I've just started Julie Mayhew's Red Ink, which looks fascinating - I was really pleased to get the chance to interview her.
1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, what do you see?
I don’t imagine a reader at all when I’m writing, I just get absorbed into the story. I’m sure that breaks someone’s law of creative writing somewhere, but that’s what works for me. And even when I’m done, I’m not imagining a specific reader. I like to think anyone can read any kind of book. And Red Ink was a quirky proposition from the start - is it an adult book? Is it a YA book? I’m still getting asked that question. I don’t know. I guess it’s both. Let everyone enjoy it!
2. I was hooked by Melon's voice as soon as I started Red Ink - who are some of your favourite narrators in teen fiction?
I love Doria in Faiza Guene’s Just Like Tomorrow and Jason Taylor in David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green. I’m not certain that they were both published as adult books – but they both have cracking first person teen narrators and teens should absolutely enjoy them. Of course, 17 year old Holden Caulfield in JD Salinger’s Catcher In the
Haven't read Just Like Tomorrow, but definitely agree on Black Swan Green - a brilliant book with a wonderful narrator!
3. Red Ink is set in both London and Crete - did you take a trip over to the Greek islands for research purposes? If not, would you like to visit Crete in the future?
A visit to Crete was one of the inspirations for starting the book. I was staying in the region where the melons grow and saw a truck piled high with the fruit. And, just like I describe in the book, it drove along this bumpy road with no net or tarpaulin to hold the melons in place, yet none of them dropped. That image stuck with me. I did return to the island to help finish the second half of the book. I stayed in Maleme and celebrated Greek Easter while I was there – which was an amazing experience, even though I’m not Orthodox Christian. At night everyone went to church to light their candles from an eternal flame and carried the light back home. It was beautiful
4. You're a frequent tweeter and have a fantastic website - how important do you think the internet is to an author today?
I love it for research and discovering opportunities and bantering with other writers. I also hate it for the way it can obsess and distract me and for the way big issues get condensed down into 140 character rages on Twitter.
I can’t live with it, and I can’t live without it, is my (simplistic and less than 140 character) answer.
5. The cover of Red Ink is stunning! Did you get any input into the cover design, or was it a complete surprise to you?
It is stunning, isn’t it? I did have some input – yes. Hot Key Books came to me with the image of the girl in the launderette, which I loved, then I told them how I’d envisaged some illustrated element too. And that was when Jet (Purdie, Hot Key’s Art Director) suggested getting tattoo artist Duncan X involved to produce the icons that you can see when you angle the book into the light. Authors often hate their covers, because the images chosen don’t match those in their head, but I love love love what they’ve done with Red Ink.
6. Prior to having your first novel published, you'd achieved success as a writer of radio dramas. What made you decide to move into writing books?
I started writing the book first actually – just in fits and starts and kept putting it to one side. Writing a novel feels like such a mountain to climb, or a marathon to run, so I switched to drama every so often to ease the pressure. Writing drama is such a freer and easier (and quicker!) experience – and also it’s joyously collaborative.
You get to hand it over at the end and see it transformed by actors and directors and sound people into something else. Basically, I get bored easily so I flip between drama and prose.
7. You've also collaborated with Spencer Wilson on a series of picture books - I love the picture on your website of the seagull who wants to be an eagle! If you could be any bird or animal for a day, what would you be?
Though it would be fun to be a bolshy seagull nicking everyone’s chips, I would be an Oyster Catcher because they are bright and elegant and they get to spend all day on
8. You took part in the Arvon/Jerwood Mentoring Scheme while writing your second book - what was the best thing about the scheme?
That scheme was amazing – utterly transformative. Red Ink found an agent and a publisher while I was on the scheme and I wrote most of my second novel. The best thing was working one-on-one with historical novelist Maria McCann and being challenged to write about things that I find scary.
9. You've also written several plays. Could you ever see yourself adapting Red Ink for the stage?
I think it would make a lovely bit of TV, actually. The location is such a strong element of the book – I’d like to see that brought to life on screen. And I’d like to be asked to visit the set too. I need a good excuse to go back to Crete.
10. What's next for Julie Mayhew?
I’ve just finished my second novel, a book for adults, set in Russia and London and after being shut away on my own writing that, I’m ready for a bit of drama. In a work sense, and a life sense too!
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Julie! Best wishes for the future.
Julie's website can be found here and she's also on Twitter.
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