Author Tay Marley Talks The QB Bad Boy and Me and the Allure of American High School Culture
When New Zealand writer Tay Marley began writing a story called The QB Bad Boy and Me on the writing community website Wattpad, all she wanted was a place to share her story and have fun. Little did she know, it would be read more than 29 million times, becoming one of Wattpad's most popular stories.
The platform has since branched out to publishing, with a plan to print its most beloved stories and bring them from the internet to bookshelves everywhere, and today, Tay became Wattpad Books' very first published writer. We got the chance to speak with her about her cherished story, the magic of Wattpad and just what it's like to write a romance about American high school culture from the perspective of an outsider.
Sweety High: When you started writing on Wattpad, did you ever anticipate it could be a path toward getting your work published?
Tay Marley: I didn't. I started writing there because I saw it as a creative outlet. I saw the encouragement and feedback for other authors who were publishing there, and that community inspired me to put my stories online. I wanted to hone and develop my skills, and it turned out to be so much more than I originally thought it could be. I was really happy with the outcome.
(Photo credit: Sarah Wills)
SH: What does it mean to you for your story to be the first-ever release from Wattpad Books?
TM: Surreal. I had to physically receive my first hard copy before I believed it was real, and I still can't comprehend that I'm leading the lineup. It's such a huge honor. I feel like I'm a little part of history being made. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.
SH: What was the inspiration behind The Bad Boy QB and Me?
TM: My biggest inspiration was my fascination with American high school culture, especially stuff like football and pep rallies and cheerleaders. It seems that everyone over there is so excited and enthusiastic and passionate about the sport, and we just don't have anything like that in New Zealand. We have rugby, but it's quite different, and our high schools aren't the same. I wanted to bring my own take to how glamorous and fun it looked and put down in words what I'd experienced watching it as an outsider. That got my inspiration flowing.
I also have a few friends in America who were able to give me more information about what it's like to attend a high school football game. I'm fascinated by that culture, and I would love to one day see it in person.
(The QB Bad Boy and Me via Wattpad Books)
SH: Was it tricky to write an American high school romance as a non-American?
TM: It was hard putting myself into those situations never having seen them myself, but I did research online and watched a lot of YouTube videos of games and high school events to get a better sense of them. Talking to American friends was also so valuable. I wouldn't have been able to properly put my thoughts into words without the help of people who had really lived through those experiences. One friend is a huge football fan and watches every game, and she was able to give me all the nitty-gritty details about the rules, which I'm still not completely confident with. I've gained so much knowledge through the process of writing my book.
SH: As you were writing the story, how did you set out to make it different from other YA romance stories?
TM: I love a little bit of cliché and the common tropes you see often in romantic books. Still, I wanted to do something that was often seen, but with my own spin on it. I decided to change things up enough that they wouldn't be predictable, and I loved that so many people told me they thought things were going to turn out one way, but they turned out another. I wanted to do something people only think they'd seen before.
SH: How similar are you to the story's protagonist, Dallas?
TM: I set out to create a female lead who had her own goals and dreams and was strong and independent, but still flawed. She's a teenager, after all. She's not me. She's bolder than I am, but she's someone I could look up to. After writing her, I see more of my 6-year-old daughter in her. She's very strong-willed and stubborn, and doesn't back down. We clash often because of how outspoken she is. I love that about Dallas, and I love that about my daughter, even if it can be trying at times.
SH: Which scenes were the most fun to write?
TM: Definitely the promposal. I loved putting my creativity into it and dreaming up something I hadn't seen before. We don't have prom in New Zealand, so it was a lot of fun thinking up various extravagant promposal ideas. I also loved writing the pep rallies and football games. And the scene where they go up to California together was really fun, and something I've never experienced, so I had a lot of fun researching that.
SH: Which scenes were the toughest to write?
TM: The football scenes, especially when I had to write about the individual plays in detail. Those were difficult, but I enjoyed the challenge and doing the research that went into making them as authentic as possible.
SH: What about the story do you think has really resonated with readers?
TM: I think it's relatable in the way that these teenagers are flawed, but fun. I love getting feedback that readers relate to Dallas. It could also be the way I perceived the culture, which I wanted to make exciting and glamorous. It's fun and romantic, and people love Drayton. He's outspoken and has absolutely no filter, but he's very passionate. People love him and the idea of him, and the idea of having a boyfriend like him.
SH: In the past, Wattpad stories have been adapted into movies. How would you react to a QB Bad Boy film adaptation, and who would you cast as the leads?
TM: That's one of those things I don't think I'd be able to comprehend. It would be life-changing. I think we all secretly think about seeing our books on the big screen, and I can 100% guarantee that I've thought about the actors. I've face claimed Cody Christian as Drayton. He plays a football player in his current show All-American, so I can easily imagine him being perfect for the role. I think Dove Cameron would be my Dallas. She's got the dancing, and the look and the personality.
SH: Any advice for writers who look up to you?
TM: I've always wanted to be a published writer, but I didn't think it would ever happen. I think my passion is what's taken me so far. Passion, and truly loving your craft, and putting your all into it and never giving up can get you anywhere. This wasn't fast for me. I was writing for years before this happened, and I knew that over those years I never lost any amount of the passion and love I had for it, and that makes a huge difference. Give everything you have to learning and growing while having a lot of fun with it, too. Doing something without expecting anything out of it can be so special. Simply keep writing, have fun and be passionate. I never did this thinking there'd be a payoff. I just loved doing it so much.
Also, if you're a writer seeking a like-minded community, and to make good friends and get good feedback on your work, Wattpad is incredible. It changed my life, and I think it's a great place for anyone who loves words and loves reading.
Did you know The Kissing Booth also started as a book on Wattpad? Click HERE for a list of movies to watch if you loved The Kissing Booth.