A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Today, Rhian Ivory’s second novel for Firefly Press, HOPE, is published, and I’m very excited to be chatting to her about it! Here’s the blurb:
The summer between school and sixth-form. When Hope doesn’t get into drama college, and her friends do, all her plans fall apart. She’s struggling with anger, grief for her father and a sense that her own body is against her. She meets Riley on the ferry and his texts give her someone to talk to. But this isn’t a story about a boy fixing everything. It’s about trying new things and having the courage to ask for help.
And here’s the cover, designed by Guy Manning (who also designed the stunning cover for Rhian’s previous YA novel, THE BOY WHO DREW THE FUTURE). Isn’t it gorgeous?
So without further ado, let’s find out more about the book…
HOPE deals with a little known condition, PMDD. What made you decide to use this as one of the central storylines in the book?
I didn’t know this book was going to be about or feature PMDD in any way when I started writing it. I had an image of a girl on a ferry screaming her head off, swearing into the sea and the wind and that was it. I didn’t know who she was, where she was going or why she was so angry. As the story unfolded I realised that Hope was feeling this way at certain times of the month and it was related to her cycle. I did a bit of research about PMS and came across PMDD. It perfectly fitted the way Hope was emerging as a character and how she was feeling.
Hope is a complex and relatable heroine who is realistically and sensitively drawn, and I felt a lot of empathy for her. What was it like, writing her?
Really easy in the sense that I could hear her voice and feel her emotions clearly. I felt I knew how she’d react in certain situations early in the writing process. I remember writing one scene and feeling as if I could bump into her in real life, I even called my daughter Hope by mistake one day when she interrupted an intense writing session.
The only difficulty I had was trying to make her feel real as well as flawed and angry and let her make mistakes and not worry too much about making her a likeable heroine. I wanted her to be as authentic as possible and often that meant showing her at her worst.
HOPE is quite different to (but equally as brilliant as!) your previous novel, THE BOY WHO DREW THE FUTURE. What made you decide to switch from writing a story with a strong supernatural/historical element to something more issues-led and contemporary?
Why, thank you. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I was editing Boy when Hope on the ferry popped into my head like someone had downloaded the opening scene to a film. I tried to ignore her and carry on editing but she wouldn’t go away so I let myself write that opening scene and then filed it away until I’d finished my edits on Boy.
Like most authors I spend a lot of time in schools and I kept getting asked by girls to write a book with a female lead and to deal with periods. There seemed to be a consensus that periods aren’t written about in enough detail in fiction. They wanted me to write about girls going to the toilet too but I’d already gone over my word count.
I didn’t set out to write an issue book, I was watching Children in Need and saw Singing Medicine working at BCH and I just knew I had to write about them. They were going to be a small background part of Hope’s story but when I went there to do my research the patients and the Singing Medicine team stormed centre stage in my imagination.
Can you tell us a bit more about the writing process for Hope? Was it the same as your other books, or different?
I think every single book requires a different writing process. I always think it’ll be the same as last time but it never is. Hope was heavily music based, I had a soundtrack that I wrote to and played Nina Simone and Tracy Chapman constantly. I sang as I wrote and composed songs in Hope’s voice. I listened to Singing Medicine’s choir, Ex Cathedra perform and immersed myself in music. When I was doing the final proof read I could remember which song I’d been listening to as I’d written each chapter or scene.
Does HOPE have a soundtrack? What’s on it?
Yes, it’s on Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/user/rhianivory/playlist/0ZqP7b4tgxnzo3xY6GhhfQ
Tracy Chapman, Nina Simone, Pink, Daughter, Foxes, Erato, Stevie Nicks, Zara Larsson and more.
What’s a typical writing day like for you?
With Hope, I was lucky enough to receive an Arts Council Grant. I wrote every day, it was pretty perfect. I was terrified I’d get writer’s block but I didn’t. If anything, I wrote too much, the book was almost 100,000 words at one point.
Normally I write around my teaching, children and dogs, so in snatches.
If you could get everyone to read one book, what would it be and why?
Easy! Little Women. There’s something in it for everyone and the relationship between the sisters just stays with you as a reader. It’s one of the very few books I reread, each time I see something different and there aren’t many books you can say that about.
And finally… what’s next?
I’ve already written the next book. Between you and I, it’s a contemporary retelling of my favourite Hans Christian Andersen tale. I don’t think I can say anymore because I’ll get told off but there’ll be an announcement soon. Watch this space.
Thanks, Rhian, and happy book birthday!
Rhian Ivory was found on the slushpile at Bloomsbury Children’s Books. The slightly quirky title of her first novel ‘When Isla meets Luke meets Isla’ caught the eye of a commissioning editor and 4 book deals followed writing under her maiden name, Rhian Tracey.
Rhian’s previous YA novel The Boy who drew the Future was published by Firefly Press, September 2015 and is about witches, the workhouse and water. Her new novel Hope publishes on 15th September 2017.
Rhian has always wanted to be a writer but was told to get a proper job, so she trained as a teacher. Rhian currently lectures in Creative Writing and Children’s literature but spends as much time as possible on her non-proper job, writing.
Rhian is Patron for Reading at Akeley Wood School, Buckinghamshire. She is a Writer in Residence for The National Trust and is represented by Kirsty McLachlan of David Godwin Associates.
Emma Pass has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. Her debut novel, dystopian thriller ACID, won the 2014 North East Teenage Book Award, was picked as one of YALSA’s Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks for 2015 and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal. Her second novel, THE FEARLESS, was also nominated for the Carnegie and won the 2016 Concorde Book Award. Emma lives with her artist husband and crazy greyhound G-Dog in the East Midlands, and, when she’s not writing, runs writing workshops in schools and community settings. She is also the co-founder of the UKYA and Children’s Extravaganza (UKYACX), a regional book event celebrating the huge diversity of children’s and YA literature in the UK.