It’s wonderful to be tapping into the US book blogging scene. Like in the UK, these readers are such a gift for writers: they’re passionate about books and about sharing that love with the world. Lauren recently read and enjoyed Wishbones and asked me whether I’d like to be interviewed for her blog. Here are my responses to her questions. You can also look up the interview on Lauren’s website.
What are the top three reasons why readers should pick up Wishbones this summer?
Readers will have a new friend in their lives: the loveable Feather Tucker, who will make them laugh and cry and hope.
The characters in Wishbones grapple with some of modern life’s most challenging issues: I hope that, through this, readers will come to see the world a the world a little differently.
Readers will get to know one of the quaintest, smallest, typically English villages in fiction – one where a great deal happens, despite its small size.
Wishbones tells the story of Feather. Would you mind sharing a little about her? Also, if you could offer her any advice, what would you say?
Feather is funny and charming and determined fourteen-year old. She loves her friends and family and is fiercely loyal. Maybe one piece of advice I’d give her is not to be too hard on herself: she takes on the world and tries to solve everyone’s problem and then blames herself when she can’t fix everything. It’s a character trait that’s both hugely admirable but which makes life tough for poor Feather.
Wishbones tackles the topic of eating disorders. I know you talked about what inspired you to tackle this topic at the end of the novel, but for those who haven’t read the book, would you mind sharing what inspired you to write about this?
When I was seventeen, I suffered from an eating disorder: I was a high-achieving perfectionist in a girls’ school with a broken family and low body image – the stage was set. I lost a great deal of weight and suffered a number of health issues as a result. Although I still sometimes struggle with body image, I’m a healthy weight and have developed a positive attitude towards eating in a way that nourishes and sustains – rather than starves – my body. Many who suffer from eating disorders when they are young are not so fortunate.
I’ve also worked with teenage girls and boys in boarding schools for the last ten years and come to understand how psychological food can be – how both over and under eating often has emotional roots.
I’m particularly interested in male anorexia, which is on the rise and often overlooked, which is why I explored the issue through the character of Clay.
Through the character of Feather’s mother, who is chronically obese, I wanted to show that whether you are overweight or underweight, the issues are often similar – and rarely related simply to diet.
Wishbones has such a wide assortment of characters. Some of my favorites were Feather and Mrs Zas. Did you have a favorite out of the bunch?
I’m a great animal lover so, of course, I have a soft spot for Houdini, the forever escaping goat! My main character, Feather, is obviously very close to my heart as I saw and wrote the story through her eyes. And yes, Mrs Zas is lots of fun: I believe that the friendship of strangers can be a great gift and comfort. I also like the vicar across the road who I imagined as a kind of Boo Radley figure, someone who is deeply misunderstood and who turns out to be lovely.
In Wishbones Feather has a strong love for swimming. What made you choose that specific sport? Are you big into swimming?
I love swimming, though not competitively – I’m the least competitive person you can imagine, at least when it comes to sport. Since I’ve moved to America I’ve discovered lake swimming: paddling in the lakes of Maine and New Hampshire has become one of my greatest pleasures. That aside, however, I think that it’s important to give teenage characters particular passions and occupations through which we can come to know them better. Swimming, as you know, also ties in with the setting (the Lido) and with the plot, so it is important to the novel in that sense. Finally, a family friend called Emily is a brilliant butterfly stroke swimmer and she gave me lots of tips on how to write about that authentically.
What was one of the most challenging aspects of writing Wishbones?
Whenever you write about important social issues, there’s the danger of stereotyping: I didn’t want Jo to simply be seen as overweight, I also wanted readers to see her as beautiful and fun and clever. Similarly, when I explore gender issues, I wanted to show how complex and tricky these can be to navigate for teenagers, how it’s never a case of black and white. For the sake of those readers struggling with these issues I wanted to treat them with sensitivity and integrity. I hope I got it right.
What’s up next for you book wise? Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’m currently working on my second YA novel, As Far As The Stars about an American girl and an English boy who fall in love under tragic circumstances. I can’t wait to share it with my readers! I also write fiction for adults, which is very similar to my YA fiction, so if your readers like the sound of Wishbones, I’d encourage them to have a look at What Milo Saw, The Return of Norah Wells and Before I Was Yours.
On my website, I write posts on my writing life, what inspires me and also post writing workshops for those interested in having a go at writing fiction themselves. You can subscribe to my newsletter and also get in touch. I love chatting to my readers.
Thank you for the interview!