Q&A with Polly Young
Mainly, my stories are about young women who have the nagging doubt that they might not be taking the ‘right’ path in life … the trouble is, they have no idea what that ‘right’ path is. They’re about the issues faced by girls – whether they be 14 or 34 – that are familiar to us all and I hope that the stories I write resonate, in part, with everyone who reads them.
2. Did you draw inspiration from your personal life?
I’ve never known quite what to do ‘for the best’ in life, but I’ve had a lot of fun trying to find out. At school, I worshipped my English teacher and was fortunate enough to work with wonderful colleagues when I taught secondary English in schools myself. Miss MInt in To Be Honest is an embodiment of those brilliant people.
3. When did you know writing was for you?
I started writing ‘real’ books at the age of 24 but I’ve been writing moody diary entries since I was 11, as well as ‘witty’ short stories and embarrassing songs (and annoying a lot of people with them) since I was about 8. Books seem to come more easily to me nowadays than other forms of writing. I love telling a story that involves delving into character, plot and getting to that stage where the writing just carries you along, so that you end up doing it everywhere, obsessively. I almost got run over a couple of times last Christmas, scribbling notes on To Be Honest, crossing roads in the dark on the way to work.
4. How would you describe your books?
My books are like Hawaiian sunsets (excuse the simile: I’ve just come back from honeymoon). They appeal to most people; they’re warm and seductive as well as shiny, seductive and escapist … and they’re short. To Be Honest is less than 50,000 words but I like a story to rattle along – it makes people feel compelled to finish it in one sitting, because I know that’s what I look for in a book.
The hardest part of the writing process for me is the fine-tuning. I can edit and edit … it’s the English school teacher in me … and I can think it’s finished but then come back to the manuscript a week or two later and see more to add or change. I can be very ruthless and chop whole sections at the last minute. It can be frustrating to destroy work, but I am a perfectionist, so I guess I have to deal with it!
6. What are your favorite genres to read?
My favourite genres are ‘edgy’ teen fiction, such as Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now (I’m not a big vampire fan though), young or new adult and contemporary literature. I also love romantic fiction and family sagas, too.
7. What do you want readers to take away from your stories?
I would love readers to take away the sense that good things come to those who are brave enough to try them. I truly believe that life is too short not to make mistakes – because mistakes are how you learn the good stuff. Readers should feel engaged and entertained but also optimistic by the end of one of my books.
8. What is the one thing that you want readers to know about you as an author?
I would like readers to know that I work quite hard at being myself because I think it is the most important thing, to be honest. I think there are a lot of people who, for whatever reason, feel the need to put on an act or find themselves being ‘sucked in’ to becoming someone they’re not – be that through school or work, pressures from family and/or relationships. If there was one thing I could change about the world, it would be to stop the concept of having to conform and I try to get that message across in my books.
Social media plays a role in everyone’s lives these days. So, as an author, I have really had to up my game. However, I don’t believe authors should necessarily use social media to shout from the rooftops about their books. Rather, they should use it for interaction with readers and other authors as much as possible. Using social media channels as powerful learning and messaging tools is what savvy authors have been doing for years.
10. What would be your advice to aspiring writers?
Do it. It’s such a cliche, but write. Whatever comes out will surprise you – and whatever comes out is yours – to be shaped, pummelled, constructed, polished and wrung out to dry however you like … and, regardless of publication, actually finishing a book is one of the best feelings in the world.