Friday 9 August 2013

Friday Feature: Interview with Candy Harper

A strong contender for the funniest book of the year so far for me has been Have A Little Faith by Candy Harper. (Check out my review here!)

I was thrilled to get the chance to talk to her about it.

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

One of the questions I get asked at parties is, ‘Wouldn’t you rather write something with more depth?’ (I know, don’t worry, later on I make them choke on a mini-quiche through the power of staring.) Obviously, YA fiction is neither shallow nor simplistic and when I imagine my audience I think of them as very smart; I never dumb down. My readers are definitely highly intelligent. And good-looking. Probably rich too. One of them is going to buy film rights to all my books any minute now.

Let's hope so!

2. As much as I loved Have A Little Faith, I was very glad I wasn't reading it in public, as I was in near hysterics at a couple of points. What was the last book you read which made you laugh out loud for most of the time you were reading it?

I’m afraid I’m a snorter when I laugh. The last thing that got me sounding like an asthmatic pony was Lottie Biggs is Not Mad by Hayley Long. And I always manage a few good snrgkkkks for Joanna Nadin’s Rachel Riley books.

Lottie Biggs Is Not Mad is a huge favourite of mine as well! Rachel Riley series is on my (long!) 'to read' list.

3. In addition to the great sense of humour, my other favourite thing about Have A Little Faith was the brilliant friendship group Faith is surrounded by. Who are your favourite set of fictional friends?

I love the Casson siblings and their friends in Hilary McKay’s Casson family books. Sometimes it’s hard to nail that affectionate mickey-taking tone that friends use, but McKay is brilliant at it. Whereas, whenever I call my best friend an imbecile of the highest order (in the cuddliest possible way) she gets really stroppy about it. 

Casson family series is another one on the 'to read' list for me... I've had lots of people tell me they're fantastic!

4. Of Faith's friends (including her), who would you say was the most similar to you in your teenage years? (I'd like to think I could be compared to Faith or Finn - I think most people who knew me as a teen would probably go for Westy or Lily, though!) 

There are some rumours that I was exactly like Faith as a teenager. I would just like to encourage people to continue to spread those rumours. Actually, these days I’m more like Faith’s form tutor, Mrs Webber, she’s makes bets on her pupils’ arm wrestling competitions and can usually be found snoozing when she should be supervising.

5. While I've seen a few mentions of Have A Little Faith as being a debut novel, your actual debut was The Disappeared, written under the name CJ Harper (which I need to get round to reading, as it sounds fabulous!) From the plot summary, I think it's safe to say that The Disappeared is a much darker book - do you do anything differently when writing in a different genre? 

My writing process doesn’t really change for different genres. Essentially, I clear a space for my laptop in the litter of toys and small children that clutter up my house and then try to ignore all screaming / questions about ‘bunny heaven’ / attempts to insert Lego in my ear. I do find that being able to switch between stories in different genres helps my productivity. When I’m tired of writing action scenes it’s nice to take a break by writing some funny stuff. It’s a bit like at Christmas when you stuff yourself full of roast potatoes to the point where you’re sure you’ll never eat again and then you think, ‘Well, maybe I could manage a little something sweet. . .’ and polish off half a tin of Quality Street 

6. I think I'm right in saying you're a former teacher? Do you find that working with children helps you get the right voice for writing about them?

Gosh, how did you know I was a teacher? Have you been reading about me in the local paper? Because what that kid told that reporter about me putting children on a treadmill to power my coffee machine is barely even true. I’m sure being a teacher does help with voice. At the time, I felt like the only thing the kids had given me was a terrifying sense of my own mortality and numerous cases of head lice. But after I left and wrote a book about a school where the teachers are kept in cages for their own protection, I realised that the students had left me something: an endless black well of memories that were ripe for fashioning into dystopian horror stories. So it turns out I was wrong when I handed in my notice and stormed out screaming, ‘You people have given me nothing, NOTHING!’ (Actually, I already knew it was untrue at the time; I had a roll of sellotape and several pretty fancy biros down my pants.)

7. What are you reading at the moment?

Ah, see this is why I became an author: so I could rattle on about YA books I love to people who are interested (that and the excuse to descend into alcoholism). I tend to read a few things at the same time, so that I’ve got something on the go for every mood and occasion. (This may have led to me bellowing across a crowded bookshop to a very famous author, ‘I’ve been reading you on the loo!’.) Currently, I am reading The Things We Did for Love by Natasha Farrant, What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell and Pea’s Book of Best Friends by Susie Day. They are all really good.

Fab recommendations! (Well, I haven't read the Blundell, but it looks good) - Pea's Book is one I rave about all the time, while the Things We Did For Love is one of the most underrated of the last few years for me.

8. If you could ask any other author any question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?

Now then, Sally Gardner, don’t you think it’s time we told the world who really came up with the idea for the Carnegie-winning, rave-reviewed, best-seller Maggot Moon?

Sounds intriguing!

9. If you could collaborate with another author on a novel, who would you choose and why?

I am a terrible collaborator. I’m both bossy and lazy. But I do quite like the idea of writing a book from both a boy’s and a girl’s perspective. I’d like Andy Robb to write the boy’s point of view because he’s funny. And a boy. Although, he could be the girl if he likes. I’m really good at sharing like that. Except with sweets and cakes and royalties.

Andy Robb is a favourite of mine! Great pick. 

10. What's next for Candy Harper?

I thought I might have a piece of toast. 

I’m also working on the sequel to Have a Little Faith, and the sequel to The Disappeared, The Wilderness, comes out in February. In the longer term, I’ve been hearing that writers these days have got to diversify, so I was thinking maybe I’d try making organic baby food. It’s either that or mind control and world domination. Both of which probably require getting up early, so perhaps I’ll play to my strengths and do something in the field of Having A Biscuit And A Nice Sit Down.

Sounds good! (The books, that is. Mind control, world domination, organic baby food and Having A Biscuit And A Nice Sit Down are all good too.)

Thanks so much for talking to me, Candy. I look forward to reading The Disappeared, and Have A Little Faith 2!

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