Book Birthday Interview: Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan
Today I’m delighted to be interviewing Sarah Crossan, author of the beautiful, Carnegie-shortlisted THE WEIGHT OF WATER, to celebrate the publication of her new novel, APPLE AND RAIN. I’m a huge fan of THE WEIGHT OF WATER, a highly skilful novel written entirely in poetry, so I couldn’t wait to read her follow-up. APPLE AND RAIN it isn’t a sequel, and it’s written in prose rather than poetry, but it has the same deft touch and strong heart, and it is an absolutely worthy successor.
APPLE AND RAIN is the story of Appollinia Apostolopoulou (Apple for short). She’s being raised by her strict, controlling grandmother – her mother left when she was very young to become an actress in America. Struggling at school and angry with her grandmother and her (largely absent) father, Apple fantasises about being reunited with her mother. Then her dream comes true. Her mother reappears and offers Apple the chance to live with her. She’s fun and sympathetic, and she gets Apple in a way no other grown-up has. But when Apple moves in with her mother, she discovers that the reality isn’t quite what she’s been imagining . . .
Hi, Sarah! Thank you for talking to me. It’s such a pleasure to be able to celebrate Apple and Rain.
First of all, where did the idea for the book come from? Was the process of imagining it and putting it down on paper different from your previous novels?
Every novel is a different process because I learn from my previous projects and mistakes. With APPLE AND RAIN I worked very, very hard on the opening chapters so I knew exactly who these characters were before telling their stories. That was important as it prevented me from having to go through a painful and lengthy editing process later on.
THE WEIGHT OF WATER has been so highly praised, and APPLE AND RAIN has been eagerly awaited as a consequence – was it difficult to write when faced with those expectations, or did it spur you on?
The pressure comes from myself not from any outside source. Writers always want their latest book to be their best, and this is tough when readers have enjoyed a previous novel. My goal for APPLE AND RAIN was just to write an honest book about relationships and I think I’ve managed to do that. I hope I have!
THE WEIGHT OF WATER is written entirely in poetry. APPLE AND RAIN is shaped very differently – it’s almost entirely prose. All the same, I can see a lot of connection between the books – they’re both very much about the power of poetry to unlock emotion. What does poetry mean to you, and how important do you believe it is? Can it change lives?
Poetry is the language we first speak as children. It’s part of the fabric of our beings, but as we get older, and as we go to school, we begin to see it as something academic and difficult – something that doesn’t belong to us. But it does belong to us – to each and every one of us. And yes, it can change lives, in the way any art can change lives – it reminds us that we aren’t alone – that somewhere, someone knows how we feel.
Following on from that, what is your favourite poem, and which poets inspire you? Did you enjoy picking the poems that Mr Gaydon gives Apple’s class to respond to?
Choosing the poems to include in the book was so much fun. I choose some poems I know very well and others which we relatively new to me.
I began to love poetry when I did my A-levels. At that time Sylvia Plath was my top choice. Now I like a multitude of writers from Benjamin Zephaniah to Seamus Heaney. I met John Agard last year and he said nice things about THE WEIGHT OF WATER, so currently he’s my favourite!
It’s pretty clear from APPLE AND RAIN that appearances and first impressions aren’t everything, and that black and white assumptions about people’s characters aren’t helpful! Can you talk about Apple’s mother and her grandmother – is Apple’s mother is a good mother? Is her grandmother a bad mother? And (I have to ask) what kind of mother figures did you have when you were Apple’s age?
I’ve read a few reviews in which readers berate Apple’s mother, but I don’t agree that she’s all that terrible. There’s a saying that “when you know better, you do better” and I don’t think Nana or Apple’s mother really know any better. Life isn’t straightforward. We all make mistakes and part of the pain of being a child is becoming aware of the fact that adults are fallible and human – even the adults we love. This is partly the idea I wanted to address in the book as I remember coming to this realisation myself as a kid. However, my parents were not like Apple’s parents; they were very present and generally quite responsible!
APPLE AND RAIN doesn’t shy away from discussing some very serious issues. Apple makes some bad mistakes, and as a result of them finds herself in dangerous and frightening (and illegal) situations. Do you believe that honesty is important when writing for children – is it more important for characters to be role models, or to be realistic?
Characters can be both role models and realistic, although that doesn’t mean that they must be perfect. If writers invent angelic teenagers it won’t tally with the readers’ experiences of life. I try to validate how young people feel as much as possible by saying, “I know life is tough, but you can handle it. You really can.” That’s part of my remit. That’s my only job actually.
And finally, what’s next for you? What are you working on now?
I’ve just delivered my next novel – a contemporary YA in verse, which I’m very excited about. Publication is expected for August 2015 but for the next few months I guess I will be working on edits!
Thank you so much for those brilliant answers, Sarah! APPLE AND RAIN is out now – I hope this interview has convinced everyone to rush out and buy it!
Sarah Crossan writes novels for children and teens. Her debut novel in verse, THE WEIGHT OF WATER, was shortlisted for the Carnegie medal in 2013. BREATHE was nominated for the Carnegie medal in 2014. Before writing full time, Sarah worked as an English teacher. She grew up in Ireland and England and then moved to New York, where she lived for seven years. She now lives in Hertfordshire with her family where she spends most of her day writing, sipping green tea and eating far too many biscuits.
Website | Twitter | Goodreads
Robin Stevens was born in California and grew up in an Oxford college, across the road from the house where Alice in Wonderland lived. She has been making up stories all her life.
When she was twelve, her father handed her a copy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and she realised that she wanted to be either Hercule Poirot or Agatha Christie when she grew up. When it occurred to her that she was never going to be able to grow her own spectacular walrus moustache, she decided that Agatha Christie was the more achieveable option.
She spent her teenage years at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, reading a lot of murder mysteries and hoping that she’d get the chance to do some detecting herself (she didn’t). She then went to university, where she studied crime fiction, and now she works at a children’s publisher, which is pretty much the best day job she can imagine.
Robin now lives in Cambridge with her boyfriend and her pet bearded dragon, Watson. Her first novel, MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE, is out now.