Thrilled to welcome Natasha Farrant to the blog today as part of the Countdown to 5th June tour which I've organised, with help from a huge amount of brilliant bloggers and authors! (Check out the amazing graphic designed for us by Daphne from Winged Reviews above.) I'm a huge fan of her upcoming Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby: Flora in Love (check back for a review nearer the release date if I can get myself organised - in case I don't, you should definitely pre-order it, it's gorgeous!)
1. Hi Natasha! I interviewed you just after the paperback publication of your breathtaking YA historical The Things We Did For Love. Since then, you've written two brilliant contemporary YA novels. Is there anything different in the way you approach writing the Bluebell Gadsby books compared to how you wrote The Things We Did For Love?
The main difference between writing the Bluebell books and The Things We Did For Love is that they are so much fun! Sometimes I literally laugh out loud while I’m writing. Also, because I am no longer writing historical fiction, there is much less research involved, which feels very liberating. But the fact that Bluebell is keeping a diary creates its own challenges: I try to write each entry in one go, literally as if it were my own diary. I think this gives the books a certain energy and immediacy, but I have to be careful that the story doesn’t become fragmented. A screenwriting colleague once told me that when writing for film, each scene must stand in its own right but also contribute to the overall story. I really believe that holds true for books as well, but it seems all the more resonant with these diaries, in which the story is broken up into lots of little bite size pieces which have to fit together to form a coherent whole. It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle, and much harder than it looks…
2. We also talked about the change from writing for adults to writing for teens, as you'd had two adult novels published before TTWDFL. Do you think of yourself as solely a teen author now, or are you likely to release any more adult novels any time soon?
I have no plans to write any more adult novels for the time being. There is something about the way teenage girls view the world – it’s so mad and intense and passionate. I love it.
3. One of the things I love most about the Bluebell series is the wonderful way you capture her family. Who are your favourite fictional family?
I’m going to twist your question a bit to ask which character I would most have liked to be as a child, because of their family. I really, really, wanted to be Anne Shirley, so I could live at Green Gables with Marilla and Matthew. So much so that when I actually went to Green Gables a few years ago, I mortified my children by crying copiously. I would also have liked to be Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Prairie and Jo March from Little Women. All North American – that’s quite interesting.
I only read Anne of Green Gables for the first time a week or so ago after this fab recommendation from Stacey of prettybooks, but I LOVED it! Fab choice.
4. The first part of Flora In Love I got to hear was the brilliant extract you read out at the Faber bloggers' event a few months ago. How important do you think events like this, and connecting with bloggers, are for a YA author today?
So important. Everything is changing – the way we read, the way we buy books, the way we recommend them. Like all change, it’s a little scary, but it’s also exciting, because it’s never been more important to communicate directly with readers. Bloggers do an amazing job at creating an interface between readers and writers. I’m continually amazed by their enthusiasm and their breadth of reading, and grateful for the work they do.
5. The Bluebell Gadsby series all see Bluebell recording her family and friends - but have you ever dreamed of a screen adaptation for the series itself? If so, who would you envisage playing Blue?
Everybody dreams of a screen adaptation of their books! I would love one of my daughters to play Bluebell, but Hollywood better hurry, because they’re growing up fast…
6. And how many more books do you have planned in the series? (Lots, I hope!)
I’m working on number three, and there’ll be at least one more after that.
7. You mention on your website that you love doing events in schools - what's been the best thing to happen at a school event when you were talking about Bluebell?
Once, talking about AFTER IRIS, I showed a group of girls a photograph of my great-uncle, who died when he was three years old, as an example of a tragedy which shook my family to its core, with consequences far into the future. When it came to the girls asking me questions, one told me that my great-uncle’s story reminded her of something that had happened in her family, and she shared her story with us. Then another girl talked about her cousin dying, and another about her grandfather, until several girls and at least one teacher were in tears. Teenage girls are fairly resilient and we went on to a hilarious creative writing workshop, but the whole experience was profoundly moving and I will never forget it.
8. You also mention that you get grumpy when you don't have a good book to read - what are you reading at the moment, and any recent finds you'd recommend?
I am currently grumpy, so if you can recommend anything to me that would be very much appreciated. The problem is – I run a book group once a week at my daughter’s school. Our last book was To Kill a Mockingbird, and our next one, which I have just finished reading, is The Book Thief. Find me something as good as those two, Jim… (for the record, it’s the third time I’ve read Mockingbird, and I’m not sure it’s possible for a book to be better).
I think 'as good as those two' is something of a challenge! I'll have a go,though... ten of my favourites of recent years, covering a variety of genres and mixed between adult, YA, MG.
Adult - Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka, We, The Drowned by Carsten Jensen, The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
YA - Bone Jack by Sara Crowe, Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, Far From You by Tess Sharpe, Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, Have A Little Faith/Keep The Faith by Candy Harper
MG - Pea's Book series by Susie Day, Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton
9. What was the last thing you Googled?
The photographs of Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado, to show a friend. His exhibition Genesis at the Natural History Museum last year blew me away, and I just saw a documentary about his life at the Brazilian Film Festival. His work is truly important, engaged in themes of social justice, community and the environment, but it is also so, so beautiful. He’s basically my new hero.
10. Where's your favourite place to write?
At my friends’ home in Norfolk, surrounded by cats, birds, peace and light. When I go there I can write without stopping for hours and hours, day after day. Alas, that isn’t possible on a permanent basis (for so many reasons, chief among them the fact that, well, it’s not my house). When I’m in London, I like to write in cafes. Sometimes I listen to music to block out individual conversations, but usually I like to hear the hum of people around me. Writing is such a lonely experience – doing it with other people around keeps me plugged in to the real world. I used to always write in the same café, but lately I’ve taken to experimenting with new places. I like to think different perspectives keep the writing fresh!
Thanks so much for taking part, Natasha! Head over to Countdown YA for more details of the rest of the tour, and don't miss the fabulous Ellie Irving over on Nayu's Reading Corner tomorrow.
Natasha Farrant can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and at her website.