Character Interview; Lou Carling from The Mess Of Me

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Q1 What did you eat for breakfast?

I just had a coffee. I wasn’t really hungry. Toast is so filling in the morning and I’ve gone off milk lately on cereal. Just a coffee most days. Coffee is fine. I do have two sugars in it though, which is quite bad, so I’m gonna’ cut that down to one pretty soon.

Q2 Do you have any pets?

Yeah, we have a dog called Gremlin. God knows what he is. He has ears like a bat and a smashed in face like a pug? He’s small and fat with along tail and weird, wiry fur. My best friend Joe calls him an experiment gone wrong. Mum bought him for me and my sister when my dad left us. It was the first thing she did! Went out and got us a puppy.

Q3 How many siblings do you have and are you close to them?

I only have one sister, Sara. She’s eighteen and off to University soon. We get on pretty well, but I wouldn’t say we were close exactly. I’ve always viewed her as a bit of a blur. She rushes around, never stays still, always in and out and involved in some huge drama. She’s always arguing with my mum too. They’re terrible together.

Q4 Who is your best friend? And why?

My best friend is Joe. We’re probably only best friends by accident, to be honest. His mum Lorraine (she is absolutely terrifying!) and my mum were in the hospital at the same time having Sara and Travis, one of Joe’s older brothers and became friends. Lorraine has five sons, and Joe is the middle one. We were forced on each other, I guess. We knew each other even when we were in our mother’s wombs! Poor us. Having to sit there, forced to listen to their constant bitching and gossiping! He’s still my best friend because he gets me. More than anyone. And I get him. We basically just swear at each other and our friendship is based on insults. Joe is calm and gentle, not like the rest of his insane family. They don’t see him like I do. Which is sad. I feel sad for him a lot.

Q5 Who are you scared of?

A few people, actually. My dad scares me a bit, or at least he did when I was younger. He was always ranting and raving and slamming doors and storming off. I hated him and the way he treated my mum. She put up with it for years but then he left her for another woman. I’m not really scared of him now. I just think he’s pathetic. Joe’s mum Lorraine scares the shit out of me. She’s like a pitbull, I swear, a pitbull in red lipstick. She’d wipe the floor with anyone. She’s not frightened of anything or anyone. Christ, she’s a horrifying specimen. Her new bloke Mick is a bit scary too. Her oldest sons, Leon, Travis and Joe have a different dad. Mick is father to the youngest two boys, Will and Tommy. Of course, he dotes on them. They can do no wrong. But he seems to hate the oldest three. So it’s like a constant war zone at their house. Mick is a lot like Lorraine and they fight like cat and dog sometimes. Physically and everything. But do you want to know who scares me the most? Well, it’s Leon. Joe’s oldest brother. Leon and Travis are very close in age and always together, up to no good. Travis is okay. He’s no angel, but he has a nice smile and isn’t too mean to Joe. But Leon? There’s something about him that chills me to the bone. Something missing in his eyes. If there’s anyone to be scared of around here, it’s Leon Lawrenson.

Q6 What is your greatest fear?

Well, it will probably sound stupid to you. Stupid and shallow. But my biggest fear is getting fat again. I was such a porker until I started dieting and exercising. Now, I’m losing weight fast and lots of strange stuff has been happening. I’m more confident, which is weird, because I always just wanted to disappear before. Boys are interested in me now! Which is mental! Boys never looked at me before. I’ve had some weird little moments with Joe this summer, and Travis tried it on with me… I know, I know! But yeah, getting fat again terrifies me. I’m not joking. I never ever want to be that girl again. I hated her. I won’t be her again. I know my mum and sister think I’m taking the weight loss too far, but it’s easy for them to say. They were never fat like I was. They don’t understand.

Q7 What are your hopes and dreams?

Well, right now, I sort of hope Joe and I can get ourselves out of the mess we’re in. Since we found that stuff in his brothers’ wardrobe, everything has got a bit scary. Suddenly Travis and Leon are being nice to Joe, and I’m really worried about what he’s getting into…As for dreams? Mine are pretty basic. I want to be left alone, because most people annoy the hell out of me. I want them all to leave me alone and let me get as skinny as I want. I want to be skinny. Super skinny. I want to be skinny forever. Aside from that, I hope me and Joe are best friends forever and nothing ever comes between us, and I dream of working with animals one day. I haven’t decided what yet. Maybe just a dog walker or a dog trainer or something? I couldn’t stand being around too many people, I know that.

Q8 Do you have any hobbies?

