7 DAYS – Book Birthday!!! Non Pratt interviews author EVE AINSWORTH
So, this is it… nothing more exciting than a new UKYA contemporary author, right? And today Eve Ainsworth’s rather bloody special debut 7 DAYS is officially OUT! What’s more, I get to interview her because Eve is also an awesome Allsort (check out her last post here).
When I saw this cover on Twitter, my instant response was I AM ALL OVER THIS BOOK! And as luck would have it, lovely Eve kindly arranged for Scholastic to send me a proof. When I read the blurb, I was even more convinced that this was exactly my kind of book…
School should be a safe place for Jess, but at the moment it’s everything she dreads. Jess’s life is difficult enough without Kez picking on her.
Kez’s life isn’t any sweeter. She has plenty of problems too but she finds comfort in knowing she is better off than Jess – or so she thinks…
The story takes place over seven days (funny, that), with Jess and Kez each having a chance to narrate the day’s events from their own point of view before moving on to the next day. It’s an excellent deployment of dual narrative giving us two characters with very different perspectives on life. So real you feel like you’ve been transported straight into the characters’ lives, Eve’s debut is clever and uncomfortable and utterly gripping – and borderline impossible to put down.
Eve, do you think you could give us teaser descriptions of Jess and Kez?
OK here we go. Jess is an awesome girl, but she has a hell of lot going on her life. She stresses about things she shouldn’t have to, making her older in her years in many ways. But then she hasn’t got the confidence to fight against some of the stuff that’s thrown at by her peers. She’s intelligent but hasn’t quite found her voice.
Kez appears tougher and much more savvy. Kez hasn’t got time for those that she sees as weak or pathetic. She’s pretty, popular and confident and she has the sort of life that Jess aspires to. Or does she?
You mention that Jess is stressing about things she shouldn’t have to and that Kez has the kind of life that Jess (on the surface) might aspire to – one of the things I found fresh about 7 DAYS is that you don’t shy away from portraying different socio-economic groups. Was that something you wanted to focus on?
Yes, absolutely. I’ve worked in a large secondary school that supports students from varying socio-economic backgrounds, so I really wanted to tap into that. The Estate in 7 DAYS is purely fictional but is a hybrid of the some of areas I have worked and lived in, in Croydon and Crawley. I see the struggles families have experienced, living in such areas, and the knock-on effect this can have on teens and younger children.
Working in schools must have given you some great insight into the lives of teens like Jess and Kez – what other aspects of your day job inspired the story in 7 DAYS?
In my first role, I worked as a pastoral support and would help with day-to-day issues facing teens, such as low-level anxiety, friendship breakdown and bullying. It was the bullying scenarios that really stuck with me and seeing the devastating effect it had on the victim. I also would spend time talking to the bully, exploring why they chose to target another individual and it became obvious that nothing was ever black and white. As I moved into a child protection role at the school, I began to really get some understanding of some of the pressures and demands that face young people today. I think elements of this understanding filtered into 7 DAYS. The characters grew from there.
Bullying is a common theme in books for teenagers and younger children, but this is the first time I’ve seen someone allow the reader true insight into both the victim’s life and the aggressor. Why did you approach it like this?
Because I don’t think we often consider the reasons why someone might chose to bully. Often the focus is on the victim, but there can be so many reasons why someone chooses to attack another. I’ve spoken to bullies. I’ve heard their stories and the pressures they can be under. There’s often more to it than just one individual deciding to be mean to another.
The bully/bullied dynamic between Kez and Jess appears to be the main focus of the story, but there are plenty of other relationships between the girls and their families and their peer groups that play a key part in layering up the tension over the course of the book. Some of these are very difficult to read, and some more uplifting – which one did you find the most uncomfortable to write about and which the most enjoyable?
I found it particularly difficult to write Kez’s scenes with her parents, as these were quite raw and unflinching. Kez struggles to connect with her family, she sees a weakness in her mum that both scares and disgusts her and leaves her unable to connect. Her feelings towards her dad are far more complex and twisted in angst. One particular scene took me time to write and upset me at the time, but it was important that we see the complete breakdown of their relationship – that we witness the control and fear.
I loved writing the scenes between Jess and Phillip. Phillip, although regarded as ‘different’ from the others’, is not a victim and is perhaps one of the strongest characters.The friendship between Jess and Phillip is a beautifully genuine thing and also left me with a happy, satisfied feeling.
Phillip is awesome – both warm hearted and hilariously blunt. We could all benefit from a Phillip. Is there anyone in 7 DAYS that has been inspired by a particular person or experience?
I don’t think there is any one person that has inspired the characters, they are a sort of mash-up of people I have met at work, people I love and elements of me.
