How did your first book, Night School, come about?The very first idea for Night School came from seeing a photo in the newspaper. It was a black and white picture of a group of young men standing on the steps of a grand building, all wearing old-fashioned tuxedoes. They were staring at the camera like they owned it. Or rather, like they owned everything. The headline read, “The Bullingdon Club, a secret society at Oxford University”. The photo was old – taken in the 1980s. Prime Minister David Cameron was in it, and London Mayor Boris Johnson. They were teenagers, but still recognisable. And already on the path to power.
Seeing that image set off a chain reaction that ultimately became Night School. I wanted to explore how wealth and power impacted young people. What’s it like to be the child of the prime minister? To be the child of a billionaire? I wanted to examine what it’s like to be so young, and so rich you’re essentially above the law. What does that do to a sixteen-year-old’s head? Because the guys in that picture look like they think they can get away with anything. And if you could get away with anything at that age, what would you do?
Any advice to anyone dreaming of becoming an author?
There is an old saying, ‘If you do not read then you cannot write, and if you cannot write then you must work for a living.’
I read that when I was 16 and it stuck with me. It turns out it’s true. The first step to becoming a writer is becoming a reader. After that, writing either happens or it doesn’t. I’m convinced it’s in your DNA. If you haven’t got the writing gene, nothing will make it happen for you. But if you do, nothing will stop you from doing it.
It’s not a matter of wealth or privilege – I grew up in a house with no books. My parents weren’t readers. My mother genuinely believed reading was a waste of time. She was constantly throwing my books away. Nobody in my family went to college except me. And yet, I always knew what I wanted to do. All I ever wanted to be was a writer. I remain convinced if you look at my blood under a microscope you’ll see the tiny books in it. The doctors just don’t want me to know.
This is why I don’t trust doctors.
Where do you get your writing inspiration from?
Real life is my inspiration. On Twitter, I’m always tweeting links to news stories with BOOK IDEA in front of them. People think I’m kidding, but I’m dead serious. Night School was inspired by a picture in a newspaper. The next book I’m writing also started as a news story. These days, I basically watch the news with a notepad in front of me and a pen in my hand, waiting for inspiration to strike.
What are you working on next?
I’m co-writing a two-part series called The Secret Fire with the brilliant French writer Carina Rozenfeld. She’s writing a French boy character named Sacha. I’m writing about an English girl named Taylor. The French boy knows the precise day he’s going to die. Until then, nothing can kill him. But on that day nothing can save him. Except Taylor. The only problem is, they’ve never met. They live in different countries. They have only eight weeks to find each other, uncover the ancient mystery surrounding him, and save his life.
The Secret Fire will be published this September in the UK by Little Brown. I can’t wait for people to read it!
If, heaven forbid, there was a fire, what possession would you grab first to save?After my husband and my pets.... My laptop! My next book’s in there. If I could I’d sleep with it under my pillow.
What five people, living or dead, would you choose to invite to a dinner party?
Kurt Vonnegut (very funny and wise), Benjamin Franklin (very wise and funny), Robert Downey Jr (intelligent eye candy), David Sedaris (nicest man in the universe), Taylor Swift (no explanation needed).
I worry a little that Franklin and Vonnegut might get on each other’s nerves. But I’d seat them separately.
If you haven’t seen it yet, please check out the Night School Web Series on my Youtube Channel: www.youtube.com/NightSchoolBook -- We’ve had 200,000+ views so far and we’re hoping to make a series 2 later this year!
And I hope I get to see some of you in Birmingham on Feb 28!!
Thank you C.J. for that fabulous interview. If you haven't read the Night School books yet, I recommend you grab the first one and give it a go - I really couldn't put it down! You can follow C.J. on twitter by clicking this link https://twitter.com/CJ_Daugherty and she's also over on Facebook too http://www.facebook.com/CJAuthor.
I'm looking forward to going to the UKYA Extravaganza on Saturday too - I'll blog about it once I'm back!
Miss Chapter x