Before Liz Kessler launched into YA with her beautiful novel, ‘Read Me Like a Book’, she wrote a series about mermaids for a younger audience. She’s clearly a pro at this author malarkey so we had to pick her brain.
Tell us the plot of ‘Read Me Like A Book’ in the length of a tweet. A year in the life of 17-year-old Ashleigh, from her last boyfriend to her first girlfriend via a huge crush on her English teacher.
What made you choose this title? I had played around with a few different titles, but I kept coming back to this one. I think it works on a number of levels. Apart from anything else, it’s about Ash herself, and her opening up (in fact she actually uses these words in the book, in relation to her teacher, Miss Murray). I also think of it as an invitation to the reader, as well as a reference to the theme of books and literature that runs through the novel.
Have you ever got any negative responses because of the subject matter of ‘Read Me Like A Book’? When I first sent the book out, over fifteen years ago, it was rejected by all the publishers I sent it to. But since it has been published, I’ve had only positive responses to the subject matter – so far! This warms my heart, and proves that my publisher was right when she assured me that times had changed.
What was it like writing for an older audience this time? Do you have a preference of what age you like to write for now? I’ve really enjoyed writing for an older audience, and have been doing it again over the last year as I’ve been working on my second YA novel ‘Haunt Me’. I feel that writing YA allows me to delve deeper into emotional journeys and explore the complexities of relationships more than I’ve ever done before – and that has been a brilliant experience for me. Having said that, my heart is still very much in my middle grade books too, and I would never want to leave them behind. Ideally, I’d love to be able to continue both strands.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process. We hear you’re big into planning your story before you start. Ha! Yeah, I’m definitely big into planning. In short, here’s my writing process:
- Have an idea which sits quietly percolating in the back of my mind. This could be a period of months or even years – and happens in the background whilst I’m doing other things.
- Buy a new notebook especially for the new idea.
- Spend a few months going for long walks, visiting inspiring places, listening to appropriate songs (I have a playlist for most of my recent books) and scribbling random notes, thoughts and ideas into notebook.
- At some point, type up all my notes. Then print them out and cut up so that each idea is on its own piece of paper.
- Spend a few days rearranging and moving it all around until it feels like the ideas are in the right order.
- Retype notes in new order.
- Print out, scribble all over notes, retype.
- (A few times.)
- Finally, when I’m happy that notes resemble a working plot outline, start writing!
- Usually aim for an average of 1,500 words a day till it’s done.
- Give to wife and mum for their feedback.
- Rework from their notes.
- Send to editor.
- Drink champagne.
- Collapse with exhaustion before going through about three or four more edits with editor, copy editor and proofreader!
What other amazing LGBT+ YA would you recommend to readers? Some of my most recent favourites are:
‘The Art of Being Normal’, by Lisa Williamson
‘Boy Meets Boy’, by David Levithan
‘I’ll Give You The Sun’, by Jandy Nelson
‘A Kiss in the Dark’, by Cat Clarke
‘Alex as Well’, by Alyssa Brugman
‘Boys Don’t Cry’, by Malorie Blackman
And if I’m allowed a non-fiction title, ‘This Book Is Gay’, by Juno Dawson
Because we want to know where the magic happens, send us a snap of where you write! I’ve attached a photo of the sunrise from my office a few days ago. I feel so grateful to live in such a beautiful place and I hope that the work I do here is worthy of my inspiring surroundings.
Nope, not jealous at all. Nope.
Read it already? Tell us what you thought at @maximumpopbooks!
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