Along with a raft of exciting debut novels, plenty of books by established authors are heading our way in early 2021.
C. L. Taylor is a Sunday Times No.2 bestseller, while her novel Sleep was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick.
Now she returns to young adult fiction with The Island, which has been described as Lost meets The Hunger Games.
Could you tell us a bit about your upcoming YA thriller The Island
The Island is about six teenaged friends who visit a remote, deserted Thai island for a survival experience. On the first night they sit around a camp fire, laughing and chatting and discussing the things they are most afraid of. The next day their guide dies, leaving them alone and one by one the teens’ phobias start coming true. Who is behind it – the island, a stranger or is someone in their group not the friend they pretend to be? It’s a page-turning, pulse-pounding read but, as well as being a gripping thriller, it’s also a book about feeling like an outsider, about grief and loss and mental health issues.
How does your approach differ between writing your YA and your adult books?
With both types of books I try to make them pacy page-turners, full of mystery and tension. Ideally the reader won’t be able to put them down once they start reading!
The way I plot and structure adult and young adult books are pretty much the same but I approach the characters and themes differently. I always spend time thinking about a character’s past before I start writing. I want to know why they are the way they are. Where did their flaws and fears come from? What motivates them and why?
With an adult I’ve got twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years of life experience to think about. With a teen maybe fifteen, sixteen or seventeen years. That’s not to say the teen characters aren’t as well rounded as my adult characters but the experiences that shaped them will be very different and issues that may seem weighty and important to them may be less important to an adult. In both cases I look at the character’s childhood and work out how that shaped them into the person they are now.
The themes I explore are different too, depending on who I’m writing for. The theme of The Missing, one of my adult books, explores the weight of responsibility a woman feels when it comes to her family’s happiness. That’s not something a teen can necessarily relate to but they can relate to the themes of grief and guilt in The Island. Actually, an adult can probably relate to those themes too but they are centred around the teens’ world view rather than adults’.
What is the first piece of fiction you ever remember writing?
The first ‘book’ I remember writing was called ‘Weedy’ and it was about a group of flower friends and their nemesis, an evil weed. Weedy is very mean to the flowers so the flowers plot their revenge to teach him a lesson. Weedy learns to mend his evil ways and asks for forgiveness. I wrote and illustrated the book, bound the pages with wool and sent it to Ladybird publishers. I received my first ever rejection letter aged eight!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your writing career to date?
Perseverance is everything. There are so many opportunities for disappointment over the course of an author’s career – a book failing to find an agent or a publisher, a book that doesn’t sell as well as expected, a book that doesn’t get rave reviews – but, to succeed, you can’t give up. You learn to lick your wounds, pick yourself up, and carry on. My agent once told me that an author’s career doesn’t have a steady upward sales projection, it goes up and down like a rollercoaster. Just because one of your books sells well doesn’t mean the next one will too. Conversely, just because one book didn’t land you an agent or an editor doesn’t mean the next one won’t. You need a thin skin to write a book but a thick skin to deal with everything a career as an author throws at you.
Which song would be the perfect soundtrack to The Island’s opening scene?
That’s an excellent question. The first scene in The Island is of the teenagers sitting around a Thai hotel’s outdoor pool. It’s dark, the crickets are chirping and soft music is playing from the bar, but danger is just around the corner. So I’d probably go with something that gradually builds to menace like ‘We’re In This Together’ by Nine Inch Nails.