The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Lynne Thomas

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Lynne Thomas

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Summary: Jill thought that Jelly Cooper: Alien was a fun book about a teenager with special powers and she had a few questions she wanted to ask author Lynne Thomas when she popped into Bookbag Towers.
Date: 22 May 2013
Interviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy

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Jill thought that Jelly Cooper: Alien was a fun book about a teenager with special powers and she had a few questions she wanted to ask author Lynne Thomas when she popped into Bookbag Towers.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Lynne Thomas: Honestly? I see Jelly. She’s the girl I wanted to be when I was fourteen and I imagine my readers feeling the same, so when I think of them, I think of her.

  • BB: We thought Jelly was a tremendously sympathetic character, combining human adolescent and alien with superpowers really well. Will you write about her again?

LT: Already on it (I think I’m slightly addicted to writing about her!). I’ve got around 15,000 words of book two under my belt and would absolutely love it if any readers wanted to get involved in proofing or sharing ideas (especially the proofing bit. Can’t believe I got Klingon wrong in book one! Doh!).

Book two sees the introduction of some new characters while expanding on the original crew, which is proving to be a whole lot of fun to write. The arrival of some other young Javorians puts Jelly in a right huff, though the effect on her friends is much different (tee hee!).

Book two does have a dark side of course (it wouldn’t be Jelly Cooper without an edge) and the threat posed by the Hunters resurfaces bigger and badder than ever before. Jelly learns a lot more about who she is and where she’s from and just why she has so many different abilities (something which was picked up in the review of book one).

Hopefully I’ll finish book two later this year and publish it in time for Christmas (as a prezzant to myself!).

  • BB: Friendship is a strong theme in the book. Jelly gets help from her peers rather than from adults. How important was it to you to show the value of good friends?

LT: The important thing for me was showing that friendship presents itself in different ways. There is no ‘ideal friend’ to be had. There will be things about our friends that annoy us and little quirks that we cherish. Friends don’t all look the same or act the same nor do they have to think the same. Loyalty and honesty (and a good sense of humour) make great friendships, not identikit behaviour. I like the fact that when Jelly steps out of line, her friends are there to give her a prod and say ‘oy, enough, stop acting like an idiot’.

Humphrey is quiet and considered; his feelings run deep but he doesn’t necessarily wear them on his sleeve. Agatha’s far more emotionally transparent but also has her fair share of grit and determination. Jelly is outspoken and prickly but fierce about her family and friends and will stick up for them, and herself, with her last breath. Jelly, Humphrey and Agatha all look really different and all act really different; they’re true individuals. The thing that makes them an easy target for bullies is what bonds them together and also makes them special in my eyes.

How many adults think back on their younger years and wish that they’d spoken up against a bully or been true to themselves instead of going along with the crowd? I doubt that Jay, Humph or Ag would ever have that problem.

  • BB: Could there REALLY be aliens amongst us?

LT: Of course! I’m an alien, aren’t you?

  • BB: What would be your desert island book?

LT: Oh no, I hate this question! I always feel like I should pick something obscure or classic to look clever (when in fact, the novel I can read time and time again without tiring of it is The Big Blind by Louise Wener; it’s got poker, pickles and a giant – what more could you want?).

  • BB: Where and how do you write?

LT: Usually sat in the kitchen or the dining room, just me and my laptop and a bit of music in the background (sometimes there’s wine) or on the train. Look out the window on a long train journey and you’ll see something odd or something you’ve never noticed before, like a name on a side of a building or an old station sign, or a strange looking tree in a field and ‘bang’, the next part of your book starts to unfold or a new idea presents itself.

  • BB: Who and what are your inspirations?

LT: Who would be my mother because she had a new adventure or game or story ready for me and my sister every day and my English teacher from secondary school, Ms Andrea Miller, for being awesome and terrifying at the same time. Oh, and Joss Whedon. He’s obviously some kind of alien god.

What inspires me? Train journeys (see above), overheard conversations, reading a cracking new book, hearing a funny name, dreams...anything really. What drives me to write, other than the fact that I love it and can lose days lost in a plotline? Thinking of a young reader getting something from reading my books, be it confidence, support, excitement or a right laugh. That would be my happy glow sorted for the considerable future.

  • BB: Why did you choose to write for children?

LT: When I was young, I wanted to read about feisty, strong female characters that had powers and went on adventures, but there weren’t many books around that fit the bill. So, in a completely selfish endeavour, I wrote Jelly Cooper. She’s the fourteen year old girl that I wanted to read about when I was fourteen; a bit gobby, a lot feisty and a tad more recognisable to me. Not perfect by any stretch, but powerful in her own way.

I also love writing for children because I’m a big child myself (I have been described by friends as annoyingly happy and annoyingly enthusiastic) and writing books like Jelly Cooper gives me a buzz.

  • BB: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

LT: If you love it, it won’t matter what anyone says; you’ll always be a writer. Try all routes possible to publication but if it doesn’t work out, don’t be afraid to go it alone. I was lucky and had some early success with Jelly Cooper that encouraged me to carry on (I was shortlisted for an award and had a couple of second readings with publishing houses), but spirits can be easily dampened by rejection or inertia. Dig deep and keep at it. As a friend once said, that publishing contract isn’t just going to land on the mat – you’ve got to want it and go after it.

  • BB: What's next for Lynne Thomas?

LT: Finish the Jelly Cooper website (need to start blogging and interacting with readers! Also have a tonne of small side stories in mind to flesh out the characters and the history of their relationships), work on Jelly Cooper 2 and crack on with some other side projects...

Thanks for listening,

  • BB: And thanks for chatting to us, Lynne.

You can read more about Lynne Thomas here.

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