Monday, 25 May 2015

Author Interview: Rachel McIntyre

Rachel McIntyre is a debut YA author, whose book, Me and Mr J, was published at the end of January this year by Egmont UK. We are very lucky to have Rachel as our first interviewee, and also her interview with us as our first post on the YA Fictionados!

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @RachintheFax
Find Rachel on Facebook: Rachel McIntyre Author

Buy Me and Mr J:

- Amazon

The Interview

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.

You’re very welcome, thanks for having me!

For those that haven’t read Me and Mr J, can you sum it up in 140 characters?

Unhappy diary-writing teenager with GSOH is bullied and falls for naïve teacher.

You really get inside Lara’s head. How did you prepare for that? And what made you choose a diary-style narrative structure?

Lara’s voice happened after reading a lot of Heat back issues and watching a lot of teen oriented TV. I tried to picture a girl trying to survive some pretty rotten experiences and wanted to make her resilient, not a pushover. Humour is a great defensive mechanism. The diary form seemed a natural extension of trying to create an authentic voice, particularly as all the events happen so quickly. In German, the book is called Shooting Star Hours and I think that picks up on the pace. Events escalate very quickly.

Were there any books, in particular, that influenced or shaped the story?

I’ve always loved Louise Rennison’s quirky heroines, so her books were an influence. Although Me and Mr J is obviously much, much darker.

Lara’s experiences are very intimate. Did you draw on any personal experiences?

Yes. My dad died quite young so the recovery and happy ending for the dad in the book was a way of re-writing his story, I guess. Lara’s dad is very similar to mine in a lot of ways; he had similar issues.

The bullying is all based on real events I have heard about or witnessed first-hand. For example, the hair-on-fire episode genuinely happened to my friend and Lara’s red hair comes from her too. The cyberbullying idea came from some training I had when I was a teacher, plus stories from students.

The school set-up is like mine too. I went to an independent all girls’ school with a boys’ school across the road. Although the girls were much, much nicer than Molly and her gang!

What message do you want readers to take from Lara’s story?

If you have to keep a relationship secret, it’s probably not going to have a happy ever after. Also, no matter what bullies threaten you with, you always need to speak up.

How did you find the writing-to-publication process?

Quite straightforward, really. “Me and Mr J” was my first go at writing fiction. I got an agent and a deal fairly quickly and I still have to pinch myself when I think about it. Especially with it being Egmont, such an amazing brand to be associated with.

Do you have any unusual or strange habits while writing?

I can’t have any noise, I need silence. I’m within easy striking distance of the fridge and the Nespresso machine so constantly fighting distraction there. I read a lot of it out loud; I think many writers do that. But rituals to call the muse etc. ? Unfortunately, it’s just me and my PC. When I get really in to something, I can spend hours and hours immersed in it, which I love. My family gets a bit neglected, though. Sometimes I start writing at about 10.30 pm and finish at 3 or 4 am because I like the peace!

The story is quite a controversial one. What made you want to explore student-teacher relations? And have you received much backlash from doing so?

I don’t think I realised how divisive it was going to be! I wanted to write about it because it’s a contemporary issue, rarely out of the headlines and I wanted to explore how it could happen. I think what I’ve realised is that you can’t please everyone. Some people think it’s disgusting to write about it full stop. While others- and this was the big surprise to me- think it’s not disgusting enough.

I’m not a big fan of steamy fiction, so wasn’t aware there’s a whole saucy student/teacher genre. I was expecting the “it’s disgusting”, narrow-minded take on it; the “where’s the smut?” reaction was more of a shock! And there’s been much, much more of the latter. And people who want a traditional romantic ending. But that’s kind of missing the point of it being a children’s book...

I guess it’s a topic that invites a variety of responses.

We know you have a three-book deal with Egmont UK. What’s next? We know it’s probably confidential right now but can you give the readers an idea of what themes it will explore?

Yes, finished number two. It’s relationship-focused and has a 16 year old narrator. But it’s much less controversial and much less heavy than Me and Mr J.

Number 3 is in the pipeline…

You’re on Mars (because that’s what authors do, right?) and you realise that you only have 48-hours of oxygen left in your canisters. You reach for your emergency kit filled with five books (apparently, there was a food shortage and you’ve lost communication with Earth). What five books are they?

1. An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
2. Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor
3. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
4. Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
5. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

This would probably change on a day to day basis, but they’re books I love that I want to re-read one day. Not sure I could manage the lot in 48 hours, some whoppers there, but I’d give it a go. Try to take my mind off my imminent demise.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. We, at YAfictionados, wish you all the best with the book and your writing career.

That’s very nice of you! Thank you and hope all goes well with the new blog.

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