Someone asked me recently what influences my writing, and though this seems a straightforward question, the answer is not so simple.
When I was younger, a child and teen – this would’ve been much easier to answer. I was influenced by everything I read. I absorbed my books like a giant, eager sponge and tried so hard to replicate the voice of Judy Blume and later Christopher Pike. Of course I failed, because it wasn’t until much later that I realised that you can never be someone else (whether that be in writing or in life!) However, practicing had started a love for writing and a strong desire to improve.
Later still, I attempted adult thrillers and much of my influences came from the gritty dramas and British films. I loved (and still do love) bleak and dark environments - places where you know something is going on beneath the surface. I remember visiting seasides out of season and Dungeness in the depths of winter. These settings helped to shape and improve my writing.
I’ve blogged about it before, but my most recent influence has been working in a school. Both 7 days and Crush (out next year) were developed whilst working directly with teens. Hearing their problems and having their voices circulating within me on a daily basis helped to shape my characters and plot. It also inspired me to write in a particular way. I knew that I wanted to write powerful and gritty books that could relate to young people.
Most recently I have been playing around with new ideas, something perhaps for younger readers. The idea came purely from listening to my young daughter chat relentlessly about her obsession – she is likely autistic, and her obsessions are very much part of her character. Being influenced by your child is a wonderful thing because you can share the experience with them. Even if nothing comes of this project, we will still have something we can enjoy together.
However, in conclusion to this piece, and the answer that I give when asked, is that in the main teenagers inspired and continue to inspire me the most of anyone or anything I’ve encountered. I’ve met teens that are young carers, that battle mental illness, that have experienced bullying or victimisation. I’ve met teens who struggle under the daily pressures of modern life, yet still find time to be the most funny and care-free bunch of characters I’ve ever met.
I’m blessed to write for teenagers because they truly are an inspiration and long may this continue!