Q&A with CJ Skuse

Rockoholic’s out this month, so we’ve been catching up with author Claire Skuse…..

Who were your favourite authors as a child?

As a child I was given a very expensive gift set of Beatrix Potter books and I loved them lots. My favourite one was The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan, probably because I had no idea what a Patty Pan was, and still don’t to this day! I also liked the idea of eating lots of lettuce and falling asleep under some warm grass cuttings, ala The Flopsy Bunnies, so this was also a favourite. Other favourites included anything by Roald Dahl, a book called The Garden Gang, which I think was written and illustrated by a very young girl, and I had two gigantic Enid Blyton treasuries which I remember reading when I had measles and they made me feel better, or at least stopped me picking at my spots for a while.

You work in publishing, so what prompted you to start writing?

I started writing my first novel when I was seventeen and for about eight years I was sending it back and forth to agents. I was told you had to have an agent to get anywhere. Fifty agent rejections later, I realised that perhaps it wasn’t just about finding the right agent, it was about improving my writing. That realisation took me to Bath Spa University where I did a BA in Creative Writing and an MA in Writing for Young People. Just after completing these courses, I applied for work experience at Chicken House Publishing and, joys of joys, managed to secure a permanent position as Publishing Assistant. This was already the job of my dreams so I did feel I was pushing my luck a bit in asking them to read the manuscript that I had written for my MA, but I showed them anyway, they really liked it, and my dreams came true in March 2010 when Pretty Bad Things, was published!

Tell us about your new book, Rockoholic…

Rockoholic is about a teenage girl called Jody who has really lost her way in life. She doesn’t have a great relationship with her family, has failed most of her exams and has just experienced the loss of her beloved grandfather. Her only salvation is her favourite band, American rock outfit The Regulators, with whom she is obsessed. Jody finally gets the chance to go to one of their concerts, but has a truly terrible time of it. She queues up all day outside the venue, but misses the entire show when she faints in the crowd. She wakes up in the First Aid area, just as she is about to lose all hope, and her hero, Regulators’ lead singer Jackson Gatlin, walks in to do a meet and greet with the fans needing first aid. In a fit of desperation / concussion / adoration, Jody kidnaps Jackson, and takes him back to her house. But as the story progresses and Jackson’s diva-like personality shines through, it is clear that having a secret rock star in your garage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

How did the idea for Rockoholic come to you?

I went to an MCR concert at Cardiff Arena in 2007, when I was 26, and I should have known better at this age I guess, but such was my obsession for this band at the time, that I queued up all day long outside the venue in order to get on the front barrier for the gig. It was a miserably cold day, during which I starved and dehydrated myself so I wouldn’t need the toilet, and in the end I didn’t even get on the front row. I got pulled out of the mosh pit after the support act due to exhaustion and watched the entire show from the side of the stage – a position I could have easily got into had I just turned up at 9:00 at night! I bought every piece of merchandise for the band I could afford after the gig – hoody, posters, badge sets, pencils, hat, t-shirts, but it just never felt like I’d had the night of my dreams – the night I had expected. There was this great feeling of loss and missed opportunity and I got to thinking, what did I actually expect? Some of the lead singer’s spit in my eye? Bodily contact with one of them? The band to see me in the crowd and want to take me on tour with them? And this quickly became an event I would cringe at every time I thought about it, so I thought ‘Well, I can carry on cringing, or I can turn this into Book 2. So hopefully I made the right choice!

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m always a little wary of saying too much online about what I’m working on next, especially as I’m heavily into the first draft at the moment and it’s quite fragile, but if you meet me at any book-related events this year I’ll happily tell you more about it!

Share 3 of your passions with us…

MCR – of course
My books – Pretty Bad Things, Rockoholic, the hush hush book 3!
Comics and graphic novels – when I get time to read them

Rockoholic excited??! Well, we’ve got a signed copy of Rockoholic for one lucky Bookbabbler. To be entered into the draw, comment on this post, retweet it or Facebook ‘like’ it. We’ll pick a winner at 7pm Thursday (UK only) – good luck!