Kicking off what I hope will be a series of many author interviews…
LAUREN ALDER’S ELEVEN BOOK WRITING QUESTIONS, Answered By Zarina Macha
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a musician and author from London, United Kingdom, and have published two books – one is a YA compilation of two novellas, and the other is a book of poetry. I recently graduated from Music College having studied Songwriting and Creative Artistry, and front my own funk-rock trio band.
2. What is the title of your current work (WIP or recently published). and what is its genre?
My novel ‘Every Last Psycho: A Collection of Two Novellas’ contains two Young Adult books called ‘Every Last Thought’ and ‘Psycho Girl.’ Both are dark social realist dramas dealing with mental illness. The first features a schizophrenic girl called Tess, and the second a psychopathic girl named Evelyn.
3. Is this book suitable for children, or is it adults-only? If
there’s mature content, what type of mature content does the book contain?
I have it rated for those aged fifteen and onwards. I have it classed as YA as the writing style is quite simple and both protagonists are in their teens (Tess is sixteen and Evelyn is eighteen) and deal with adolescent coming-of-age issues. There are mature themes in both; the first includes rape, drug abuse and self-harm, and the second has a few brief and explicit sexual scenes and one violent scene.
I have a content warning in the copyright section saying ‘Contains graphic depictions of violence, sexual assault and drug abuse. Minors are advised to read with caution.’ Young people nowadays are able to easily access mature content and I think mature teenage readers (such as my fifteen year old niece) will be perfectly fine to read it. I’ve read some YA stories that deal with mature content such as Thirteen Reasons Why (J. Asher), Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls (L. Weingarten), Just Listen (S. Dessen), and Asking for It (L. O’Neill).
4. What inspired you to write this work?
The second novella was inspired by the movie ‘American Psycho’. I wanted to write about the most evil young woman I could craft. The first was more complex and partly inspired by a few instances from my own life; I wanted to delve into the mindset of a schizophrenic struggling with adolescent issues such as friendship, relationships, school work and transitioning from a teenager into a young adult.
5. What makes this book special, unique, or interesting? How does it “stand out”?
I like to think it brings a young person’s perspective onto mental illness, as both story ideas were executed when I was aged seventeen-to-nineteen and I’m twenty one now. I wanted to directly get into the heads of both protagonists in the stories; neither are super likeable, especially the second one, but both are fascinating girls with perceptions on life that are not necessarily frequently portrayed. (Both are also in first person so I could really write through their eyes and pull the reader in to their worlds).
The first novella is written with very short, fragmented sentences to symbolise Tess’ disoriented mental state. She goes through a lot within a short space of time and I wanted to really highlight how hard teenage life can be, especially for someone in her situation. I also wanted to showcase the importance of friendship but also the dangers of becoming too dependent on someone.
Regarding the second novella, I feel like it’s not often we see stories entirely from the perspective of the villain; we’re often expected to root for the ‘good guy’ and to see the happy or hopeful elements of life, but a lot of times life isn’t like that and there are awful people lurking out there. I was mainly having fun with the second story – it’s meant to be read as a bit of a dark comedy; not to be taken too seriously.
6. Tell us some key information about the main character(s), both protagonists and antagonists.
Tess is a sixteen year old lower middle-class girl living in London. She is in love with her best friend (Ed) but he has a girlfriend. I think a lot of times we expect the main girl and guy to get together, but sometimes that doesn’t always happen and friendship can be a beautiful thing too, but it can also be complicated. Ed is probably my favourite character; he’s the older brother figure in Tess’ life after her twin brother passed away several years ago which she has struggled to get over. Ed and Tess have a pretty co-dependent friendship and I felt that she expected too much from him and needed to learn to stand on her own feet and come to terms with herself. I didn’t particularly adore her but I wanted the reader to sympathise deeply with her.
Evelyn is an eighteen year old upper middle-class girl living in the fictitious town of Bletchfield, a small town outside of London. She is a narcissistic psychopath from the get go who only cares about herself and dislikes everyone else. No one else seems to realise it; her friends, teachers and boyfriend all think she’s this perfect person. I found her pretty hilarious to write and eerily charming. She is determined to study Law at the University of Cambridge, and will do anything to get what she wants. She is a fiercely entitled girl who expects the world to bow down to her, and her story is about appearances being deceiving, and that selfish actions don’t usually end well.
7. What is your back cover blurb? Or if you don’t have one yet, how would you pitch your work in 200 words or less?
‘Every Last Psycho’ contains two tales of two girls; ‘Every Last Thought’ and ‘Psycho Girl.’
One girl hears voices screaming in the shadows; the other burns with self-absorbed hunger.
Every Last Thought:
‘Rocking backwards and forwards; deep breaths in and out’
Sixteen year old Tess Davis suffers from schizophrenia, triggered six years ago by the onset of her twin brother’s death. She’s felt broken ever since. But when new guy Ed moved to her school two years ago, life gave her a reason to live joyously. Ed made her happy, becoming the friend she needed. But she didn’t plan to fall in love with him, and love isn’t always requited.
Distraught by Ed’s new girlfriend and a horrific trauma Tess endures, she finds herself spiraling out of control and into cocaine-fueled delusions. Will she be able to regain a grip on life?
‘Deep inside, I feel nothing. I am nothing.’
Eighteen year old Evelyn Baxter is beautiful, confident, popular and well off. Everyone loves her; her friends, her family, her boyfriend. She is all set to apply to the University of Cambridge to study Law.
But when another girl in her year gets accepted into Cambridge and she doesn’t, Evelyn’s perfect mask starts to peel away. Murder, deceit and manipulation show Evelyn to be the monster she truly is. But will those around her realize it?
One is the victim of cruelty, the other creates it. One lives in the concrete jungle of London, the other in the suburban town of Bletchfield. Both novellas are in one binding, echoing the dark horrors within.
8. Share a tempting bit of the plot with us. Is there a particular scene that you’re really excited about? Why does it excite you?
I don’t want to give too much away so I’m going to pass on this question.
9. Share up to 800 words of your current work with us (with an intro of up to 200 words to establish context).
Again, I don’t want to give too much away but in brief: the story I am currently working on is a dystopian speculative satire. It is set in Britain a few decades from now and is meant to mock the current extreme left-right political discourse.
10. What is the easiest part of writing for you? And what is the hardest?
The easy part is coming up with the ideas; they just appear, constantly, often nicely formed and unexpected. The hard part is the execution, haha. Writer’s Block is a bitch. I spend a lot of time forcing myself to ‘shovel shit from a sitting position’ to quote Stephen King. But then that’s what editing is for; to clean up the crap.
11. Finally, if you could offer some advice to up-and-coming
writers, what would that advice be?
If you really want to be a writer, you will do it because you love it. No one will need to ‘push’ you; it will flow from you because it makes you happy. After that, work really hard on one story (no doubt you’ll probably have several ideas) that you think will be the quickest/easiest to write and finish; something that really grips and excites you and you can’t stop thinking about. The stories are what matter more than anything; a writer is a vessel in which the story pours through.
FB page: http://www.facebook.com/zarinawriter
Twitter link: http://www.twitter.com/zarinamacha
Book purchasing link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07F44CMNJ