On being a YA writer: Kerry Drewery interview

YA writer

Head In A Book is a cycle of literature events in Hull scheduled throughout the year to maintain the momentum of the annual Humber Mouth Literature Festival. At a recent event, Stephanie Cox, met author Kerry Drewery and interviewed her about her books, her writing technique, and the categorisation of literature.

1. Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your career.

Although I’ve always made up stories in my head (even as a child) it was never something I thought I’d be able to do as a career – at school the idea of being a writer certainly was never an option. (I did learn to touch type at school though and I actually enjoy the physical act of typing, which I suppose is a good job!). I’ve had a multitude of different jobs including legal secretary, bank clerk, shop assistant, faculty clerk in a university and learnt a lot about what I don’t like doing! When my youngest son started school, I was looking at returning to work. I’d written a novel in the evenings while he was young, had sent it out to agents and got nowhere, but it had got me thinking that if I didn’t really strive for it then, then I never would. I returned to uni, got a first class honours degree in Professional Writing and wrote another novel on the course. That wasn’t taken either, but I did rewrite it into script and submitted it to a BBC writing competition which I was shortlisted for. Following the degree, and working part-time as a BookStart co-ordinator (which was a great job!) I wrote another novel (my third now), which turned into A Brighter Fear – my first to be published. The funding in my area for BookStart was taken as I was offered my publishing deal.

2. Your writing is categorised as YA fiction. Why did you choose to write for young adults? Was it a conscious choice or did your writing develop that way as you went along?

It wasn’t a conscious decision to write for young adults, it was more that the story I wanted to write was better with a teen protagonist which then led me to think of what an important and exciting time in your life your teens years are. It’s a time when you’re making all sorts of decisions, when you’re actually under a lot of pressure from all angles, and when everyone else seems to think that they know best for you. I’ve stayed writing for them because of this. I’m not sure I entirely agree with categorising books – it’s handy for publishers, yes, and booksellers, but I strongly believe you should read whatever you want to read, and not be put off something because it’s ‘too old’ or ‘too young’ for you. Reading is for enjoyment, it should be encouraged whether it’s comics, picture books, horror, literary, teen, or whatever.

I strongly believe you should read whatever you want to read, and not be put off something because it’s ‘too old’ or ‘too young’ for you.

3. Your books, A Brighter Fear and A Dream of Lights, deal with difficult, upsetting, and often tough subject matters. Why do you feel it is important for young adults to read and learn about adversity and harsh political circumstances? Do you feel that literature should educate young people from these kinds of subjects rather than shield them from it?

I didn’t chose to write A Brighter Fear or A Dream of Lights because of difficult or upsetting subject matters, I chose them because I was interested in the situations around them, and thought if I was then other people would be too. With A Brighter Fear I was trying to manage my own feelings about us being taken to war, which led me to think about the people actually living it, which led me to read about it, which eventually led to the novel. A Dream of Lights was about being nosy, I suppose. I knew a little about North Korea and wanted to understand why and how people live in those conditions, why some people chose to try to escape and others don’t. I don’t believe an author’s job is to answer questions, but rather to raise them. To put to the reader – hey, what about this? – and leave them to ponder their own thoughts. I do think it’s important to be honest with readers, whatever age, but that doesn’t mean you have to shove the ‘upsetting’ stuff in their faces. I don’t think it should ever be gratuitous, especially in these cases where they are based on reality, but there are ways you can write about something without it being.

To read more of the interview, head over to Stephanie’s blog: Words are my Craft

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