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Interview with Poppy Nwosu, author of ‘Taking Down Evelyn Tait’

1 Apr

In these strange times, it’s hard for authors to get out and about so I’m going to be posting some interviews with authors of new releases. First up, is Poppy Nwosu. Poppy’s second young adult book, ‘Taking Down Evelyn Tait’ has just come out. I’ve read it and found it funny and heart-warming and just the type of book we need to be reading right now!

Poppy Nwosu

Poppy had a chat to me about her novel, the writing process and what she’s up to next…

LW: As this is your second novel, did you suffer from the dreaded ‘second-book syndrome’?

PN: This is a strange one, because although Taking Down Evelyn Tait is my second published book, it isn’t the second one I’d ever written, so I was pretty used to working through stories by the time I came to write this one.

On the flipside though, even though it wasn’t technically my second novel, YES, I totally suffered from the dreaded second book syndrome!

I wrote this one just before my debut was released, but already I had it in my head that there might be a potential audience for the book and I think that is what really held me back and made writing this story, at times, utterly excruciating … I had kind of stopped writing for myself, and was instead writing for an imaginary audience (that didn’t even exist yet!). And I was sure that imaginary audience was judging every word I put on the page.

It meant I couldn’t have fun with my story because I was so nervous about what other people would think of it.

I ended up having to stop and restart the entire manuscript, and this time, I wrote it exactly how I wanted to, without worrying what anybody else would think. It really helped and the words flowed so much more easily and I started having fun again!

LW: Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

PN: I always feel like I shouldn’t say this, because I am a writer and obviously I adore books, but really what drew me to writing was my love of stories in any shape or form, including movies and television. So basically, what I am saying is I am a massive film and television nerd, and I am often so inspired by the stories I watch (as well as read).

I was watching a fun English show called Misfits, which has a character that was very likable, but who had absolutely no filter, said the worst (most filthy) things in the world, and was constantly a trouble magnet who always did the wrong thing. I loved the balance of writing about such a flawed character, but also making them very loveable at the same time.

That was really the initial seed for my main character, Lottie, who is a troublemaker but, hopefully, a lovable and charming one, and the rest of the story really grew from there!

LW: Lottie is a great character, did she come to you easily, or did she take a while to get to know?

PN: She came really easily, despite the story itself being a very difficult one for me to write!

I had such a fun experience writing Lottie. I think part of that is a level of wish fulfillment for me, I really enjoy writing very assertive and ‘out there’ characters simply because in real life that isn’t exactly my personality. I used to be very shy when I was younger and I still really hate confrontation, so it is fun to walk in another’s (more confident) shoes through my imagination. And once I started writing the first draft, I found it really easy to find Lottie’s voice. She’s actually one of my favourite characters I’ve ever written!

LW: Tell me about your writing process. Are you a plotter or a pantser and what is your writing routine?

PN: I started out as a complete pantser, but over time as I write more manuscripts, I have learned a bit more about plotting. The danger for me though, is that if I spend too long thinking through every detail of a potential plot or characters before I begin writing a manuscript, I tend to get a bit bored with that story. And I then want to move on to a new shiny idea instead of writing the one I have started plotting.

For me, I always have a vague idea of the characters and how they fit together, a tiny bit of the plot (usually a few scenes I want to write towards, though I have no idea how I will get there) and a very strong sense of the book’s tone and atmosphere and setting. The characters just seem to unwind as I write, and usually turn out quite different to what I thought I was going to do. I never really know the ending when I begin the book.

Writing like that seems to work for me, but it took a long time to figure out what was best. A lot of trial and error.

In terms of routine, it has all changed for me in 2020. I used to work full time, so I would squeeze in two hours of writing time every morning at 5am before heading into work, but this year I have dropped back to working only three days, which gives me a lot more time! It has been wonderful! I still get up at 5am and do my morning writing sessions, and then on my two weekdays off, I just continue working at my desk for most of the day.

LW: Can you give us a sneaky preview of what you’re working on next?

Yes! I was lucky enough in 2019 to be awarded an amazing trip from Writers SA (my local writing centre) to Varuna the Writer’s House to work on a new manuscript. I had the most amazing time writing all day every day, and am really excited about the manuscript that has come from it.

I can’t say too much about it yet, but it is a romantic contemporary YA with a lot of emphasis on the romance. It’s got a bickering hate to lovers trope, and is centred around a road trip, a lost nana and a damaged friendship. I really hope people will like it!

Find Poppy online: Instagram Website

Buy ‘Taking Down Evelyn Tait’ from Wakefield Press