5 questions with YA novelist, Non Pratt, author of Trouble, Remix and Second Best Friend.
What appeals to you about reading or writing short fiction/novellas/short stories?
For my longer novels, I write far too much. (Like 500,000 words where only 15% of them end up in the final book.) But I don’t write like that for shorter books. For Second Best Friend and Unboxed I did a chapter-by-chapter plan, mapping what events need to happen and giving myself a strict word count in which those things happen. And (largely) I end up sticking to it. I like shorter fiction because it surprises me into being efficient.
If you could take a long train journey (and/or have a drink) with any writer or artist, living or dead, who would it be – where would you go/what would you drink?
I quite like having long train journeys all to myself because I like having a gentle snooze and staring out of the window and thinking about new stories for books I might never write. But there are some people who are worth skipping a nap for. I think a train journey, London to Edinburgh (because there is no finer coastal view than the stretch between Newcastle and Berwick-upon-Tweed), with me and Lisa Williamson and we’re drinking champagne and eating Quavers and it’s brilliant.
Who or what made you into a reader? Can you remember a specific book or moment?
Dick Francis made me a reader. He wrote books about crime-fighting jockeys and the first of his that I read was Longshot about a survival writer commissioned to write a biography of a racehorse trainer and got caught up in a bit of murdering. Any Francis hero almost always ends up in mortal danger towards the end of the book and I absolutely couldn’t put it down. I took the book to school and read all through lunch time – my friend kept trying to get me to come and play, but I refused and she got very offended that I found a book more interesting than I did her. We weren’t friends for much longer.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing their own stories?
You have to love the process, not the result. It’s no good sitting down aiming to have a beautiful polished book with a pretty cover – that’s a flash in the pan feeling, but being drawn to your own story, day after day, because you can’t seem to stay away that’s what you need to start writing your own stories. And if it feels like a chore, take a break. For too many people, writing becomes an obligation – it starts as a hobby and while you need to learn to persevere when it’s a bit tough, it shouldn’t feel like a job until someone’s paying you to do it.
What’s the nicest (or worst!) thing anyone’s ever said about your books?
So. I put some posters up at a university advertising a paid manuscript consultation for a project I was working on. One person emailed to apply and in it she said that Trouble was one of the books that first got her into reading. I did a cry. (And I just posted her a signed copy of Trouble as a thank you.)
The worst thing anyone’s said… hmmm… I’ve read loads of bad reviews (which is a terrible idea, don’t do that if you can help it) and they all stung but… I can’t remember any of them. Huh.
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