After translating Sophie Kinsella‘s Finding Audrey into Greek, I found myself desperately wanting to sit down with Sophie and have a tea, a chat, a whatever could allows me to tap a little into the mind of a person who I suspect may be an emotional genius. Because flying to London before the book launches here in Greece was easier said than done, I finally settled with an email interview, which went a bit like this, and I will definitely try to get back (to London) for more.
What inspired you to write a YA book after so many years of writing just for adults?
Writing a YA book wasn’t actually my intention! I had a heroine in mind, and her family and it just so happened to become a YA book. I have always written what I see around me, and recently I’ve seen lots more young people and families trying to deal with the pressures of modern life. These are issues young people can relate to, and adults can relate to too. I definitely wrote Finding Audrey as a YA book but I think it appeals to adults as well.
How did you come up with Audrey’s story and what part of it did you enjoy writing the most?
I think a lot of Audrey’s story was inspired by problems I’ve seen around me – teenagers with anxiety, episodes of bullying and all the expectations and pressures teenagers are under – by society, their friends, and their families and through social media. That’s what I thought about when Audrey and her family came into my mind. But it’s a hopeful and funny story, too. My favourite scene to write was the love note scene. Love notes are so romantic and almost non-existent in modern society!
What did you use to read as a teenager?
I have always loved books with comedy. I can’t remember the first time I read Emma by Jane Austen, but I instantly loved her funny narration and her hopeless attempts as a matchmaker. Books that I love I read again and again, so I was always rereading Alice in Wonderland and books by Judy Blume – as well as starting on Jilly Cooper and her amazing world of Rupert Campbell-Black!
If you had to name one thing that is missing from teenagers nowadays what would that be? I mean what they are in most need for right now?
I think that everyone, teenagers and adults alike, suffer from having greater pressures at a younger age, and find it difficult to take ‘time out’. It is too easy to think that the only thing that matters is work – or projecting a perfect life on social media. We all find it harder to relax.
What were your biggest challenges as a teenager and what helped you deal with them?
One of my biggest challenges is one that I still suffer from – I used to take on too much and get overwhelmed and exhausted. I would always be trying to do more and more in a day and not let people down, and then I’d end up having to crash for a couple of days. I’m still working on this!
I have the feeling that, by writing a YA novel, where you naturally combined your flowing style and your sense of humour with some sort of purpose (a message you seemed to be wanting to get across) you really created something special. Did you have the same feeling at all? Would you like to write more YA books?
This is a very special book for me too, thank you. I do love it when readers tell me they laugh out loud when reading my books. But I also want to give weight to my comedy and deal with issues that my readers might relate to. I hope they can learn that curveballs like these will always come, and that all we can do is try our best. I’ve loved the experience of doing this with Finding Audrey – so who knows if I’ll write more!
What advice would you give to teens in Greece, who are growing up within a climate of great insecurity (cultivated by their parents, their teachers and by the media), and who are in danger of convincing themselves that they, as a generation, have been really wronged by the current circumstances?
“Have hope! You are the new generation with new ideas who can change things for the better. Stay supportive of each other – there is great strength in you, whatever challenges and difficulties you face. Good luck!”