When fifteen year-old Pen Flowers climbs out of her bedroom window in the middle of the night to dance in the empty streets, she ignites a flame in herself that will change everything.
A brilliant new work of young adult fiction, that will be sure to get you moving.
‘Fresh and exhilarating’
CJ Flood, author of Infinite Sky and Nightwanderers
Q & A with Sally-Anne Lomas
Why did you want to write Live Like Your Head’s On Fire?
When I was eight years old I climbed out of my bedroom window one night and ran away from home. I can’t remember what offence by my parents drove me to this but I do remember the sense of freedom and adventure as I cycled through the dark empty streets and then the fear rising as I reached the edge of the village where we lived. Something about the intensity of that memory both the elation and the fear provided the seed for the story of LLYHOF. As an adult I’ve always loved walking home alone through the early morning streets after a night out. There’s something magical and theatrical about the space. I find myself twirling across the empty roads and every encounter feels charged with significance. I think you find out why you’re writing a book as you write – there needs to be a process of discovery. I found out that I was writing a book about the importance of self-belief probably because this is something I’ve struggled with my whole life.
What do you want readers to take away from this story?
I love it when readers say that LLYHOF made them want to run out into the streets and dance but I hope that the novel inspires people to believe in themselves and follow their passions whatever they may be. I’d also like readers to think about the importance of friendship and how valuable a truly ‘good’ friend is. There’s so much focus in literature on sexual relationships but deep rich friendships that change and grow over time are equally important to a happy and fulfilling life.
What was the hardest part of writing this book? And what was the best?
The section where Pen is alone in the night streets of London was horrible to live through every time I worked on it. I really didn’t want to put her through that but I knew she had to go to a very dark place before she found her truth. The dancing scenes were my favourites to write because Pen comes alive when she dances and the scene I loved writing most of all is where she dances the duet with Jock Briggs– writing that was pure joy.
I’m giving you a free platform to talk about anything – GO:
I had no idea how hard it was to write a novel until I made my first serious attempt. It felt like drowning, the sense of overwhelm was so huge. I’d written short stories, poems, scripts, journals and articles but a novel was always my dream goal because novels were what I loved reading above all else. Writing a novel was not just a marathon but a series of marathons, an ultra-marathon, you had to run the full distance again and again. I have spent my entire life gobbling up novels, consuming in hours what I realise has taken the author months if not years of toil and dedication to write. I now respect every writer who has managed the business of creating a set of characters and marching them through a series of events to a conclusion. Popular writers, whom I may once have dismissed, are now my mentors (thank you Lee Child for your amazing Chapter breaks) and my favourite authors (Hilary Mantel, Martin Amis, Marilynne Robinson, Ann Patchett, Yvvette Edwards) – well their genius astonishes and amazes me.
And what’s the perfect cure for a bad day?
Get on your bike and head into the country with a flask of coffee and a good book, find a sunny spot to sit and read or just dream and drift, bathing your eyes in greenness. For me nature is the best balm. I like being near cows on a bad day. I find their bigness and stillness and soft brown eyes very soothing. But if the bad day has made you furious then get up and boogie – there’s nothing like dancing for transforming negative energy into positive vibes.
Finally, what is the question you wish people would ask and never do?
What is my reading ‘guilty pleasure’?
When I was thirteen years old and on holiday without my family for the first time, very lonely and unhappy, I found a Georgette Heyer Regency Romance on the book shelves of the house where I was staying and hid myself amongst her pages. Ever since then her historical romances have been my go to comfort read. I think she’s a brilliant story teller. She wrote in the 1920’s and 30’s, as a necessity to support her family, as her husband was ill, continuing to write until her death in 1974 and turning out an amazing 48 novels. She creates great plots, a vivid alternative world and delightful spirited heroines. Although I love to read in order to learn and be transformed there are times when I read to escape from the pain of living. Georgette Heyer is literary paracetamol for me and I say that with admiration and gratitude.
Live Like Your Head’s On Fire by Sally-Anne Lomas is published by Story Machine and available in paperback and ebook. For 20% off your paperback copy, enter the code BlogTour when checking out at www.storymachines.co.uk
Sally-Anne Lomas lives in Norfolk and has worked as a television producer and director for most of her life. This is her debut novel.