1. How and why did Honest come to be? What was the inspiration?
Honest came about, bizarrely, while I was at work. During university, I used to work as a cleaner at a hospital, and I had a lot of time to think while I mopped floors. I was dreaming up a story that was like Casper – a girl in love with a ghost – meets Wuthering Heights. Now, aside from being quite a comic comparison, it all started off quite lovey-dovey. I was imagining romance and the agony of being kept apart between the veil of life and death. Something gothic and beautiful was brewing up in my mind and, with a penchant for that kind of tale already, I sat down at my laptop and got started.
Then something weird happened; it all twisted into something much uglier than I planned. I imagined a girl pining for what she couldn’t have. I imagined a twisted girl, riddled with guilt, and nobody to turn to; nothing but a rose-tinted dream of what could have been if her boyfriend hadn’t died. So of course, motives developed, circumstances developed, and suddenly Ellen appeared. A wheelchair-bound psycho so tormented, bruised and hell-bent on survival that she’d do anything to get it. Anything to say to the world: I win.
So I guess I can still see elements of Wuthering Heights about it (although none of the Bronte mastery!) but when it comes to Casper…oh, what a hoot! I think back to that initial idea and think, ‘Oh, how adorable.’
2. What was the most difficult part of writing Honest?
Honest was the most difficult thing I thing I’ve ever written, but to my mind, my strongest. The most difficult part actually came from my faith in my ability to portray her appropriately and pull such a complex character off. On one hand, I wanted to write a kind of teenage girl’s idea of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. She needed to be twisted, but with cause; ruthless yet vulnerable; possessive and covetous. On the other hand, she needed to be readable, believable, and above all, intriguing enough to keep the pages turning. Ellen is an unreliable narrator, but I needed to be a reliable storyteller, and that’s extremely tough. I’m not sure I achieved it, but I guess that’s for the reader to decide.
I was aware all along that Ellen would be a frustrating character. She isn’t someone we can ‘all relate to’, as the saying goes, and of course this isn’t that type of motivational book. But being YA, it’s a tough’n’, because so much of YA relies upon a strong character that the reader can get behind. It’s tough to get behind Ellen. So I guess, really, I had to rely on my strength as a writer, and if that wasn’t tough enough, I had to rely on the breadth of the genre to help me get away with it. There are some hugely imaginative, dark YA books out there that stretch the genre and break the mould, and that’s what I needed Honest to be. I needed to find the courage to write it, and the faith that it’d all come out in the wash.
3. Do you think people need to read Honest? Why? What do you want to achieve by Honest?
Honestly, (har har!) I just thirsted to write a gothic novel, with a twisted teen, a tragic romance and a tangible atmosphere. I don’t ask for much, do I? Pah! Well, I think if people
want to read something a little different from the norm, then I truly hope Honest can provide that. I guess for myself I wanted to prove that I could write an angst-ridden book from a different perspective; teen angst is hardly something we’re short of these days, and the usual love-triangle formula is dull to say the least.
No, I just desperately wanted to write the account of a young woman who really didn’t have it all together; I’m talking more than bad dates and embarrassing school blunders. Ellen is someone who desperately wants that kind of chick-lit lifestyle, but her reality is so much darker than that. It’s sick, twisted and actually quite tragic. I suppose I just wanted to chuck her voice into the void and see what people make of that. She’d love to think someone had written a novel about her, and that makes me chuckle.
4. Tell us about your other works!
Ah, those! Right! Well, I’ve got another three books coming out in the coming months. The one I’m hoping to get out first is All Girls Cry, which is like The Handmaid’s Tale meets Boys Don’t Cry. (See the inspiration in the title?) It’s a kitchen-sink dystopia with lots of LGBT characters, including Pru, the star of the show, who is a transgender boy.
Then there’s Leap, a family dynamics time-travel story. It’s about a Peckham girl who, after a car crash, warps back in time and meets her own mother in 1979. Kat, our main girl, befriends her mother and discovers the terrible secret of who her father is. If she doesn’t help her mother face her demons, Kat and her little brother could be wiped out of history. It’s a mother-daughter story meets Back to the Future.
