So today I am delighted to share with you my Q&A with Keris Stainton as part of her blog tour for her new novel, Emma Heart’s LA which is out now (published by Orchard books) and I’ll be reviewing very soon! Keris writes fantastic contemporary UKYA and founded the UKYA website too. Keris Stainton also wrote Della Says OMG and Jessie Heart’s NYC too, both of which are also excellent novels.
What made you want to write YA and how did you go about making it transpire?
I didn’t actually think about writing YA to begin with, I just had an idea that worked best with a teenager as the main character. I had been reading quite a lot of teen fiction though, so that may have had something to do with it! The first book I wrote is still unfinished, but I really loved writing it and had a lot of great feedback. The next one got me my agent and my book deal, but wasn’t published and probably won’t be now.
You’re a big supporter of UKYA and set up the fabulous UKYA blog. What do you think makes UKYA so special?
I think it’s mainly that UK readers can identify more closely with UKYA novels. I love American YA too, but for me it’s more escapist than UKYA.
You often handle quite ‘heavy’ themes around parental separation in your writing but it’s never particularly angsty. How do you balance this with humour and is it difficult?
I do try to avoid angst, that’s true! I don’t find it so hard to balance it with humour, because I think often the most miserable situations can have some humour in them. One thing I found hard with Emma Hearts LA was that I was backing away from the situation with her dad. I kept thinking I was leaving it up to the reader to understand what Emma was going through, but my editor wisely pointed out that I was being too timid. I’m much happier with how the book turned out, but I did find it hard to write.
Both Emma and Jessie are brilliant characters, are you planning any more novels around them, or that mention them? Hint, hint!
Thank you! Yes, I am, actually, but I can’t say much more than that, sorry!
What made you want to set both Emma Hearts LA and Jessie Hearts NYC in America? What were your research trips like and what is your favourite memory from them?
I set Jessie in New York firstly because I love New York and secondly because I wrote Jessie for NaNoWriMo (in which you have to write 50,000 words in 30 days) and I thought describing New York would be great for wordcount! The next book was supposed to be set it Italy, but my publishers liked the LA idea better and so I’ve ended up looking all bicoastal – it wasn’t intentional!
I didn’t do a specific research trip for Jessie, but I’ve been to New York five times and my favourite memory is actually one I used in the book – The View revolving restaurant is absolutely gorgeous. Expensive, but totally worth it for a special occasion.
I did, however, do a research trip to LA and the whole trip was so fantastic, it’s hard to pick just one memory, but I think maybe it was watching the sun set on the beach on our last day. It was all so incredibly beautiful and we knew we had to leave and we REALLY didn’t want to go. Sigh. I’m dying to go back.
Oscar, Finn or Dan? Yep, I went there.
Ha! Cruel! Oh gosh, I love them all. I’m still a bit in love with Oscar since it’s not that long since I actually finished writing about him, but I think if I absolutely had to choose, Finn would be the one for me.
Is there anything you would you go back and tell yourself as a teenager if you could?
Oh… so much. I would tell her she was much more capable than she thought she was. I would tell her she could do anything and not to limit herself. I would tell her she wasn’t fat and she really shouldn’t worry so much about what people thought of her. And I would tell her it’s all going to work out so much better than she ever could have imagined. But not, as she hoped, with George Michael.
How long does it take you generally to complete a novel?
I try to do the first draft as quickly as possible – preferably during NaNoWriMo! After that it basically takes as long as I’ve got before deadline. I will faff to fill all the time available. Probably not more than six months though.
It’s a cliche, but who have been the biggest influences on your writing? Do you have a favourite book, or is it too hard to pick just one?
Biggest influences were probably the original “chick lit” writers – Marian Keyes, Helen Fielding, Jennifer Weiner, Sophie Kinsella, Rowan Coleman. Reading their books made me want to write funny, relateable, romantic books. Once I started reading YA, Meg Cabot was a HUGE influence, along with E Lockhart, Luisa Plaja and Sarra Manning.
I don’t have one book, but I have a favourite series and that’s Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. I discovered them at a particularly tricky time of my life and the characters now feel like family.
Is there a character you’ve written you feel is most like yourself? If so, why?
I think Della’s the most like me as a teenager – insecure, unsure of herself and in her sister’s shadow. I think she’ll probably turn out okay though