This week I am drinking another awesome coffee from Steampunk. This one is Columbian and is called Narino. It’s tasting notes are mandarin and lemon curd. I am sure better brewers than I can get it to taste exactly like that, but I’ll settle for a slightly citrussy, acidic kick. I have no idea what David is drinking, because in by excitement at getting to interview him, I completely forgot to ask. I am the best host, right?
First up, can I just say what a huge honour it is to be interviewing the author of one of my favourite books from last year, The Fallen Children? (Shameless plug: my review is here). I absolutely adored this book. My Golden Egg limited edition copy (which I found in my beloved Waterstones Newcastle Basement cosying up to the Non Pratt books), and the Alice Oseman print I got for finding it are two of my most treasured bookish possessions. Okay, I’ll stop fangirling now, and get on with the questions.
Can you tell us about The Fallen Children for anyone who hasn’t read it yet?
The Fallen Children is a contemporary reimagining of the classic sci-fi novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. It’s set in a London council block, where one night everybody inside is put to sleep by mysterious forces. Upon waking, four of the young women who live there discover that they have been made pregnant. The story follows them as they realise that there is something very wrong about the children they’re carrying, and as they have to deal with the social fallout of being pregnant teenage girls.
What inspired you to write The Fallen Children?
When I was 11 years old I saw The Village of the Damned, the second film adaptation of The Midwich Cuckoos, on TV. I thought the central premise was so creepy! I remember running to the bus stop the next day to tell my friends about it. It stayed with me, and a few years later I read the book, loved it, and realised the film was absolutely terrible. I eventually began to think that although the source material is dated in many ways, it could make a really interesting contemporary YA story. It would allow me to explore themes of power (or lack thereof), agency, ambition, nature vs. nurture, and all sorts of pretentious stuff. Plus I could have all the fun creepy stuff! It was win-win.
The Fallen Children is written from multiple perspectives, which was your favourite to write and why?
I must start with the obligatory ‘I love them all!’ response. But I particularly enjoyed writing Maida. She comes in later in the book, after she’s already done some pretty extreme things. Delving into her internal world to explore that was really challenging and really fun. Plus I enjoyed creating her voice, which has a wry, skittish quality to it that was so fun to write.
How would you cope if you found yourself raising one of the ‘alien’ children from your book?
I wouldn’t cope! At all! I wouldn’t be able to handle having a regular human child, let alone one that could kill me (or rather, make me kill myself) by simply willing it. My intention with the Children was to explore the idea of how young people are judged and expected to behave in a certain way by older generations, and whether those expectations become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Obviously the Children take that idea to the extreme! I hope I could be all chill about it, but I doubt it…
Can you tell us more about the decision behind the different coloured copies of the book and the golden eggs?
It was all down to the designer! They had this roughly egg-shaped design, and couldn’t decide which colour to make it because everything seemed to work. So they thought why not do it in every colour? I’d love to say it had some deep thematic meaning, but it was just a cool idea we decided to try because we thought bloggers, Instagrammers, etc. would dig it. We also hoped it would encourage people to buy it from bookshops rather than online so they could pick their colour. All of the Golden Egg limited editions (one per print run) went out to bookshops to be found my customers.
What would you like readers to take away from reading The Fallen Children?
I hope it’ll make people think about what a hard time young people – particularly working class young people – have in getting their lives off the ground, accessing things (higher education, jobs, etc.) that many take/took for granted, and how society expects young people to conform to an incredible narrow set of roles that are increasingly difficult to actually achieve. I also hope they’ll find it entertaining and creepy!
Which writers or books inspire you?
In this specific case, I have to mention John Wyndham again. I love how he mixes big, weird science-fiction ideas with very English, mundane settings and circumstances. Generally, I love books and authors that face up to very real, recognisable things, but do so with a little twist of the strange, the unusual. It’s something Patrick Ness is incredibly good at. A Monster Calls remains a huge influence on my writing.
Are there any books due out in the second half of this year you’re particularly excited for?
*puts on smug voice* Well, I’ve already read the new Melvin Burgess and Marcus Sedgwick books! I’m also really excited for Giant Days by Non Pratt, who’s one of my favourite YA authors. Completely unrelated to YA, I’m really excited for the new Cixin Liu book, and the next book in the Books of Babel series by Josiah Bancroft. I’m a big sci-fi reader, and these are two of my favourite authors in the genre over the last couple of years. I’m sure there are loads more books but my memory is atrocious!
Can you tell us anything about what you are currently working on?
I really can’t say much about it right now! It’s a new YA book, focusing on ideas of loneliness and real-world issues like the resurgence of the far-right. We’re going to reveal all the details very soon, ahead of publication early next year!
Hello. I am all of the excited for David’s new book. I am going to need it now, yesterday please.
Huge thanks to David for taking the time to answer my questions, and to Hazel for organising this fabulous opportunity. Come along to NYA Lit Fest to meet him in person and hear him talk about books!