Could you describe Nightwanderers for our readers?
Nightwanderers is the story of Rosie and her best friend Ti, and whether they are good for each other or not. Both their sets of parents disapprove of the relationship for different reasons, but from the inside it feels perfect. That is until disaster strikes in the form of a nightwander gone wrong. When Rosie betrays Ti, a series of events are set in action that will test their friendship and their families.
Tell us about your own night wandering, and what it meant to you
I loved to nightwander as a teen, and on reflection I think it was a way of claiming my territory as my own. At night a place feels completely different, special and yours. There is no need to negotiate with all the other people, or to worry about what they think, you can simply roam free.
The outdoors and the natural world is important to both your characters (in both Nightwanderers and Infinite Sky) – why is that?
I have always dreamed of living off grid, and I very much feel behind my own times, as in, sometimes I think I would have been better off born a hundred years (or millennia) earlier when the pace of life was slower. Nature is timeless, and I love that. It’s a way of escaping a world I often find very complex and stressful, and returning to simplicity.
In both Nightwanderers and Infinite Sky your central character has an absent mother – is that important for you?
Uh-oh, you’ve noticed too… Writing reveals what is important to you, that’s one of the reasons I love to do it, but sometimes these things have previously been quite unconscious. I do seem to be preoccupied with mothers who leave, and I think it’s because my mum left my dad when I was young (my brother and I lived half the week with her) and our local society judged her very harshly. I’ve not been able to forget it. As I ponder the eternal question of to reproduce or not to reproduce my preoccupation with motherhood and society’s expectations of mothers only deepens. Would I be able to live up to the expectations society places on mothers? I think not. Would I sprint to the nearest woodland and turn feral? Only time will tell…
You write about characters in extreme situations but with a real economy of writing – how hard is that, how many rewrites do you go through?
Lots of rewrites! Too many, perhaps. Unfortunately I find it very difficult to think up a story without writing it, and so my process involves a lot of rewriting. I tend to gradually ramp up the drama as the draft number gets higher, and in this process I have lots of time to cut away flabby bits or exposition. In my next novel, I may quit economy and get really florid.
You teach Creative Writing at Bath Spa University – what would you say is the most important piece of advice for anyone wanting to write YA?
Remember what it was like to be a teenager! One of my best writing exercises is inviting students to interview each other on a subject as their teenage selves (I learned this from Melvin Burgess). I then lead them through some writing exercises, and the stuff that results is always extremely vibrant. A big part of writing for young people is voice, and this is a great way of accessing an inner teen voice. Also remember the similarities between yourself now and your young self/young people. Teenagers aren’t another species, after all. We all have a lot in common.
Nightwanderers is published by Simon and Schuster, £7.99 pbk.