Monday, 24 March 2014

[Blog Tour] Interview with Joe Kipling, author of Blinded by the Light

Today I'm excited to have Joe Kipling, author of Blinded by the Light, on the discussing her book, characters and the writing process. Read on for a great giveaway!

Mary-Anne Hunter ‘human marmite?’

In Sarah’s review of Blinded by the Light she referred to MaryAnn as a marmite character. I loved this description and thought it was a very apt reference.  Love her or hate her (and there have been some pretty strong reactions) MaryAnn is not to everyone’s taste. Now I happen to love marmite, so maybe that’s the reason why I adore her.

I feel that MaryAnn is the character that goes on the toughest journey. At the beginning of the book she’s 15 and has been born into a life of privilege and entitlement. She’s an Alpha; an elite in the Neighbourhood and expects to be treated as such.  She doesn’t question the validity of this; whether it’s right or wrong . .  . . it just is.  She worries about the small things; how popular she is, having the right boyfriend, whether her friends like her. These are the things that matter to her peers so they’re important to her. The Neighbourhood she lives in might be a safe haven from the Sandman Virus that decimated the UK population and from the feral wastelands Outside, but it’s a sterile, almost claustrophobic environment.

During the course of the book MaryAnn has to face up to some quite harrowing situations. She finds this very difficult because she’s not naturally heroic, she doesn’t even have superpowers or an attractive teen boyfriend to rely on when she gets into trouble. For large parts of the book she’s very much alone. As she goes through these experiences we see her become increasingly aware of what’s really happening in the Neighbourhood and the legitimacy of the environment she’s grown up in. I felt that these experiences mirror those of lots of teenagers. When we’re young we unquestioningly believe that those with authority know what’s best for us.  Our opinions and beliefs are often based on those of our parents, teachers and friends. We generally mix with people from the same social background, creating quite a flat emotional landscape. It is not until we grow older and enter our teens that we start to meet new people, sometimes move away from home and suddenly we’re exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking. This is when we start to question our vision of the world and to develop our own understanding of what’s right and wrong.

I think that MaryAnn is also a testament to the fact that as a teenager people can often place you in a box.  Living in the Neighbourhood MaryAnn has been constrained by the society she was born into and has never had the opportunity to grow or explore new ideas. In the words of the late great John Hughes, people might see you as a ‘brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess or a criminal,’ but that might not be who you really are.  MaryAnn is very much seen as a princess at the beginning of the book, but to me she’s so much more than that. Once she starts to question the status quo we really start to catch glimpses of the person she’s going to become. As we follow her story through books 2 and 3 I think that we’ll start to see some real growth in her character.

Interview with Jo Kilpling

In my review I described MaryAnn as a Marmite character (personally I loved her!). When we first meet MaryAnn we learn about her background - the fact she's a politician's daughter. Did you ever worry about people warming to her as a rich, privileged character?
This is definitely something I really did worry about. Sometimes it seems that the protagonist of a story has to be the underdog and fight insurmountable odds to make it to the top. When we start the book MaryAnn is already at the top.  I think it’s easy for us to think that just because someone is rich and appears privileged, life is easy. In the story we see that MaryAnn experiences the same anxieties as anyone else; she worries about what other people think about her, having friends, being liked. Everyone faces those concerns; rich or poor.

I loved the journey she goes on. Did you know she was going to grow so much throughout the book when you first started writing Blinded by the Light?
I had to really think hard before answering this question, because I’ve lived with MaryAnn for over 3 years and sometimes it feels that she doesn’t grow as quickly as I would like her too, then at other times she totally surprises me. She does go on quite a journey in the book. I think that these events, however difficult they may be, bring out the best in her. They force her away from her friends so she has to make decisions based on what she thinks. At heart she’s a good person, but is easily swayed by others. In books 2 and 3 there are moments when her behavior has totally taken me by surprise, she refuses to take the easy way out and really does start to show her true character.

I thought MaryAnn was a very empathetic person - really aware of the suffering of others. Was this something that was important to you when you were writing the book?
Yes it was. I wanted MaryAnn to be a real person, faults and all. She is spoilt and a little demanding at times, but she redeems herself because she cares about others. She really does want to do the right thing.  She’s just not sure what that is sometimes.

When you planning your books, what comes first, the story or the characters?
This is a difficult question to answer as they often arrive in a bit of a muddle.  I don’t really plan a lot, well to be completely honest I don’t plan at all.  The stories just seem to reveal themselves to me once I start writing them down. Normally I have a vague plot idea but its not until I get a main character that the idea becomes a solid story.

In Blinded by the Light it was Peter who appeared first and I thought the book was going to be about him, but the story just wouldn’t come together and then MaryAnn appeared on the scene and from that point it just seemed to write itself.

Who was your favourite character in Blinded by the Light and why?
I do love Flash Gordon as I have a bit of a soft spot for dogs in dress up.  He provides a little bit of comic relief, and hopefully balances some of the darker parts of the story.

I also like Peter as he’s such an interesting character to write. Sometimes I wish that I’d had the opportunity to write his point of view, but unfortunately that’s not how the story worked out. He’s suffered a lot of tragedy in his life and he’s a little bit closed off, but he’s also intensely loyal and has a really great sense of humour. He’s definitely someone you’d want on your side in a fight

Book giveaway!

Check out the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a copy of the book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thank you so much to Joe for answering my questions! Blinded by the Light is out now. Buy it here on Amazon or find out more on Goodreads.

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