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An interview with… Sophie Hamilton!

I’m really delighted to have Sophie Hamilton, author of the fantastic YA début STITCH UP, on the blog today, answering some questions on her book! Firstly, a little about Sophie Hamilton:

sophie

Sophie Hamilton lives in London and writes urban YA.

For years, Sophie worked in TV as a film researcher and producer. Her programmes ranged from hard-hitting documentaries to culture and art shows, she most enjoyed those highlighting the lifestyle, quirks and foibles of the rich and famous. She then decided to swap the hectic environment of television for the solitary life of a writer, and the result is her debut novel ‘Stitch-Up’.

When not writing she’ll most likely be reading, watching films, searching out culture, walking or jogging round London or just kicking back.

Onto the questions!:D

G: Stitch-Up is set in a vision of London where the media has a firm grip over everything. Why did you decide to write a book with a focus on media and how people can manipulate the truth?

S: I worked in television for years before I started writing ‘Stitch-Up’, and I guess this influenced my decision to write a book with a focus on media. Also as a news junkie, I’ve always been interested in the way the media creates stories, constructs narratives and isn’t beyond manipulating the ‘truth’ to sell newspapers. I would say two main factors informed my choice to set ‘Stitch-Up’in a near-future, media-controlled London.

Firstly, when I began writing ‘Stitch-Up’, it seemed that there was a dubious relationship between certain sections of the media, the political establishment and the police force. This made me feel very uneasy. Also, media barons having political sway is never good for democracy.

Secondly, I’m both horrified and obsessed by media storms and the damage they do to people’s lives. I began ‘Stitch-Up’after the mother of all media storms, in which certain sections of the press wrongly accused a couple of being involved in the disappearance their child. Instead of chasing down the facts, the press constructed a sensational story with a total disregard for the truth, the parents’ feelings and reputation. The whole nation was hooked on the drama, newspaper sales rocketed, which encouraged the press to print yet more lies.

sophie1This started me thinking…how would it feel to be caught up in a media storm? If the press printed lies about you, demonized you, and shredded your reputation,and you had no way of putting your side of the story across.It would be frightening if you were an adult, but if you were a teenager it would be beyond terrifying – a living nightmare.

STITCH-UP feels very realistic, as it’s about the darker side of celebrity lifestyles, kidnappings and terrorism. Was any of it inspired by true events?

Many aspects were informed by real events. In fact, the trigger for the whole book came from a news item about the Clapham train disaster, which stated that one person goes missing to start a new life whenever a train crashes.

However, for the rest, I think it is more a mash-up of events and news stories rather than one particular event, which informed it. With hindsight it’s easy to say this or that inspired the story, but it is never that simple.

I never set out to write a book about the media, or about a kidnap, or about the way Muslims in Britain were demonized after 9/11, or about celebrity lifestyles, surveillance-creep or the financial crash. I started with a girl running away from controlling parents because she didn’t want to be forced to look and behave in a certain way.But when I had to describe the world and choose characters – Dasha, her parents, Latif and her friends –my concerns and interests influenced my decisions, and suddenly I was writing about things I felt passionately about.

‘Stitch-Up’tunes into the mood music of the times – the financial crash and the recession, discontent, Islamophobia, FEAR, surveillance, riots, alienation, post 7/7 paranoia, FEAR and ultimately repression. It was a time when the rich were getting richer and the poor were being pushed out of London, and everyone was happy to be spied on in return for cool free stuff.

Why did you want to write a book about London?

20434644That’s easy, because I love London. I wanted ‘Stitch-Up’ to be a celebration of this diverse, mad and maddening city. At the same time I wanted to sound a warning that we have to be vigilant before things change irreversibly for the worse – the near-future London of‘Stitch-Up’is only a heartbeat away. I felt London was becoming a divided city: a playground for celebrities and the rich, and a hard-grind for ordinary Londoners.

So we need to wake up, put our smart phones down, and start making smart decisions instead … Whoops! Rant over …

At the beginning of the book, Dasha is in a really difficult situation, and decides to take her chance to run away. Would you have done the same?

Hopefully I would have made a break for it… Sadly, in reality I probably wouldn’t have had the courage. I love the fact that Dasha is prepared to risk everything in her quest to control her own identity, and to discover the truth.

Do You Have Advice For Young writers? (Particularly about world-building if possible!:))

Write what you feel passionately about. With regards to world-building, you must be very clear from the outset what type of world you want to create, right down to the tiniest details. Always remember the devil is in the detail! Draw maps, create mood boards, plan everything – totally immerse yourself in your world. Many dystopian writers create incredible worlds from scratch, and I’m completely in awe of this approach, but it wasn’t the type of world I wanted to build. From the start I wanted to write a novel which was set in a near future but recognizable London. I wanted to keep it real as I felt it would be scarier… Do masses of research around your subject. Read newspapers, watch films, visit exhibitions and immerse yourself in popular culture. Always remember anything and everything can inform your world. Often you will find inspiration in the most unlikely places … I reckon the best tool for world-building is the question ‘What if…?’ Keep asking questions, and your answers will shape your world. Whatever you do enjoy building your world. You are God and you must make your world rock!

Finally, as I know you’re currently editing book two, are you able to say anything about Mob Handed?

{tiiiiny spoiler} I have to be very careful as it is a thriller, and I don’t want to give anything away. All I can say is the crew are back together, Latif has returned from a self-imposed period of exile in Lebanon, and the Golds are back and more dangerous than ever. The London elections are looming and they are determined to consolidate their power by rolling out the Entertainment State. As for Dasha and Latif, things don’t go as smoothly as Dasha had hoped… Okay, that’s it…my lips are sealed.

Yay! I can’t wait for book two:D Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to give a big shout-out to the blogging community for their huge passion for books reading, blogging and generally causing a buzz around YA books. Without the blogging community’s reviews a debut author’s situation would be DIRE…

Yippee!:D Thank you so much, Sophie, for taking the time to answer some questions.

I hope you enjoyed the interview! I really recommend Stitch Up – available now:) You can read my review here.

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