All across the land, authors are blogging about their next projects before tagging other writers, who go on to answer the same questions the following week. Think of ‘the next big thing’ blog meme as a sort of writers’ relay, the baton winging its way from studies in London to coffee shops in Edinburgh to writers’ sheds in Somerset – and now to a cosy living room in Yorkshire, where I am currently sitting on the sofa, with my puppy curled up at my feet. Thanks to Marcus Sedgwick, who asked me to be involved. Find out what he’s been working on here.
And now it’s my turn…
What is the title of your next book?
Ketchup Clouds – check it out below! I am so happy with the front cover!
Where did the idea for the book come from?
It took a long time to form, to be honest! There was no direct inspiration, and I worked hard to put the idea together in the best possible way, slowly figuring out how to explore it most effectively. Originally, I set out to write a love story about a girl and two boys, but I didn’t want it to be some sort of cheesy, high-school romance, so I had to think of an interesting way to approach the novel. I came up with all sorts, experimenting endlessly with different narrative voices and structures, before deciding to write the book in the form of letters. Zoe has a dark and terrible secret that she needs to get off her chest, but she is afraid of getting into trouble. To alleviate her guilt while remaining anonymous, she decides to tell her story to a death row inmate because he has done something equally bad so will hopefully be sympathetic.
What genre does your book fall under?
Goodness, I have no idea. I don’t ever worry about that when I am writing. I simply tell a story and let other people decide what type of book it is. However, I can say that, like My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, Ketchup Clouds is very much based in the real world, with all its light and darkness. Hopefully people will find some of the novel amusing, and other parts sad. That’s all I really think about when I am writing.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmm. Zoe is a bit of an outsider, who doesn’t really fit in with the other girls at school. On the one hand, she would like to be popular, but her true self is too quirky to be mainstream. She is also very bright, headstrong, and a little awkward around boys. Though she is Canadian, the actress that springs to mind is Ellen Page. She’d be a good Zoe, though she’d have to prove that she could do a decent English accent before I gave her the part.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Perks of Being A Wallflower meets Dead Man Walking – a teen love story about guilt and redemption.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My agent is the lovely Catherine Clarke of Felicity Bryan Associates, and Ketchup Clouds will be published by Orion in January 2013.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Far longer than I was hoping! After the success of my first novel, it was so important to me to get the second book right, so I spent an inordinate amount of time coming up with the idea, playing with it, honing it etc., and that was before I even put pen to paper and started the first chapter. In total, I would say it took about a year to complete the first draft, but I was working all day, every day, so it felt a lot longer than that.
What other books of the same genre would you compare yours with?
As the book is confessional in tone with a strong first-person narrative voice, I’d be over the moon if anyone compared it to The Catcher in the Rye or We Need To Talk About Kevin. One can dream!
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Unlike My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, where the story just sort of popped into my mind, I had to carefully construct the idea for Ketchup Clouds. However, there was one person who directly influenced my second novel, and that was my pen pal on death row. When I was trying to figure out who Zoe might choose to write to, I came up with all sorts of people (Jimmy Saville was even considered at one point! Thank goodness I changed my mind…) but no one felt quite right. But then one day as I was driving back from my parents’ house, I suddenly remembered that, in my teens, I’d written to a man on death row.
I got involved in the pen pal scheme through Amnesty International and was put in touch with a man on death row in Texas, and we wrote to each other for a few years. It is strange how honest you can be with a stranger – almost more honest than you can be with your friends – and I confided in him regularly without worrying about judgement because he’d done something wrong himself. When I remembered this man, he seemed the perfect recipient of Zoe’s letters, so I used a fictitious version of my pen pal in the novel.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Well, it’s a mystery story. In the first few pages, you find out that Zoe has killed someone, but you don’t know who, or how… Nothing is revealed until the end of the novel, so hopefully that will keep you entertained! The book is also funny – surprisingly so, for such dark subject matter. Zoe has a crazy little sister called Dot, who lightens the mood. Oh, and there are some passionate love scenes, too. So, if you like to laugh, cry, and be swept away by romance while trying to figure out a mystery, this is the book for you!
Next up is Alex Woolf. Look out for his answers next Wednesday.