TheSite.org - a charity run website designed to give teenagers advice on all that you could need to know whilst growing up.Interview with Holly Bourne
I was lucky enough to be able to interview Holly on life, writing and her books, which as a reader who is her, *cough* biggest fan *cough*, was a very exciting ordeal.
• Are any aspects of your storylines or scenes in your books, based on your own experiences? Is there any in particular that you can share with us?
Oh my, yes. I am a shameless plagiarist! Anyone who knows me has to be uber-careful about what they say because it could end up in my books. Sometimes I don't even realise I'm doing it, and only know when my friend's call me after reading it and say 'OI'.
In terms of plagiarising my own life, a lot of the mean things the popular girls do in The Manifesto On How To Be Interesting were lifted right out of my own schooldays. It was my way of getting my own back. Like, inventing a category in our Yr 11 yearbook called 'Most Likely To Eat Their Way Through The School Canteen' and then awarding it to an overweight girl. The popular girls in my school actually did that. And got away with it. Until now....
• What genre have you never approached but would someday love to write?
I have a REALLY good idea for a crime novel. But I don't read much crime and don't think you should tackle a genre unless you're really au fait with it. So, once I've finished the writing projects I'm committed to (which is two years away), I may get cracking on it. It would be great to read all the crime classics first.• What is your favourite genre to read?
Young Adult, of course - because it is ALL the genres in one. And it's so plot driven. That said, I do make myself read one 'adult' book to every few YA ones, just so I don't miss out on any good stuff in the other half of the bookstore.
• Do you think that being a reader is important if you wish to become a writer? Are you a big reader, and do you think that helps your writing?
I'm going to put this very simply: If you don't read, I reckon you'll be a shitty writer. Sorry, but it's true. Also, why aren't you reading, man? What the heck is wrong with you? It's one of the greatest things about being human. It's magic.
...Also, the sheer arrogance of thinking you'll contribute something amazing to a community and art form you don't even engage with? Screw that. Get off my table. Every book I read makes me a better writer. I spent a 50% minimum of my 'writer time' reading other people's books.
• What was the first story you have ever written, and how old were you?
I was six, and it was called A Bump In The Clouds. It was about a squirrel in Heaven who bumped too hard playing musical bumps at a friend's birthday party and fell down to earth. I illustrated the whole thing myself and sent it off to publishers... with no luck :(
• Did you always want to grow up to become an author?
It was all I wanted, yet I never thought it would happen. It's like wanting to be a prima ballerina or an astronaut or something. I still pinch myself every day that I'm so lucky I get to do this.
• Who is your biggest inspiration? (In writing or just in general)
In writing, and in general, JK Rowling. I totally WORSHIP her. If she vommed at the side of the road, like Harry Styles, I would be that person making a shrine to her vomit. *waves at JK* "Hi JK, still want to be friends?"
It's not just about Harry Potter, though a LOT of it is about Harry Potter. It's also how she uses her wealth and influence for good. How she puts her (amazing) views across in her books so perfectly without crowbarring them in. The way she talks to fans on Twitter. Plus, just for the sheer volume of children she got reading. I WANT HER TO BE MY FRIEND. I also want to BE HER. Yes, I'm being a bit scary right now. I apologise...
• How and where do you get your ideas?
Usually just by asking questions about boring, mundane everyday life. I got the idea for The Manifesto after bickering with my boyfriend. I got upset when I found out he was popular at school. And, I just asked myself, "why does that bother you, Holly? School was years ago?" The idea came from there.
• Have you ever considered what happened after your books? Do the stories just carry on in your head, or do they just stop? And, if they do continue, would you ever consider writing that 'sequel'?
They really do just stop. That makes my readers so mad, I'm sorry. I get emails every day, asking "what happens next?" and I'm like, "I honestly don't know. The story's done, it's written, it's yours now."
As for the Soulmates sequel - I still have no plans to write one. *hides from rotten fruit being pelted at me*. The thing is, the original 'ending' of Soulmates was set twenty years in the future. So I DO KNOW what happens to Poppy and Noah because I wrote it. But the ending was re-written in the edit. I would feel pretty wrong writing a sequel when I know the 'original' outcome.
..maybe I'll just release the original prologue one day? Though I know a lot of fans would hate it (which is why it was re-written).
• What do you do when you have writers block?
Go for lots of long walks. Chocolate.
• Do you remember what you were doing when you thought up the plot for Soulmates and The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting?
For Manifesto, it was a really clear moment. The whole plot downloaded itself into my brain while I stood in front of The Ugly Duchess painting at the National Gallery. That's why I've given the painting such a starring role in the book.
• Do you plan out the whole journey of your stories, or do you let your imagination flow and write whatever comes into your head as you go?
I've got a general idea of what might happen, and what themes and 'morals' I want in there. But every book I've written so far has been a surprise to me. Stephen King describes writing a book as digging up a fossil and, for me, that's exactly what it's like.
• How do you choose character names? And how long does it take you to find the perfect name?
I think I'm much less fussy about character names than most authors. I'm just like, "yeah, that will do", whereas I know many authors angst for months. I wish I was less slap-dash. I usually end up calling everyone 'Brian'. Honestly, every edit I've gone through with Usborne, they're like: "UK teenagers aren't really called Brian, Holly. Can we change this please?"
• And finally, can you give us any information on your upcoming novels? Or is it all tip-top secret still?
It's a trilogy! About feminism!! And I'm so excited about these books I could kiss you!
The books follow a group of three friends who start a feminism grassroots group at their college. Each book is a standalone story, and each is from one of the girl's point of view.
The first, Am I Normal Yet? is about Evie, a girl recovering from OCD and trying to get her life back to normal. It examines the links between gender and mental health and is out in August!
A very big thanks to Holly for her time and answers, you can purchase both her novels using the links below: