Friday 22 June 2012

Friday Feature: Author Interview with Jenny Smith

I'm surprised not to have seen that many reviews of My Big Fat Teen Crisis, by Jenny Smith. I found it to be really enjoyable with a great narrator, Sam, and a particularly strong portrayal of one of her friends Lucy, who has cerebral palsy - a condition not often mentioned in teen fiction. I was really pleased that Jenny agreed to an interview.

1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

I see a girl of thirteen, with either a shy or a mischievous smile.

2. I thought your use of Facebook in My Big Fat Teen Crisis was really strong - partly because you showed welcome restraint in the language as I can't cope with an overdose of 'text speak'! How important do you think Facebook and other social media sites are today as an author?

I don't think that authors can ignore what a large part of life social media sites are becoming. So many young people use them to such an extent, they must come into fiction. We've moved from letters to telegrams to telephone to Facebook and twitter. But entire books in text speak are too much, I agree!

As far as marketing is concerned, authors must have a presence on social media sites, but there must be a balance otherwise it distracts from writing. I try to restrict myself and am thinking of limiting myself to certain time slots in the day. I have a domain on my computer where there is no straightforward access to email or twitter, this is the one I write on. I have to switch domains to use social media.

Great idea, I think I may have to try that myself!

3. I loved the positive and negative lists in the book! Can we get a list of the positives and negatives of being an author, please?

Being an author… 1) Positives: Doing what you love, creating a fictional universe and getting to know characters. Meeting readers. Making people smile. Time to think. No office politics!  2) Negatives: Too much time alone. Can be difficult to remain disciplined if working at home, with all the distractions and jobs. Putting yourself 'out there' and therefore making yourself vulnerable.

4. You write really strong supporting characters, with Taylor and Lucy being my favourites. Is there any chance of any of the supporting characters from My Big Fat Teen Crisis getting their own book?

Oh! I like that idea. Now you've got me thinking!

Fab! Glad you're thinking - I'm crossing my fingers here!

5. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what was the soundtrack to My Big Fat Teen Crisis?

No music. But I listen to ambient and white noise. You can download this and I listen to it through headphones, blocking out the world. At first my ears got itchy from these big headphones, but now I'm used to it. I have my mobile phone on my desk on 'vibrate', so if it dances towards me, I answer it!

6. What are you reading at the moment?

I am reading 'If You Sit Very Still' by Marion Partington. I highly recommend it. It is a memoir by a woman whose sister was violently murdered, about her journey towards forgiveness. Incredibly uplifting.

7. What books would you recommend to readers who enjoyed My Big Fat Teen Crisis while they're waiting for your next novel?

I'd recommend 'Kiss Date Love Hate' by Luisa Plaja.

That's on my 'to read' list! I don't think I've ever read any of her books but I keep meaning to.

8. If you could host a literary dinner party, which six authors or characters would you invite?

Wow! Well three authors and three characters. The authors would be Garrison Keiller, Roald Dahl and Francesca Simon (because they are all great humour writers and all from different backgrounds). The characters would be Toad from Wind in the Willows (because he'd make a good speech), James Bond (because he would look devastatingly handsome and make me a Martini) and Dumbledore (because he'd create a magical feast ... and I could stroke his beard)!

What a brilliant dinner party! Would be great to see the different authors writing about it as well - I'd love to see what Dahl made of Bond!

9. Why do you write for children?

I write for children because they have fantastic, unspoilt imaginations, and respond so well to humour.

10. What's next for Jenny Smith?

I hope to have two more teen books out in the next two years, and in 2013 there will be a series of three books for children aged 7-12 coming out. They are illustrated by Sam Hearn and are to be published by Atom in the UK. The first one will be called 'The Abominators and My Amazing Panty Wanty Woos' and they are very, very, VERY silly indeed. You can follow one of the characters, Cecil Trumpington Potts, on Twitter (he is @PantyWantyWoos). I wrote these books for my young sons and they will be dedicated to my boys, my husband, and to my father, who always dreamed of me becoming a writer but never lived to see me get published.

Very best of luck with the series and the teen books - I'm looking forward to reading more of your wonderful stories, Jenny!

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