Between the Lives
You see … I didn't want to die.
It was the exact opposite.
I wanted to live.
How far would you go for the chance to really live?
The term -sick lit' has been coined to describe a genre of young adult books dealing with real-life issues such as self-harm, disease and depression. But this increasingly popular genre is not without controversy.
The drama came to light earlier this year, with an article in the UK newspaper The Daily Mail accusing YA authors of exploiting and glamourising issues such as illness and suicide. The article described the plot of John Green's novel The Fault in Our Stars, which follows two teenage cancer sufferers as they fall in love, as -mawkish at best, exploitative at worst.'
Jessica Shirvington, author of the internationally bestselling Embrace series and newly published psychological thriller Between the Lives, says that YA writers are very aware of the sensitivity of the issues they present in their work, but at the same time they don't want to overlook the realities teens have to deal with.
-We're a modern society dealing with modern issues,' Shirvington says. -You can't ask people under 18 to turn a blind eye and play in the park. If we don't write books that address what's going on in their lives, they won't read them.
Between the Lives follows the story of 18-year-old Sabine, a girl who struggles with parallel lives. Every 24 hours she -Shifts' between her two worlds – moving back and forth between two very different families, sets of friends and social expectations. To obtain the life she's always wanted, Sabine undertakes a number of increasingly dangerous experiments.
-Anyone who publishes anything has an obligation to be aware that you're sharing something with impressionable minds,' says Shirvington. -But we also have every right to be creative and push boundaries.'
Jessica Shirvington lives in Sydney with her husband of twelve years, FOXTEL presenter and former Olympic sprinter Matt Shirvington, and their two daughters. She has previously founded and run a fine foods distribution company in London. On her return to Australia in 2009, she focused on her writing. Her urban fantasy series EMBRACE debuted in 2010 and has since been published internationally. In 2012, the series was picked up by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and CBS Studios to be adapted to a television drama for The CW Network.
Between the Lives is Jessica's fifth release and first stand-alone novel.
Between the Lives
Harper Collins Australia
Author: Jessica Shirvington
Interview with Jessica Shirvington
Question: Firstly, tell me you're working on the next book in the Violet Eden Chapters?
Jessica Shirvington: I am nearing the end of the first chapter in the next book, Empower.
Question: Phew! What is Between the Lives about?
Jessica Shirvington: Between the Lives is a story about Sabine, a girl who lives every day twice but no two days are the same and she is surviving in two different realities both very much like our reality as there is no crazy concept in her actual world other than the fact that she lives each day, twice. In the first of any day she has her family, a younger sister and parents, who live in Roxbury, Boston which is a tougher neighbourhood. Then at the end of that 24 hour period she almost rewinds and starts her day, again, but she lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts where she has a really nice home with two older brothers and different parents, a different school and different friends; her whole life is completely different and she has been this way for as long as she can remember.
The book begins and she has learnt to deal with these lives that she has and she makes the best of them but in one of the opening scenes she breaks her arm and for the first time, when she shifts to her other life the physical doesn't cross over, her arm isn't broken in her other world.
Question: What inspired the concept of Between The Lives?
Jessica Shirvington: I have been asked this question before and when I look back, I can't actually think of the one thing that inspired the concept. I wanted to explore the idea of suicide but not from the point of view of wanting to die; from the point of view of wanting to live, in a way. The idea came from the statistic that I read which stated suicide wasn't actually about wanting to die but for the majority of people who considered suicide it was about not wanting to live, not wanting to die. I took that idea and it went further…
Question: Between The Lives explores a difficult concept. How difficult was it to step aside from the fantasy/paranormal genre and write a psychological thriller especially whilst maintaining the character of Sabine?
Jessica Shirvington: Yes. Once I had the idea, I really had to spend a lot of time working out the rules of Sabine's world and simplifying them to find a way that it would work seamlessly but without creating a whole lot of questions at the same time because I didn't want the concept of her shifting between lives to be the focus of the story. The focus of the story is the choices that she makes and the lives of the people around her. It took some time and those types of things were in regards to simplifying and finding the fool-proof world building answers.
Question: Why was it important for you to address modern issues that face young adults?
Jessica Shirvington: I believe that is a part of what any book does whether it's dealing with paranormal elements or bearing real life drama. We are always delving into the heart of issues and for me I felt it was the right time, as a writer, to do something like Between The Lives and this is very different to my series, The Violet Eden Chapters. I was really keen to get in there and have a go.
It was also one of those situations of when you have an idea for a story and it either really jumps out at you and comes easily or not; and as soon as I started to give this story some thought it flowed so well.
Question: Was it a case of now you had the story, you were compelled to write it, immediately?
Jessica Shirvington: Yes, one day I sat down and although I was busy doing quite a few other things at the time, the story kept eating away at me, so I just started mapping it out. When I started on the first chapter it just came to me, so well and I was really surprised.
People around me who know me well believe it was one of the stories that I was supposed to write.
Question: What do you hope readers take away from Between the Lives?
Jessica Shirvington: I think everyone is different and everyone reads for different reasons however my primary goal is that readers enjoy Between the Lives. A lot of people, myself included, read for an escape and to be entertained and I hope people get that.
You can peel back the layers if you want as there is a lot in Between the Lives, you can take from it what you want.
Interview by Brooke Hunter