Running. I love running these days! And listening to music, though Joe takes the piss out of my tastes as I seem to like a lot of old stuff like Bob Dylan. Joe is really into music and wants to be a drummer. He’s saving up for this drum kit and forming a band with his mates. Walking the dog? Except that’s not really a hobby, just something I always end up doing because Mum and Sara are too busy. Writing on my wall. You could call that a hobby, I guess. My mum hasn’t noticed yet, but I’ve been scrawling my thoughts and feelings on my bedroom wall for ages now. I’ve even started the ceiling. If she ever wants to know anything about me or my life, she only has to look! Smoking weed and drinking cider with Joe and my other friend Marianne? Naughty hobby, I know, but we’re teenagers, right? We’d regret it if we didn’t break the rules a bit.

Q9 Describe yourself in one sentence

Fucked up, sarcastic, nerdy mess of a girl on the verge of….something

Q10 What’s your biggest secret?

I’m not going to tell just anyone, am I? Christ, I don’t want the world to know! I don’t want anyone to know. It’s huge and it’s embarrassing and it would change everything if it ever got out…and I although I daydream about what could happen if it did, I’m too scared, too shy, too messed up to do anything about it.

The Mess Of Me

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Interview With Emily Williams, Author of Rafferty Lincoln Loves…

Last month I picked Emily Williams‘ wonderful young adult book, Rafferty Lincoln Loves… as my Indie Book of The Month. Emily kindly agreed to an interview, so here she is answering questions about the inspiration behind the book, how it was researched and what to expect next from her!

1. Can you tell us where the idea for Rafferty Lincoln Loves…came from?

The idea for the novel came from wanting to write a novel about horses but one that appealed to an older audience. The main plotline involved the missing racehorse Profits Red Ridge, however, the character of Rafferty took over. I let the story lead me along as I was writing but had the overarching plotline drawn out beforehand. The character subplots led in all sorts of exciting directions!

The themes developed as I was writing. I knew high-school-years were always going to be difficult to write about and Rafferty Lincoln Loves… delves into some sensitive topics. I wanted to capture high school from the perspective of one student, Rafferty, but then him discovering what it would be like to experience high school from other circles.

2- Did you enjoy reading books about horses when you were a teenager?

I loved them! Although, I found it difficult to find many aimed at the older teen and so I read books for younger children. I wanted to fill that gap in the market by writing my own horsey novel aimed at older teens.

3-Did you have to do much research for this book and if so how did you do it?

There were parts of the novel that needed research and other parts that I used my own knowledge.

I had some input from a police officer friend and from a friend working in social services. I used quite a lot of my own horsey knowledge but had limited knowledge of racing, so these parts were researched. School life in the novel was based on my own experiences coupled with more modern day experiences with the invention of social media etc and how that affects children. I asked teenagers for their opinions on these aspects!

4- What do you hope young readers get from this book?

I hope they get a more modern day feel to the traditional horsey novel; more current and relevant to their lives. I hope the ending of the novel leaves them empowered about issues at school and how to resolve them and not let them fester.

5- Can you tell us what you are working on next?

I started a psychological thriller last year. It follows a high school girl revising for her exams and watching the house opposite whilst she studies, as new neighbours move in. It’s more an adult book than young adult despite the age of the characters. There are more mature and dark themes running through the novel. I am still trying to add my lighter element of humour too to break it up.

I am really enjoying writing the novel, but put it aside for a couple of months whilst I concentrated on the publication of Rafferty Lincoln Loves… I hope it’ll be released next year, along with another I have developing in the pipeline!

6- Were there any particular challenges in writing a YA book?

I hadn’t written a Young Adult novel before and was worried I’d find it very challenging. However, once the character of Rafferty was established, he took over and the book pretty much wrote itself. There were some tricky themes covered and I worried about covering these sensitively but with the frank openness of a teenager. I hope I managed that! I loved writing a novel involving horses and was very excited about the whole novel from start to finish.

7- What has been your approach to marketing Rafferty Lincoln Loves…?

Marketing is always tricky. I planned the marketing for the novel well in advance and gave out advance review copies early to get reader opinions. The novel has appeared in a couple of magazines and local papers. I hope to spread the message about the novel far and wide to support the charity.

All proceeds from the novel are being donated to, The British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre. The charities ambassador, Frankie Dettori MBE, has supported the book by writing the foreword and the charity themselves have been supportive in sharing the novel

8- What is your favourite YA book and why?

There are several that I love but my favourite is, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. It captures adolescence in a lighthearted manner but with gritty underlying themes.

