Read this and pass it on…
I was nominated for this chain-blog-thingy by the inspirational Liz Broomfield, non-fiction author and real life neighbour. Like Liz, I don’t do these things often – but this one has good questions and you only have to nominate two other authors, so hooray. Also today, the brilliant writer Helen Grant is posting on the same subject – http://helengrantbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/what-why-and-how-i-write.html .
“What are you working on?”
I’m about one-third of the way through Somerton Book 3. At Somerton is a publisher-led, YA series that I’m writing for Disney Hyperion, and which has so far sold to Hot Key in the UK and Springer Verlag in Germany. It’s a Downton-inspired soapy rollercoaster with lots of scandal, secrets, and upstairs/downstairs drama. I’ve been doing lots of research and reading some fascinating first hand accounts of the period, including Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain, and Horses don’t Fly, by Frank Libby, an American World War 1 ace. This book is called Emeralds and Ashes. New characters appear and some old ones surprise us with what they get up to!
I’m also writing a 9-12s book of my own, working title Wish. It’s about twin sisters who couldn’t be more different, and a birthday wish that goes horribly wrong. It’s a really challenging book to write, because I have an unreliable narrator who’s trying hard not to think about something very important all the way through (because it’s such a sad memory), and although there are supernatural goings-on it’s all really about the past coming unwound and weaving its tendrils into the twins’ present-day life… Very. very tricky to handle – all those layers of thinking and pretending and lying and wishing – but so much fun, for a writer. I’m not getting to spend as much time on it as I’d like, because of the pressing Somerton deadline, but I’m not losing enthusiasm for it, which I think is a good sign!
“How does your writing differ from others in its genre?”
That’s hard to answer about your own writing! My favourite reader review of Chips Beans and Limousines was ‘This book made me laugh but it also made me think.’ I like to think I’m very flexible, moving between genres happily but still keeping my own style. I’m most interested in writing for 9-12s, really. I love writing about that no man’s land when you’re about to turn a teenager, and everything is so complicated. I went to boarding school in another country when I was 11, and moved schools again when I was 13, so it’s an age that resonates for me. I write a lot of absent parents and am fascinated by unreliable narrators – narrators who don’t know the full story, or who lie to themselves unconsciously. And I write a lot of unhappy families. Not necessarily ‘issue’ stories, more families who mean well but just don’t get along, families that are a little flawed, parents and chidlren who don’t understand each other or themselves well enough to get along. My families are jigsaw puzzles that don’t quite fit. I think most people have felt that they’re in that kind of family, at one time or another, so people can recognize the feelings. Also, a lot of tension arises from these situations – and tension fuels story.
“Why do you write what you do?”
I love children’s literature, always have done. I continued reading and discovering great children’s books when I was a teenager, at the same time as I was reading and discovering great adults’ books. I’ve never felt that writing for children is a less worthy choice than writing for adults. I think it’s the most challenging form of literature, and the most important. ‘Give me a child until the age of seven and I will give you the man.’
“How does the writing process work for you?”
I used to write 10,000 words, lose enthusiasm, and stop. Then I forced myself to finish a novel. A barrier was broken (and a very bad novel was born). Then I learned about arc, shaping, structure. I started to plan and wrote well planned novels that didn’t quite work. I learned about theme. I returned to character. Now I plan from character and never let theme out of sight. And sometimes (as with Chips, Beans and Limousines) I’m just lucky that it all falls into place! I’ve had very useful feedback from beta readers, over the years, and have learned to listen to it with an intelligent ear. Teaching writing helps me learn to write better.
That’s it from me. I nominate 1) author extaordinaire Susie Day– if you’ve not read Big Woo do so now, such a fantastic voice! And 2) debut YA novelist Eve Ainsworth. We always knew she’d get published eventually and she has! Can’t wait to read Seven Days when it comes out.