I’m really excited today to share an interview with Rachel Ward as part of the blog tour, Lucy at Queen of Contemporary and Project UKYA has organised this month for UKYA. I was supposed to have this post up yesterday but there was a technical issue that prevented me from this so please accept my sincere apologies for the delay.
Numbers is a fascinating concept. What do you think you would do if you were in the same situation as Jem and could see people’s numbers?
I’d like to say that I’d use it for some good purpose, but the reality is that I’d hide away in a cave, so I didn’t have to see people’s numbers. I think it’s much more of a curse than a blessing.
Both the Numbers series and The Drowning have strands of serious issues, eg. Violence, difficult childhoods, etc. How important do you feel it is to refer and raise these in YA and how do you keep it from becoming didactic and cliched?
I don’t raise these issues on purpose, they just naturally work their way into my books, for some reason. I think it’s important that YA books don’t dodge some of the serious issues that face teens today, but, then again, I would hate all YA books to be serious and heavy. There’s room for all on the bookshelf.
I confess I had to look up ‘didactic’ – hmm, good word. I think the ‘issues’ in my books provide context for what is hopefully a page-turning story. The story always takes precedence and I’m not setting out to deliver messages as such, although readers may find messages that chime with them, which may be different from reader to reader. I hope that I’m not preachy. It’s difficult to avoid clichés and I’m not totally against them because often they ring true, which is why they are clichés in the first place! You wouldn’t want a whole book full of clichés but the odd one here or there doesn’t hurt.
Was Numbers always a series in your mind and did you face any challenges writing it?
Numbers was always going to be trilogy, but my publisher has only bought one book at a time from me, and also I put everything that was going to go in book two into the final chapter of book one, to provide a nice twist. So the published trilogy was very different to my original (rather lame) concept.
Writing the first book was a breeze. I didn’t have a contract, was writing around my family and day job, and just enjoyed telling myself the story. The second and third books were more difficult. I felt a bit weighed down by people’s expectations of me, and there were time pressures and deadlines to meet. The third book was written when my husband was very ill, so I view that whole year as a very dark time – I did manage to get the book out (just), and was proud of it in the end.
What is your favourite part of writing for teenagers?
I like pretty much everything about it! I enjoy the writing part, obviously, but I also enjoy going to schools, libraries and festivals to meet readers. Teenagers are very honest in their feedback and I’ve met some fantastic people both online and in real life through my books.
Do you have a particular routine or space when you’re writing?
I gave up my day job a couple of years ago, so now I try to treat writing as a real job and work from 9 to whenever, get a certain number of words done each day, keep on top of emails, etc. It’s much more than a ‘job’ though, so I usually write six or seven days a week, even on holiday.
I have lots of little routines and rituals! I’ve got a little timetable of beverages through the day (tea to start, decaff coffee in the morning, Diet Coke in the afternoon when I’m flagging and back to tea in the evening). My life fits around my family and dog, too, so it’s three walks a day and lots of boring housework in between.
I can write anywhere. I love writing on trains. At home I try writing at the desk in the sitting room, but if I can’t concentrate I’ll take my laptop elsewhere or out to a café or public library.
Who were your favourite authors as a teenager and are they different to your favourites now?
Well, I stopped reading for fun when I was about 13 or 14 and didn’t start again until I was at university. Before I stopped I particularly liked K.M.Peyton. I re-read some of her books last year and was delighted to find that I still liked them.
Nowadays I read a mixture of teen and adult books. I’m Patron of Reading at Pontypridd High School, which has prompted me to think about my own reading habits, so this year I’ve been challenging myself to try different genres and step out of my comfort zone. I’ve tried science fiction, non-fiction and horror. Next up, biography, historical and, gulp, chick-lit.
If you could offer one piece of advice, serious or humorous, to your teenage self what would it be?
I was a very sad, shy teenager, so I guess I’d tell myself that things do get better. I think I took myself and life in general much too seriously. My husband and children have brought a big dollop of love and laughter into my life – who knew, at 15 or 16, that they were waiting for me? The future’s unpredictable, but it can be so much better than you think…
Thank you so much for Rachel for answering my questions and Lucy for organising the tour! Rachel Ward’s latest novel, The Drowning is published through Chicken House and available to buy now.