One day, whilst on maternity leave, Paula Rawsthorne got an inexplicable urge to write a story and, in so doing, discovered something that she loved. Since that day she’s gone on to become an award winning YA writer. Her novels, ‘The Truth About Celia Frost’ and ‘Blood Tracks’ are published by Usborne. Her short stories for adults have been published by ‘Route’. Her comic tale, ‘The Sermon on the Mount’, won a national BBC competition and was read by Bill Nighy on BBC Radio 4. She enjoys doing author visits in schools and is also a writer-in- residence for First Story. Paula lives in Nottingham with her husband and three kids, who make sure that there’s never a dull moment. Paula is proud to be a member of SCBWI-BI, The Edge and Nottingham Writers’ Studio.
Tell us a bit about your books, why did you want to write them?
Hi Luna, thanks for having me on your blog. Well, ‘The Truth About Celia Frost’ and ‘Blood Tracks’ are standalone YA thrillers published by Usborne. I wanted to write books for teenagers that were gripping, twisting and even thought- provoking and I knew that I’d enjoy the experience and challenge of writing thrillers. I’ve been absolutely delighted that both books have won awards and I love it when readers want to discuss the stories and let me know that they connected with the characters.
Do you recognise yourself in your protagonists?
I try not to put any of my personality into my protagonists, although I must admit I do dance like Celia Frost but I certainly can’t run like Gina Wilson! What I aimed to do was to create them as individuals in their own right, so they have their own nature and are shaped by their experiences and backgrounds (which are very different to mine).
I tend to get attached to my characters and I think of Celia Frost and Gina Wilson (in ‘Blood Tracks’) as fantastic young women. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t flawed and they certainly make mistakes but both characters are tested to the limit and prove themselves to be brave, resourceful and worthy of the title of ‘Heroines’.
And because I’m mean, if you could only pick one, which would you recommend to read and why?
Luna, that is a mean question and one I can’t answer as it would feel like choosing between my children! Each reader has their own taste, however , if you enjoy page-turning thrillers with complex characters and twisting plots that make you think, then you may like both of my books.
Tell us a bit more about the creative writing work you do in schools.
I get invited into secondary schools around the country to do author talks and creative writing workshops. This is an aspect of being a YA writer that never crossed my mind when I started work on ‘The Truth About Celia Frost’, however, I’ve found that I really enjoy it. Since getting published some of my best experiences have been on school visits when I see how students respond when you give them the chance to get creative (and get out of double maths!)
I’m also a writer in residence in a secondary school for the wonderful literacy organisation ‘First Story’. This means that I get to do weekly workshops with the same group of teenagers. The atmosphere is relaxed and enjoyable and at the end of the process the students will see their work in a professionally published anthology. The students are involved at every stage which includes organising a book launch to celebrate their writing achievements. Working with my First Story students is fun and very satisfying.
Any writing tips you care to share?
Some people like to plot in detail before starting to write, some people just like to jump in without knowing where the story will take them. Some people thrive on showing every chapter to a critique group, others don’t show a soul until the first draft is finished. My advice would be to allow yourself time to find out what works best for you and not to let other writers tell you that there’s a particular way to do it.
Have you got your own place to write or can you write anywhere?
I nearly always write at a table in my living room. From the table I can look out onto the garden and see what the birds are up to. The downside to my writing space is that when my three kids come home from school they put the t.v. on and I get kicked out.
What do you think are the differences between UK and US YA?
The U.S. media seem to give more exposure to their YA fiction, whilst it’s difficult for UK YA to get enough coverage in our own mainstream media. This is a shame because there’s such a wealth of great UK YA fiction. However, our book blogging community and events like UKYA Extravaganza are helping to spread the word.
Changing the subject, apart from writing what do you love doing?
I love watching movies, reading books, listening to music, seeing bands, going out with friends, swimming in lakes, eating, having a laugh with my family, fooling myself that I can get fit by doing a 10 minute exercise DVD once a week.
I’m giving you a free platform to talk about anything – GO:
Okay then, would schools please stop giving kids so much homework. It’s ridiculous! Even in primary school they come home with extra work to do after a day of learning. Whether in primary or secondary, kids need more time to play, do sport, pursue other interests, relax or just daydream. Yes, we need to learn, but we also need to value recreation and having breathing space.
I’m full of admiration for the teachers I meet; they’re dedicated and hard-working but the system they have to operate in means that, even outside school, students are being overburdened with work. The education system might find that, in a lot of cases, if students were given less homework, they’d be happier and more productive in school. Also, I believe that when you give people breathing space, ideas, theories, creativity and skills get a chance to develop and flourish.
Tea or coffee?
Coffee, every time.
When no one is watching do you dance?
Yes, nearly every day- it’s an affliction.
First time you saw one of your books in a bookshop, what did you do?
You can have one superpower, what would you like?
The ability to make my kids do as I tell them.
What word describes you best?
Book you’ve read the most?
‘Stuart: A Life Backwards’ by Alexander Masters
What’s the perfect cure to a bad day?
Uncontrollable laughter or dipping into the boxset of ‘Breaking Bad.’
My house with my family
I say UKYA Extravaganza and you say?
Can’t wait! Let’s have more events showcasing the wealth of great UK YA books.
And finally, what is the question you wish people would ask and never do?
“Would you like to go to the pub with all the characters in ‘Breaking Bad’ ?”
Now that would be one hell of a night out!
Are you coming?