Welcome to another author interview for #LGBTQMonth! What progress are you making with your TBRs? What books are you loving – or not loving? Let me know in the comments!
For today’s interview, we have the wonderful LUCY POWRIE, author of The Paper and Hearts Society as well as the newly released sequel, Read with Pride, which was released just last week and available everywhere! You can buy it from Book Depository here!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lucy Powrie is an award-winning author, blogger and BookTuber from the UK, and started the first book in The Paper & Hearts Society series while she was still at school. To date, her YouTube channel has attracted over 35,000 subscribers and over one million views. When she’s not reading, Lucy enjoys cuddling her herd of guinea pigs and her three dogs, but let’s be real: she’s almost always reading.
ABOUT READ WITH PRIDE
Olivia Santos is excited for her last year at secondary school. But when a parent complains about LGBTQ+ content in one of the books, the library implements a new policy for withdrawing books. Olivia is distraught – she’s demisexual and knows how important it is for all readers to see themselves represented.
Luckily, she’s the mastermind behind The Paper & Hearts Society book club, and she knows exactly what to do: start a new club, find ways of evading the system, and change the policy for good!
With two book clubs to run, exams to prepare for, and a girlfriend, just how long will it be before Olivia burns out? After all, creating a book club and trying to get the #ReadWithPride hashtag to get noticed is going to take a lot of energy.
Sometimes, when you’re in too deep, it’s up to your friends to look out for you …
Hi Lucy! So, Read with Pride is the follow up to the amazing The Paper & Hearts Society! How did you find writing your sophomore novel? Did you have to deal with all those ‘second-book blues’?
I didn’t expect it to be easy, but writing Read with Pride was HARD. I thought that maybe Second Book Syndrome would be a myth, but it really is a thing: writing this book took more strength and energy than I ever could have anticipated, and it took a long time for me to get to a point where I was happy with it, but now I feel like the hard work has paid off and I couldn’t be prouder.
Pretty much every author I know has found the same!
I’m so glad to hear! Your characters are so full of personality! Do you have a favourite you always love to write (my answer is definitely Ed!)?
Ed is my favourite too! I feel it might come across in the writing because most people’s favourite member of The Paper & Hearts Society is Ed. I love them all, though, and always think of them as different elements of my own personality: I was anxious as Tabby was; Olivia is who I would want to be if I was extroverted; Cassie shares my love of a good sarcastic line; and Henry is the quiet side of me. And then Ed … Well, Ed is just Ed. He’s the easiest to write by far.
I love that sentiment behind your characters! LGBTQ representation is so incredibly important in YA. What are some of your favourite LGBTQ books that you’d recommend people read?
Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper comic is out of this world amazing and I never miss an instalment; My Heart Goes Bang by Keris Stainton was one of the first books where I felt properly seen; and I’d also recommend anything by Lauren James, especially The Last Beginning.
Honestly Heartstopper deserves all the recognition! It’s so good! Now—you started off as a blogger before publishing your debut novel. How did you find the transition from one to another? Did you struggle to keep up with both equally or did you take it in your stride?
Luckily, blogging and being an author both involve one thing: writing. The years I spent blogging allowed me to work on my writing and to take it seriously. By the time I began novel writing, I’d been blogging for four years and the landscape had changed a lot, so it seemed about time to add something new to my plate.
Now that I’m an author, though, I do feel that my role as a blogger has changed and that it has had to: I want to give people room in the community to feel able to discuss my books critically, and would never want them to feel as if they have to like them just because I’m also a blogger, so I’ve taken a step back.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give to any aspiring writers/artists reading this?
Keep writing! When I began, I had no clue what I was doing or how to even finish a book, but I’ve found that the best way to improve my writing is to write, write, and write some more. It hasn’t been until beginning to write my third book that I’ve realised just how much my writing has come out: now, I make decisions intentionally, rather than winging it and hoping that what I’m doing will work! Perseverance is one of the most important traits in this industry.
Great advice! There are some things that, as hard as author try, always seem to find a way into all their work. Do you have anything that comes to mind that always finds a way into your books, intentionally or not?
I have too many doughnut references in Book 1, and in Book 2 there are a few too many ice cream references. I must be constantly hungry when I’m writing! I also have lots of hidden Brontë references (because I am a huge fan of the Brontë sisters).
Yes to doughnuts and yes to the Brontës! Do you like to write with music or is it more of a distraction?
Yes! I have a dedicated Paper & Hearts Society playlist that I’ve had since the first day I began writing it. I’ve added to it a lot over time, but I found that when I was writing my road trip scenes for the first book, it helped to listen to the same music I’d listened to when I was visiting the actual locations.
What comes to you first when writing – character, plot or setting? Does it change with every project?
I didn’t know where to start when I began what would become The Paper & Hearts Society, so I made a list of all the things I loved most in YA, or wanted to see more of: books with lots of bookish references; a road trip around the UK; friendship; mental health. And then I “smushed” it all together. It wasn’t so much “plot” as broad ideas that I could shape into an eventual plot.
Getting the characters right and learning about who they are takes a lot more work, often over many drafts. I don’t tend to know my characters super well, despite any planning I might do, and it’s not until I’m working with them on the page that I can get to know them. My editor has been a great help in this because she often sees what I’m trying to do with them before I even know!
Talk a little about your journey from the origin of The Paper & Hearts Society to its publication? Was it challenging or did you love every minute of the process?
So I started writing the book when I was in the middle of my GCSEs, which I wouldn’t exactly recommend! I was super stressed and was also going through a very rough patch where I was being bullied and had lost all of my friends. What I needed was some fictional friends to keep me company … and then The Paper & Hearts Society was born!
I wrote about 30,000 words of that first draft, then left it for a few months before completely redrafting it into a different 30,000 words … and then I left that draft for another few months … and then redrafted it all over again!
With the help of a lovely author friend, I edited the finished draft in the autumn of 2017, which I then submitted to agents, and eventually signed with the amazing Lauren Gardner from Bell Lomax Moreton. After even more drafting, we submitted to publishers and I was lucky enough to be offered a 3 book deal with Hodder Children’s Books, which was a dream come true.
And then came even more editing, with even more drafts! That was tricky and I definitely felt the pressure of knowing that what I was working on was going to be read more widely than my writing ever had done before. Overall, it has been such a whirlwind, incredible experience, but it’s still a job and that means there are good days and also bad days. I wouldn’t want to completely glamorise it!
That sound fantastic and clearly your success is so well deserved. Now finally, I know Read with Pride was only published last month but I know I’m not the only one excited for what’s next. What does the future hold for Lucy Powrie’s books?
Well, there will definitely be another book in the Paper & Hearts Society series, which I’m busy writing at the moment! While I can’t say too much yet, so far I’m describing it as “a clumsy bookshop romance” and I’m pretty sure it’s my favourite book in the series. And after that … who knows! I have lots of ideas for all kinds of books, so hopefully I’ll get the chance to one day share them with readers.
Thank you so much for being part of #LGBTQMonth, Lucy! We were delighted to have you!
Read with Pride published last month and I urge you all to go order it—from your local indie bookstore if they have it, or anywhere else!