Danielle Binks on how life shaped her debut YA novel, The Monster of Her Age

by |July 12, 2021
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Danielle Binks is a writer, reviewer, agent and book blogger who lives on the Mornington Peninsula. In 2017, she edited and contributed to Begin, End, Begin, an anthology of new Australian young adult writing inspired by the #LoveOzYA movement, which won the ABIA Book of the Year for Older Children (Ages 13+) and was shortlisted in the 2018 Gold Inky Awards. The Year the Maps Changed, Danielle’s debut middle-grade novel, was a CBCA Notable Book for Younger Readers 2021, longlisted for the ABIA Book of the Year Award for Younger Children 2021, shortlisted for the Readings Children’s Book Prize 2021 and longlisted for the Indie Book Awards 2021. The Monster of Her Age is Danielle’s debut YA novel.

Today, Danielle Binks is on the blog to tell us all about how life, love, grief and lockdown influenced the writing of The Monster of Her Age. Read on …

Danielle Binks

Danielle Binks

My first novel – The Year the Maps Changed – was inspired by real-life events of 1999, and featured a protagonist that was the same age I was in that year, and also lived near where I grew up. I did a very typical writerly practice of; “writing what you know,” and as such there was a lot of myself and my family in my first book.

There was in fact, so much of my childhood and family in that first book that I decided to give myself a break from the weight of tributes and close-to-home settings, and totally mix things up for my next work. The first departure was from the readership; The Year the Maps Changed was intended for middle-grade 8–12-year-olds, while my new book is for older, young adult readers. I also decided to fling my fiction further afield, and get out of Victoria; setting my new book in Tasmania which I don’t think has been as richly mined for YA-settings as it should be.

And finally, I decided to write a story that spun around a fictional Australian film history, and centred an infamous family of Tasmanian thespians. Thus – The Monster of Her Age was coming to life, and at a comfortable distance from my own. The story begins with a return-home for the protagonist, 17-year-old Ellie Marsden, whose starlet matriarch of a grandmother is dying and she must return home to Hobart to be with her, and try to seek closure in their tempestuous relationship before it’s too late.

I travelled to Tasmania in December 2019 with my first draft under my arm, on an expedition to really nail the scenery and seek inspiration from the beautiful nipaluna/Hobart setting. I revelled in the freedom of writing a story far removed from my own life and circumstances, with a little more room to dream and fantasise.

Then in January 2020, my grandmother passed away.

She was in end-of-life care for a little under a week, with family coming and going, ebbing and flowing through waves of grief and waiting. Her passing marked the first real loss of someone close to me in my family, but her death was also a beginning.

‘I revelled in the freedom of writing a story far removed from my own life and circumstances, with a little more room to dream and fantasise.’

By March, our world kept tilting and careening and my debut The Year the Maps Changed was released through the first national lockdown. By July, I was in the thick of edits for The Monster of Her Age and in the middle of a Melbourne-lockdown; what would end up being 112 strange days navigating upheaval, a particular grief, and type of trauma.

And throughout this time, my uncle was also battling pancreatic cancer that ultimately ended in his choosing to use Voluntary Assisted Dying when it became clear that he had mere months to live. The second-half of 2020 was once again consumed with tidal waves of grief and living, our family trying to come together as often as we could and within restrictions – to suck the last marrows out of ‘normal’ life before the make-up of our kin changed forever again, and even more irrevocably. My Uncle passed away in December 2020, an even stranger but no less peaceful vigil weeks before Christmas.

I wrote throughout all of it. I edited and found solace in my characters – in a young woman navigating her own grief and trying to find a way out to the other side, while still holding onto anger and trauma but not letting it define her completely. The Monster of Her Age is maybe also about learning to co-exist with ourselves and our histories, however hard they may be. It’s also about the complex solace of art – to heal and reveal, to speak for us and to us, collectively and personally.

I experienced more ‘firsts’ in 2020 than ever before, and it officially banished the idea for me that “firsts” are relegated to teenagers and their YA stories as the marker that makes them. I became proof that even adults can unearth experiences within themselves and grapple with them too – and I hope I communicated some of that in this book; some tribute to how we’re all stumbling through this wild world of ours, and figuring it all out.

I am glad that this book is so different from my first because I’m not the same person I was when I wrote my first book. The circumstances of writing this second book changed me even further. And that’s okay. Art changes people, and people change the world – and sometimes it all works in reverse too. The Monster of Her Age is a complicated book, written during a complicated year – it has become a strange but no less beloved time-capsule for me, and proof that I survived something; enough to write about it.

Now, I hope you enjoy reading it

The Monster of Her Age by Danielle Binks (Hachette Books Australia) is out on the 28th of July.


The Monster Of Her Ageby Danielle Binks

The Monster Of Her Age

Limited Signed Copies Available!

by Danielle Binks

How do you ruin someone's childhood? Ellie Marsden was born into the legendary Lovinger acting dynasty. Granddaughter of the infamous Lottie Lovinger, as a child Ellie shared the silver screen with Lottie in her one-and-only role playing the child monster in a cult horror movie. The experience left Ellie deeply traumatised and estranged from people she loved.

Now seventeen, Ellie has returned home to Hobart for the first time in years. Lottie is dying and Ellie wants to make peace with her before it's too late...

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