Congratulations on your Costa win! How does it feel to be the first children’s author since Philip Pullman to have won? It’s amazing! It’s gradually starting to sink it, but I’m still a bit in shock.
Who was the first person you called after you found out you won? The first person I contacted was my father, who had already left me a message because he’d seen the news. I couldn’t get in touch with my sister since she was in Zambia. After that I got in touch with my friend Rhiannon.
What makes you want to tell the stories of teenagers, rather than adults? What is so special about YA? There’s lots of reasons. It’s a part of my life I remember really clearly, particularly between the ages of 11 and fifteen. It’s also a really interesting stage of life to write about, because so much changes, there’s so much exploration of the world and oneself. (Sadly, some adults decided they understand how the world works and stop questioning and questing. I think this is a mistake.)
Also, writing YA is fun!
Despite this win, do you feel that there is still a prejudice against children’s fiction, that it isn’t taken as seriously as adult literature? I think some people do have a lurking snobbery about children’s books, but I think things are changing. There’s a growing ‘crossover’ market, which means that a lot of adults now feel less embarrassed about reading and appreciating children’s fiction. The judges for the Costa certainly weren’t prejudiced against my book, and recently a children’s book called ‘The Fox and The Star’ won the Waterstones prize.
For those who haven’t read ‘The Lie Tree’ yet, can you sum up what it’s about in the length of a tweet? It’s a Victorian gothic murder mystery, but with a lie-eating tree, archaeology, post-mortem photography, feminism and blasting powder.
Tell us about your protagonist. Was she inspired by anyone in your life? What values did you think it was important to instill in her? She isn’t really based on anybody in my life, but that might be just as well! I knew that she had to be strong-willed and intelligent, but she’s also complicated, and has a dark side.
‘The Lie Tree’ is tremendously unique. Where did you get the idea for your story? I know when and where I got the idea for the Lie Tree, but I can’t remember the train of thought that led to it. All I know is that I was taking a long walk at the time. When I was halfway across a bridge I had this idea of a tree that could be fed lies, and would bear a fruit that could be eaten to learn secrets…
Are you currently working on a new book right now? Can you give us a sneaky hint as to what it might be about? I have started another book. It’s set in a historical setting once again, but rather earlier than the events of ‘The Lie Tree’. I don’t want to tell you too much, but it should involve a very angry, very dead bear…
Finally, because we all want to know where the magic happens, send us a picture of where you write.
We’d like to say a BIG thank you to Frances for taking the time out of her hectic schedule to answer some of our questions! Have you read ‘The Lie Tree’ or have any thoughts on the Costa Book Awards this year? Tweet us @maximumpopbooks.
This competition is now closed. Congratulations to the winners @sarahs_chapter, @LitLoves, @lishuponastar, @lockwoodwriter, and @welshkaren1.
PLUS: Want to get a SIGNED copy of ‘The Lie Tree’ posted to your door? Simply follow @maximumpopbooks and RT the following tweet to enter our prize draw:
— Maximum Pop! Books (@maximumpopbooks) February 5, 2016
Closes 12/2 8pm.
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