Q & A with Kate Mallinder, author of Asking for a Friend.
Kate, thank you very much for agreeing to do this Q&A for Armadillo.
Starting with questions specifically about Asking for a Friend… Agnes, Hattie and Jake are in the final throes of revision for their GCSEs. Why did you choose to set the novel during this time?
Sitting GCSEs is one of those rites of passage and so the run up to them can have teenagers digging deep and asking themselves big life questions as they realise adulthood isn’t too far away which makes it rich with story potential. Of course 2020 has been the exception, and I feel for all those teens who aren’t getting to sit theirs this year. It must be heart-breaking not to have all those ‘end of an era’ milestones.
The three friends take a trip to Weston-Super-Mare, for a week of ‘revision.’ How important is it to your writing to get your characters out of their normal environment?
It’s really important! When you take characters away from their normal, it also takes them away from their support networks meaning characters have to learn to negotiate situations on their own. This is when they find out who they truly are and where it gets interesting as a reader. Once away do they decide they’re someone different? Do they re-invent themselves or do they start to feel really comfortable with who they are? It’s fascinating for me as the writer too, as sometimes a character surprises me!
Agnes, Hattie and Jake were purely friends. However, I’m thinking that I can’t be the only one who detected glimmers of romantic potential between Hattie and Jake. Could you tell us why you kept romance off the radar, and whether there is any possibility of a sequel?
That’s so interesting you spotted this! I did toy with the idea of having something romantic between Hattie and Jake, but quickly decided that it would alter the friendship dynamics too much. I think for teens, while romance is important, often friendships are the most significant relationships they have.
Kate Millander's Asking for a Friend
A few more general questions …
Who do you have in mind as your audience when you write?
I primarily write for young people aged 11-15 years old, though I know lots of young-at-heart adults enjoy my books too. I parent teens, I run a youth club and I love doing school visits; so I feel qualified to say teenagers are absolutely amazing. They are inquisitive, open-minded and a joy to be around and it is both a massive privilege and a huge responsibility to write for them.
What kind of books do you like reading and are there any YA authors you particularly enjoy?
I totally followed the advice of writing what I love reading, so I devour contemporary, upbeat YA fiction from Chloe Seager, Katy Birchall, Simon James Green, Alexandra Sheppard and Lucy Powrie, though I also love Sue Wallman for thrillers, Holly Jackson for murders and Gabriel Dylan for when I want to be terrified!
What are you working on next?
I’ve got several ideas all at various stages, an outline of another feel-good story and I’m part way through something a bit different as part of a Masters. There’s no shortage of ideas, just a shortage of time!
Questions by Jackie Spink.