Sunday 13 March 2011

How Do You Lie About Everything? An Interview with Keren David by Anne Cassidy

Anne Cassidy loved Keren David's WHEN I WAS JOE. She decided to interrogate Keren about it. She may bring charges at a later date.

Joe’s story is written in the first person. As a writer, was it hard to get into the mind of a teenage boy?

It was hard at the beginning, but became easier as I came to know Ty/Joe. I had several guiding principles – for example he rarely says what he is thinking, and he often acts impetuously, and I also thought a lot about what it might be like being a boy going through puberty. In the end his voice became very easy – easier than writing as a girl which I’ve just done.

What made you write about knife crime?

I didn’t set out to write about knife crime - the crime that Ty witnessed was going to be very much in the background, with the emphasis much more on the experience of taking on a false identity. But as I was writing there was a horrific spate of knife killings in London, and everything I was reading in the papers seemed to tell me more about Ty and his world. So the book became about knife crime as well - and considerably longer as a result.

The girls in your book, Claire, Ashley and Ellie all seem damaged in some way. Was this an important aspect of yo
ur story?

I didn’t really think of it like that, the characters grew with the story. Ellie, in fact, came from a plot-planning exercise at the evening class in Writing for Children that I was taking. We had to get into pairs and weave out characters into a story. My partner had a disabled athlete as her character and I had my witness boy – at the end of the session I asked her if I could nick her character and write the book - she agreed, I’m sure she didn’t think it would ever happen!

I do think that the three girls all represented things about Ty’s mum, Nicki, and his relationships with them were as much about his relationship with her as about the girls themselves.

There are twists and turns in the plot which leave the reader breathless. Did you plan it all out before you started writing?

Thank you! Not really - I had an idea of a start and end point, and I knew the backstory of the murder, but apart from that the twists and turns came as I wrote each chapter. My favourite twist just came to me as I was driving the car home from dropping my son at school - I nearly crashed the car, I was so excited!

Tell us about the sequel

Almost True, which was published in September 2010 carries on Ty’s story. He’s in even more danger, and he discovers a lot of secrets about his past and his family and the crime which he witnessed. I’ve just agreed with my publishers that there will be a third book about Ty, which I’m writing now and should be published in 2012.

Thank you, Keren. You may now leave the interrogation suite!

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