Writer's Q&A with Holly Bourne
We chatted with Holly Bourne, author of YA titles Am I Normal Yet and What's a Girl Gotta Do?, about her new book It Only Happens in the Movies, out in October, and on what inspires her to write for teens and young adults, how she makes even the most delicate situations light and relatable, and the importance of friendship and her tip for being a good friend.
What made you start wanting to write about challenging topics such as gender, equality, and mental health?
Because, although they're challenging, they're also something a lot of teenagers have to face every single day. I wouldn't be shining a true light on the world if I didn't write about these topics. A book is a very safe way of helping young people explore difficult aspects of their lives. I always write the books I needed when I was younger.
How do you tackle these subjects in a light-hearted, yet serious way for a YA audience?
Humour can be found anywhere, even in the darkest of moments. And I really try and shove in as many jokes as possible. I think that helps soften the topics I'm dealing with. That said, I do take the topics I write about very seriously and research them for months before writing.
How important do you think it is for YA readers to be exposed to tricky subjects through books?
Incredibly important, as long as it's written in a responsible way. As I said, these 'tricky subjects' are usually daily realities for a lot of teenagers. That's why it's important to address them, but never glamourize, belittle or sensationalize them.
What role does friendship play in your books, and what advice would you give our readers on being a good friend?
Friendship is integral to all my books because friendships are such a huge part of the teenage experience. The bonds you make at that age are incredibly intense, and the friends you have can give you both your best and worst memories. In terms of being a good friend, I'm going to go all Oprah on you, and just say 'treat others how you'd like to be treated'.
Can you tell us about your new book, and who we’ll be meeting?
I'm so excited about it! It's called 'It Only Happens In The Movies' and it's out in October this year. It's about a girl called Audrey who gets a job at a local independent cinema to distract her from the fact her family has fallen apart. There she meets Harry, a wannabe film director, and they fall in love. It’s all about how romance films give us unrealistic expectations about relationships, and how to cope with teenage boys generally being a bit crap in comparison to Ryan Gosling.
Which book challenged your way of thinking the most when you were growing up?
Two books had a huge impact on me. The first was To Kill A Mockingbird, as it got me to start thinking about how other people's realities are different to my own. The other was Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging. It was the first time I'd seen teen girls being funny in a book and that had a huge impact on me and my writing.
Which other authors would you consider essential reading for teen and YA readers?
Ahh, there's so many books I love! I guess in terms of 'classic' YA books, I'd consider How I Live Now, Noughts and Crosses, The Perks of being a Wallflower, and We Were Liars are good places to start.