Can you describe your book in the length of a tweet?
The Jungle is about a boy looking for a better future, a girl who dreams of wings, and a little bit of hope.
Where did the idea for this book come from?
This story initially arose from an article I read last year about the discovery of a body on the Norwegian coast. Subsequent investigation found that it belonged to a young man who had started his journey from The Jungle. In a bid to leave the refugee camp, he had tried to swim across the Channel but his efforts tragically resulted in the loss of his own life. The thought of someone risking everything for a second chance really stayed with me. When I undertook further research, I realised how many of those living in the camp were, in fact, teenagers and children. These two ideas fused together to form the central concept of The Jungle.
Refugees often find themselves in the news at the moment. Did this make you want to write about them more?
I think for me it was about showing another story to that presented by the media. Refugees aren’t all the same. Each one of them is different. It was about making readers think of the person behind the word ‘refugee’.
What was the writing process like for you? I imagine there was a lot of research involved…
Yes, there was! There were a number of sources I used to recreate the setting of The Jungle, including newspaper articles, interviews and documentaries. I also looked at a lot of aerial footage of the camp to give me a better idea of its size.
How excited are you for The Jungle to be released?
Very excited! I’ve always wanted to be a writer and it feels incredibly surreal to think that my book will now be in stores.
What do you hope readers take away from your book?
I hope that readers will have a better understanding of the risks and dangers faced by those making the journey to Europe. The nature of media means that refugees are sometimes presented as a single group. But they are all individuals, each with their own unique dreams, hopes and fears. It’s important for us to remember that.
Do you plan on writing more books? What’s next for you?
Yes! My next book is a historical fiction story set in the Tudor/Elizabethan era. I’m currently in the first draft stages so there’s still a way to go before it’s ready.
What tips do you have for aspiring writers?
I find it’s helpful to carry a notebook to jot down ideas. Often, they’ll come when you’re least expecting it and it’s handy to note them down before they disappear.
Finish what you’re writing. It’s tempting to keep working on the opening of your story but readers need to know what happens next. It took me a while to realise that…
Lastly, don’t give up. Like most writers, I got my fair share of rejections before that all important yes. It will happen. You’ve just to keep writing.
The Jungle by Pooja Puri is out now. You can follow Pooja on Twitter @PoojaPuriWrites.