Welcome to my stop on Alex Nye’s Arguing with the Dead blog tour with Love Books Tours!
Many thanks to Kelly @ Love Books Tours for arranging the following interview with Alex Nye…..
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
My name is Alex Nye, and I write novels for both children and adults. My first three children’s novels are ghost stories inspired by Scottish history. CHILL and SHIVER are set on Sheriffmuir and touch on the Jacobites, while DARKER ENDS is set in Glencoe. In my adult fiction I like to get inside the heart and mind of intriguing historical figures such as Mary, Queen of Scots in FOR MY SINS ( March 2017) and Mary Shelley in ARGUING WITH THE DEAD (released this month). I also have another YA novel coming out soon about a Syrian boy called Hani on the run from traffickers alongside a girl called Mia, who is in care. Both escape into the Highlands and are chased through a system of underground flooded caves, beginning at Smoo Cave.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
I am a creature of place, and my ideas are inspired by the settings I encounter, particularly wild Scottish landscapes. Scotland has been a huge inspiration for me. My best ideas occur to me when I’m out in the countryside, walking or cycling. I also find people endlessly fascinating.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Yes, I think so. Characters I know do find their way into my stories and fiction in surprising ways, but I’m not going to tell you who. I would like to do it more, but shy away from it sometimes – for obvious reasons. I love just observing people and listening to them, on trains and in cafes, particularly if you happen to catch a moment of revealing drama.
How do you pick your characters’ names?
I often come across interesting names when I visit schools, and I make a note of those. If a character is based loosely on someone I know then I pick a name which is similar. For example, Elspeth, Eva, Eliza, all conjure up a similar type of person in my head.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
I once had a quote on my pinboard by Ernest Hemingway which went something like this. “I hung up my coat on the peg, sat down at my favourite table, took out my pencil and began to write…” I think that just about sums it up. Ideas are just ideas until you finish a first draft. Then you have to hack away at it, revise, redraft, edit, cut, shift things about to change the shape. It’s hard work.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
Emily Bronte, Mary Norton, Nan Shepherd, Joan Aiken, Tove Jansson.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Ted Hughes, because when I was 15, I won the 1981 WH Smith Young Writers’ Award which he set up and judged. I’d ask him if it was really him who read my piece about a foetus in a glass jar (which we examined during a Biology lesson).
Were you a big reader as a child?
I absolutely loved reading as a child, but I also played outdoors a lot too, riding my bike and exploring. I loved books like The Borrowers, Moomin Midwinter, Enid Blyton, Midnight is a Place by Joan Aiken, A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley, and thousands more.
When did you start to write?
It sounds cliched, but I began writing stories at a very early age. I was about 8 when a teacher, Mr Grant, began to read my stories out to the rest of the class, and I got a reputation for it (in a good way). From then on, it was just something which stuck, something I needed to do. I completed my first full-length novel when I was in my final year at King’s College, London. It was called Martha, which is now my daughter’s name. I’ve lost the original manuscript. Thankfully, I haven’t mislaid my daughter.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
There’s a beautiful book called All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It’s a fabulous book about a blind girl surviving the Second World War in occupied France. Warning of a spoiler alert here. I would make the orphan Werner live at the end, although I completely understand why the author engineered his death. I was heartbroken at the waste, because he was such a gifted young boy, a genius. But then, how often does that happen in real life? Many young geniuses, people with massive potential and talent, are victims of war.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
TO THE NORTH.
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
I would invite Macbeth to the Artisan Roast in Glasgow, and ask him to re-think some of his decisions. I don’t think he would fetch any stares, because… well, it’s Glasgow, and lots of people look like Macbeth now.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on another YA novel about a dolls’ house and a Victorian asylum for young women called BEHIND THE SCENES AT MIRROR GRANGE.
Tell us about your last release?
ARGUING WITH THE DEAD is a historical novel about Mary Shelley and the chaotic forces which shaped her. She is living in a cottage on the banks of the Thames through a terrible winter, sorting through the snowstorm of her husband (the poet Shelley’s) scattered papers. She remembers her travels through Europe staying in half-ruined villas in Italy, her turbulent relationships with Shelley and her own stepsister, and she also remembers months spent in Scotland as a child, when her stepmother and father sent her away to live. What she does not tell anyone is that she has always felt guilty about Shelley’s first wife, Harriet, who drowned herself in the Serpentine. When a dark figure appears to follow her, she and the reader wonder if it is Harriet, keen to take back what was hers.
Do you have a new release due?
I have a new YA novel about to be released called WHEN WE GET TO THE ISLAND… about a Syrian boy called Hani on the run from traffickers. He joins forces with Mia, a girl in care, and together the pair escape into the Highlands and are chased through an underground system of flooded tunnels and caves on the northern coast.
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
I’m usually stressed out my box, trying to organize book launches at that point, but a swim and a sauna relaxes me.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
Through all of the usual channels on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and through my website where you can email me. (see links below). I’m always delighted to hear from happy readers.
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
I love meeting pupils and teachers, and really appreciate their encouragement. Keep reading and buying books, using libraries, and sharing ideas.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Alex 🙂
The year is 1839, and Mary Shelley – the woman who wrote Frankenstein – is living alone in a tiny cottage on the banks of the river Thames in Putney. As she sorts through the snowstorm of her husband’s scattered papers she is reminded of their past: the half-ruined villas in Italy, the stormy relationship with Shelley and her stepsister Claire, the loss of her children, the attempted kidnapping of Claire’s daughter Allegra from a prison-like convent in Florence. And finally, her husband’s drowning on the Gulf of Spezia as they stayed in a grim-looking fortress overlooking the sea. What she has never confided in anyone is that she has always been haunted by Shelley’s drowned first wife, Harriet, who would come to visit her in the night as she slept with her two tiny children in a vast abandoned villa while Shelley was away litigating with lawyers. Did Mary pay the ultimate price for loving Shelley? Who will Harriet come for next?
happy reading 🙂