Today I’m talking to Chantelle Atkins about inspiration for writing, the impact of Ponyboy Curtis, and finding your readers.
Tell us a little about your novels to date.
I write YA and adult. The Mess Of Me was my debut novel in 2013, a YA coming-of-age story about a girl called Lou who finds herself tumbling towards a possible eating disorder. She also may or may not be in love with her best friend Joe, who has his own problems, due to his dysfunctional family and drug dealing older brothers. It’s been described as full of dark humour, which I like! Next came The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, followed by its sequel This Is The Day. I’m most proud of this one as I first wrote it at age 12 and came back to again and again over the years. It’s probably best described as a thriller, but is also coming-of-age and borders on the horror. It’s about a boy’s musical journey in the 1990’s and his attempts to escape his brutal home life. This Is Nowhere came next, a family mystery set in my home town of Hurn, Christchurch. Bird People and Other Stories is my short story collection. Each short is related in some way to my novels. The Tree Of Rebels, my latest book, is a YA dystopian set in a future where people are disconnected from nature.
Where did your inspiration for The Tree of Rebels come from?
Well, I’d read a lot about companies such as Monsanto trying to patent seeds, and essentially own nature. It got me thinking about who really owns and controls nature and what the future may hold. I started to imagine a world starting again after endless wars have all but destroyed humanity. What would this new world, and these new societies be like? What parts of the past would they throw away, and what would they keep? I started thinking, what if all food and animals were raised in domes, separate from the people, and the people were well cared for, lived in peace with homes, jobs, education, and peace, so they had no reason to question anything? Then what if a young girl disrupted the order. Trespassed and found something growing wild and free? What would this teach her and what would she decide to do? The story became one about rebellion and the importance of questioning those who control our societies.
Is there anything off-limits for a YA author?
I don’t think so, no. I think young humans are just as interested and concerned and excited and questioning about all the same things older humans are. More so, in fact. I think young people are looking for stories and characters they can relate to, and we shouldn’t patronise them by assuming some subjects are off-limits. I think there is a degree of responsibility, but I also think it’s essential to encourage debate and reflect reality rather than gloss it over. In this present climate, I also think it’s vital to encourage young readers to question everything. To not just accept the way things are, but to ask why and to be able to feel they have the power to change things.
Personal writing choice: pen or keyboard?
Notes are in pen. I have a separate notebook for each book, and the book will begin in note form, with bits of ideas jotted down, maybe short character bios and snippets of dialogue etc. But when I start writing Chapter One, it’s on the keyboard. The notebook stays alongside and ideas and chapter orders get played with and ticked off in there.
When do you know a novel is complete?
When I have been through it so many times, and made so many lists for improvement, and then finally, there is no list. No question marks. No check this, or delete that.
What is the best part of being an author?
Being excited all of the time. My stories and my characters fill my head every day, every night, and they follow me around, and I am always excited, always eager to get back on the keyboard and write more. I think also part of that is being able to live more than one life and experience the life of more than one person. I am never just me.
And the worst?
The worst is trying to find an audience and sell books. I don’t mind promotion so much now, as I’m used to it, and it can even be quite fun as you try to be as inventive and creative as possible. But not selling enough books can be disheartening, and not from a financial perspective. I want people to read my books and meet my characters and enjoy the journey with me.
Who are your writing heroes?
I was greatly influenced by S.E Hinton as a teenager. I loved The Outsiders, a book which really inspired me to write similar things. I felt like I could do it, because she had. Later in life, I discovered the poetic beauty of both Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski. I can’t get enough of either of them. I also love Stephen King, another author who I devoured as a kid and who inspired me to write and keep writing. In the indie world today, I greatly admire Kate Rigby. Her books are sort of similar to mine, as we both write gritty, dark, contemporary stuff. I love the world’s she creates for her characters. Her work is really character driven, and I love that.
If you had to be stranded on a desert island with three fictional characters, who would you choose, and why?
It would have to be Holden Caulfield, as I would love to meet him and talk to him about anything and everything, and just tell him to calm down a bit and not worry so much. I think we would find a lot to agree on. I would also choose Ponyboy Curtis from The Outsiders. Kind of for the same reasons. We would have a lot to talk about and I relate to the dreamer in him. The third would be Vernon Little from Vernon God Little. I love that book and really must read it a third time! He would make us all laugh, I think.
I am just working on the final, final edit/proofread of a novel called Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature. I will then be sending it to potential publishers, and while waiting for reply/rejection, I’ll be preparing a book launch and making front cover and back blurb decisions! This book will certainly be released in 2018. At the same time, I am also working on a YA trilogy of books. It started with one, an old story I wrote aged 16 and discovered in an old suitcase. I still loved the characters so decided to write it again and finish it. I’m at fourth draft status with it, (working title A Song For Bill Robinson) Suddenly, there was a sequel in mind, so I am now nearing the end of the first draft of the second book (working title, Emily’s Baby) and now it looks like it will be a trilogy, with ideas already jotted down for the final book, (working title The Search For Summer.) This wasn’t really supposed to happen, as I’ve had a four-book YA post-apocalyptic series planned for some time and I’m really desperate to get into it! There are also sequels to The Tree Of Rebels and The Mess Of Me in progress, but currently on hold!
Wow – much for readers to look forward to! Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions.
Chantelle Atkins was born and raised in Dorset, England and still resides there now with her husband, four children and multiple pets. She is addicted to both reading and music, and is on a mission to become as self-sufficient as possible. She writes for both the young adult and adult genres. Her fiction is described as gritty, edgy and compelling. Her debut Young Adult novel The Mess Of Me deals with eating disorders, self-harm, fractured families and first love. Her second novel, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side follows the musical journey of a young boy attempting to escape his brutal home life. She is also the author of This Is Nowhere, This Is The Day and has recently released a collection of short stories related to her novels called Bird People and Other Stories. Chantelle has had multiple articles about writing published by Author’s Publish magazine, and is also a reviewer with Underground Book Reviews. Her next novel, a YA dystopian, is due for release August 2017.
Website/blog : https://chantelleatkins.com/
Email Newsletter Sign Up: http://eepurl.com/bVVbGD