Interview in The Sunday Times

3 May 2013

The Dispatch Online has posted the full interview I did with The Times a few weeks ago.

Q. When did you start writing?
A.
I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer. Even before I knew how to construct sentences and paragraphs I used to make up stories to entertain myself. Later on writing became a compulsion. I used to write on the back of school exam papers, in my school diary. There are hundreds of filled notebooks in my old bedroom that my parents are forbidden from throwing away.

Q. Why do you write for young adults?
A. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I find young people far more fascinating than adults. They’re fearless and resilient, and can bounce back from anything. They’re also only starting to realise who they are and what the world is really about, which opens up a whole range of story opportunities.

Q. Do you think today’s young adults are very different from you at that age?
A. Teens today seem a lot more mature than I was at that age, but then I could have been immature. It could be because there are so many more media channels available , like the internet, which exposes them to everything.

Q. What were you like as a teen?
A. I held on to my childhood for a long time, then one day I woke up as a wild, uncontrollable creature that drove my parents insane. Thankfully that didn’t last and by my senior year I was quite bookish and introverted.

Q. What inspires you?
A. Everything: books, films, music, a random flash of someone walking down the street. Most of my ideas come to me in dreams, which is why I keep a notebook next to my bed.

Q. What do you think young adults should read?
A. W hatever they please. Everyone has their own tastes. I don’t like forcing young people to read something because it falls under a genre suitable for their age group. Books open up worlds and are to be enjoyed.

Q. How would you encourage youngsters to read? And write?
A. Books are expensive, and the best and most cost- effective way of bridging the gap between books and readers is libraries. In terms of writing, I think the first step is for adults and teachers to acknowledge that being creative is something that needs to be encouraged rather than snuffed out.
If a child dreams of becoming a writer, then they should be encouraged to follow that path. Not everyone is cut out to be an architect or engineer. Artists can be successful.

Q. Do you get feedback from your readers? What are they like?
A. It’s a bizarre experience, especially when it comes to meeting kids who were deeply affected by what I wrote. They’re really appreciative and loyal, which is a dizzying feeling. I get a lot of friend requests on Facebook, which I always accept.

Q. How is it that you are so good at “capturing the teen psyche”?
A. I t’s important not to be patronising . Young people want to be entertained as much as adults do, so instead of focusing on what issues and tone I should use, I focus instead on telling a good story. I’m a fiction writer. My stories just happen to have teenage characters in them.

Q. Do you still read a lot of young adult fiction?
A. Of course. I have the handy excuse of saying it’s for research, but I actually love the pace and drama.

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