Friday 22 February 2013

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2013 YA Debut Interview: The Hanged Man Rises by Sarah Naughton

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 I'm interviewing UKYA author Sarah Naughton, whose debut YA novel, The Hanged Man Rises, is being published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books in the UK on 28th February 2013. Read on for more:

The Hanged Man RisesThe Hanged Man Rises by Sarah Naughton - When their parents are killed in a fire, Titus Adams and his little sister Hannah are left to fend for themselves in the cruel and squalid slums of Victorian London. Taking shelter with his friend and saviour, Inspector Pilbury, Titus should feel safe. But though the inspector has just caught and hung a notorious child-murderer, the murders haven't stopped. Now everyone is a suspect, even the inspector himself, and unless Titus can find a way to end the killings, he will lose all that is dear to him.
For this evil cannot be contained, even by death.
from Goodreads.

Sarah NaughtonCan you tell us a little about yourself?

I spent my childhood in Somerset but by the time I was a teenager I was bored stiff and couldn’t wait to get to London. After my degree at UCL I wrote adverts for a few years, which was fun. I got to stay in very nice hotels and meet celebrities, some of whom were lovely (Derek Jacobi, John Culshaw, Jimmy Nesbit) and some of whom were total schmucks (you’ll have to kill me first…) Then about seven years ago I had my first son and nights on the town became a thing of the past: that’s when I finally knuckled down to writing.

Have you always wanted to be an author?

Yes. Not that I had any particularly noticeable talent – I never won any competitions or got anything printed in the school magazine – in fact I didn’t seriously put my mind to it until I had children.

How did you come up with the idea for The Hanged Man Rises?

I don’t think I ever recovered from watching the Exorcist as a teenager. I found it a mind-bending terrifying experience and I think the film’s themes were swimming around in my subconscious for years: stolen identities, the ‘other side’ encroaching on our world, the idea that a good person can commit great evil. Life is never black and white and I wanted a hero who does something really awful but still manages to be sympathetic.

Why will readers like your main character, Titus Adams?

Well I like him because he’s based on my granddad. He’s totally loyal, even when it’ll cost him – like the time he admits to Stitcher being his friend and risks losing Inspector Pilbury’s good opinion. He’d never betray anyone, which is why he hates himself so much for leaving Hannah in the workhouse, even though it’s for a good reason. He’ll tough out anything without complaint, he’s always striving, never gives in, and he sees the good in everyone. He’s brave like my granddad, and though he has strong feelings he hardly ever shows them. Life’s hard for people like Titus and they don’t always get the rewards they should; I wanted him to have a happy ending because he really deserves it.

What research did you have to do for The Hanged Man Rises? Was there anything you found that surprised you?

I suppose most of my research has been twenty years’ worth of living in London. I pass the site of The Devil’s Acre in Westminster nearly every day. Even after all these years it still has an air of darkness. The Thorney Island Society, with its fantastic picture library of Victorian London, has barred windows; rats swarm around the rubbish left by Strutton Ground market; drunks shamble down the alleyways and the local school has Fort Knox standard security. Just walking around the area gives you ideas, but when I needed solid facts I got them from the library or the internet. What particularly shocked me were the first hand accounts from Mayhew’s ‘London Labour and the London poor’. It’s Horrible Histories without the jokes.

Tell us about how you write: do you write in a particular place? Do you have any music playing?

I write at the kitchen table or in a cafe, although I dream of having my own little shed like Roald Dahl. I do find music inspiring: at the moment I’m planning a ghost story set in Cornwall so have been listening to The Fisherman’s Friends singing sea shanties, but I can’t concentrate if it’s on when I’m working.

Do you have any must haves with you while you’re working?

Absolute silence and cashew nuts.

What was most surprising to you during the writing process?

I suppose the way the characters take over sometimes. You realise they’re behaving in a particular way that you didn’t actually plan and then you have to re-write the story to fit it around them.

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

I’m a bit nervous, obviously: I hope they like it, and like it enough to want to read more of my books. The best thing will be walking past a book-shop and seeing it in the window, or if somebody’s reading it on the tube. There’s no way I’ll be able to restrain myself from saying ‘I wrote that, do you like it?’ and then of course they’ll have to say it’s brilliant.

Anything else you would like to add?

This is my first book and I want to say to anyone who’s struggling to find an agent or get published, that if you really want it you will get there in the end. Just keep working, and listen to people who know what they’re talking about. Equally important is NOT listening to certain people too – my friend Dave always tells me to ‘put a dragon in it’ - the trick is to work out who falls into which category.

Thank you, Sarah, for such a great interview! Doesn't Titus sound like such an awesome character? And the book sounds so ceepy! I am so intrigued! You can find Sarah on Facebook and on Twitter.


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