I am hugely excited that my YA novel The Mess Of Me has been included in this list; 9 Realistic Young Adult Books With Relatable Protagonists, over at Wiki.ezvid.com ! Just follow the link to take a look and perhaps check out the other YA books mentioned.
In 2013 I released my debut Young Adult novel, The Mess Of Me. Originally, it was part of the self-publishing platform, Autharium. I then got a publishing deal with a small press and removed it from Autharium. This did not go to plan as a whole year later the small press had done nothing and not responded to my messages, so I decided to take it back and put it back with Autharium…who then closed. Since then, it has been with Pronoun, who also closed, and with Amazon. Currently, like my other books, The Mess Of Me is self-published through the indie collective Pict Publishing, and there I hope, it will stay.
Six years though! In that time I have published eight more books, had another child and started my own Community Interest Company; Chasing Driftwood Writing Group. Life has indeed changed a lot.
But in many ways, Lou Carling, the 16-year-old narrator of The Mess Of Me, is still with me, perhaps increasingly so. I will perhaps explain in another blog post, another day, but for a while now I have not been feeling myself and in times when I am feeling down, Lou is the voice I hear the loudest.
Perhaps because she is the character most like me. They say that a grain of truth seeps into every work of fiction and I agree. They say that characters are often at least partially based on people we know, or on parts of ourselves, and again, I agree.
In fact, Lou is not just the character most like me. She pretty much is me. When I wrote that book, it was perhaps the most cathartic process for me. I had an idea for a plot, for characters, back story and so on, but more than all of that, I had a burning desire to just speak my thoughts through her. Everything Lou says, thinks and feels in The Mess Of Me comes from me. Me when I was a teenager, and me now. I still think of myself as a mess and I probably always will.
The issues with food are still there, just as I suspect they will always be there for Lou. It’s just that as you grow older, you work out ways to rationalise your irrational thoughts. Or as in my case, you have your own children and are determined to set a good example and not let them down.
But for me, The Mess Of Me is a voice in my head, and Lou’s voice is one I hear more than ever lately. I feel the strongest urge to write the sequel, which contains a storyline which is also something true from my own life, but at the moment there are too many other books in progress to focus on it.
Anyway, here are a few reasons why Lou is me and I am Lou;
- She is obsessed with being thinner
- she thinks her life will be better if she is thinner
- every day she thinks and obsesses about being thinner
- if she does not do anything to help her get thinner she feels like a failure
- she puts all her thoughts and feelings in writing rather than actually telling people
- she’s feels the pull of self-destructive behaviour and tries hard to resist
- she thinks everyone else’s lives are far more interesting than her own
- for this reason, despite not really liking humans too much, she is endlessly fascinated with them
- she is in love with her best friend
For those of you perhaps interested in reading about Lou and Joe’s messy summer, the ebook is currently just 99p on Amazon and all other ebook platforms. Please consider leaving an honest review if you do happen to purchase the book. Many thanks!
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.
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!