I am pleased to be hosting another author interview on my blog today. This time I am featuring Zelda Conway and her book, Evolution, published by ZunTold Publishing.
Evolution explores what it is like to have a parent who decides to have gender reassignment. This is a great book for both children and parents, and would also be a useful resource for teachers, counsellors and everyone who works with young people.
Q&A session with Zelda Conway
Thanks Zelda for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog as part of your blog tour. Evolution is such a fantastic book. I think it is great to have different family lifestyles reflected in children’s fiction. This time I am kicking off the blog tour with the first stop, which is exciting. So let’s get straight to the questions:
Tell us a little about the inspiration for your novel, Evolution.
It’s based on experience. A member of my family has undergone gender reassignment and I supported her all the way. It’s a brave thing to do and is never done lightly.
Why did you decide to write a children’s book about a parent who decides they need to change from being a man to becoming a woman?
It’s brilliant that we are now more aware of gender reassignment and that it’s losing its stigma. It’s a topic that we read more and more about, but it seems to me that there’s very little in the way of books for the children of transgender parents, and for any other child who might be interested. Of course, kids with trans parents are part of the story, too. I wanted to write a book that could help kids like that, that would show them that others have been in similar situations, and that promotes understanding of gender reassignment generally. It was important to me to be honest – it can be a tough call for everyone involved – but it isn’t the end. Your mum or dad doesn’t stop loving you because they look different to how they used to.
What was the most difficult part about writing Evolution?
Deciding how much of my own experience to put in, and where it was appropriate to fictionalise without sensationalising things. It needed to have enough drama to keep young readers involved, and finding that balance was really tough. I hope I’ve got it right.
Talk us through your writing process.
For me, the story and setting are often the driving force, but with Evolution it was different. The character of Dan – the boy with the trans dad – was the starting point. Again, he’s based on someone I know, and some of his words are pretty well verbatim.
With Dan in my mind and heart, I set about creating his world – his school life, home life, family, friends and interests. I usually start to write pretty quickly and then go back and do lots of refining of what I’ve written but this was a bit different, probably because so much background stuff was decided before I started writing.
I usually know where my stories will end, but once again, Evolution was different. I knew the end would be positive, to reflect my own experience of this issue, but I had to wait for the story to unfold in its own time before I realised exactly what it would be.
Is there an aspect of writing for children you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Everyone tells you that writing for children – and getting published of course – is tough, but you can’t know how tough until you’re part of it. I wish I’d been better prepared for the highs and lows, especially the lows. You toughen up as your journey as a children’s writer continues.
What writing advice would you give to other children’s writers wanting to write about diverse family life?
Be honest. Follow your heart. Your story IS worth telling and you have the right to tell it. The great thing about writing for children at the moment is that publishers are interested in a much wider range of experience than they were ten years ago. Now is the time to let your story out into the world.
Is there anything else you would like to tell readers about Evolution?
It’s funny as well as topical. At least I think it is. I’ve tried to make it a good read. It’s not heavy handed and I think a lot of kids and even older readers will find it enjoyable. Give it a go! (Please.)
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Zelda for her time and cooperation in taking part in this interview for her Evolution blog tour. It has been a privilege to be included in the tour.
Zelda does not have a website or anything yet, but is working on it. If readers want to contact her, they can do so via ZunTold’s website: https://zuntold.com/. She hopes you will.
Evolution by Zelda Conway is available to buy now from your local bookshop, or online at uk.bookshop.org, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.