9- Did you always know the ending for the book or did it change as you wrote it?

I had the ending in mind, however, one of the characters really came alive as I was writing so he had a larger part in the ending than I planned. It came together even better than I hoped it would and more emotional.

10-How did you write this book? What was the process like?

I start with a plot and then find suitable characters. The plot is always easier than finding unique characters that fit the story. The characters do lead the plot totally astray from what I originally planned but I’m okay with that. I sometimes gently bring them back to the main plot but let them have their own time. Often other themes I hadn’t anticipated arrive and make the novel better, deeper and more interesting. Themes of high school bullying and rumour spreading surfaces in Rafferty Lincoln Loves… which I hadn’t originally planned for.

I love the writing process and once I’m fully into a story, I whizz along really enjoying the writing. The early stages I find difficult like I am with the novel I am currently writing, but with Rafferty Lincoln Loves… I was submerged in the storyline very quickly.

Thank you so much for agreeing to an interview, Emily! Good luck with Rafferty Lincoln Loves… and I’m very much looking forward to your next novel!

The Tree Of Rebels and Disconnection From Nature

So it’s finally here! The day has finally arrived! Sometimes when in the middle of writing and rewriting and crafting a book, publication day can feel like an impossibility. Something so far in the future it feels like it will never happen. The Tree Of Rebels felt like an impossible thing more than once. This was a very tough book to write and one I had a constant love/hate relationship with. It’s very different from my other books and I wrote it with an audience in mind, something I’d never done before.

As I’ve mentioned before, the seed of this book was sown while scrolling through Facebook one day. I’d kept seeing these petitions to sign to stop Monsanto patenting seeds. I didn’t understand a lot of it, but what I did read and digest alarmed me and got the cogs turning in my head. I’ve often thought about nature and who owns it. Have you ever walked through the woods or across a field, only to be stopped by a fence and a Private Property sign? Have you ever stood on a high hill and looked down at the landscape and realised how restricted our movements actually are? How the paths and roads have been laid out for you and how signs and fences stop us roaming as we once did?

The more I thought about large corporations owning seeds and nature and having that control over the food chain, the more I imagined a frightening dystopian world where growing your own food is banned. This might seem like a far fetched idea right now, but for some people this is already becoming a reality. Believe it or not, there are places in America where people are not allowed to have backyard gardens or chickens. Where people can be arrested for attempting to gather rainwater. The frightening future is already on its way…

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Distrustful of GMO’s, hormones in meat, anti-biotics in milk and pesticides on fruit and vegetable, more and more people are turning to growing their own food. Self-sufficiency is becoming popular again, and you can’t deny this is a form of rebellion, of taking back control. It’s vital for our planet too. The meat and dairy industry is literally killing the earth.

Dystopian future in mind, I already knew I wanted to write a young adult book. The protagonist, 13-year-old Lissie had been evolving in my imagination for some time, and now she finally had a place to play and grow. The book undoubtedly evolved into something more than I had envisioned. It’s not just about seeds or a post-apocalyptic future, it’s about rebellion, questioning the status quo, defying your parents and searching for the truth, no matter who it hurts. All classic issues in the complicated journey of growing up.

But one of the main messages I hope people pick up from this book if they do indeed pick up any is the consequences of becoming disconnected from nature.

I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer. A head in the clouds type of girl. I love nothing more than a walk down the lane, to the river, or across the fields, the common, or the woods. Something special happens to us when we are in nature, when we walk barefoot upon the earth, when we touch trees, smell leaves and view flowers and wild animals. Sometimes I think I might be a bit odd. I have very strong urges to touch and hug trees. They call to me, they really do. Once I lay my hand on the trunk of an ancient Oak, I find it very hard to pull away. I can’t get over the fact they are helping me to breathe! They are eating pollution. Without them, we would all die. The same goes for the humble bee and other vital pollinators. We simply cannot afford to ignore nature. We are nature. And I truly worry that many of us have forgotten.

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Where I live is very beautiful, but I fear that others do not see it. When they race their cars down the narrow lane and hurl their rubbish into the bushes, I fear they never linger long enough to see the beauty and majesty of the trees. I fear they have no clue that they would die if the trees were not there. I’m fascinated by the unseen lives of birds, insects, and animals. I’ll stare at birds in the sky, watching their flight, hearing their cry, wondering where they are going and where they live and what they do. I want to know. I want to be part of their world. Sometimes I feel like I am trespassing. Especially come dusk when the bats start circling and the owls start hooting. This is their time, not mine. How they must despise us, I often think.

