A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Today is the release of Nikki’s fantastic novel, Who Framed Klaris Cliff? I was very excited to read and review this novel since it sounded so intriguing and the book did not disappoint at all! I loved every word of Who Framed Klaris Cliff? and I was blown away by the originality of the story and Nikki’s beautiful writing style. Today Nikki has kindly agreed to answer some questions, but before we head into the interview, here’s a taster of Who Framed Klaris Cliff?:
People used to call them ‘friends’ and said how they were good for your brain. And then a day came when all that changed . . . when they became our enemy.
Now, anyone found harbouring a rogue imaginary person is in for the Cosh, an operation that fries your imagination and zaps whatever’s in there, out of existence.
That’s why I wish Klaris Cliff had never shown up. And why I know that proving her innocence is the last hope I have of saving myself.
Q: Hi Nikki and happy publication day! Could you describe roughly how you are feeling?
A: Hi Rose, it feels like it’s my birthday! I’m a little bit dazed and confused, but planning to enjoy every minute!
Q: Approximately how long have you been working on Who Framed Klaris Cliff? And where did the idea come from?
A: I wrote it over a period of about a year as something to take to a writer’s group I belong to. I tend to work in bursts, which is another way of saying I have periods where life gets in the way and I don’t write for ages, then I remember that I like writing and get down to it again. A couple of months after I finished it a friend persuaded me to go to a local event where an agent and a publisher were doing a marathon talk. Anyway, I really liked the agent, Julia Churchill, and decided that she might like Klaris too, so I sent it to her. And the rest is history. Apart from all the boring stuff like rewrites. As to where the original idea came from I misheard a fragment of a conversation on the radio. And I thought what if…
Q: You’ve said before that you had an imaginary friend when you were younger, what compelled you to write about them and why now?
A: I had three imaginary friends. I was the youngest child in the family by six years, so I spent a lot of time playing by myself, which is excellent training for being a writer, as well as the ideal environment for cultivating imaginary friends. Naturally as I grew up I largely forgot about them, but I work as a journalist, and a few years ago I wrote a feature about them for a parenting magazine which brought it all back. But the eureka moment came when I realised that my oldest child, a prolific imaginary friend inventor, had a main one who was very similar to my own favourite, and shared nearly the same name. To make this even stranger I remembered that one of my siblings had also had a very similar friend. I thought that it was probably a coincidence, but wouldn’t it be great if it was something spookier?
Q: I love the character of Joseph and I particularly loved his voice – it felt very realistic. How did you form the character of Joseph?
A: I really don’t know where characters come from. I can set out thinking I’m writing one sort of person, but they usually rebel. Joseph shares some characteristics with one of my sons and my nephew (who is coincidentally called Joseph), but he’s not them. He’s just himself.
Q: Did you plan out Who Framed Klaris Cliff? before beginning to write it? If so, what was your planning process?
A: No. Not at all. I was very much feeling in the dark, although I always knew the ending. I’ve since tried to plot a novel in advance and it was a total disaster. Once I knew exactly what was going to happen it felt too much like work, and the book suffered for it. But it was a good lesson to learn. For me keeping the story locked up, fermenting, inside and only letting it out word by word onto the page is the best way to keep the fun, and therefore the magic.
Q: What is your favourite part of Who Framed Klaris Cliff? and who is your favourite character?
A: I think the ending is probably my favourite part. It felt very real when I was writing it, and after the build up of the book it was cathartic (OK, I cried). As for a favourite character… Ooh, it feels unfair to choose a favourite! I love the MC Joseph because he’s just such a nice, normal boy in an unusual situation. But maybe the one I’m closest to is Flea, the seven year old neighbour. He’s an oddball and very alone within his family, but he’s the cleverest and bravest of the lot. Maybe one day I’ll write a book all about him.
Q: What is a typical writing day like for you?
A: I do the school run and walk my two dogs first, then I do all the house stuff. When I can’t find any other distractions I take to my bed with a laptop that has a dodgy internet connection to minimise interference (yes, Twitter, I mean you!), and I tend to write a scene, so somewhere between 800 and 1,500 words, before the ideas hopper runs dry and I have to leave it to fill up again. I’m actually at my most productive late at night but I try to resist writing then because my mind won’t switch off afterwards and I lie awake planning plot twists which I’ve completely forgotten by the next morning.
Q: What advice would you give to people wanting to write YA fiction?
A: Obviously you should read a lot, write a lot and revise a lot. Beyond that, my agent once told me to let the back of my head do the work, and she was right. When I stop trying too hard I usually find the answer.
Q: Are you working on anything else at the moment?
A: I’ve just finished Book Two, which I’m incredibly excited about, but I can’t say anything because it’s still top secret. Shhh!
Thank you so much for speaking with me, Nikki, it’s been a pleasure!
Thank you, Rose!
Nikki Sheehan is the youngest daughter of a rocket scientist and went to a convent school where she was taught by real nuns in habits. After university Nikki’s first job was subtitling the Simpsons. She then retrained as a journalist and wrote features about child psychology for parenting magazines and the national press. She is married and lives in Brighton with a husband, three children, two labradoodles and a cat that runs the joint.
Mannering is an English writer and international author. She signed up with literary agency Creative Authors when she was eighteen and secured her first UK publishing deal when she was nineteen. Her first fantasy novel Roses is out now!