Today I'm honoured to have Dave Cousins on the blog answering some of my questions. Dave is the author of acclaimed book "15 Days Without A Head" and the newly released "Waiting For Gonzo". Over to Dave:
Q: Can you give us a little summary of ‘Waiting for Gonzo’ and what inspired you to write this story?
Waiting for Gonzo takes you for a white-knuckle ride on the Wheel of Destiny as it careers out of control down the Hillside of Inevitability …
The thing is, I can’t tell you too much about the original inspiration because it will spoil one of the surprises in the story. Another element in Waiting for Gonzo came from my own experience of moving home and school at the age of eleven. I can still remember what it felt like to be the new kid with the funny accent on the first day at school. That was the situation I dropped my narrator Oz into – then Oz took over and changed everything! He’s not your traditional sympathetic character, as you said yourself Laura – he’s a bit of an arse at times! But I like flawed characters. I wanted to write about someone who constantly gets it wrong – but who deep down is a good person. He’s not malicious or stupid – just misguided and thoughtless.
On one level this is a story about learning the hard way by making mistakes. You know that horrible cold feeling when you’ve done something bad and you can’t take it back? How people deal with that – what they do next – that stuff fascinates me. Should Oz try to jump off the Wheel of Destiny, or hang on tight and go down laughing?
Q: After the huge success of ‘15 Days Without A Head’ were you nervous about starting a new project or excited to start something different?
A bit of both really. It’s always exciting, and slightly scary, starting something fresh – but I definitely struggled with the fact that each time I saw a good review for 15 Days I’d start to worry that people wouldn’t like the new book! I didn’t want to disappoint readers, but I also knew I couldn’t keep writing the same story – I wanted to do something different.
Q: Your book titles really grab the eye and attention and I want to know if you come up with titles early on or do they evolve natural as the story grows? How do you know when you have THE title?
Both 15 Days and Gonzo suffered a series of terrible titles until I found the right one. I was doing an early revision of 15 Days when cockroaches appeared on the page as I was writing (not literally!). I love it when ideas grow organically from the writing. When I discovered that cockroaches can survive for days without a head, it set off a whole series of ideas – the structure, the theme and of course, a title. It evolved from the story, but also added things to it – when a title does that, I know it’s working.
Waiting for Gonzo was similar. There’s the obvious reference to Waiting for Godot, but again it worked on a number of levels and helped focus my ideas for the story, as well providing a title I hoped would be intriguing.
I try not to force a title, and have to trust that one will emerge during the writing process. So far, I’ve been lucky!
Q: One of my favourite characters in ‘Waiting for Gonzo’ was Ryan. He was a truly adorable geek after my own heart; who or what inspired him?
It’s amazing how many people have said that, and I’m delighted that readers have taken Ryan to their hearts. He’s one of those characters that started off with quite a small role, but as the story developed he grew more important. He isn’t based on anyone in particular, but there are bits of me and some of my school friends in Ryan (though nobody I know ever actually dressed up as a hobbit!). I hated the hassle you’d get at school for not having exactly the right shoes, or liking the wrong music. I admire people who don’t conform, who are prepared to take stick for being themselves and being honest about the things they like. I think Ryan is exceptionally strong and brave – a bit of a hero really!
Q: What is your work space like? Do you need specific work conditions in order to get a decent amount of work done?
Years ago I moved the boxes of Christmas decorations to one side and clamped a bit of wood to an old bookcase to make a desk in the attic. I needed a space I could write in that wouldn’t disturb anyone when I got up to do my 5am writing stint before work. Now I’m able to write full time, I’ve taken over more and more of the roof space and have two desks, a record player (yep, old skool vinyl) – even a little heater – luxury!
I don’t NEED certain conditions to get work done. I spent years grabbing any time I could for writing and can work almost anywhere. I read and marked up pages of 15 Days while walking to work in the snow more than once! But I do feel comfortable in the attic and know I can get a good shift done up there.
Q: What's next up for you? Are you working on the next novel already? Can you tell us anything about it?
Ah, well … I’ve already done a very rough first draft of a teen novel that will hopefully be coming out in 2015. Right now, I’m working on something due to be published next year (2014), but I’m afraid I’m not allowed to say too much about it yet. Other than it will be something a little different. I’m really enjoying it though – possibly the most fun I’ve had working on a book, which is saying something!
Q: And finally: what other YA fiction are you currently enjoying and what would you recommend?
Wow! That’s a tough one. There’s so much great stuff being written at the moment I find it hard to keep up and have shelves full of books I’m waiting to read. But a few novels I’ve read recently and would thoroughly recommend are:
I was lucky enough to read a proof copy of Half Lives by Sara Grant. I’m not normally into dystopia but this blew me away. Again, the characters were so well drawn it enabled me to immerse myself and believe in to the world she had created. I really enjoyed some of the word play and clever references to our popular culture and how it was re-interpreted by the people living in this future world. Without getting too earnest, I think this could be a very significant book – something that should be read in schools. It asks a lot of very important questions about the way we live and the impact our current choices could have on our future. It’s also a cracking good story!
Finally, Grounded by Sheena Wilkinson. This is a sequel to the award-winning Taking Flight which I haven’t read, but want to now. If you like authentic, real-life young adult fiction you HAVE to read this. It’s not sensational or gratuitous, but this book pulls no punches and I was shocked by some of the things that happen. Having said that, the book isn’t a grim read. It’s beautifully written, with a really faithful Northern Irish voice and ultimately full of hope. There is much talk about teenagers, especially boys stopping reading in their early teens, but I wonder if there were more books like this being published – stories that tell the truth about teenagers in a world they recognize – whether more boys would find a reason to return to reading. In the meantime, this is a treat for those of us who do.
Waiting for Gonzo is out now in paperback, published by Oxford University Press.
A soundtrack of ten original songs featured in, and inspired by, the book will be released on 18 March 2013, available from www.waitingforgonzo.bandcamp.com as well as iTunes, Spotify etc.
For more info visit www.davecousins.net
Thank you SO much to Dave for answering my questions and Oxford University Press for inviting me to take part in the blog tour!