1) What made you decide on the title WE ARE YOUNG for your new book?
Titles are SO hard. But sometimes you stumble on the right one and you just know. In this case, the song of the same name was playing on the radio one day, and I started singing along (terribly). Then it hit me. It was perfect. The book is about being young, and the specific challenges teenagers face today, so the title does the job nicely!
2) What inspired you to tackle the specific topics it covers (potential spoiler alert!)?
It might be quicker to ask what DIDN’T inspire me to write the book, but I’ll give it a go! In no particular order: the state of the world today; the British government (SPOILER ALERT: not a big fan); the mental health crisis, particularly in terms of its effects on young people; teenage activists; slightly seedy seaside towns… That’s just off the top of my head. Bits and pieces of ideas came from all sorts of places.
3) Can you tell us a bit about the book’s narrator, Evan?
Evan is probably my favourite of all the characters I’ve written. At the start of the novel, she’s reliable and dependable. She’s the one her mum relies on after going through a messy divorce. But the pressure of always being reliable is starting to take its toll on Evan, and she starts pushing against that.
Evan’s number one love is music, and she’s in a band with her two exes – Daze and Sid – which makes for an interesting dynamic. She has a difficult/impossible relationship with her father, Harry, which I really enjoyed exploring.
What I love about Evan is that she doesn’t take any crap. She’s strong and fierce and awesome, but not necessarily in ways you’d expect.
4) As with some of your previous books, WE ARE YOUNG features LGBT+ characters whose sexuality is just a matter of fact rather than a central plot point. Is that something you’re particularly conscious of when writing?
There’s a tendency to think that the the inclusion of marginalised identities in books either has to be the whole point of the story or something that’s as casually mentioned as a hair colour, and never really discussed. In terms of my writing, I’m not interested in either approach.
My own sexuality is not the centre of everything I say and do, but it’s also not something that NEVER comes up. I don’t ‘just happen’ to be queer, like I happen to have brown hair or blue eyes. It’s much, much more complicated than that. And it’s the same for every LGBTQIA person I know.
I think it’s hugely important that we see more stories reflecting the life of queer teenagers. Especially queer girls, who often seem to get forgotten. I’ve yet to see a book about queer girls hyped as much as certain books about queer boys, and I think we have to ask ourselves why that’s the case.
5) What do you hope people take away from the experience of reading WE ARE YOUNG?
Mostly, I would really like it if people enjoyed reading the book. That’s always the most important thing for me. This book asks a lot of questions, and it’s not my place to try to provide answers. I don’t have the answers. I’m as messed up as the next person. Oh, but I would LOVE it if people like the dog in this book. Dogs are great.
6) For anyone who currently has WE ARE YOUNG sitting in their towering TBR piles, what would you tell them about it to convince them to move it to the top?
I wouldn’t dare try. When someone tells me to read something, I immediately want to read anything BUT that book. Sure, give mine a whirl, but it’s cool if you don’t fancy it right now. Why don’t you read some Nina LaCour, Sarah Crossan, Patrice Lawrence or Patrick Ness? You can’t go wrong.