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I think the thing we are often missing is gratitude and wonder. I am in awe of nature which makes me want to protect and nurture it. Sadly, others just don’t see it at all. In truth, this means they do not see themselves. They are disconnected from it, therefore they don’t care about it or appreciate it. If you don’t care about something, or see the value in it, you’re not going to go out of your way to protect it, are you?

In Lissie’s world, the people are taken care of. They are housed and fed and educated and worked. There is no war or violence. They have returned to traditional ways, fearful of the technological world that enabled war and destruction to almost wipe out the entire human race. But in order to keep them contained, the people are separate from nature. Food is grown and delivered to them. Animals are raised in domes . Unwanted plants are circled and torn up. Wild animals are feared and killed. They know very little of the natural world. And this is all sold to them as the perfect world. A society without war and hunger and homelessness. A safe, sheltered, catered for life. It’s Lissie who resists this version of life and strives to find out more about the outside world. A true rebel, spurred on by the dying words of her Great-Grandmother, she seeks the truth. What happened to the Old World? Who destroyed it and why?

Please feel free to leave a comment! What are your fears for the future? Do you enjoy reading post-apocalyptic or dystopian books, and if so why? How do you feel about the issues of humans becoming disconnected from nature? What can we do about any of it? I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

Character Interview – Lissie Turner; The Tree Of Rebels

1 ) Tell us what your positive character traits are

I’m loyal…well, some people might disagree with that. But I know I’m loyal to my friends. I’m a dreamer. My parents wouldn’t call that a positive thing, but my Great-Grandmother would. I’m fast! I am the fastest girl in Province 5! I’m fierce when I need to be and I won’t be bullied.

2)What would you say are your negative character traits?

That I’m a dreamer…I have my head in the clouds and I’m not ready to be an adult yet. That I’m nosy and stubborn. I’m rebellious, although I only found that out recently.

3) What are your current ambitions or dreams?

I want to get out of Province 5. I dream about other places and people and other ways of life. I want to know more about how and why the Old World died and I want to have a say in the future. I don’t like everything I see here at home, and I want to explore, try things out, question things.

4) What are your fears?

My fears are that I will never leave the Province or find out what happened to the Old World. I fear I will let my parents down, no matter what I do. I fear destroying my family and being all alone. I also fear the truth. I know we are not being told the truth here and that scares me. Life is pretty good here. No one complains. Everyone has everything they need and everything is calm and peaceful. But I know it’s all based on lies. Sometimes I think the truth scares me more than anything.

5) Do you have any enemies?

Yes, Saul Lancaster has been my enemy for as long as I can remember. I could never work it out before, because his father, the Governor here in Province 5 seems to really think highly of my family and even gave me special duties in his garden. But Saul hates me and has had it in for me since we were little kids. He’s a bully and I despise him. If he ever ends up in charge of this place, he’ll be the worst Governor ever! As for Soren Lancaster, his father, I think he might be my enemy too. He’s trying very hard to keep me on side, but he knows I know things I shouldn’t. He knows I am dangerous.

6) Tell us about your best friend

Ned is my best friend. His parents are friends with mine. I’ve always had to stick up for him because of people like Saul, and because his parents don’t seem to notice he is even alive. Their first son died, you see, and although Ned came along, they never got over t and can’t seem to see him at all. Poor Ned. He’s the best friend ever. He’s not scared of anything. He’s like me. He just wants to be excited, he just wants to ask questions and know stuff! we’re in this together. I feel bad about getting him into trouble too but he says he doesn’t care.

7) What’s your biggest secret?

My biggest secret is my Great-Grandmother’s diary. She wrote it when she was a girl like me, so it’s our only bit of history. It’s a true account of what it was like in the Old World where they had online and cars and stuff like that! It’s so fascinating to read, I just can’t put it down. There are wars going on all over the place and they’re on the run now because they got in trouble for growing their own food! I’m learning so much about how things used to be and how things ended up like this.

8) Do you have any regrets?

Hmm, not yet. I do feel guilty. I feel guilty about lying to my parents, hiding the diary and going outside of the Province. I feel guilty that I am not what they want me to be. But I don’t regret any of it. Not yet.

9) Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

Well, if nothing changes, I will be living in my own hut, probably coupled and probably with a child. I will be working for Animal Control or the hospital like my parents. I will be just like them. But if everything changes? Who knows? I could be out there! Free. I could be wandering around, setting up camp, sleeping under the stars, like Aisha and the other rebels. I could be a rebel. I think I am a rebel.