The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Cat Clarke Again

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Cat Clarke Again

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Summary: Jim loved A Kiss In The Dark by Cat Clarke and he had quite a few questions for Cat when she popped in to see us.
Date: 3 April 2014
Interviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James

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Jim loved A Kiss In The Dark by Cat Clarke and he had quite a few questions for Cat when she popped in to see us.

  • Bookbag: What changes have you seen when it comes to YA in this country?

Cat Clarke: There’s more of it, and a lot more variety too, which can only be a good thing. When Entangled came out, there was still a lot of paranormal romance on the shelves. I was clearing out my study the other day and came across a printout of an early version of the Entangled cover – it had a VERY paranormal romance vibe going on! I’m so glad we ended up going down a different route!

  • BB: Moving onto questions specifically about A Kiss In The Dark, which are going to be super-vague to avoid spoilers... it's narrated partly by Alex and partly by Kate. Did you find one of their voices easier to write than the other?

CC: I found Alex’s voice the easiest to write, I think. Kate’s section was trickier, because there was a lot that it had to do. It had to work harder, in a way. It’s always like that with my writing though. I love setting up obstacles for my characters, putting them in tricky situations and seeing how they react. It’s the tricky wrapping-things-up stage that always seems to put a spanner in the works!

  • BB: You tackle some really tough scenes in your books, with suicide in Undone and others in A Kiss In The Dark which I won't go into due to my usual fear of spoilers. The idea of 'age ratings' for books seems to have cropped up again recently, with a few newspaper articles and blog posts about it. Where do you stand on the idea?

CC: I agree that age ratings can be handy, especially for people buying books for children, but I’m not a fan. A book that’s suitable for one nine year old may not be suitable for another. A child might be put off reading a book that’s considered too ‘young’ for them. And is the age rating supposed to be about reading age or the content of the book? I have too many questions and misgivings. In the end, I think there’s no substitute for good advice when it comes to buying children’s books, whether that be from a bookseller or a librarian or a blogger. Each reader is different and has different needs, and I hate to think of children not finding the book they want – or need – because someone has put a needless barrier in their way.

  • BB: I'd say that your main characters are often not particularly likeable, with several of them doing some terrible things, but they're always sympathetic as we can see WHY they do these things. Do you think it's important that a lead character is sympathetic? Any tips for writing them?

CC: I don’t think main characters have to be anything other than interesting. I don’t need a main character to be likeable, and I don’t even need to necessarily understand why they do the things they do, I just have to care enough to want to find out what happens to them. I’m not sure my characters are all sympathetic, but thanks Jim! As for advice for writing sympathetic characters, it’s probably most important to make them real. Above all, the reader has to believe in the character. I’m just not entirely sure what the secret is!

  • BB: There's been a huge upswing in LGBTQ UKYA fiction recently, with some of your books, like Undone and Falling, towards the forefront. Do you think this will continue over the next few years?

CC: Definitely. I think we’re going to see more and more LGBTQ UKYA novels, and I can’t wait to read them! We’re slowly but surely catching up to the US on this front, I think. I know there are some awesome-sounding LGBTQ books coming up soon from Keris Stainton, Liz Kessler and James Dawson, and there are hopefully lots more I’ve yet to hear about.

  • BB: Without revealing anything about the ending to A Kiss In The Dark, several of your previous books have left readers wailing. Did you buy shares in tissue companies before becoming an author?

CC: Damn! I missed a trick there, didn’t I? Where’s that TARDIS when I need it? Nothing makes me happier than hearing that my books make people cry, except when I heard that Entangled made someone faint. That was pretty cool too. For my next trick, I’d like to make a reader puke. Or maybe have a nosebleed. On second thoughts, maybe I should stick with crying.

  • BB: If you could ask any other UKYA author any other question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?

CC: I would ask Malorie Blackman if she wouldn’t mind me borrowing her brain once in a while. I’m sure we could come to some sort of satisfactory arrangement – every other Tuesday afternoon, perhaps. Just for an hour or two.

  • BB: What was the last thing you Googled?

CC: Little Red Riding Hood.

  • BB: Last time I interviewed you, you shared a few artists who you were listening to when writing Torn. Did you listen to music when writing A Kiss In The Dark? If so, any particular artists?

CC: The song I listened to most when writing A Kiss in the Dark was ‘It’s a Girl Thing’ by My Life Story. Several hundred times, probably. Weirdly enough, I’ve recently stopped listening to music while I write. I never thought that would happen, but for some reason I just started finding it massively distracting all of a sudden!

  • BB: Thanks for chatting to us - again - Cat!

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