Monelli & Me backstory by Teena Raffa-Mulligan


Behind every book there is always another story and my debut YA novel Monelli & Me is no exception.

As with all the novels I’ve written to date, the journey from idea to publication was a long one, with many detours and direction changes along the way.

From the time I began submitting stories to publishers in pre-internet days I’ve kept a card system to track submissions and the first entry noted for this novel is dated 2005. However, the beginning of the Monelli & Me story was much earlier for in 1989 the first version was a stage play. 

My teenage daughter and her cousin had joined the local amateur theatre group and I wrote it with them in mind to play the lead roles. The play, called Half Truths and Consequences, was never produced because I entered it in a competition and received some invaluable feedback from the judges. 

They highlighted my lack of stagecraft knowledge – I’d included an early, expensive set change and confused real and stage time – and they also felt my characters didn’t respond strongly enough to emotional events. It would require the assistance of a professional playwright to bring it up to performance standard. 

On a positive note, one judge said, “You have a definite writing talent and should keep honing it. Write something every day.” The other found it, “Appealing and easy to read. The content could make it a worthwhile contribution to discussion and personal reflection on human relationships, self-esteem etc for a secondary school aged audience.” 

I put the story aside and went back to writing picture books, short stories, poems and chapter books for younger readers. It remained forgotten in a filing cabinet for many years until I joined a critique group run by best-selling novelist Anna Jacobs and decided to rework it as YA fiction.

I let Kate tell her own story and drew on all I’d learnt about writing in the intervening years. The critique feedback helped me shape Apple Juice Will Do but after a few unsuccessful submissions the manuscript was set aside again.  

Changes in the publishing industry have led me to rethink the way I share my stories with readers and during the past 18 months I’ve become a ‘hybrid’ author. I continue to be traditionally published while also releasing some titles through my self-publishing imprint Sea Song Publications. 

Following another rewrite and some positive feedback before I hit the ‘publish’ button, Monelli & Me has joined my growing list of indie titles. It’s been quite a process sharing Kate’s story…I will have to make sure Tali, one of the minor characters in the book, gets to tell her story much sooner.

Blurb: Who do you trust when those you love most let you down? 

Kate has been living a happy family fantasy. Her mum has been keeping secrets. Now the father Kate didn’t know about is coming to Perth. He wants to take Kate to Brisbane to meet her terminally ill grandmother. Kate is on an emotional roller coast. She has to find out who she is and where she belongs. Only then can she find out if her friendship with newcomer Joshua Perrin can be something more. 

Bio: Teena writes quirky, whimsical books for children and her publications include picture books, junior fiction and MG novels. Her short stories and poetry for children and adults have appeared in magazines and anthologies and she has also worked as a journalist and editor on a diverse range of publications. Monelli & Me is Teena’s first novel for YA readers. 

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for featuring the story behind my first YA novel on the blog. It’s always a thrill to hold a new book baby and this one is a special celebration because it’s so different from everything else I’ve written.

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