Congratulations on such a success you had with 7 Days! What inspired you to write it?
At the time I was working in a large secondary school, supporting students with their emotional problems. Bullying was an issue that came up time and time again. I could see what a huge worry it was to young people and how it affected their daily lives. I also witnessed students often had hidden problems which led them to bully. I wanted to explore the bully’s view, as I quickly realised that bullying was a complex subject and had many victims. Because I was working in such an environment, I found the writing flowed naturally and 7 Days was written quickly over 3 months.
Did you always want to be a writer or was it something that never occurred to you in the past but you did it anyway?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always been a storyteller. As a very young child, I would skip around my garden and tell stories to the birds and creatures that I believed lived there. By the age of 6 I had become an advanced reader and always had my head in book. It was then when I realised the power and wonder of books and wanted to do the same thing myself. I can’t really remember not wanting to be an author – it seemed so natural to me and I always feel so unhappy and frustrated when I’m not writing.
7 Days follows the story of Jess and how her life is made hell by Kez and her group. Why did you choose to write about bullying in 7 Days?
As I said before, bullying was a huge issue in secondary schools and something I was dealing with regularly. I wanted to explore both sides of the story, because I felt it was important to look into some of the reasons why an individual might chose to bully another.
7 Days is an unusual amount of time to follow the story of bully and victim, and in reality many recovery stories take a lot longer than 7 Days. So why a week?
In reality, recovery is much longer and many people carry the scars for life. I wanted 7 days to be a quick and pacy read. Also, without giving too much away, this story is not about recovery. It’s about a period of bullying that suddenly escalates. There is an ending, but we can’t be sure how the characters will continue after and how they are affected long term.
The book takes the view that there is often more than one victim of bullying, and it’s not always only the obvious victim. Do you share this view and if so, why?
Yes, I do share this view. There are some cases when a person will bully for no other reason than power. But many bullies are striking out against something. Very often there are problems with self-esteem, issues at home or within peer groups, or anger management that they need help with.
Do you think bullying is an issue we should be talking about, and if so does fiction have a role to play in this conversation?
Yes, bullying continues to be a huge problem for many people and only by talking about it can we remove the stigma. Fiction is one way we keep the discussions open.
Were you a victim of bullying yourself? Were there any parts of this book that draw from your own experiences?
Yes I was a victim as a teenager. 7 Days is purely fictional, but I was able to draw on emotional memories.
People will most likely dub your book an issue book. It’s a label I don’t like, but I often ask authors about. Are you happy with your book being called an issue book and if not, what other label would you give it?
I don’t mind the label. To be honest labels don’t bother me. I just want young people to be reading and enjoying my books. If people want to call it an issue book, that’s absolutely fine by me.
Your new book, Crush, comes out really soon. Are you excited for it?
Yes, very excited. Crush explores toxic and controlling relationships which I think it a very important subject. I’m proud of the book and hope others will enjoy it.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who might be reading this?
Never give up. Keep reading. Keep writing and above all keep smiling