Hi Sophie, thanks for speaking to us! Where did the idea for Finding Audrey originate?
When I came up with the idea for Finding Audrey I had three characters: Audrey, a teenage girl with social anxiety; Frank, a boy obsessed with computer games; and their mother, just trying to keep everyone together. Once I had conceived those characters Audrey’s voice just came to me and the story unfolded.
Did you know how things would play out when you started writing?
Normally my writing process has a lot of planning – I don’t tend to write anything until I’ve got a full plan of the whole plot – which I put up on my wall on file cards. But Finding Audrey happened in a bit of a whirlwind. I wrote it in a month! So a lot of it came to me as I wrote, but I always knew it would be a story of recovery and would end in a positive place.
What do you love about Audrey as a character? Why did you decide to write from Audrey’s point of view and have her speak to us directly?
Audrey’s very wry and I love her observations on family life. That’s certainly one of the reasons why it was great to have her speak to the reader directly. I also wanted readers to realise that what you see on the outside of a person can be very different from the inside. If you saw Audrey from the outside you’d see a shy recluse, hiding from the world in dark glasses. But inside, she’s as feisty, brave, funny and forward-looking as anyone could be.
Audrey doesn’t reveal the incident that resulted in her staying at home and seems reluctant to give too much away about her condition. Why is this?
Originally I did actually think about including more details about what happened to Audrey. However, ultimately, I decided that less is more. I wanted as many people as possible to be able to relate to her situation. Sometimes if you say “this event caused this reaction and was responsible for Audrey’s condition” you have people who end up not being able to relate. Plus, one of Audrey’s biggest lessons is about privacy and sharing. We don’t have to share everything with everybody!
Was it a challenge to make a potentially dark topic very lighthearted and quirky?
With Audrey and everything she’s going through I knew that the book needed to have a different sort of humour – like you say, light-hearted, witty and quirky rather than silly. That’s how Audrey’s family came to be as they are, particularly in the first scene! I knew that Audrey would be a wry character who keeps her humour despite all her difficulties, but I also wanted to portray her plight in a realistic tone. She’s in a pretty bad place, but her family keeps her going.
Who was your favourite character to write apart from Audrey and why?
Well I did love Audrey – she has such a sharp, wry tone and mixes great bravery with vulnerability. But it was great fun writing Felix, Audrey’s little brother, too.
We loved the family dynamic in Finding Audrey. Do you enjoy writing about families, particularly ones that are a little dysfunctional and weird?
I think it was important to me to show each member of the family and the struggles and issues that they face. This is a family battling through as best they can, dealing with so much, from computer games to bullying. One of the things I think the story shows is that curveballs will always come in life, and all we can do is try our best, keep our chins up and stay looking forward. They are a chaotic family but they do come together in the end.
Linus and Audrey develop a very sweet and empowering friendship. What did you try to capture in their relationship?
Linus is one of the most grown-up, empathetic characters in the book. What I tried to show is that if you really want to know someone, be with someone and even help someone, there are ways to make it happen, even when it’s a struggle. Audrey can barely look at Linus to begin with, but he perseveres, is interested, writes sweet notes, thinks about her condition and challenges her. He’s interested in her as a person, not just The Girl That X Happened To.
Technology and video games are key to this story, with Audrey’s mum afraid that they’re isolating and bad for you. Why did you choose to explore this alongside Audrey’s story?
I often explore obsessional traits with my characters and I like to include flaws and real life issues as a part of my writing. Frank is obsessed with video games, Anne is obsessed with the Daily Mail and neither of them seem to understand one another! The screen addiction issue is something I’ve come across a lot myself, and I always like to write things I see around me.
At what point did you decide this story was more suited to a younger audience, and why?
I think this happened as I started to write Audrey’s voice. I realised that I had created a young teenager and that this story needed to be told in her voice – and so it became YA.
What is your favourite quote/scene in the book?
I love everything that Felix says, full stop. And I have a lot of favourite quotes from Audrey, but this is one of my top picks:
I think what I’ve realized is, life is all about climbing up, slipping down, and picking yourself up again. And it doesn’t matter if you slip down. As long as you’re kind of heading more or less upwards. That’s all you can hope for. More or less upwards.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers laugh and are touched and most of all are inspired by Audrey’s journey. She is so brave and good-humoured and her story is ultimately a positive one. I think each character in the Turner family learns something about another, and that’s important too. It’s easy to get sucked into a bubble – especially if you walk along with earphones in all day, eyes glued to your phone.
Which authors inspire you to write?
One author who has greatly inspired my writing is Jane Austen. We get such an intimate connection with Emma, Lizzy, and all her heroines. We know their every thought, good or bad. That confessional, direct voice is something I try to give my heroines too. As a child I also read a lot of E. Nesbit, who creates such clever, funny voices for her characters. I only realise now what an influence she’s been on me.
What’s next for you? Do you have another book underway? Will you write more YA?
I’ve loved the experience of writing YA and I do have some ideas floating around, so who knows? Meanwhile, I have a new stand-alone novel coming out in February 2017. It’s called My Not So Perfect Life, and it’s about a girl called Katie who is trying to live the dream in London. She fixates on other people’s ‘perfect lives’ and even creates her own fictitious version on Instagram… when things take a dramatic turn, and she has to learn: is anyone’s life really perfect?