Thursday 21 February 2013

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2013 YA UK Debut Interview: Geek Girl by Holly Smale

We all like supporting YA and New Adult debut authors, but this year, rather than just read their books, I'll be highlighting them on my blog too, so you can hear about these wonderful authors.

Today, as part of the blog tour, I'm interviewing UKYA author Holly Smale whose debut YA novel, Geek Girl, is being published by HarperCollins Children's Books in the UK on 28th February 2013 (£6.99 for paperback, also available in ebook formats). Read on for more:

Geek Girl by Holly SmaleGeek Girl by Holly Smale - Harriet Manners knows a lot of things. She knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a "jiffy" lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. What she isn't quite so sure about is why nobody at school seems to like her very much. So when she's spotted by a top model agent, Harriet grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her Best Friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of the impossibly handsome supermodel Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves.

As Harriet veers from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, she begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did.

And as her old life starts to fall apart, the question is: will Harriet be able to transform herself before she ruins everything?
 From Goodreads.

Holly SmaleCan you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a 31 year old geek-turned-model-turned-dinnerlady-turned-courgette-packer-turned-waitress-turned-PR-girl-turned-blogger-turned-teacher-turned-author. So my CV is nearly as long as my book, and I can give a lot of (very flaky) careers advice.

I did a BA in English Literature, an MA in Shakespeare and I live in London.

Have you always wanted to be an author?

Yes. Apart from a minor blip when I was four and wanted to be a scientist-ballerina hybrid - and a week when I desperately ached to “drive planes” - this has always been my passion. I’m obsessed with language and books, and I was about five years old when I realised they didn’t just grow on trees like apples; from that point on I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Writing fiction is possibly the only job in the world where you can be anything and anyone and anywhere you want to be whenever you feel like it. There are no limits, and I absolutely love it.

How did you come up with the idea for Geek Girl?

I was quite bogged down with writing the end of a very serious adult novel when a friend suggested I try “loosening up the creative juices” by jotting down something about modelling, because I did it for a couple of years as a teenager. The first line wasn’t at all what I sat down to write - “My name is Harriet Manners and I am a geek” - but I stared at it for a few minutes and then realised that the book wasn’t really about models at all. It was about outcasts and outsiders, and as somebody who was bullied at school that was a story I knew I could put my heart into. I turned it into a comedy partly because I enjoy writing them, and partly because sometimes laughter is the best way to deal with painful experiences.

The irony, obviously, is that this was the book I sold. The other one’s still in a drawer in my desk.

If you could describe Geek Girl in three words, what would they be?

A new fairytale.

Why will readers like your main character, Harriet Manners?

I think there’s a part of Harriet in all of us. It’s the part that sometimes feels like we don’t fit in, or wishes we were someone else, or believes that we’re not quite good enough. Whether we’re adults or children, cool or geeky, male or female, not many people are totally exempt from that.

In her own way, Harriet’s a strong girl. She doesn’t shoot weapons and she can’t run and jump and fight, but she’s brave, and kind, and she does her best to do the right thing even when it’s hard. She’s flawed - because we all are - but she’s essentially a good person, and hopefully that’s something readers will warm to even when she’s being a bit of a plonker (which is often).

What research did you have to do for Geek Girl? Was there anything you found that surprised you?

Believe it or not, some of the more dramatic scenes were based on real life experiences and I was very surprised at how quickly and powerfully the emotions came back when I was writing. It really was like I was fifteen again.

I don’t know quite as many facts as Harriet, so that was really fun. I spent a long time on Google and in libraries, hunting for interesting titbits. And then boring strangers with them, because they really did excite me as much as they do her.

Tell us about how you write; do you write in a particular place? Do you have any music playing? Do you have any must-haves with you while writing?

I’m not really a creature of habit, so I like shaking it up wherever possible. I’ll write at home, or in my parent’s garden shed, or I’ll take my laptop to a cafe or a bar or to the beach if I’m lucky enough to find one. As long as I have an idea and somewhere to put it, I’m happy.

I tend to write to music, but it’ll vary according to what scene I’m writing. I imagine and write books as if they’re films, so I’ll usually match the music to the scene/chapter as if it’s a soundtrack. Although I do tend to put the songs on “repeat”, which drives the people around me barmy.

Oh, and I always need coffee. I’m known for wandering around the house in the middle of the night having overdone it: green and shaking slightly.

What was most surprising to you during the writing process?

It surprised me how naughty my characters were. You’d think that part of the fun of creating fictional people is in bossing them about and telling them what to do and say, but that’s not the case at all: mine are even more obstinate than I am. They turn up fully formed and demanding attention, and I frequently have to fit the story around them instead. I get sad when they’re sad, and happy when they’re happy; I’m incredibly protective of them and love them all fiercely. Sometimes we chat.

I probably shouldn’t admit that in public.

How does it feel to know your book will soon be in the hands of readers?

To be honest, it feels like the result of twenty six years of wishing for it on every birthday candle, dandelion seed and eyelash. Whenever I get a lovely message - somebody who laughed, or cried, or felt the story or characters touched them in some way - I get quite emotional. I can’t imagine I’ll ever get bored of that feeling, and I don’t want to.

Anything else you would like to add?

Yes: thanks so much for having me here! And if you love writing, keep going. There are so many stories inside all of us, but sometimes it just takes a while to get them out.

Thank you, Holly, for such a great interview! I am so looking forwards to reading Geek Girl, it sounds so good! You can find Holly on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Geek Girl by Holly Smale is out on 28th February, published by HarperCollins Children's Books, £6.99 (PB). Also available in e-book formats.


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