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.
Blurb via Amazon: A shocking story of rebellion and revelation set in a contemporary Nazi England.
Jessika Keller is a good girl: she obeys her father, does her best to impress Herr Fisher at the Bund Deutscher Mädel meetings and is set to be a world champion ice skater. Her neighbour Clementine is not so submissive.
Outspoken and radical, Clem is delectably dangerous and rebellious. And the regime has noticed. Jess cannot keep both her perfect life and her dearest friend. But which can she live without?
THE BIG LIE is a thought-provoking and beautifully told story that explores ideas of loyalty, sexuality and protest.
I’m going to be honest with you guys and admit that I did not like this book at all when I started it. The tone and pace was unusual and I was left completely confused. I really did not want to continue with this. But then I kept seeing reviews on line that said this book deserved an award. So I stuck with it. And I was so, so glad that I did.
After I had got used to the pace of Jessika’s voice, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it incredibly hard hitting, tackling issues such as terrorism, oppression and sexuality. Although I am an advocate for LGBT+ within the world of YA, I have never really read a book focused around lesbians. I don’t know if that was a coincidence or if it is a subject that doesn’t feature prominently in YA literature.
One of the most poignant aspects to this book is the idea of loyalty and how it feels when a thing like that is broken. Within this story, this is true about Jessika’s loyalty to the Greater German Reich, as well as her family. Her family was the hard part for me. Jessika’s father came across as a huge douche to me. I know that is not an official term or anything, but that truly is my opinion. There was a part when Jessika was being taken away and, even though her family did nothing to stop it, she said that she couldn’t deny that she loved them. This really hit me in the heart with a sledgehammer.
If I had to pick one word to describe this book, I would choose harrowing. Although there was a shaky start, I can definitely say that this story will stay with me for a long time and I will probably end up picking it up again somewhere down the line. There are so many unanswered questions, but yet I do not want a sequel. I don’t think I could cope with putting myself through that.
Sorry this is such a short review, but hey, it’s Monday! I give 4/5 stars to ‘The Big Lie’ by Julie Mayhew.