Monday, 4 November 2013

Project UKYA Blog Tour: Interview with Eleanor Wood

Today I'm extremely excited to be part of the Project UKYA blog tour! Below you'll find my interview with Eleanor Wood, author of the UKYA novel Gemini Rising. Be sure to visit the Project UKYA blog to follow the tour throughout November and find out more about UKYA!

Interview with Eleanor Wood

TTF: Your book is set in a British sixth form. Did you draw on your own experiences from school?
EW: Definitely!  None of the characters are real and none of those specific situations actually happened to me, but the dynamic was based very much on real life.  I went to a very small, quite strict girls’ school in the west London suburbs, so it was quite an unusual environment, but I hope it has a certain recognisable British-ness.

TTF: Is there any advice you'd give your younger self looking back?
EW: Basically, all the challenges I set Sorana in the book are like a direct address to my past self – don’t care what people think, stay true to yourself, don’t waste time on people who don’t matter.  Most importantly, then and now: be kind.

TTF: I loved Sorana's obsession with her favourite band Trouble Every Day. What music did you obsess over growing up? And what music do you love now?
EW: I still listen to a lot of the same music I’ve loved since I was a kid – Nirvana, Hole, PJ Harvey, Leonard Cohen, Sonic Youth…  In my teens, I was weirdly obsessed with the band Placebo.  To a slightly crazy degree.  My friend Neil and I still go to see them once a year and reminisce about the days when our bedrooms were shrines to Brian Molko.  These days I’d add to the list: Bat for Lashes, Tied to the Mast, Cat Power, Jack Lucan…

TTF: Gemini Rising was published by Harlequin's Carina imprint. Tell me a little bit about the journey to getting published.
EW: It was, as these things tend to be, quite circuitous!  The first full-length manuscript I ever wrote was nominally an ‘adult’ novel, a coming-of-age tale, which had a couple of near-misses but didn’t end up selling to a publisher.  The best thing that came out of this was that I signed up with my fantastic agent, Caroline Hardman (who previously worked for Christopher Little, but now has her own agency Hardman and Swainson).  It was actually Caroline who then suggested I try writing a YA novel.  That seems funny to me now, as I feel so strongly that it’s my perfect style.  The result was Gemini Rising – when I finished it at the end of last year, there was some interest from a few editors, and the most enthusiastic was Anna at Harlequin, who was in the process of helping to launch the Carina imprint.

TTF: Do you have a writing routine?
EW: It’s a pretty ramshackle affair.  I try to avoid too much routine, as I find it easy to slip into superstitions – and then that destructive mindset of ‘I can’t possibly write without my favourite chair/a view of the garden/red lipstick/total quiet/etcetera’.  So I deliberately mix it up – writing on the train, in front of the TV, in bed at night or at the kitchen table.  However, I hate to write in silence and I think I write best in the mornings.

TTF: Any advice or tips for aspiring writers?
EW: It sounds pretty harsh, but my main advice to anyone is to stop talking and get on with it!  It sounds cheesy, but if I need a bit of motivation, I just ask myself ‘don’t you want to be the kind of person who actually does things?’ and it works.  I should also note that I would be lost without the help of my brilliant agent – so I would recommend doing all you can to find one, and listening to their advice.

TTF: Let's talk UKYA! What do you think makes UKYA stand out against other YA novels?
EW: I love reading books in which I can recognise myself in some way.  Obviously, the setting isn’t essential to this, but I do feel that it helps.  When I was a teenager, there wasn’t much around and I was in thrall to the exotic world of American high schools – talk of sophomores and homecoming games that had no bearing on my own existence.  Obviously there is still a place for this, but I am delighted that there is a broader spectrum now, and a lot of it is much more realistic and relatable.  Plus, I may be biased, but I think that British writers can bring a special kind of pathos and humour to the table!

TTF: Who is your favourite British author?
EW: I particularly love Emma Forrest and Esther Freud.

Favourite UKYA novel?
See the two writers above – Namedropper by Emma Forrest and Peerless Flats by Esther Freud are my two all-time favourites.  More recently, I’ve really enjoyed You Against Me by Jenny Downham, My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary by Rae Earl and The Perfect Suicide by my friend Lotte Worth.

TTF: Any unreleased UKYA novels you're eagerly anticipating?
EW: I always look forward to a new Sarra Manning.

And now some British themed questions!

TTF: Marmite: love it or hate it?
EW: I can’t get through the day without it.

TTF: Coronation Street or Eastenders?
EW: Corrie – absolute genius writing.

TTF: X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing?
EW: Strictly – Sophie E-B for the win!

TTF: Favourite seaside resort?
EW: I choose to live in Brighton (the San Francisco of the UK!), which is my favourite seaside city.  So, I’d say my favourite resort for visiting purposes is Kingsbridge in Devon.  My godmother lives there and it’s a truly beautiful place.

TTF: Favourite slang word? (Keep it clean!)
EW: There is surely no more evocative word than ‘snog’!

TTF: And finally, what are you currently working on? Any more books in the pipeline?
EW: I’ve written a companion novella to Gemini Rising (out at the end of October) – called Gemini Falling, which tells the story of Amie and Lexy, the perceived ‘mean girls’ of the original novel.  It solves a few mysteries from Gemini Rising and tackles further the idea that you can’t presume to know what another person might be going through behind closed doors.  I really enjoyed writing it.  I’m now working on a new full-length novel – another spooky YA, unrelated to Gemini Rising.  I’m nearly finished and really excited about it!

A huge thank you to Eleanor for answering my questions and to Lucy at Project UKYA for organising the tour! Find out more about Eleanor's books and Project UKYA below:

Gemini Rising
How far would you go to fit in? Sorana Salem is ok with being not quite bottom of the pile at her exclusive private school. Until the mysterious Johansson twins arrive unexpectedly mid-term. Hypnotically beautiful and immensely cool, magnetic Elyse and mute Melanie aren’t like the school’s usual identikit mean girls.Soon Sorana’s sharing sleepovers and Saturday nights out with the twins. But their new world of Ouidja boards and older boys might not be as simple as it seems. And the dark secrets that they share could be about to take Sorana down a path that’s impossible to turn back from…

Gemini Falling:
‘First of all, let’s get something straight. This is not going to be one of those stories where the school bitch turns out to have a heart of gold,’

Amie’s the most popular – and the meanest –girl at her exclusive private school, with her trusty second in command Lexy by her side. And she likes it that way. Lexy knows that she deserves Amie’s prized position just as much but dethroning the Queen Bee just isn’t done.

Until mysterious twins Elyse and Melanie arrive mid-term, with a magnetic power that’s impossible to deny, and shake up the school’s social rules. As the twins leave darkness and devastation in their wake, Lexy’s suddenly discovering her own powers of manipulation.

Whilst Amie’s about to learn that it’s not just lonely at the top – it’s terrifying.


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