I had to write about it. I received a VicArts grant through Creative Victoria to spend a month in Paris doing further research. It was amazing. My father fled Austria during WW2 after Kristallnacht. His parents were married in a synagogue and although he wasn’t raised Jewish, he was forced to wear a badge labeling him as a Jew and report regularly to the police. He and his family fled for their lives in 1939 and my father had talked about this to me. So I could relate this experience to my main character, Ruben fleeing from the soldiers and French police in Paris.

LW: Tell me about your protagonist, Ruben. Did he come to you easily, or did he take a while to get to know?

DW: Ruben, my protagonist in Beyond Belief did come to me quite easily. He’s a mix of my oldest brother who was always very gentle and serious and fair, and also trusting. I have two sons and they are very much like that too. They are kind to people and anticipate that they will receive kindness in return. I remember when they were around Ruben’s age and discovered that the world didn’t always work that way and I wanted to capture this vulnerability in my main character. My eldest son has always been a cat whisperer so incorporating this trait in Ruben’s character was quite organic. Ruben was very strong in my head and heart from quite early on. In fact he became almost like another one of my children.

LW: This is your second young adult novel, and you have also written several books for middle-grade and younger readers. What are the challenges and pleasures of the young adult genre for you?

DW: The lines between middle-grade and YA seem to be becoming more and more blurred. To be honest, I thought that Beyond Belief was middle-grade but booksellers seem to be putting it in the 12+ category, I guess because of the themes and also Beyond Belief is YA in length, but then so is Harry Potter and that’s considered middle-grade.  I never think of my writing in terms of genre or readership age. I just write the story I want to tell. I don’t consider my work to be classic YA (even my novel, Letters to Leonardo) and I’d find classic YA hard because I don’t write romance well and I feel like I’m a bit out of touch with the language and lifestyle of older teens. I guess that’s one of the challenges of writing YA. In YA your main characters are the same age or older than your readers but middle grade allows you more flexibility. As long as your main character is a similar age to the reader, you can have other characters who are older or younger, like Daan and Momo in Beyond Belief.

LW: Tell me about your writing process. Are you a plotter or a pantser and what is your writing routine?

DW: I’m quite erratic when it comes to writing process. Different manuscripts seem to call for different methods and each one is like a new experiment, an opportunity to try different things and acquire skills and knowledge that will make my writing better. I used to plot a lot but then I found my narrative lost its spark so now I tend to do a mixture of both. I know what my story is about and roughly what’s going to happen in the end, but not necessarily how my character will arrive at this place. I like to let them guide the story. As their character emerges, what they do and how they react to things will drive what happens next in the story.

When my boys were small I used to get up at 5.00am so I’d have around an hour to write before my kids got up. That way I could focus on being a parent and still feel like I was a writer as well.

Nowadays I tend to treat writing like a day job and work to fairly standard hours. It’s easy to just keep writing and write all day every day, but I’m trying to get balance in my life so I take weekends off and read at night. It can be hard to write when you’re the parent of young children or have a day job, but even if you can snatch just ten minutes a day it will still make you feel like you’re a writer and keep you motivated. Even when I’m under time and other pressures, I always try to keep my writing fun.

LW: Can you give us a sneaky preview of what you’re working on next?

DW: Eddy Popcorn’s Guide to Parent Training, my illustrated MG (Ben Johnston’s pics are hilarious) comes out with Scholastic Australia on 1 May and I’m currently working on the follow up, Eddy Popcorn’s Guide to Teacher Taming, which will be out next year. I’m also researching a couple of historical fiction works and a paranormal thriller screen play.

DW: Thanks so much Lisa, for inviting me to visit your blog.

You can find Dee online at:

Website, Twitter, Facebook

And buy ‘Beyond Belief’ at a range of booksellers, including:

Booktopia, and Angus and Robertson