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An Interview with… Julie Mayhew for the UKYA blog tour!

Julie Mayhew is the author of Red Ink: A really brilliant contemporary YA book that was published this year. You can find my review HERE! Julie is a lovely person, I met her briefly at a Hot Key party. I’ve been lucky enough to interview her, for Lucy’s fab UKYA blog tour! This blog tour is taking place over the whole month of November, and it’s awesome. Be sure to check out the other posts- check for dates on the PROJECT UKYA page! Here’s a little bit about Julie, first:

Julie is an actress turned writer who still acts but mostly writes. She’s the author of YA/Crossover novel Red Ink, which was one of Booktrust’s Best Children’s Books of 2013. Julie has also written plays for the radio and hosts a night called The Berko Speakeasy where actors read short stories aloud in surprising and theatrical ways. More at http://www.juliemayhew.co.uk and @juliemayhew on Twitter.

And now over to the interview questions!

Red Ink1. Did any UKYA authors inspire you to write, when you were younger?
I devoured Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High series which followed the adventures of all-American twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. Pure, quick-read escapism. I just loved the American High School world – because it was so glamorous compared to my Peterborough secondary school. And of course, like everyone of my generation, I queued up for my turn to take Forever by Judy Blume out of the library. But I was also reading YA books back-to-back with Stephen King – Carrie, Firestarter, Misery, etc , which may explain why I like a bit of darkness in my own writing. I also got into reading Margaret Atwood in my teens. I thought her books would fill me in on what it was going to be like to be an intelligent, grown-up woman. And I suppose they did.

2. What UKYA book would you recommend to teens the most?
I love Faiza Guene’s Just Like Tomorrow. I’m a sucker for a book with a cracking voice and this one, even in translation (it’s originally a French book) knocks you off your feet. I’ve also recently read Once by Maurice Gleitzman which is stunning. Proof that keeping it simple, language-wise, can be very powerful.

3. Why do you like UKYA, as opposed to other genres?
I think there are some interesting risks being taken in this genre (especially by innovative publishers like Hot Key) that adult genres will often shy away from. Also, I love going to a book that takes me back to being young, to a time when it’s still okay to be trying to work things out. Because I am still trying to working things out, and probably always will be! But if I’m honest, I rarely think about genre. To me, genre is something that publishers and booksellers think about, not readers or writers. So I’ll dip into crime, into literary fiction, into non-fiction, into commercial fiction and into UKYA, to find the stories and characters I want to read about. Even when I was writing RED INK I wasn’t consciously thinking, oh, this is definitely going to be a YA book. I just tried to tell the story in the best way that I could, which perhaps explains its crossover appeal.

4. You include a lot of superstitious aspects in your debut, RED INK. Are you superstitious yourself?
I used to be. Very. But after writing the book, I’ve trained myself out of it. Because if you believe in bad omens, I think you sort of invite bad luck into your life or at least start looking for patterns of it that aren’t really there. So now I merrily walk under ladders now and ignore single magpies. However, I do pick up pJulie_1ennies (see a penny, pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck) because I’m all for inviting good luck into my world. Why not.

4. Have you got any advice for aspiring young writers reading this?
To get good at anything, you have to stop talking about it and get on and do it. All the time. Every day. Your first efforts will be terrible. But you have to get through that before the good stuff starts turning up on the page. Even now, I’ll read things I wrote last year and think, I could do that much better now.

5. Finally, what’s next for you? Have you got any hints for a possible next book?
Yes. I’ve just finished writing a book set in Russia, London and Edinburgh about a young girl who is involved in a terrorist attack. It’s about how a person manages to live the rest of their life after a terrible thing has happened. Do you talk about it and become defined by it, or try to forget it ever happened? This one is too adult in its themes for a YA publisher but I am now 10,000 words into what I’m pretty sure (but who knows until I’m done!) is a new YA book. To help me write this one, I am learning German from scratch and indulging more in my love of ice skating… But that’s about as much as I can say at the moment. I hate talking about books while I’m still writing them. At the moment it’s still a big, fat secret that I mustn’t tell.

Thanks for the great answers, Julie- and thanks to Lucy for letting me host an interview for her blog tour! Be sure to check out all of the other posts.

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