Q & A with Kate Mallinder (Asking For a Friend Blog Tour)

Today I have a big treat for you, to celebrate the incredible Asking For A Friend I have a Q & A with the lovely author, Kate Mallinder, for the blog tour.

Asking For A Friend is a heart-warming, insightful read that you won’t want to put down and you will find my review here.

A huge thank you to Kate and Firefly Press for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

Would you want to read this book?

Q & A with Kate Mallinder

Hi Kate! Thank you taking the time to answer a few questions. Firstly, can you tell us a bit about Asking For A Friend?

Thanks for having me, Amy! Asking for a Friend is feel-good teen fiction, so if you enjoyed Summer of No Regrets, you’ll love it. It’s about three teenagers – Agnes, Hattie and Jake. They know each other a bit from the school bus and they plan a week at the beach, each for different reasons. Agnes must find her sister, Hattie’s escaping her friends who ghosted her and Jake is afraid he may be ill. It starts off as an excuse to get away and turns into the week of their lives.

How did the idea for Asking For A Friend come about? Any interesting stories to tell?

I actually wrote the first chapter after a writing prompt given in an MA writing workshop. I’m studying Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University and this chapter was something I wrote fairly early on, though in that version there was a fiery falling angel! I lost the angel but kept Agnes and Hattie, then a few months later I added Jake.

Your debut novel, Summer of No Regrets and Asking For A Friend are both heavily injected into the YA Contemporary genre. What drew you to writing in this genre?

YA wasn’t what I was writing when I first started. The idea of writing for teenagers terrified me – everyone who wrote it seemed so cool and, well, I just didn’t feel that was me. After writing for a few years I signed up at Working Partners and got asked to try out for them. They’re a book packager and they give you a detailed plot outline and ask you to write the first three chapters. But story was teen, something I’d never written before (I must have ticked every box on the application form!) I gave it my best shot. I didn’t get the gig but the feedback was I had a great teen voice! Who knew?! So my agent encouraged me to explore that voice. It felt brilliant, like I’d found my stride and I’ve not looked back. I still don’t feel like a cool YA author, but I love talking to teenagers on school visits and it’s a real privilege to write for this age group.

Asking For A Friend tackles topics such as online bullying, autism and illness. How important is to you that teens are getting educated on important topics such as these?

It’s important to cover topics like these as they’re part of so many teenagers’ lives. With empathy day coming up on June 9, I think books like mine are great for saying to readers, ‘have you ever looked at life like this or like this?’ It’s just gently suggesting that there are life experiences out there that either like yours, and this is comforting, or not like yours, in which case your view of the world broadens. So rather than being like education where you grow your brain, it’s more like you’re growing your heart.

Agnes, Hattie and Jake, your protagonists in Asking For A Friend go on a trip to Weston-Super-Mare, which is a gorgeous part of the UK. Where is your favourite place to visit in UK?

I absolutely love Weston! I’m gradually working my way round my favourite parts of the UK in my books. I figured out quite early on, if I set a story somewhere I love, then I’d want to spend more time there, which helps when the words aren’t flowing. Summer of No Regrets is set mainly in Devon, and I’m following the sea-theme with Weston. Obviously Weston is totally different – and I love it for very different reasons. I discovered Devon as an adult, whereas Weston has lots of childhood memories. And I’ve packed those memories into Asking for a Friend. My sister read it and reminisced hard!

What songs would the soundtrack to Asking For A Friend include?

I’ll admit to not being able to listen to music while I write. I know some people who can and I’m so envious! I find I end up typing out the lyrics! But if I had to pick something, I’d go with ‘Show yourself’ from Frozen 2, particularly for Hattie. It’s about finding out who you are and being bold enough to be that person, no matter what.

You are currently studying for a MA in Writing For Young People. How is this going? And how has studying this course influenced the way you write?

It’s going really well! And I absolutely love it. I’ve just handed in the penultimate assignment so have only the full manuscript to complete by September. Obviously the last couple of months have changed dramatically how the course runs, but the tutors have been stunning and it’s just smoothly transitioned online though I’m sure a massive amount of work went into that behind the scenes. But as I’m approaching the end of it, I don’t want it to end. It’s amazing to be regularly in the company of such brilliant writers and it has pushed me to prioritise my writing. I’m sure it must have influenced the way I write – I think I plan more, think more about structure, motivations, keeping the readers hooked, but I think it’s tricky for a writer to be dispassionate about their writing.

What books have inspired you over the years? Any gems we need to know about?

My reading history is quite hotchpotch. I read the books that my mum had as a child so all the Enid Blyton stories, whatever took my fancy at the library, the adult books off my parent’s shelves and comics like Calvin & Hobbes. As an adult, I’ve tended to discover books after their peak, but on the upside, I was able to read whole series without having to wait, series like Twilight and the Gallagher Girls. The book I most vividly remember reading as a child was Goodnight, Mister Tom – that was the first book that made me cry.

Have you got any advice for inspiring YA authors that you would like to share?

Keep going. I’ve lost track of the times I thought I couldn’t keep going, that it isn’t worth it, that I’m hopeless, my story’s hopeless, that it’s never going to happen, or happen again. Don’t ignore those feelings, acknowledge them then let them pass. Take a break if you need to, or set a structure to help you hit your word count. There’s no right way. But do keep putting one word after the next. To quote Frozen again (it’s currently my favourite soundtrack!) keep doing ‘the next right thing.’

What was your journey to publication like? Is it really as hard as everybody says?

I found my journey to publication really hard. Summer of No Regrets was the fourth book my agent took to publishers and I’d written several full length manuscripts before that. Every single one got to acquisitions but no one offered. It was soul destroying. I tried so hard not to get my hopes up, but you can’t help it. And of course you then have further to fall when the rejection comes.

On the upside, I do now know I can write. I’m still learning, obviously, but I don’t worry I can’t finish a story any more. I may worry whether it’s the right story, but I’m not sure that worry ever leaves. And I have proved to myself that I can weather rejection, and from what people say, just because I’ve got a couple of books published, doesn’t mean to say rejection won’t come calling again.

And lastly, what are you currently working on? Could we see another novel by yourself being released in the near future?

There are always stories in the pipeline but there’s nothing signed yet. I’ve got a couple of ideas out there, and I’m working on a story I absolutely love for my MA, so we’ll have to wait and see. Of course everything’s a bit up in the air in the publishing industry at the moment, so I’m trying to be pragmatic!

Asking For A Friend by Kate Mallinder

Published By: Firefly Press

Released: 4th June 2020

 Amazon / Book Depository / Waterstones

*This post contains affiliate links, this means, at no extra cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and purchase the linked item.*

A feel-good friendship story from the author of Summer of No Regrets – three friends tackle loneliness, fear of illness, and social media bullying, in a character-driven story about valuing the friends who value you.

Agnes, Hattie and Jake travel on the school bus together, but don’t know each other well.

They plan a week in Weston, as a ‘study break’ before exams, but none of them admit the real reasons they need to get away.

Agnes must find her sister. Hattie can’t bear being home now all her friends have ghosted her. And Jake is afraid he’s ill and has absolutely no idea how to tell anyone.

In one amazing week, they’ll risk their lives, face their fears and find themselves.

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