We had the pleasure of chatting to Clare Furniss, author of the amazing ‘Year of the Rat’ and ‘How Not To Disapper’, available 28th January. Find out what book every teen should be reading and where to draw inspiration from.
Can you tell us about ‘How Not To Disappear’ in just 10 words?Pregnant teenager. Gin-drinking great-aunt with dementia. Road trip.
After your debut novel, ‘Year Of The Rat’, was received so well, were you nervous to start into ‘How Not To Disappear’? Yes! Second books have a reputation for being tricky to write and I did find it a bit daunting. With a first book you don’t know whether anyone’s even going to read it, you’re writing for yourself really. It’s different writing knowing there is an expectation out there… but you have to put that to one side and focus on the story. Once I got to know and love my characters it was a lot easier.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? From everywhere. Some elements come from my own life, both now and in the past – for example How Not To Disappear was partly inspired by the fact that my Grandma had Alzheimer’s when I was growing up. Other ideas come from things I hear on the news or snippets of conversations I overhear – like many writers I’m an avid people-watcher! Film is a big inspiration for me too. Truly Madly Deeply was part of the inspiration for The Year of The Rat, Thelma and Louise for How Not To Disappear. Other things just come from my imagination. As a writer you’re always wondering ‘What would happen if…?’ Sometimes the answer to that question turns into a story.
Your books touch on a lot of universal themes, so what makes you want to write primarily about the lives of teenagers? I think the teenage years are when you start to really think about those universal themes – life, death, love, what it’s all about – so these are perfect themes to explore in books about teenagers. It’s a time when the world opens up and you begin to work out who you are and where you fit in. It’s a time that’s full of possibility which makes it fantastic to write about.
Do you have a favourite book you feel that all teenagers should at least try to read once? I always find it so difficult to choose just one – I have so many favourites! I’m going to go for I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith just because it has such a fantastic teen voice. It’s the coming-of-age story of Cassandra Mortmain who lives with her eccentric, penniless family in a falling down castle. Every character is brilliantly written, it’s funny and touching – classic UKYA written long before YA was invented.
Speaking of teenagers, if you met yourself when you were 15, what would you tell yourself? I’d say keep on believing in yourself – which is pretty much what I tell myself now! It’s interesting, everyone always talks about the advice you’d give your teenage self if you could, but actually I sometimes think my teenage self could teach me a few things too. I think I had a very clear sense of my own identity a teenager, and felt that the world should accept me on my own terms. And it’s good to try and retain some of that sense of possibility that I was talking about as an adult. Maybe that’s part of why I write about teenagers too!
Finally, because we all want to know where the magic happens, send us a picture of where you write.
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