Today I’m part of the I Hold Your Heart blog tour and have an interview with the author, Karen Gregory. Thank you to Faye for inviting me onto the tour and organising everything, Bloomsbury for providing me with a free eARC of I Hold Your Heart and of course Karen for her time answering my questions. I’m hoping to have a review up shortly of I Hold Your Heart which is a compelling and thought provoking look at toxic relationships and gas lighting.
‘You make me feel like there’s something good in the world I can hold on to,’ Aaron says. He kisses me again, draws me so close it’s almost hard to breathe. ‘I love you, Gem. And I promise I’ll hold your heart forever.’
When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about.
But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma’s life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?
Told in both Gemma’s and Aaron’s words, this is a raw, moving exploration of gaslighting in teenage relationships that skewers our ideas of what love looks like.
And now, onwards with the interview!
1. One of the things I found most compelling about I Hold Your Heart was how it really looked at toxic masculinity and negative relationships- particular the effects of psychological and mental abuse. How did you go about writing such difficult topics in I Hold Your Heart?
I did a lot of research into emotional abuse and gaslighting, looking at a range of sources online and speaking to people who have gone through some of these issues. I also read some books, and found one by Lundy Bancroft called ‘Why does he do that’ particularly helpful for thinking about the mindset of someone like Aaron. It can obviously be quite upsetting delving into some of these topics, so I am lucky to have a good support network around me.
3. What is your typical writing routine?
I’m not sure I have a typical writing day. I tend to fit it in when I can, depending on whether the children are at school or on holiday and what working hours I’m doing in my day job (which is part time so that definitely helps!) I do seem to write in quite large bursts and then spend the rest of the time thinking about my story and characters and jotting notes for scenes down if I don’t have clear writing time. That way, if I do find a spare hour I know what I’m doing and can get into things quite quickly. Each book is a little different though, and editing is different to drafting. It’s always really helpful to have a decent stretch of a few hours, especially during structural edits, so I do tend to become a bit of a hermit when I’m on deadline!
4. What is the one piece of advice, encouragement or guidance you would wish to give to your teenage self or teenage readers today?
Hold on, because it will get better.
Hold on, because it will get better.
5. The title hinges on a misunderstood quote from a a poem ; what inspired this particular mishearing
One of the things Aaron does is pretends he likes things he doesn’t, and so it seemed natural he would misquote things from time to time. I go back and forth about why he does it: on the surface it’s just another element of his manipulation, but I actually think he has no idea who he is, and lacks basic self-awareness. In terms of the poem itself, in the very early stages of planning the book I was looking for love poems and read ‘i carry your heart with me’ by e.e. cummings and straight away the misquote came into my head. I knew it would be perfect for the story and for the title of the book.
Ah, I have a silly story about this from recently! When I was a young teenager, I loved Madonna’s Immaculate Collection. My original copy is long gone, but I found a CD of it in a charity shop recently for 30p. I was so excited to put it on and discovered I still knew nearly all the words … except when I was younger I thought the line in La Isla Bonita was ‘Your Spanish loverboy’! It is, of course, ‘lullaby’ but I can’t get the misheard version out of my head now!
7. Is there a YA book that inspired you as a teenager to write or that you feel is a particular favourite YA book?
There was very little UKYA around when I was a teenager in the 1990s, so most of what I read was things like Judy Blume and Christopher Pike. ‘Tiger Eyes’ and ‘Forever’ by Judy Blume have definitely stayed with me. Also, a book called ‘Children of the Dust’ by Louise Lawrence, which is set after a nuclear war and was completely terrifying.
Thank you Karen again for answering my questions. Don’t forget to check out the other posts for the blog tour. I Hold Your Heart is out now.