I’m so excited to tell you all that I have had the pleasure of interviewing the previous reigning Queen of teen fiction, Cathy Hopkins. She’s been writing since 1986, and has published over 70 books.
Cathy has always been one of my favourite YA writers, loving how unapologetically British and relatable, feisty and lovable her characters are. To this day, I still adore the Cinnamon Girl and the Mates, Dates series more than others.
I found myself always purchasing her books right after borrowing them from the library, just to have a permanent copy. Having the opportunity to speak to her, and find out more about her writing process and her most recent book (an Adult novel), A Vintage Friendship, was beyond amazing and I’m super stoked to share it with you.
So let’s get into it ⭒
1. When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
Back in 1986. I had an epiphany moment whilst making rough notes for an idea for a book, a feeling of yes, this is what I want to do.
2. How long does it take you to write a book?
Depends on the book. The most recent one, A Vintage Friendship, took two years, some take a year. The teenage books used to take about 6 months but of course they were much shorter in length.
3. What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I start about 9.30 and aim to write freely in the morning then edit and revise in the afternoon. If I have a deadline, I’d try to do at least 1000 words a day though those might be rewritten several times.
4. What would you say is your interesting or unusual writing quirk?
Writing in different rooms according to my mood. Although I have an office, I tend to roam when working on a first draft.
5. Where do you get your ideas for your books?
Everywhere – it can be what’s in the news, or an overheard conversation but mainly I try to pick a theme that I think people will relate to and explore that.
6. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Walk in the country with friends. Read. Do art classes. Watch good boxsetsor movies.
7. If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?
Udaipur in India – it’s a gloriously colourful place steeped in history.
8. Imagine this: You feel uninspired and you’ve sat at the computer for an hour without conquering any words. How do you get your creativity flowing?
I write something without judgment or criticism, then leave it a while, then go back to it. There are many days when I’m not in the mood or don’t feel like writing but the trick is just to get started then the creativity gets going.
9. What made you move on from teen fiction to adult books?
I felt I’d exhausted all the themes I wanted to write about for teenagers and I had a few ideas for an older market.
10. Do you ever see yourself going back into the world of Nesta and co. from the popular Mates, Dates series, and writing about them as adults and where they are now?
I don’t think so because I am taking a break from writing now.
11. Would you ever revisit teen fiction?
No. I think I had my time and things have moved on from when I wrote for that market.Having said that, you can never say never.
12. What is your favourite cover out of all your books? Why is it your favourite?
I liked the cover for The Kicking the Bucket List because of its quirkiness. And I loved all the covers for The Cinnamon Girl series.
13. Do you plan and plot your books before writing them or make it up as you go along?
I plan and plot meticulously beforehand so I have a clear idea of what direction I am going in. That said, when I write a first draft, sometimes ideas come that lead me a different way. That’s one of the pleasure of writing – that things just come from nowhere.
14. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Be prepared for rejections in the first instance. Sometimes it’s not that your book isn’t good enough, just that the publisher may already have someone similar to you on their list.
15. Who is the most supportive person in your life when it comes to your writing?
My husband Steve. He’s been great for talking through ideas and acting as a sounding board. And my agent Christopher Little who has been encouraging since the beginning.
16. Which book is your favourite out of all the ones you’ve written?
Holy Moley, I’m a Dead Dude, now only available on kindle.It’s a bit different from my other books.
17. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Generally people get in touch when they have enjoyed a book and write to say so which is lovely.
18. What do you think makes a good story?
A character that readers either like or identify with who is put through a series of challenges. If a reader cares about the main character, they will read on to find out what happens to them in adversity.
19. Who is your favourite author and which book of theirs do you like the most? Why?
It’s hard to answer this one because I have so many favourite writers at different times. One of my all time favourites is I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. The main character Cassandra was a joy to hang out with during the reading of the book.
20. Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
21. Which of all your characters is your favourite?
I always liked writing from Nesta’s point of view in the Mates Dates books because she was so feisty. I could hear her voice in my head so clearly.
22. What are you working on at the moment? Nothing. After 72 books, I am going to take a break and think about what I want to do next.
23. What would you say is the hardest thing about writing?
Dealing with self criticism.
24. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t worry so much.
25. At the moment, what are you reading?
10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak.
26. Your most recent book, A Vintage Friendship, is about a friendship and relationships that have changed and evolved over the years. I think it speaks to many real life friendships that have shifted as time goes on, when our lives get in the way of keeping in touch with old mates and making mistakes. What inspired you to write this book?
Getting older and realizing how precious good friends areand how it is important to stay in touch.
27. Which of the women in A Vintage Friendship would you say is most like you?
28. Which scene or chapter is your favourite? Which one was the most difficult to write?
I enjoyed writing the first scene when the characters are 18 and have just left school, their whole life in front of them. The most difficult was probably the scene with Ally when she finds herself alone.
29. What are some must-read titles you’d recommend in the adult genre?
Depends on what genre you like. Personally I’ve liked all of Maggie O’Farrell’s books.
30. What would you like your readers to take away from this book?
A reminder to stay in touch with old friends and not let contact drift. Life and experiences with good friends is better than anything.
Cathy started writing in 1987 and has had over 65 books published so far. She made her name writing for the teenage market where her books were translated into 35 languages. More recently, she has begun to write women’s fiction and her first novel, The Kicking the Bucket List was published by Harper Fiction in March 2017. Her second title, Dancing Over the Hill was published by Harper Fiction on the 25th January 2018 and Blast from the Past will follow on 21st February 2019.
In her spare time, Cathy loves nothing more than gardening or a long walk and pub lunch in the countryside with friends. When it’s raining, she’s happy at home reading or watching box sets like True Detective, Orange is the New Black or House of Cards.
Cathy lives in Bath with her husband and three cats.