After that, we have Beyond, a story of two ghosts who meet in the afterlife. Jamie, our main gal, dies on prom night and meets Zachary, a former dancer brooding so much about the past that his soul can’t move on to wherever it is souls go. Jamie has unfinished business on earth when her best friend and boyfriend betray her, and together she and Zach need to help each other to move on. It’s a bittersweet tale of letting go.
I have a novella called Rotters, too, which is another psycho teen, but I’m unsure about that one’s place amongst my other novels. It’s much more akin to Honest, but it’s far more brutal and the language is punchier and less romanticised. Much less. We’ll see!
5. Tell us about your writing-rituals! Certain place, music, food, etc?
The only ritual I have is my couch, comfy clothes, and absolute silence! I’m not blessed the way other writers seem to be. They can listen to awesome music and inspiring soundtracks to get their creative juices flowing, but I can’t. All that noise simply distracts me and drowns out the voices in my head. So yes, a comfy couch, comfy clothes, beautiful silence and, perhaps, my dog’s fluffy head to scratch when I tire of scratching my own!
6. Tell us more about yourself! How did you become a writer and who are you as a person behind your books?
Me? I’m an illusionist, a dream-weaver, a – Lol, just kidding! I’m a simple girl of 23 who works from home as a transcriber. It’s a job I fell into and, of all the things I’ve fallen into over the course of my life, I’d say it’s the best one. Certainly preferable to mud, I can tell you. I’ve been seriously writing since I was about 17, and before then I was a blissfully
ignorant scribbler of short stories. It didn’t take long for me to become a bitter starving writer, I can tell you. I’d always dreamed of being a reclusive writer in a big cardigan, funnily enough, so be careful what you wish for! Some girls dream of fame and fortune, but not me. I dreamed of cardigans. Go figure. It’s not as glamorous as Johnny Depp makes it look in the movies.
In reality I’m a junk-food-scoffing vegetarian with hippy clothing and a fear of sunlight. I love movies, long walks with my dog, collecting retro junk, and having good times with my partner, Matt. We live in a flat by the seaside where I grew up.
7. Are there any topics you know you will never write about in your books? Maybe something that you dislike reading about yourself and so will never use in one of your creations.
I guess that just comes down to genre. I lean, largely, towards realism with a touch of genre; know what I mean? Like I described my other novel, All Girls Cry, as a kitchen-sink dystopia; real life, but twisted for kicks. Real people in bizarre situations. So I guess I wouldn’t write about dragons and elves, though I love watching them on tele.
As for certain topics, well, I do enjoy touching on the tough subjects, so I’ll leave that one open. I’d never write anything religious or overly political, because that’s just not my bag. But if we’re talking matters of emotion, I’m all over it. I’m more about individuals than I am about global themes and ideas, if you catch my drift. I can map out a character but I certainly couldn’t build an entire world!
8. Any writing/editing/publishing tips for up and coming authors out there?
The best tip I’ve ever picked up is to stop waiting for the magic to happen to you. Take control of it yourself; destiny is pure laziness. In today’s publishing climate, we make our own opportunities. So if you’ve got something to show off, show it off. Just write the damn thing and tell yourself – force yourself to believe – that it doesn’t matter if it’s rubbish. Allow yourself the creative freedom to just do it.
You know, artists and musicians spread their work around long before they’re considered ‘good’, because that grows organically from passion, hard work and pure fun. Writers are the only creatives I know of that keep their work hidden away, awaiting that golden ticket of a publishing contract. It doesn’t have to be that way anymore, and I’d encourage anyone to showcase their work, sew their seeds, and see what grows. Write lots, read lots, don’t get precious, and seek happiness in everything you do. We live but once!
9. What’s next?
Next? Oh crikey, you mean I’m supposed to have plans?! Well, uh, I guess I’ll be thinking about the next novel. I’ve had a few ideas rushing around my mind, but I haven’t harnessed anything concrete yet. I guess I need some inspiration so, as always, I’ll be searching for that within the pages of a good book. Where would we be without ‘em, eh?
If you haven’t yet read my review of Honest, then here it is!
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