Woohoo!! Following on from my amazing gift of books and my review of Sarah’s books from a few days ago, Sarah and I thought it would be a brilliant idea to do a Q&A and I have to say I am so honoured that she agreed!
- How did you get the idea for your book?
People always say write about what you know, so I wrote about the horrific stress of exams, the elevation of maths and science above more creative subjects and the focus on regurgitation of fact rather than application of knowledge. Having worked very closely with teenagers approaching exams over the last 9 years, I have seen how unfair the system is in Britain as success is as much dependent on type of school and quality of teaching as it is on natural ability. I wanted to take this stress and unfairness and heighten it to a life-or-death situation. However, I hope that the book isn’t totally devoid of humour. I felt that the teenagers in it, even (or maybe especially) teenagers facing probable death, would still joke, do stupid things, worry about looking cool and be mortified by their parents.
- Which character do you think you’re most like? Are your characters based on real people?
Oh I’m not sure about this one. I think I have elements of all of the characters in me – I’m a bit arty like Jack, quite determined like Noa, slightly superficial like Daisy, occasionally overly rational like Raf! My characters aren’t based on real people but maybe elements of their personalities are drawn from people I know.
- Which scene was the hardest for you to write?
The scene that was most emotional for me was when Noa has a show down with her Mum (I won’t tell you what about as that’d be a massive spoiler!) and her Mum says that ever since she held Noa in her arms she knew she’d kill for her. This is based on the very raw, protective maternal feelings I experienced holding my girls for the first time. I think one of the most interesting questions you can ask yourself is how far you’d go to protect the ones you love.
- What is your writing process like? Do you have a special routine?
Time has always been a controlling factor. Originally I wrote when my babies were asleep. Now, the younger one is at nursery in the mornings so that’s my golden time. My routine is that I go to my local Café Nero (so I can’t see the piles of washing building up around me) and type away manically for an hour, blocking out the rest of the world.
- What is your favourite book? Why is this special to you?
My favourite book is probably The Crysalids by John Wyndham – dystopia before they were using the term. I read it aged 12, 14, 16 and 26. It’s a powerful and unsettling coming of age story set in a post-nuclear community where intolerance and religious conservatism reign. Difference, in the form of genetic mutation, is seen as deviation from God’s creation, and hounded and stamped out. A brilliant, brilliant study of bigotry and humanity. Two words – Sophie’s foot. I cry every time.
- If you couldn’t be an author, what would you be?
I would probably still be a tutor. Working one to one with children, particularly teenagers is fascinating and a real privilege.
- What comes first the character or the story?
For me it was the story – I wanted to write about the environment and our education system. But that’s not to belittle character. In Noa, I sought to create a believable heroine who was strong but also suffered self-doubt, was fun, danced like she was electrocuted and really, really, wanted to survive.
- What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t worry so much about what other people think.
- Do you have a favourite word or phrase?
Gregarious. And belligerent. I think they just sound awesome.
So there you have it! It has been an absolute pleasure to do this Q&A with Sarah, to read her books, to meet her and to have a drink with her during YAShot! The book community is so incredible and it’s amazing when bloggers, little old bloggers like me get to make links with amazing authors like Sarah. I hope we get to work together again in the future!!
Massive thanks from the bottom of my heart to Sarah for giving up her time and for sending me her amazing books! It means a lot! I can’t wait to see what happens in The Territory in the 3rd book and I will be sure to share with you guys what occurs!