Coming of age with Gary Lonesborough

Growing up in a small country town can be tough. Now imagine coming to terms with your sexuality and your cultural identity, all while grappling with the heady, turbulent emotions of first love.

Yuin man and debut YA author Gary Lonesborough has written the story he wished he could’ve read as a closeted, queer Aboriginal teen. Set in rural NSW, The Boy from the Mish follows seventeen-year-old Jackson as he meets Tomas, a blow-in from Sydney who’s just gotten out of a juvenile detention centre.

One of MWF’s resident YA experts, Jessica Harvie, heaped praise on The Boy from the Mish back in March. Recommended as a heartwarming story of first love that explores belonging, racism, homophobia, masculinity and identity, we jumped at the chance to speak to Lonesborough about his book.

We asked Lonesborough about his writing journey and what students can expect from his MWF Schools event this year. MWF Schools will take place from 6–9 September, during the 2021 Melbourne Writers Festival.

What was among your favourite books to read growing up?

As a kid, I loved Andy Griffiths books, as well as Captain Underpants and the Goosebumps series. My favourite Goosebumps book was The Curse of Camp Cold Lake.

When did you first realise you wanted to write books for younger readers?

As a teen, I loved reading coming-of-age stories. It was only when I began writing my book that I realised I wanted to write young adult fiction, because I still love those coming-of-age stories about growth and change.

The Boy from the Mish is your debut book for teens and young adults—what was the most fun or rewarding aspect of writing it?

There were so many moments in the story that came together like magic, like the scene with the men’s group. The most fun scenes to write for me were the scenes with Jackson and his friends and the first few scenes Jackson and Tomas spend alone.

What will you be touching on in your MWF Schools event?

I’ll be touching on the writing process for The Boy from the Mish and the experiences and inspirations behind the story.

What do you hope younger readers will get out of the event?

I hope they will feel inspired to read the book. I hope that if there are any budding writers in the audience that they will take inspiration from hearing my story and that it will give them confidence to keep writing.

Gary Lonesborough is a Yuin man, who grew up on the Far South Coast of NSW as part of a large and proud Aboriginal family. He was Bega Valley Shire Council Young Citizen of the Year, won the Patrick White Young Indigenous Writers Award and has received a Copyright Agency First Nations Fellowship. The Boy from the Mish is Lonesborough’s debut YA novel.

Book tickets for your secondary school students to see Gary Lonesborough as part of MWF Schools.

Image: Supplied