1. Where did you get the inspiration to write ‘Love Song?’
I’d written about music before, in You Don’t Know Me. That was an amateur girl band, but it led me to imagine what it must be like to be in a super-famous band. I knew that One Direction must be on the verge of splitting up, after so much time relentlessly on the road. I wanted to write a feminist story about the world of pop and rock. At first, I imagined a classic fan fic story about a female bodyguard rescuing a singer in a band. I wanted to capture the madness of touring and the alienation of mega-fame. But the story that wanted to be written was quite different. It’s about a girl who’s quite vulnerable emotionally, although she doesn’t think she is. The band are not a classic boy band, because they write their own songs and play their own instruments. They’re more in the tradition of classic bands like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, whose biographies Iread when I was researching (I love my job!). Although there is celebrity madness, there is also the sheer joy of writing songs and making music. There’s a lot of friendship – female and male. And there’s a fabulous, falling-down country house in the middle of nowhere. And a whippet. It didn’t turn out the way I originally expected, and that’s what I like about it now.
2. Describe the plot of the book in three words?
Love, music, heartbreak.
3. Out of all of your books, which has been your favourite to write?
The second book in the Threads series, Beads. I had written 10,000 words of it (about a sixth) before Threads won the Chicken House competition, so it was already well underway, with no pressure from a publisher or readers. I was writing about my wonderful girls from Threads, who had simply carried on living in my head after book 1. I knew them so well. I wanted to write about them confronting child slavery in the clothing industry and raising awareness of the issues I care so much about. It’s the only book I’ve written that went smoothly according to plan. I thought I’d really nailed the whole writing thing then. Ha!
4. Would you liken yourself to Nina in ‘Love Song-‘ as she isn’t so keen on ‘The Point,’ at the start of the novel?
Oh yeah. Nina’s totally based on me. I was into extravagant fashion as a teenager, not pop stars. I loved music, but I was very shy and pretty cynical about rich, famous young men. I’d have run a mile if any of them had come close to me. I’m not sure I had the inner confidence Nina shows in the second half of the book, but I like to think I’d have grown into myself. I certainly would have loved the music-making with the intensity that she does. Some of the things that happened to her are things that happened to me in my late teens and early twenties, so there’s a lot of my life in hers.
5. What is the process of writing a novel like to you- how hard was it to first become published?
It took me ten years to become published. By then I’d written three and a half adult novels and a screenplay, all of which had been rejected, and 34 versions of Threads. It was the rewriting process that made the difference with my first published book. Writing is hard! I don’t think anyone gets it right first time. The best advice is to finish that first draft, whatever it takes, put it in a drawer for a few weeks and then go back to it. You’ll have a much clearer idea of what’s wrong with it and how to to fix it. I love the rewriting process now.
Each book is harder than the last. Firstly, I’ve used a lot of my good ideas for how to get characters in and out of tricky situations, so I have to keep thinking of new and ever-better ones. Also, each book is like a puzzle: how will I solve a story with this type of narrator, this voice, this narrative structure, this theme …? And once it’s solved, I find I’m intrigued by a new set of problems, the next book is a whole new puzzle and I have to start all over again. It’s why I love it so much when readers take the trouble to write to me and say how much they’ve loved a particular book, or like today, when a girl told me she’s read one of my books over and over, and got me to sign its yellowing pages. Because it’s something I’ve slaved over, with little sense of whether it will resonate or not. It’s wonderful when it does.