(Me in bold, Susie in not bold/normal/you know what I mean)
Can you try and summarise the Pea's Book Of... books, and the newest (and final) book, Pea's Book of Holidays?
Someone described them as ‘crumpets-by-the-fire books’ and I love that. I wanted to capture all the reassurance and comfort I got from classics I read as child - the feeling of being told a story, of being in a safe familiar world where nothing too awful could happen - but with a contemporary edge to offset that sweetness, and lots of humour too.
Pea’s Book of Holidays takes Pea, her writer-mum and her little sister Tinkerbell out of London and off to Corfe Castle in Dorset, the inspiration for the Famous Five books. Tink’s a huge Blyton fan and demands a thrilling mystery; Mum’s desperate to fix her writer’s block; Pea’s the one who has to make it all happen. But inevitably things don’t go to plan - until they meet a pair of ghost-hunting boys, and suddenly find themselves on a real adventure. It’s an homage to and a critique of Enid Blyton at the same time, and I’m so excited for people to read it at last!
How did it feel to write the last book? Was it sad to say goodbye to Pea and her family and friends?
I expected this book to be easy (I’ve done this three times already! Like riding a bike! I can’t actually ride a bike, someone remind me of this next time I start writing a book) but this time I was taking my characters off to a new place, with new friends to meet. It felt a bit like starting all over again. And I cried at the end. But it would have been far harder to finish if it really was my last chance to write about Pea...
Why did you decide to write a spinoff series about Sam1? (which sounds a bit like I think you shouldn't have which is not what I mean at all - I think it's great)
I’d love to say it was because I felt a magical bolt of inspiration - but I think the real answer is even better, which is that it was proposed to me by my brilliant editor. She knew I had an idea for one more Pea book (the holidays one), and she had the idea of continuing in a different way, by going next door, and carrying on down Pea’s street.The moment she said it the plot of Sam’s Book popped into my head, as if it was waiting all along.
Within your books, you've explored and put in things like Sam's two mums, which is obviously really great! Do you think more books for younger readers should do this too?
My aim isn’t to write ‘issue’ books (although those will always be valuable too), but to be casually inclusive, casually diverse: to write exactly the same sort of fun, funny, character-driven books as everyone else gets, but without confining my characters to straight, white, able etc. Every kid deserves to see their life reflected back to them in a book - and to find books which open a door to a life unlike their own.
One of my ghost-hunters in Pea’s Book of Holidays has a disability called hemiplegia, which meant doing lots of research, seeking out people with personal experience to read the text and correct all my horrible misapprehensions - and of course it still can’t represent every experience. I think a lot of writers are afraid of ‘getting it wrong’ so don’t try. But ‘getting it wrong’ is an inevitable stage in the writing process. I’d LOVE to see more diverse books for 8-12s.
Before the Pea's Book Of... series, and Bluebell Jones you also wrote a few YA novels. What was it like, writing for the different age groups? Did you feel like you had to change your style much to write for a younger audience?
Not really! The books tend to be shorter, and so far I’ve written all my younger fiction in third person and my YA in first - but there are lots of similarities too: the Pea’s Book series is full of diary entries, little notes, random lists, as well as narration and that sort of formal mucking-about is a big element of my YA books too.
With both audiences, it’s about respecting the emotional scale of the characters. So for Pea, worrying about not having a best friend is every bit as weighty as, say, serafina thinking she might have mental health problems in Big Woo.
Also, are you planning any other YA novels for the nearish future, after the spinoff series?
I love writing for this age group, so that’s my focus right now - but I’ve got a YA idea in my back pocket which is nagging away at me. If I could just turn off Twitter and Netflix I’d probably have written it twice by now.
(if only we could all just turn off Twitter and Netflix... *sighs*)
Do you have a favourite book you've written?
Argh, killer question! I’m supposed to love them all equally, right? The difficulty is that some books are written at a tough - or happy - time in your life, regardless of what they’re about or how they turn out, so that influences your take. The singer-songwriter Luke Haines once disowned his album Now I’m a Cowboy; it’s my favourite but I think of that every time I play it. I once stated I wasn’t a big fan of one book, and a bunch of people told me how much it meant to them. Once it’s read by other people, I’m not really the person to judge any more, if you know what I mean. I have big, wonky, complicated love-feelings for all my books. But right now it’s Pea’s Book of Holidays, because it’s new, and shiny, and no one’s had the opportunity to tell me they hate it yet. ;)
You like cheese. Dare I say, you love cheese. Which is your favourite cheese? (mine is Red Leicester - great for prawn cocktail crisp sandwiches)
Ha! I love all the cheeses. (Yeah, even dairylea. Not cottage cheese though. That’s not cheese. That’s the coagulated tears of real cheese.) Blue cheeses are my favourite; I’m especially fond of Picos, which is so mouldy and disgusting that it tastes kind of fizzy. Weird cheese joy.
(I think 'That's the coagulated tears of real cheese' is possibly the best thing ever said about cottage cheese. Someone should embroider it on a pillow.)
You also love Doctor Who (WOOP). Who is your favourite Doctor and why? (NINE FOREVER)
Five - aka Peter Davison. My Doctor. I’m a massive Eleven fan, too; Matt Smith’s first season is one of my favourite telly-things ever. And since he’s sort of the inspiration for Five and Eleven, Patrick Troughton as well. And then there’s the Big Finish audio plays, Eight and Seven especially. And since you mention it, Nine’s amazing. I think what I mean is I LOVE THEM ALL.
If you could be any fictional character, who would you be and why?
Well, a blue box that travels in time and space wouldn’t be so bad. But I’d most like to be Snufkin from the Moomin series by Tove Jansson. He’s a mysterious traveller; a fond friend but one who disappears every summer on an adventure, and no one really knows where he goes. If I was him, I’d find out.
If you could have any celebrity read your book, who and why?
JK Rowling. My eldest sister took me to the film set tour, and (as well as adoring it) I found it all so overwhelming. Harry Potter was what rekindled my love of children’s books in adulthood; what reminded me that writing for children was what I’d always dreamed of doing. I’d be well giddy if she ever read me.
|Susie at Privet Drive because Harry Potter|
Favourite mythical creature? (because favourite animal is just too obvious...)
Dragons. You can take the girl out of Wales... (The only correct answer to this question, obviously. Dragons are the best.)
Thank you so much Susie for taking the time to do this! You can find Susie on Twitter here, and you can find her blog here, and you can find Pea's Book of Holidays in shops on June 5th!