August 09, 2015

Interviewing author Holly Bourne: “Writing a book is like carving out a piece of your soul”


Emma: I’m interested in the different ways writer’s overcome writer’s block. What do you do when you feel stuck?

Holly: I go for very, very long walks. And sometimes cry. Sometimes I cry and walk at the same time. Eventually it does the trick.

E: How did it feel the first time you saw your book on the shelf?

H: Totally surreal, but in a very good way. That said, once you get a book published, it drastically alters your experience of bookshops. You can no longer just browse and enjoy. You’re always like, “Is my book in? Where is it? WHY ISN’T IT THERE? I HATE EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE, WHY DID I EVEN BOTHER…hang on…there it is. I LOVE this bookshop!”

E. Do you ever read your books after they are published?

H: No, never. I’m sick to death of them by then. By the time a book is actually out, I must’ve read it a minimum of eight or nine times. I also find it strangely cringe… but I’m glad other people read them once they’re published.

E: Do you read Amazon or have Google Alerts, or do you tend to not read too many of your book reviews?

H: I try not to. Writing a book is like carving a piece of your soul out, cradling it in your hands, and then thrusting it into people’s faces, crying, “Do you like my soul? Do you? Do you?” You really don’t want to be around for the moment they say, “You know what? I think your soul is a bit naff.”

E: Any advice for people looking for literary agents? What do you think is the most important thing about that relationship?

H: You need to have the same taste in books. Yes, I know that sounds obvious. But if you don’t like the books on your targeted agent’s list, they’re not going to like your manuscript. My top advice is to spend a LOT of time on your synopsis and covering letter. You only get one shot to pitch your book, make it count. Also, the Writer’s & Artist’s Yearbook has excellent advice and is well worth reading when you’re starting to submit.

E: Your book cover is really great. How involved were you in choosing it?

H: Isn’t it amazing?! I’m afraid I can take zero credit for it, and leave it all to the amazing talented Will Steele and Neil Francis at Usborne publishing. Publishers never mentally prepare you for seeing a front cover. You just tend to get a random email out of nowhere going, “Here it is!” Luckily, with all of my books, it’s always been a good surprise.

E: Do you ever write in your phone notes, or in any strange places other than your computer?

H: The whole plot of The Manifesto On How To Be Interesting arrived in my brain when I was at the National Gallery one weekend. I had to spend an absurd amount of money on a posh notebook and pen from the gift shop and then scribbled as much of it down as I could on the steps out front.

E: Do you let any of your family/friends read your material before it’s sent off?

H: I don’t let anyone NEAR my drafts until I’ve given it at least one big edit. Then – ahh man, I’m going to sound like such a saddo – but my beta readers are my parents! They always read my books first. They’re pretty brutal actually, there’s no mollycoddling. If they don’t like something, they’ll say.

E: Do you identify as a fangirl, and if so, who do you fangirl over?

I AM A FANGIRL AND I AM PROUD! Honestly, what the freaking f*ck is wrong with people who have an issue with humans being positive about other humans? Positivity is infectious, and it breeds energy, rather than sucking it out of places.

I had a near religious experience at the Taylor Swift Hyde Park gig. I fangirl her HARD. And, umm…well…I’ve been known to get a bit…enthusiastic (e.g. NUTSO) about Harry Potter. I also think Elizabeth Gilbert is personally responsible for any positive decision I’ve made in my life and cried like a child when I met her.

I could go on…

10. What’s the best thing about writing YA?
Teenagers can be tough to write for – but if they like your books, they like your books harder than diamonds/cement/other hard stuff. Honestly, the emails I get from teen readers. About 90% of them make me cry with joy.

You can buy/order Holly’s book Am I Normal Yet, here.


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  1. Tori says:

    What a fantastic interview, Emma – loved the ‘think outside the box’ questions, and Holly’s answers were bloody fab…particularly adored her point about fangirling and the problem being have with being positive about others – so true! And go you for being all interviewee – you’re doing marvellously, and it’s an honour to follow you along on your journey <3

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