Expert chat with Holly Bourne: Being an author

Holly Bourne, author of Am I Normal YetThe Mix's resident author Holly Bourne answers your questions about being an author and her latest book, The Manifesto on How to be Interesting. Read on to learn where she draws her inspiration, how she goes about writing a novel and her tips for aspiring authors.

Beth: How did you get the ideas for your books?

HollyBourne: Hi Beth. Great question. We all get ideas for things all the time, it's just writers have taught themselves to notice them. If anything quirky happens in my day, I just make a note of it. And then I think about it a lot, and sometimes they become ideas for books. So for my new book, The Manifesto On How To Be Interesting, I had a tiff with my boyfriend because I found out he was popular in school (I KNOW!). It bothered me, and I was thinking about why, and it gave me the idea 'why does school always plague our brains?' and the book came from there.

Beth: Oh cool, sounds like an interesting way of getting ideas!

Chris: Does a lot of the inspiration for certain issues in the book come from The Mix?

HollyBourne: Ha, yes I get a LOT of inspiration from The Mix. It's a very inspiring place to work. That said, I don't tend to get plot ideas. I wouldn't ever want anyone to think I'd put them in a book.

Chris: cool! No of course, haha

HollyBourne: But we cover a lot of very interesting issues on the editorial team, and it inspires me to try and tackle them in my books in a way that I think readers will find helpful. E.g. The Manifesto On How to Be Interesting deals with self-harm, but because I work at The Mix I was very aware of triggering and covered it as responsibly as I could, as well as using the book to signpost readers towards help.

Rachel: Do you tend to base the characters on people you have met or know? I've done some script writing and that's how I did it. I just wondered how you do it?

HollyBourne: Hey Rachel, I do exactly the same thing! Lots of my characters are based on real people. In The Manifesto actually, all the instances of bullying, like the names they call each other, are real and happened to people I know (or just me!) The real world is SUCH a good place to look to for inspiration. So, if you're doing it in your scripts, keep doing it! Just change the names for legal reasons, that's what I do.

Sara: How do you write a full book? Sounds like a silly question but I write things all the time and always get stuck halfway through and realise its not going anywhere..

HollyBourne: Not a silly question at all, it's a really common problem. I get so sick of my books when I'm writing them. I guess it's a bit like hitting a wall while running a marathon, you just have to plough through. My advice is to know that getting stuck is really common, but if you've invested that much in it already, it's worth trying to keep going. Don't be daunted by the size of a novel. Just break it into chunks: "How many words am I going to write today?", "What scene do I want to finish by the end of this week?" Even JK Rowling admitted the other week that she always hates the book she's currently writing and wants to be writing her next one.

Rachel: how long does it take you to write your book roughly? you say you had to plough through so im assuming you do a bit then put it aside? or do you prefer to just write and keep writing?

HollyBourne: I try to write every weekday, as a habit, like brushing your teeth every day or something. Some days the words just don't want to come and I just have to try my best. Other days I want to write for hours and hours. All in all, it takes me about six months to finish a first draft. But that's because I have a contract now. When I wrote my first book, Soulmates, it took me over two years!

Rachel: Yeh, I was going to ask about the first one. Thank you that's helped.

Sara: How do you find the words to start the book off?

HollyBourne: Ah, that's hard. I find it usually just 'comes to me' which is a hugely unhelpful answer! However, a lot of writers advise that you start writing the bit of the book you're most interested in first. You don't necessary have to write a story chronologically. A lot of writers don't. So start at the middle, or the end, if that inspires you more. A uni lecturer always told me that if you can't think of an opening line, a great one that always works is "This is a story about..."

Sara: ah that's quite good, thanks

Beth: How do you get into writing, how did you do it? Say somebody loves writing but wasn't sure other people would understand or get it, would you suggest the person just does it anyway?

HollyBourne: I would say ALWAYS write what you love because you love doing it, and worry about what other people think about it later (or never). Get into it by just...starting! Start putting those words down, see how they go. The internet is an amazing way of finding other people who 'get it'. Or you can find local writing groups. Other writers will always understand. If you love it, just keep doing it! I got into writing through journalism, I guess. But in terms of fiction, I wrote a LOT as a teenager. Lots of bad poetry, diary entries, stories that didn't go anywhere. It all counts, it all shapes you as a writer. Even the bad poetry! My advice to any want-to-be author is to just start writing. Start today. Do some more tomorrow. Just keep writing and writing and it's surprising how it stacks up into a book or a poetry anthology or something

Beth: that's helpful thank you Holly. I always wonder where people start.

HollyBourne: Thank you everyone! You've been awesome, and I hope I've got you all inspired to get writing!

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015