Both girls in 7 DAYS have complicated relationships with their own appearance: Kez keen to look desirable; Jess barely able to look at herself. Do you think you’d have focused on this if the two characters were male, or is this something you think particularly affects girls?
There’s little doubt, I think, that appearance affects girls – but only because girls themselves are so critical of each other. There is such pressure to look good and this comes from everywhere – media, social networks – it’s hard not to question your own beauty. Sadly, I see this happening more and more with boys. I’ve spoken to boys with eating disorders, a boy who posted 100+ pictures a day, needing his peers to ‘like’ his looks. Boys are affected by this and it’s getting worse. I think if the characters had been male there would have still been a focus on appearance, yes.
How did you go about writing 7 DAYS? Did you have a clear idea of both characters before you started, or did you discover more about them as you went? Are you a late-at-night or rise-before-dawn writer? A plotter or a pantser? Was there any point when you wanted to scrap the whole thing and start again? SHARE THE PAIN/JOY!
Total panster, I never have a plan. I have a rough start in my head and some idea of where I want it to end up and then I let the characters direct me. Weirdly 7 DAYS was the first book that I didn’t want to scrap halfway through, I usually do, but this one flowed well for me. I struggle with discipline and get distracted easily, but with this book I had a tight schedule when I could actually write (the time when my husband was bathing and putting the kids to bed). Every day I’d make myself write something in that hour and it seemed to work.
Talking dual narrative for a moment – how did you go about making the two voices distinct? And did you write the whole thing in once voice then go back and do the other?
No, I wrote both voices as I went along, but I could hear the voices change in my head (if that makes sense). In my mind I could see my two girls, as if on stage. I can see how they talk, move and react. As I re-read I’d find myself picking up little bits, thinking ‘no, Kez wouldn’t say that…’, or ‘Jess isn’t as direct as this’.
What’s the most exciting thing about having 7 DAYS published?
So many things…seeing my words in print. Having readers contact me and tell me that they connected with the story. But the best thing was visiting my parents, sitting down with them and telling them that after a long, long road of rejections, I’d finally done it...
You’re part of the UKYA Extravaganza at Birmingham New St Waterstones on the 28th of February – that must be pretty exciting! What’s your favourite thing about the UKYA scene?
It’s amazing. The support and general good humour is wonderful. It’s great that bloggers, authors and readers can come together in this way. We all have something in common, in that we love YA and want to champion it as much as possible. There is a feeling, I think, that UKYA is growing and diversifying and it’s just so exciting to be part of that.
Let’s do an “If you like 7 Days, then you might also like…”
Salvage by Keren David, Trouble by you [Non: aw, shucks! *blushes*], Close My Pretty Eyes by Sally Nicholls.
I hear rumour of another book coming – can you tell us anything about what’s coming next?
It’s a love story turned bad. A story of a controlling and abusive relationship – from both sides.
7 Days as a TV programme or a film? TV
Moveable ears (like a cat) or prehensile tail (like a monkey)? The tail – I could just hang and freak out my kids.
Writing or reading? Oh no – I can’t. Seriously.
You have to listen to music ALL THE TIME or NEVER AT ALL All the time.
Just 17 or Mizz? J17
Dance all night or sleep all day? Sleep all day (because I never can now).
Shakespeare or Disney? Shakespeare
You have to give up either forks or spoons, which is it? Forks – I need to eat my soup.
Paperbacks or hardbacks? Paperbacks
Pie: sweet or savoury? Sweet
Kez or Jess???? Oh no – really? No, I can’t!
Having attempted to torture Eve by making her choose between her main characters (MWAH-HA-HA-HAH!) I think we’ll leave it there, although if there’s anything you think I should have asked Eve, why not add it into the comments below? I’m sure she won’t mind answering some more questions…
Eve Ainsworth’s debut YA novel, 7 Days is a contemporary dual narrative novel focused on bullying will be published by Scholastic in Feb 2015. A second contemporary novel will be published in 2016. Eve works in a large secondary school, as a Child Protection Officer, whilst also concentrating on her writing. Eve has had competition success with her short stories, most recently in Prima and Writer’s Forum. A short story has also been published in The Weekly News. Her previous Young Adult novel, The Art of Kissing Frogs, was shortlisted for the Greenhouse Funny Prize (June 2012). She lives with her husband and two slightly nutty children in Crawley, West Sussex.
Non wrote a book called TROUBLE that’s sort-of about teenage pregnancy, but mostly about friendship. TROUBLE has been published by Simon and Schuster in the US and by Walker Books in the UK and has been shortlisted for the YA Book Prize. Her second novel, REMIX, out in June 2015 is about friendship and ex-boyfriends and music festivals. No pregnancy whatsoever.
You can follow her on twitter @NonPratt