We got the chance to talk to Holly Smale, the author of the international bestselling series, ‘Geek Girl’ and found out what she’d tell herself at 15 and why she’s sick of people putting down YA lit. Check it out below.
We know all authors have to be at least a tiny bit fond of their writing. Can you quote your favourite line from your own work? “My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek.” It’s the first Geek Girl line I ever wrote, and it’s the exact moment that Harriet’s voice was born for me so it’s very special. Also, it says everything: it’s a story in one sentence. The whole series is built on Harriet confronting those ten words.
And obviously, authors not only love writing, but are big book nerds too. What’s your fave book EVER? As everyone knows, that’s like choosing your best child. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Life After Life’ are books I love as an adult, but ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, ‘The Faraway Tree’, ‘The Borrowers’ and ‘Anne of Green Gables’ are precious because of what they meant to me when I was young. I love them all equally and with disturbing passion.
What made you want to write a festive Geek Girl? I actually begged to write ‘All Wrapped Up’ on a long train journey with my commissioning editor. I always leave gaps in Harriet’s story, and one of the most obvious was her first date with Nick (which is also her First Date Ever). I always knew it would have happened at Christmas time, I had already imagined it fully and I had this pile of awesome Christmas facts I was desperate to use. Plus Christmas is my favourite time of year (my name is Holly, after all), so really it was a no-brainer: it already existed in my head, I just needed permission to write it down for everyone else to see. Although writing it mid-July was a bit weird: I had to play Christmas music for weeks and my neighbours thought I had gone totally insane.
Any YA criticisms that drive you crazy? We know we’re tired of it being looked down on! All of the criticisms make me angry. Some of the best, most beautifully written books of all time have been written for teenagers, and it’s easily the most interesting time of life: in terms of drama and rawness, and in the power it has to change who you’re going to be and what you’re going to want. Yet it’s still looked down by many on as not being “real” literature (especially if you’re a woman writing comedy). I’ve had strangers say to me “you write books? What kind of books?” And when I say “teen novels” the response is frequently: “Oh. Haha. Well, that makes sense.” Which is incredibly offensive to me, to teenagers and to other teen authors: we’re inexplicably seen as lesser. Frankly, I may write books for other age groups one day, but I know I’ll never have readers as honest, discerning and passionate, and I’ll never be part of another movement as exciting or engaged again.
Speaking of Young Adult, if you met yourself when you were 15, what would you tell yourself? You’re waaaaaay more awesome than you think you are. Stop listening to what other people think of you and assuming they’re right. Do a bit more exercise, because – contrary to what you believe – it’s not going to physically kill you. Also, Sunny Delight is not actually orange juice, a super-sized doughnut is not lunch and a cheap razor is going to slice your legs up. Every. Single. Time. Most importantly: all those huge, ridiculous dreams you’ve got that people keep telling you aren’t possible? You’re going to get them all.
And if we’re travelling back in time, what would you want to say to the first person you kissed? “You might be denying it emphatically to our entire Chemistry class right now, buddy, and telling everyone I’m “gross”, but at some point you’ll be pointing at photos of a bestselling author in newspapers and saying ‘I kissed her once’. And I’m going to deny it emphatically. So there.”
Or maybe just “sorry, who are you?” It’s punchier.
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 Holly for chatting with us! If you have any thoughts on ‘Geek Girl’, ‘All Wrapped Up’, or anything Holly mentioned, share with us with a tweet to @maximumpopbooks.
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