Rachel McIntyre, author of Me And Mr J, spoke to the site about her book, her personal experiences, her book, her characters and so much more! Read on to learn more!
Me And Mr J is about a very controversial issue, and books, especially in the YA market, are turning towards writing about these issues. Do you think we should be encouraging these books to be written?
Absolutely. TV never shies away from confronting difficult topics and I think fiction needs to as well. It’s a way of resolving issues without ever having to experience them first hand.
Lara is a character that doesn’t come from the wealthiest background and is severely bullied for her own individual traits. Were you bullied yourself or did you hear of any stories of people being bullied?
Not bullied as horrifically as Lara, but had name calling and gossiping which was unpleasant enough. And I had a boyfriend in my early twenties (before I became the do not mess with me woman I am now) who, with hindsight, was a bully.Plus, I was very in to Goth clothes and music and was spat on in the street a few times by strangers and had all the usual Morticia comments and general insults. (Yawn.)
I am so glad I grew up before social media became such a big deal; I think my teenage years would have been much more difficult if I’d had that to contend with. I was a teacher before I was a writer and have heard a lot of stories from students who have had a hard time because they’re perceived as different. It’s heartbreaking. All the bullying episodes in the book are inspired by real events. For example, my friend has red hair and when were at Uni, she had her hair set alight at a bus stop.
As someone that’s been severely bullied in their life, I feel it’s always nice to have some words of encouragement for people going through it. What would you say to anyone who’s currently experiencing bullying?
Firstly, it’s never, ever your fault. Ever. You haven’t “brought it on yourself” in any way, whether you’ve retaliated or not. Secondly, you absolutely have to tell someone about it. Chances are you’re not the only person this bully is picking on and you could be helping someone else and it can be stopped. You don’t have to put up with it. Most importantly, remember you can be as “you” as you like. We’re all individuals born on to the same planet; don’t feel you have to change to fit in with this person’s perception of how you should be.
Mr Jagger is a character that’s designed to be flawlessly attractive, and I think most readers will pick up on that. Where did the idea for his character come from?
I think he’s very attractive- I completely had Robert Pattinson in my head when I was writing him. But Mr J. is a very flawed character, he makes a huge mistake. And remember, it’s all from Lara’s perspective and she completely puts him on a pedestal, so in her eyes, he’s perfect.
Lara attends an all girls school, and regularly has to encounter people from the all boys school. Why did Lara attend a same sex school and not a mixed school?
That’s the set up I know! I went to an all girls’ school and there was a boys’ school over the road and we all caught the bus together by the churchyard. All of that is lifted directly from my school years.
For those who don’t know, Me and Mr J is about a teacher student relationship. What inspired you to write a book about this?
I thought it was a topical issue that needed airing. It seems to be in the news a lot, but because the girls are always anonymous, we don’t see it from their point of view. I wanted to write a story that looked at why a girl would get involved.
Were there any cases of a teacher student relationship that led you to write this book?
The original idea came from a student I had who told me about a girl who used to go to her former school and was rumoured to be in a relationship with her PE teacher. I was horrified, but a lot of the girls thought it was romantic.
Who do you think your book is best suited to? Did you have a specific audience in mind when writing it?
When I wrote it, I specifically targeted it at 14/15 year old girls who maybe didn’t love reading and would enjoy a Hollyoaks-y/ Waterloo Road gossipy type book. I’ve been really surprised how many readers are adult: I had no idea that when you write for a particular audience, other people would read it! I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t think target audience is as big a deal as people may think because, very often, they’re not who reads your book!
What tips would you have for someone that wants to start writing but doesn’t know how to get started?
Read as much as you can to get a feel for the genre. Think about some what if? scenarios. So you could read articles in newspapers/ magazines and think well, what if that hadn’t happened and think of alternative versions. When it comes to actually writing, I recommend writing a really long summary of what you want to write (I’ve just written one that is 18, 000 words long!) and just let your mind go. Then you’ve got a beginning, middle and an end before you start and you don’t waste time trying to think how A gets to b because it’s already written. Then sit down and discipline yourself! (That’s the hard part.)
And finally, something many will want to know: what’s next for you?
I’ve finished book 2 and am writing book 3. They’re both coming out with Egmont.
Thank you for joining us in our Week Of YA!
Thanks for having me on the blog!