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​Q&A: Hayley Long and James Dawson talk YA!



We've got an extra special treat for MKB readers today! The gorgeous Hayley Long, author of our MKB Book of the Month, What's Up With Jody Barton? talks with the reigning Queen of Teen and rising star of UK YA, James Dawson - the author of genuinely AWESOME books such as Hollow Pike, Cruel Summer, and his most recent spooky novel for teens, Say Her Name. Covering everything from the laws of YA, some big issues, and living the dream, we are thrilled to welcome them both to the MKB blog stage.
 
Without further ado... let the fanfare begin!
 
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Q&A: From Hayley to James
Congratulations on being Queen James I of Teen Fiction :)
 
Some blokes would balk at this title but you embraced it big-styley with panache and aplomb. Can you explain why Queen of Teen is so important to you?
I'm hoping that I can use my time as Queen of Teen to promote a broad range of teen and YA fiction. I'm increasingly frustrated by how THE INDUSTRY will only back what's selling. I love The Hunger Games AND Harry Potter AND John Green but there's nothing more depressing than a bookshop that only stocks those three things.
 
The question is, how shall I go about this! I've got my thinking cap on and am open to suggestions.
 
As QoT, if you could create three laws related to teen fiction what would they be?

1. Female characters will not be taken in by withholding, creepy, semi-abusive love interests.

2. All eye colours will be brown, blue, green or greyish. Anything else is inhuman. I mean, have you ever REALLY met anyone with violet eyes?

3. Finally, if your name's on the front of the book, you should have written it. I'm not naming 
names...
 
And one other random law relating to anything you like?

Well I don't wanna get all Serious Sally, but if I was truly in charge, I'd ensure love was legalised all around the world. Did you know there are still 78 countries in the world where same-sex couples aren't allowed to love? NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
 
What are you working on at the moment, James?
I'm presently editing my new novel, Under My Skin, which will be in all good bookshops in early 2015!
 
 
Q&A: From James to Hayley
 
How's it going being a full-time writer? Are you living the dream?
Ha! Well, it’s not quite the dream exactly; that would involve me living in some marvellous apartment in the south of France – but, yes, I’m certainly enjoying myself. I was an English teacher for 17 years! Right now, I’m glad to be having a break. Teaching isn’t a job which fits neatly into time slots – not even when you work part-time; there’s always something extra to be done. So this is the first time that I’ve ever been able to write without feeling anxious about all the other stuff I have to do. It’s bliss! Next month, I’m starting a part-time MA in American Literature too so it’s like I’m having a cultural revolution J
 
Congratulations on the new covers for Lottie Biggs and What's Up WithJody Barton? ! How important do you think a cover is to a book's success?
Thank you, they’re lush, aren’t they! I think a book cover is very important. It’s a first impression, after all and it sends out messages. It’s like clothing really, isn’t it? Having said that, unless it was totally offensive, I’d never let a book cover come between me and the novel I wanted to read. For me, it’s all about the words. Admire a good cover by all means – but don’t judge a novel by a cover you don’t like.
 
How do you approach tackling big issues while remaining playful and lighthearted?
Interesting question. I don’t have any particular plan or method. I think it goes back to being a teacher. Lottie Biggs is not Mad is essentially about teenage depression and I wrote it because I was surprised and sad about those gaps in my class register caused by long-term depression. Teen depression is more common than I ever realised. So I wanted to address it. But I also was very sure I needed a hopeful message too. The last thing I wanted was for any thirteen or fourteen year old to read my book and think, oh yeah, that’s me and now I feel worse. So it’s all a question of balance. The dark and serious stuff is in there – in all my books – but there has to be plenty of sunshine and freshness too.

Are we allowed to talk about ‘Being a Girl’ yet? Can we? When is that out?
I think we should, James! And firstly, thank you for blazing the trail and providing me with such a marvellous model in writing Being a Boy.
 
So Being a Girl is out next June from Hot Key Books – and it’s essentially everything I wish I’d known when I was thirteen years old! It’s a handbook to hair, periods, love, lust, feminism, friends... everything. You name it – I’ve probably covered it. It was ever so much fun to write and I’m just putting the finishing touches on it now. The funny thing is that I was rubbish at being a teenage girl myself so it makes me smile very widely that I got given this responsibility. But I really had to do my homework! And my friends helped and my neice, Emma, helped and the students at Paston College, Norfolk helped. Oh, and I read the entire internet. I could now ACE being a teenage girl! Unfortunately, it’s all come a bit late for me.   

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THANK YOU Hayely and James for taking time out to spend here with us at MKB. We are hurriedly rushing off to order all the books mentioned in the Q&A... *grabby hands*