When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?
I've always loved telling tales. :) During my childhood, my little sister and I used to make comics together. We'd spend hours creating comic strips, writing the stories and doing the illustrations. Ah, those are good memories.
Is being an Author all you dreamed of, or did it just happen? The best and worst thing about it?
The actual writing is the easy part, the best part. It's getting published – and making sales - that's the tricky bit. You haven't necessarily 'made it' when your first novel gets published. Of course, it's a wonderful moment but it's not the end goal. It's just the beginning. I have had seven books published with small presses, including novels, non-fiction books and poetry. Trying to get those books into the public eye is very difficult. Writers have to spend as much time on promotion as they do on writing. I have learned that I am not very good at promotion. But I am working on it!
What was the very first thing you ever wrote?
Probably a scribble at nursery school. Actually, I wasn't a very good writer at school. Although I loved using my imagination and making up stories, the nuts and bolts of writing – handwriting, punctuation and spelling etc – weren't really my strong points! The first thing I had published was a poem called Specimen when I was in my thirties. So it took a long time from those comic making days!
What made you create XY? How did it come to you?
Jesse's story in XY came out of my fascination with the question: What does it mean to be male or female? Is gender identity biologically, psychologically or socially constructed? I read somewhere that scientists had linked blended gender in fish to contaminants like pesticides, household compounds such as laundry detergent and shampoo, and many pharmaceuticals. Similar things had happened with other species and I got to wondering where this could lead and what would happen if we lived in a world where humans were born biologically sexless. How would society react? Would we still create gender roles? Would fear cause us to revert to traditional stereotyped views of the sexes?
Who is your literary hero?
I have many literary heroes but in terms of Young Adult literature, I would have to say Malorie Blackman, author of the Noughts & Crosses series. I love that she's not afraid to tackle big issues. Her writing is exciting and thought-provoking.
How much of your characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?
I would never base a character on someone I know. But my characters can be composites of traits of real people mixed up with imagination. I often go out of my way to create characters who are very different from me – for example, my first novel, Marilyn and Me, is narrated by a character with a learning disability and my previous young adult novel, Boy Red, is narrated by a teenage boy. However, I think writers are like actors in the sense that you have to feel a connection with the character for it to work.
Describe your main character in six words.
Anxious teenager pulled in different directions.
Describe the world you’ve created in six words.
Humans are neither male nor female.
What scene was your favorite to write?
The scene where Jesse meets Ork, leader of We Are One, for the first time. I loved showing Ork off to my readers.
What scene was the hardest for you to write?
What are you working on now?
The sequel to XY.
Goals? Accomplishments? Improvements?
For me, being creative is about having the freedom to experiment with different forms and audiences. I have published fiction for adults and teens, poetry and non-fiction. My next big project will be life writing.
Are there any authors or books you recommend?
Too many to list! A hot new YA book just out by a UK author is The Savages by Matt Whyman.
What's your favorite thing to do when you're not writing?
Have fun outdoors with my kids.