Today on the blog I have been joined by the lovely Aoife Walsh, author of Look After Me and Too Close To Home as part of the YA Shot blog tour.
Click on the book image to get to Goodreads.
Aoife Walsh lives in Oxford with her husband and three children. She quite likes cooking, and quizzes when she knows the answers, and reading, and excellent American television. And cakes and fine wines.
How long have you been writing for?
I used to write a lot when I was a kid, but I gave it up when I was about fourteen or fifteen and wanted to spend more time thinking about myself. About nine years ago I had two dreadful small children and needed to get out of the house, so I signed up for a Creative Writing evening course – and that got me going again.
What’s your favourite thing about being a writer?
There are so many fantastic things. We all seem to spend a lot of time on Twitter asking each other why we do it and it’s true, the pay is crap and it’s hard a lot of the time because I don’t really get any time off now. I mean, none. If nobody else is in the house or I’m not playing Uno or cooking food, I’m supposed to have my nose to the keyboard. However, nothing beats the act of creation. You don’t get that feeling all the time but when you do, it’s beautiful. Also, I get to work in my own house without wearing makeup or hurty shoes or having to drink tea with full-fat milk in it.
In Too Close To Home and Look After Me you write about complex families. What inspired you to write these books?
I’m not sure I can even imagine writing a book which isn’t intrinsically about family. That doesn’t have to mean parents-and-their-children, of course. The fluidity – or otherwise – of family borders and the harshness and safeness of family relationships are a big old area for me and my books to float about in. Also, I think it can be a vitally important issue for young people who may or may not feel at home in their own families but who can’t, generally, escape them yet; and who may be changing and growing out of their old roles within the family. Or not. You see what I mean, there’s a lot of space.
Do you see yourself or your loved ones in any of the characters you have created?
Ahem. Yes. Too Close To Home came in lots of ways out of my two eldest children, though they’re still much younger than my characters. Also, Minny has a fair amount of 14-year-old me in her – her more or less constant exasperation with everyone around her, for instance. Weirdly, my brother seems to work his way into everything I write. I wouldn’t tell him that, he already thinks he’s terribly important – but Adam in my first book was quite a lot like him; Minny has a bit of him and so does her bossy dad.
Minny from Too Close To Home loves English. What was your favourite subject at school?
English. Predictable. I loved Latin too, though, and I ended up doing History at university.
I loved the reference to literature in Too Close To Home. I love reading about characters who love books as much as I do. Who is your favourite book loving character?
This is a madly tricky and brilliant question. So many characters love books, and so many evil ones don’t – Matilda’s father ripping up her library book, and poor little Jane Eyre, getting her book thrown at her. Probably my most favourite characters are the ones I didn’t feel were more highbrow than me – I was always a bit intimidated by Sara Crewe with her flawless French and interest in history at the age of seven – she was like the 19th century version of Rory Gilmore. I love Francie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Emily of New Moon, and Beezus Quimby and, it goes without saying, Hermione Granger.
Have you always been a reader?
Yes. I always have been. I remember as a kid wondering with awe and horror what people who didn’t read did with their time (I could understand it more these days, what with all the different Real Housewives options).
Do you prefer to read a ‘real’ book or an e-book?
I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m trying to be kooky, but I’ve never read an e-book. Not even a page of one. On the whole I feel pretty okay about sticking to ‘real’ books; I spend enough time looking at a screen while I’m writing, and I’d be afraid of dropping it in the sink while I was washing up. Besides – actual books are better.
Libraries have always been one of my favourite bookish places. Have you got any memorable experiences at a library?
I used to love my local library, mostly because they had an inexplicably brilliant selection of Astrid Lindgren books which were ungettable anywhere else – not just Pippi Longstocking but Karlson On The Roof and The Bullerby Children and Emil and Lotta and best of all, The Brothers Lionheart. My school library was great too, it had The Outsiders and the Alanna books and a ton of Cynthia Voigt, all of which changed my life; but I think other people’s – fictional people’s actual library experiences – stick with me more clearly than my own. Anastasia Krupnik and her obsession with the early symptoms of leprosy, Francie Nolan reading a book a day, all through the alphabet, and only allowing herself a children’s book on Saturdays – and her unsympathetic librarian. Who is the worst librarian, Francie’s – or Jessica Vye’s, who in A Long Way From Verona wrests Jude The Obscure from Jessica’s hands and replaces it with an awful ‘velvety-looking, thin sort of book’? Or Adrian Mole, re-shelving Jane Austen among the light romance novels? And who is the best – probably the marvellous Mrs Phelps in Matilda, or else Miss Laburnum in The Librarian and The Robbers, who ends up almost crushed beneath her books? There is a memorable library experience for you.
Do you think libraries are evolving with the growing popularity of e-books?
I don’t know enough to answer this question, except by saying that everything I see about libraries suggests to me that they are run by people who love books and who expect to be able to get almost any information about anything from books – and who are therefore massively qualified to make their libraries do anything that library-goers need them to. It seems to me that the only threat they face has nothing to do with books or e-books; it’s from politicians who either do not understand their importance or who are still afraid of the possibly revolutionary impact that books can have on people who can’t afford to buy them.
Quick fire questions
Currently reading? The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor.
Book you wish you had written? Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.
Favourite place to write? At my desk, in my sitting room, with work-related books (and the rest) piled up next to me and a map or two to look at on the wall.
Favourite author? SO HARD. Astrid Lindgren.
Fictional character you love to hate? Maybe Mrs Elton from Emma, or else Robbie from Dirty Dancing (can I have that?) – what he does to Penny is disgusting enough, but when he hands Baby a copy of The Fountainhead and says, ‘I think you’ll enjoy it, but make sure you return it; I have notes in the margin’ – what a giant, giant idiot.