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‘Born Scared’ author Kevin Brooks talks mental health in YA, his current WIP and the ‘issue book’

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If you’re given a chance to throw some questions at the one and only Kevin Brooks you don’t say no. You throw those questions as hard and as fast as you can. So that’s exactly what we did!

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Naturally, with his latest book ‘Born Scared’ already gripping readers, we got in plenty of Qs on it, and also on what the future may hold:

What inspired you to write about ‘Born Scared’?
It was a story that both came to me in a flash, and at the same time I realised it had been with me, and had been demanding to be written, for a long time. It came – as most stories do – from somewhere deep inside me, and in many ways it was inspired by a mixture of very recent but also life-long personal experiences.   

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Do you think YA still needs more said on mental health?
I don’t think it’s the purpose of YA fiction – or any kind of fiction, come to that – to raise the awareness of any particular subject. But because stories are about life, and life is about all kinds of things, it’s only natural that reading helps to broaden our awareness of all aspects of life.    

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How do you feel about the term ‘issues book’?
I don’t like it at all! I’m strongly against the notion that YA fiction should ‘have a message’ or be ‘advisory’ or try to tell anyone how to live their lives. Of course it’s fine for books to have themes and for stories to include elements of The Big Questions about life and death, but it’s not the job of an author to try to answer these questions (partly because they don’t have answers, which is why they’re such Big Questions) or to tell anyone what’s right and wrong.

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When do you think a book stops being YA and starts being adult? It can be difficult to draw the line with these heavy topics.
That’s a difficult one for me to answer. I write YA fiction and adult fiction, and personally I approach them both in almost exactly the same way. The only very obvious difference is the voice of the narrator. The way a 16-year-old girl sees the world, for example, and the voice she uses to express her place in it, is not the same as the voice of and world-view of a 40-year-old man. But, having said that, I also think that essentially there’s very little difference between ‘young adults’ and ‘adults’, and in terms of my own life I don’t think of myself now – at 57 years old – as being any different to the person I was when I was fifteen or sixteen. I’m still just as confused and bewildered by the world today as I was back then, and my heart and soul are still exactly the same.

What’s the best advice on mental health you’ve ever received?
That I can be both a father and a son to myself.

What are you currently working on?
I don’t want to say too much about it, but it’s very different to anything I’ve done before, a completely new direction, and I’m very excited about it.

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And now so are we! Have YOU read ‘Born Scared’? How do you feel about the term ‘issues book’? Tell us in the comments below.

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Written by Sarah Clare

Sarah is the Lead Writer and Design Queen here at Maximum Pop! Sarah holds an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University, and a BA in Creative Writing with English Literature from Marjon (BIG UP THE MARJON MASSIVE!). Sarah joined MP! after seeing an advertisement for writers on Instagram – because where else would a design master find their dream job?

Sarah is currently working on an expose on Draco Malfoy in her spare time. But not if his father hears about it.

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