Today we bring you our Q&A with Hayley Long and a chance to win a signed copy each of Lottie Biggs is Not Mad and Lottie Biggs is Not Desperate.
What book(s) did you love when you were a child?
Well, the short answer is all of them! I was always reading. I loved all of Enid Blyton’s adventure stories but I could also sit for ages looking at big non-fiction books about animals and history and… pretty much anything really. When I was very young, one of my favourite books was Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. The thought of being so flat that you could be put into an envelope and travel anywhere by post really appealed to me. Obviously, I wanted to see a bit of the world even when I was seven! When I was twelve, I read The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾ and I thought it was the funniest and most completely outrageous thing I’d ever read. I still think that book is totally brilliant and funny but I’m harder to shock nowadays.
What inspires you to write?
That’s a really difficult question. [Insert long pause] The truth is I’m not really sure. It’s a very solitary activity and I don’t really like too much of my own company. But I’ve always had this urge to write things down. I suppose it’s because it’s one of the few things I’m confident I can do well. At school I was very average at everything… except for English. So I like reading and I like writing. And it’s a way to reflect a little bit of how I see the world… the funny things I hear people say… how I feel about certain situations… the places I know well – all that kind of thing. I suppose it’s a way of being in control. Cripes, that’s deep, isn’t it? I’m starting to wig my own head out…
Tell us about Lottie Biggs
Hmmm…. What can I tell you about Lottie? She’s 15 (she had her 15th birthday during Lottie Biggs is Not Mad), she lives in Cardiff – which is the capital city of Wales, she’s got a completely brilliant best-friend called Goose and a great big hunk of chunk called Gareth for a boyfriend. She’s sweet, she’s funny, she’s bright; she likes orang-utans, chinchillas, marshmallows and the music of Jimi Hendrix. But the really tricky detail is that she suffers on and off from depression and this makes her sometimes very difficult to be around.
I made a deliberate decision to tackle this subject from the beginning. Mental illness is a very broad term and obviously it covers a huge spectrum of disorders and experiences – some much more serious than others. But one in four people are said to suffer from some form of mental health problem at some stage in their life. And some of these people are still only teenagers when they have to deal with this. I know because I’m a teacher and I’ve seen these kids dragging themselves through their school day and it’s a hard thing to watch. I suppose I just really wanted to write something which addresses this issue but not with the familiar hands-up-in-horror tone which often accompanies this subject. I want young people to think, ‘Ok, this doesn’t have to mean my life is messed up forever.’ Because it isn’t always like that. I’m really massively chuffed that Lottie Biggs is Not Desperate is currently longlisted for the 2010 Young Minds’ Book Award.
What are you working on at the moment?
Well, I’ve only very recently finished a third Lottie Biggs book so I’ve been giving my brain a holiday. I find that I always need a bit of space between the end of one book and the beginning of another so that I can get some fresh ideas. I’m at the stage where I’m plotting out my next book and I can tell you that it WON’T INVOLVE LOTTIE this time. It will be something completely different involving a group of girls who live in North London. Some things will be the same though. I’m writing for the same audience and I intend to go for that mix of funny and serious again. I’m very excited about it!!!
If you could live with any fictional character, who would it be?
Hmmmm…. Well the immediate answer is James Bond – assuming that he looks exactly like Daniel Craig that is… but hang on… he’d be always standing me up, disappearing for months on end, seeing other women… and he kills people… so no… perhaps James isn’t a good idea. If I wasn’t already happily married, I’d be very pleased to live with Atticus Finch from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ because he is a lovely, lovely man. And his children are completely gorgeous too – although Scout is a bit of a handful. But then again, I think I’d get really bored living in a small town in Alabama… so…..HENRY SUGAR… him of Roald Dahl’s ‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.’ This would be perfect! In this story, Henry teaches himself to see through playing-cards and then travels all over the world, visiting casinos and winning massive fortunes which he donates to his charity for orphaned children. I would LOVE to travel all around the world, living in nice hotel rooms and winning large sums of money in different casinos. I’m less perfect than Henry so I’d keep a bit of it for myself if that’s ok. I actually think I’d be very happy following Henry around the world.
What 3 things couldn’t you live without?
A nice face cream.
Thanks, Hayley! Nice to see some interesting thought processes going into the fictional character question! If you’d like to find out more about Hayley, you can visit her website here and follow her on Twitter here.
We’ve added the Lottie Biggs books into our shop, but one of you can also win a signed set – lucky people! Just comment on this post, retweet it or Facebook ’like’ it to be entered into the draw. We’ll pick a winner at 8PM on Wednesday – good luck all!