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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Zac and Mia Kindle Edition
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|Length: 301 pages||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled||Page Flip: Enabled|
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From the Publisher
A Conversation with A.J. Betts
The author of Zac & Mia talks about the inspiration behind this tender love story, the people who amaze her, and what she's doing with her spare time when she's not busy writing brilliant YA novels.
What inspired you to write Zac & Mia?
Zac & Mia is my third novel, but it’s my first to be inspired by real life. I never set out to write a book about two teenagers with cancer: who would set themselves such a daunting challenge?
I’ve been working with teenagers with illness for ten years. Since 2008, I’ve been specializing on the cancer ward. The students there are amazing and completely inspiring. They remind me of the things that matter, and the things that don’t. They are just like regular teenagers—funny, concerned with their appearance, worried about friendships and school—but their illness forces them to reassess the values they had, and the relationships that are important. I learn so much from them. Sometimes I’m left speechless. Sometimes I’m heartbroken.
Did any of your students, in particular, serve as inspiration for the characters Zac and Mia?
In early 2009, I was working with a wonderful student named Tayla. She was a keen reader, and had offered to read a draft of my second novel. Her one complaint was this: it didn’t have enough romance. Tayla made me to promise to focus more on love in my third novel. At the same time, I was teaching a male student who was in isolation due to having a Bone Marrow Transplant. It made me wonder how I would cope: imagine being stuck in a room for five weeks. With your mother! The concept of isolation intrigued me.
The story of Zac & Mia emerged through me asking questions: How can you fall in love with someone you can’t meet? What does beauty look like? What does courage look like? And what does it mean to be a good friend?
How long did it take you to write?
The novel took approximately two-and-a-half years to write. The reason it took so long was because I’d stopped writing in September 2010, when my student Tayla passed away unexpectedly. Even though I’d lost a number of students to cancer, Tayla’s death affected me greatly, and my story became too difficult to continue, especially as she’d been such a big supporter of the story. Emotionally, I gave up. It was Tayla’s mother who encouraged me to continue, and I finally did.
What surprised you most about people’s reactions to the book in your native Australia?
I’ve been completely bowled over by the reactions here in Australia. I guess I’m (pleasantly) surprised that it’s connected with such a broad range of people, males and females, from eleven to eighty-five, well and sick. I’m really glad that Zac has become a bit of a legend (he’s adorable, let’s be honest), but I’ve been quite surprised by some of the reactions to Mia. Teenage girls, especially, have been really tough on her. What is terrific is how the readers warm to Mia as they come to know her. She’s the character who undergoes the biggest transformation, and readers become quite protective of her. I feel so proud of Mia, as if it was her writing the end of the story, and not me.
What do you hope your US audience takes away most from this book?
I don’t want to be greedy and wish for too much, but if I can, I wish that US audiences will carry the story with them long after they read it, remembering how precious every day is, and how not to take anything or anyone for granted. Zac and Mia come to learn that life is worth fighting for. It truly is. I’ll never understand why beautiful (real life) teenagers have their lives cut short. Why are they unlucky enough to have cancer? Why not me? I’ll never stop feeling angry on their behalf. But what these teenagers do is remind us to live every day well, to treat people gently, And not to take this life or planet lightly.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Fortunately/unfortunately, I’m quite an active person and I find it hard to sit still. I hate feeling trapped (a bit like Zac!) so I’m always looking for excuses to be outdoors. My main sport is cycling: I own five bikes and cycle most days. I love road cycling, touring, and mountain-biking. I also spend my time walking and running, or sometimes swimming at the beach. When I can sit still long enough, I usually read books or watch films. I love baking. Muffins are my specialty.
And of course, I work part-time. I still teach one or two days a week on the cancer ward. I also study (I’m doing my doctorate in creative writing because I’m a big nerd) and the rest of my time is devoted to visiting schools and festivals to talk about Zac & Mia.
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Top customer reviews
Perfect for fans of "the fault in our stars" and "eleanor and park"
Most recent customer reviews
Title: Zac & Mia
Author: A. J. Betts
Review: The opening the Zac & Mia was great, we meet Zac who...Read more
It took me a little while to warm up to this book, and I can’t exactly explain exactly why.Read more
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