Friday 11 April 2014

Author Interview ~ Kerry Drewery.

Today I'm delighted to welcome the lovely Kerry Drewery to the blog - author of Young Adult books A Brighter Fear and A Dream of Lights.

You can connect with Kerry on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Welcome Kerry! Tell us about yourself and your books.

I was born and raised in Lincolnshire, between the sea and the countryside and love both. My mum was a vegetarian from North Wales and my dad the son of a butcher from Skegness, and I have an older brother who taught me important things in life like music has to be played loud and you can’t talk when the snooker is on!

My first published novel – A Brighter Fear – was actually the third I’d written, and was inspired by my own need and want to understand the situation in Iraq, our countries involvement with it, my feelings about being taken to war, and the feelings of those directly involved with the conflict and how it affected their lives.

A Dream of Lights came from a similar thing – my own want to understand the country and its people, how and why they live in those circumstances, what drives some to want to escape, yet not others.

When did you know you wanted to become an author? What was your inspiration?

I’ve always made stories up in my head. As a child I was a very poor sleeper and often had bad dreams, and my mum’s solution was to tell me imagine stories of cute bunnies and rainbows, etc, etc, while I lied in bed with my eyes closed and hopefully I’d drift off. Cute bunnies and rainbows are a boring though!

In primary school I began writing stories down in English classes and loved it. I first submitted a story when I was about 13, it was about a rabid garden gnome attacking people and I sent to some teenage magazine like Mizz or Just17. Kindly they wrote back with their submission guidelines, but I never submitted a short story again.

Regardless of this, I never thought ‘being an author’ was a viable career option – ordinary people don’t do that, do they? And so I spent many, many years drifting from one job to another. I worked in a music shop, the night-shift at Woolworths, as a dental nurse, an office clerk, a secretary, in a building society, a spar shop, door-to-door selling…and finally as a BookStart Co-ordinator for BookTrust (which was a fabulous job!), and it wasn’t until after the birth of my youngest son in 2000 that I thought – If I don’t do it now, I’ll never do – and began to take it seriously.

Apart from other authors and novels, I suppose the thought of failure was my inspiration.

Your books so far are based around very powerful subjects – how much research do your novels entail?

A lot. It is so important to me to get things right that the research is absolutely vital. With A Dream of Lights, I started off by reading about the history of North Korea and the Kim dynasty and an excellent book by Barbara Demmick called ‘Nothing to Envy’. I then read accounts from escapees, ex guards, ex prisoners and I found some sneaked out video clips of the markets, an execution (terribly shocking), a journey by train, and a walk through both Pyongyang and a northern rural town. I read an account by a man in China who helps escapees make their way through his country and to Laos and Thailand, any newspaper article I could, an account of a western traveller, interviews with North Koreans now living in the South, watched countless documentaries…

My agent would send me things she found, and one of her previous clients had travelled through North Korea some time ago, and his knowledge was useful.

While North Korea is a closed country and information isn’t freely available, there are things to be found if you do a little digging.

I had the opportunity to interview a western aid volunteer who’d been working in North Korea, but unfortunately due to safety and security concerns this never came to fruition.

The difficulty is to know when you know enough!!

A Brighter Fear was a similar process, and with each I will create a ‘picture wall’ to have next to me while I’m writing to help keep me in that ‘head space’, and often have maps up as well.

Some of my research for A Dream of Lights

With A Dream of Lights, I kept their daily ration of rice next to me to remind me what their hunger would be like, and I lost a stone in weight because of the guilt I felt every time I lifted a biscuit to my mouth!!

Daily ration of rice in North Korea

What made you decide to write Young Adult novels, and what other genres, if any, do you plan on writing in?

I don’t really know the answer to that one. Writing YA just felt right. I like that it’s not pigeon-holed as much as writing for adults. It doesn’t need to fit within a shelf of romance/sci-fi/detective or whatever, it’s already got its shelf, defined by age group not genre. At the moment I don’t have any plans to write for another genre, but I’d never rule it out.

Do you have any writing rituals like music you listen to or a time of day when you’re most productive etc.?

My day usually begins with walking the dogs, because if I don’t, I don’t get any peace! I have a very small room upstairs I work in which is more like a large cupboard, there are no window so no distraction of watching birds fly past, or the clouds, or the flowers growing! I tend to work through to lunch, go downstairs to eat, then back up until about 4. However, I find if I do this every day I start to go a little stir-crazy, so will sometimes start my day with a swim, run or a bike ride –the physical activity helps clear my head.

I find it very difficult to work in the evenings, and I also try to structure writing around school holidays so I can have some time with my son, and also because working with him in the house is near impossible!

What’s the best thing about being an author?

Creating stories. Feeling you can legitimately spend the day in your own head.

Is there a book you’ve read recently that you’d like to recommend?

For a YA read – Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet, which I adore.

I’m currently reading James Smythe’s The Machine, I’m only on page 16 but it’s looking good! Before that I read my friend, Rebecca Mascull’s The Visitors, which is fantastic, and I’m not saying that just because she’s my friend!

Do you prefer ebooks or physical books?

I see the benefit of ebooks, but I’m a physical book person all the way.

You can only read one author’s books for the rest of your life – who would you choose?

Oh that is both a fantastic question, and impossible to answer! Ermmmm…I’ll go Margaret Attwood because there’s loads of hers I still haven’t read, and she’s still writing so there’d be even more to come. And, of course, because she’s fantastic writer!

Thank you for the questions, and I hope you enjoy my books!

Thanks for joining us, Kerry!

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