Hi guys! This is my second author interview on this blog and it is with Julie Mayhew, author of ‘The Big Lie’, of which I did a review last week. ‘The Big Lie’ has recently been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2016, so I am honoured to have Julie here on the blog. So, without further ado, here is the interview:
Daniel: Hi Julie, thank you very much for doing this interview for How To Read Books.
Julie: Thank you for your brilliant The Big Lie review. You’re the first blogger to call Jessika’s dad a “douche”. Good work.
D: To those who haven’t yet read ‘The Big Lie’, can you sum the book up in six words?
J: Revolutionary Nazi alt-history with girls centre-stage (hope I wasn’t cheating using hyphenated words)
D: The idea of family and loyalty is a huge thing in ‘The Big Lie’. How much would you say you valued these things in your life?
J: Hugely valued. I’m a mother and I’m also, of course, a daughter so I’m infinitely interested in how your opinion of parenting and family changes and is challenged when you become a parent yourself. I think this comes across in my books and plays.
D: How happy were you with the ending of ‘The Big Lie’, without giving anything away?
J: It was absolutely what I wanted – something honest and not ‘Hollywood’. The most powerful revolution that can happen is in the mind of the individual, that’s what I wanted to say and I really feel the ending reflects that. I know it might not be what most readers are expecting…
D: Why did you want to deal with the issues of oppression and sexuality?
J: I didn’t set out to write a book about sexuality – but it became clear very early on in the writing process that Jessika’s desires were going to be the catalyst for her seeing the world differently. What I did know from the outset was that I wanted to use the history of Nazi oppression to make us better understand our own present-day failings.
D: Did you have to do a lot of research for ‘The Big Lie’ and what made you write a book about Nazism and oppression?
J: Yes, lots of research, which fuelled the writing process. I would take a real thing from the past and shape it to fit my imagined Nazi Britain. I spent a great deal of time in the Wiener Library in London which has a vast collection of Nazi school texts, song sheets, year books, etc. From those I learnt how children were made to believe in Nazi ideals, subtly and not-so subtly, from a young age.
D: Which character was the most interesting to write and why?
J: I enjoyed writing Clementine, observing her from afar, making her a mysterious figure but also a powerful one. But Jessika was the most interesting – finding her voice, getting inside of someone who believes different things to you and seeing her shift and change.
D: Are you an avid reader and what kind of books do you like to read?
J: I think it’s essential to be big reader to be a good writer. I recently read Lucia Berlin’s short story collection A Manual For Cleaning Women – it’s astoundingly brilliant. It makes me want to up my game.
D: Which character in ‘The Big Lie’ would you say you were most like in terms of personality?
J: I’d like to think I am a rebellious Clementine figure, but I so often want to be seen as good and please people, which is more of a Jessika personality. My aim in life is to be more Clementine.
D: What would your advice to anyone writing a YA novel, especially one linked with history?
J: Do your research, but then let it go. You need to write a story that means something with characters you are curious to unpack, not just show off all the facts you’ve found out.
D: Finally, have you got any upcoming projects in the world of YA coming up in 2016?
J: I have. I’m writing a book set in Russia which explores our ideas of what home means. My main character missed out on her childhood and is searching for a way to get it back.
D: Thank you for doing this interview and congratulations on ‘The Big Lie’ being nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2016.
J: Thank you! I’m thrilled with the book’s support – particularly the readers that have contacted me to say it’s made them engage with the politics that affect them. The revolution starts here…
Thanks for reading this interview guys, I hope you enjoyed it. The next author interview will be with Lisa Drakeford, author of ‘The Baby’, later this week or early next week. A huge thanks to Julie for agreeing to do this interview. If you have not read ‘The Big Lie’ or ‘Red Ink’ yet, I suggest you do so. As always, please leave comments below and like this post if you like it.
P.S. Sorry for the spacing. WordPress is not a happy bunny today.