A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Happy (belated) book birthday to The Weight of Souls!
Thanks for taking the time for this interview – and sorry we didn’t manage to arrange it for your actual book birthday. But still, no one minds an extra birthday celebration, right?
So, both your debut novel, Angel’s Fury, and your newest book The Weight of Souls, play with the concept of souls and life after death. Why do you think that is? Is this an area of interest for you?
It is definitely an area of interest. Being a Catholic married to an atheist, the concept of life after death has long been a topic of debate in our house. It is the great unanswerable question, something that every culture, religion and philosophy touches on and I feel that humanity in general needs to believe that good deeds don’t go un-noticed, wrongs will be punished and we will get to see our loved ones again (the exception is my husband who believes that when we die we are snuffed out like a candle, our ‘souls’ are a matter of chemistry and we just go to feed the worms –presumably an eternity with me is too terrifying to contemplate).
My real topic of interest though, the thing that both books deal with, is redemption. That is what my books are really about, the question of how and if you can make up for the bad things you do and the healing power of forgiveness.
When writing your new book The Weight of Souls, who or what were the core of the story for you – the element you loved the most, or which was the most important for you?
Bullying is at the heart of The Weight of Souls; the crazy things that we do to fit in with others and how you can change for the worse when trying to find friends. That for me was the most important part of the book. All the characters are trying to be accepted. They all suffer in different ways, even those who seem to be the least likable. At the end Taylor learns the lesson that being honest with herself and her friends and opening herself up to criticism as well as love, is the only way to truly find where you fit.
Between beginning work on The Weight of Souls and finishing it with your editor, did any significant changes occur to the story as it first presented itself to you? Were you ever surprised at the way things turned out?
The biggest change was in who murdered Justin. The very first draft had his mother killing him in a very complicated financial motivation involving a secret father (!). This story however, changed very early on and after that it remained pretty much as is. I plot my stories very carefully so I am rarely surprised by anything that happens. I have strict control over my characters as a rule.
What is your writing process like? (ie. Do you type straight onto a laptop or use pen and paper? Where do you normally work? Are you a planner or a pantser?)
I am a plotter. What happens is I percolate the story for as long as it takes for all the pieces to fit together. As soon as I have the Eureka moment that tells me that the story is complete, I will sit down and bash out a synopsis (using the laptop). I’ll take a pen and paper to write down any unresolved questions and muse over the answers.Then I write a chapter by chapter outline (using the laptop). Finally I flesh out each chapter until I have a book. I deviate fairly little from the original outline. I try to work in the study, but I’m pretty nomadic and often end up in the dining room. I’m writing these answers on my knee in the living room. I go where it is most convenient with the children.
Do you think that you’ve changed much between the writing of your first and second books, and if so, how has that affected your writing?
I never did creative writing classes or attended critique groups or anything like that. I am a ‘self-taught’ writer and Angel’s Fury was only the second novel I had written. Once it was bought by Egmont, there was a LONG editing process (2 years from contract to publication), but that meant that I learned A LOT from my editor.The Weight of Souls, as a result, was a much better first draft, which required significantly lighter editing.
Do you have a favourite character or scene in The Weight of Souls?
I love the scene where Taylor first realises that Justin is dead – when he touches her and transfers the Mark. That was the scene that kept playing out in my head when I first conceived of the story. I loved finally getting to the point in the story when I could write that.
You’re trapped in the lift with a movie producer, and she asks you to describe The Weight of Souls to her while you wait for the doors to be pried open. What do you say?
Please buy my book, please, please …
The Weight of Souls is a gritty, urban fantasy that deals with the themes of bullying, redemption and life after death. It is about a teenaged girl with a terrible family curse: she sees dead people. If a ghost touches her she is forced to avenge its death, or suffer an even worse fate. When an enemy is killed, she and his ghost have to work together to find out who killed him. That’s when hate turns to love and they both have the chance for true redemption.
Thank you so much for these fabulous answers, Bryony!
Interviewer: Zoë Marriott
THE SWAN KINDGOM (Walker Books, out now)
SHADOWS ON THE MOON (Walker Books, out now)
DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES (Walker Books, out now)
FROSTFIRE (Walker Books, out now)
THE NIGHT ITSELF (Walker Books, out now)
DARKNESS HIDDEN (THE NAME OF THE BLADE #2) (Walker Books, 2014)