Hello! It’s been a while but I’m back and I’m so excited to be sharing an interview I did with Simon James Green (and Noah Grimes!) about Noah Can’t Even.
This interview was first published over on Beth’s blog, Words From A Reader, who let me ask Simon and Noah these questions in the first place, so thank you!
Starting with a challenge; sum up your book in five words.
SJG: Madcap coming-of-age comedy!
NG: Full of lies, really awful.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
SJG: I’ve always loved coming-of-age stories, and I’ve always wanted to write one about a geeky boy questioning his sexuality. I also really enjoy writing comedy – making people laugh is the best feeling – so I knew I wanted it to be funny too. Finally, there was a particular piece of writing advice that stuck in my mind: in every chapter, turn up the heat on your character a little bit more and make life even harder for them. Those things combined in my head to create the story.
NG: Right, Simon (1) just because I get good grades and once built an Airfix Avro Vulcan B Mk2, which I hung from my ceiling on bits of cotton, that doesn’t make me a ‘geek’ necessarily. (2) Shut up about my sexuality. (3) You know full well that you stole the idea from things I told you for your own profit and have probably even bought a Nespresso machine on the proceeds whilst I have received only grief from everyone laughing at me.
How much of the books content came from your own experiences?
SJG: The book isn’t really autobiographical, but I did base certain elements on my own teenage years – for example, I absolutely hated PE at school, just like Noah does.
NG: That’s a lie. The book is based entirely on secrets that I told Simon in confidence. He got me to trust him by buying me some Skittles and then saying nice things about how he thought my poetry was good. When my defences were down, he got me to open up more about my life and unbeknown to me, he was writing all this down to use in his stupid book.
When the cover was first shown to you, what was your initial impression?
SJG: I loved it! It’s such a bold, attention-grabbing image and it sums up so much about the book. I couldn’t have been more pleased. It was designed by Liam Drane at Scholastic, who’s a genius!
NG: I hated it. It’s an appalling, diabolical image that I suppose someone thought was funny or something. It’s not exactly subtle, is it? Personally, I prefer the sort of covers you get on more literary books – maybe a picture of some barbed wire, or a shattered mirror reflecting a fractured face, to indicate the inner turmoil of the character – that sort of thing.
Secondary school/high school can be a rough place for a lot of people. What tips would you give to anyone in school for surviving it?
SJG: Always remember that almost everyone is going through their own form of private hell, and despite appearances sometimes, everyone is in the same boat and feels the same insecurities and anxieties. Find people like you, who you connect with and don’t make you feel like crap. Hang on to those folks and be there for each other – they’ll get you through. Finally, it may seem like it, but it’s not forever. It will end. And things will get better.
NG: I found that becoming Head Student Librarian granted me a lot of respect amongst my peers, especially when they beg me not to give them fines for late returns. Having a position of power strikes fear into the hearts of the mean kids and I know that when they call me rude names and make gestures behind my back it’s only because they are scared and jealous. Also, I keep a list of everyone who has wronged me so that one day, I can get revenge on them.
What tips do you have for any aspiring writers?
SJG: Write the thing that you would want to read – it’s a long slog, so you’ve absolutely got to love the thing you’re working on. Get feedback on your work – whether from a crit group or a freelance editor, if you can afford it. Keep going, read lots, believe in yourself I truly believe there’s a place for everyone’s story, you’ve just got to find it.
NG: I am actually a successful writer and have recently won a prize for one of my poems, which has now been included in a special anthology, so I am well placed to give out writing advice. I suppose my number one tip would be this: you need a lot of stationery if you’re going to be a professional writer who wins awards, like me. The Viking catalogue is a good place to start for all the essentials, like folders, reams of paper and an array of different types of pen.
Simon and Noah are both on Twitter – @simonjamesgreen @noahgrimes12