Today I am hosting one stop of the Finding Sky UK blog tour and will be interviewing the wonderful Joss Stirling.
If you haven't read Finding Sky, you can check out my review or go directly to your nearest bookshop!
Portrait of a Woman: Hello Joss! Could you present yourself in a few words for those who don't already know you and tell us how you came to writing?
Joss Stirling: I’m a born storyteller. Even as a child at primary school, you would have found me scribbling my stories (and illustrating them copiously). I am now married with three children and wrote Finding Sky for my teenage daughter who was going through her Twilight phase. I wanted to offer her something that wasn’t vampires/werewolves/angels. It also celebrated a trip we took as family across the States, visiting Colorado and Las Vegas.
PoaW: Finding Sky is a Paranormal Romance, how did you approach this genre which is the most popular one in Young Adult literature today?
JS: Funnily enough, I wrote Finding Sky before I read the Twilight Saga – these books I only got to this February because I didn’t want to be influenced in my own plot (I eventually borrowed my daughter’s much thumbed set and read them in a weekend). I had, however, read lots of adult gothic novels (that is really what the paranormal is in terms of literary roots) Frankenstein, The Last Man, Dracula, the novels of Ann Radcliffe and Wilkie Collins, as well as modern examples. With all these swirling around in the background, I decided to go for a fun wish fulfilment plot that I knew my home audience would enjoy – how would it have been to end up doing your sixth form in an American High School? And how would it have been to have a hot guy after you – with savant powers thrown in to make the bond even stronger?
PoaW: I found that Finding Sky was a very character-driven story and that the teenage characters were very realistic, how did you get in their heads and why did you chose to portray them the way you did?
JS: You may not believe it but, though I’m well past my teens, in my head I don’t feel much older! We are all people, after all, suffering embarrassment, anxiety, doubt and enjoying the good times – that much doesn’t change. I also had my daughter and her excellent set of friends in and out of the house as daily inspiration. She read the manuscript and gave me pointers if she didn’t think I’d got it quite right.
PoaW: Who are your influences (writer and fictional characters alike)?
JS: I’ve mentioned some of the older writers above who have influenced me – there will be lots more. It is really hard to dissect what goes in to your own imagination – anything I’ve read, seen or heard recently, I guess. The high school background must come from a mixture of films and books as I’ve never attended an American school: there will be bits from movies ranging from Grease, to Clueless to High School Musical. Zed is the boy I would have liked to have met at school (he wasn’t in my sixth form sadly) so he is reached by negative influence. Sky is herself – perhaps a shade of a modern Alice in Wonderland in looks. She uses that as an image for herself so it must have been in my thoughts at the time.
PoaW: While reading Finding Sky, I found that the location of the story seemed very important if not essential to the story, how important is it for you to situate the action of a book in a specific location?
JS: It was important because I was going for the contrast between the high-altitude wildness of the Rockies and the artificial fake paradise of Las Vegas – these locations sum up the experiences Sky has in both. The Benedicts are tied to their land in a natural way; the Kellys feed off theirs like parasites.
PoaW: Now a little question for the hypothetical future writer in some of us, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
JS: If you are serious about trying to get published, write up your whole book first before approaching anyone. Try it out on an audience. Set it aside for a few weeks before doing a second edit – it will improve no end if you have some distance from it.
Make sure you have a notebook to hand for those random ideas.
PoaW: And last but not least, a fun question! Could you tell us your top 5 heroines in literature?
JS: Only five? I’ll go for a wide range then: Elizabeth Bennet (Pride & Prejudice); Alanna from Tamora Pierce’s fantasy quartet (great YA book about a girl passing herself off as a knight); Eve Dallas from J D Robb’s futuristic detective books (kick-ass policewoman with a difficult past); Viola from Twelfth Night (Shakespeare is full of great female characters but I’m restricting myself to one); and finally Dorothea from Middlemarch (she tries so hard to make the right choices but gets it wrong).
Some great female characters indeed! I think I will be hunting down the Tamora Pierce quartet in my Waterstones this weekend!
Thank you so much to Oxford University Press and Liz Scott for giving me the opportunity to interview Joss and many thanks to Joss for answering them and giving us a little insight of her ideas and her writing process!
Next stop in the blog tour will be the 25th October at Books 4 Teens!