Lichfield Literature 2019 Interview: YA Novelist Emma Pass
When she’s not writing gritty young adult fiction, Emma Pass runs workshops for writers of all ages. We chatted to her about what inspires her writing, her novel ACID and what to expect from her event at Lichfield Literature 2019, ‘Workshop: Creating Fictional Worlds’…
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
I was thirteen, and about to start year 9 at school. During the summer holidays, I went to see the film Jurassic Park. Afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I decided to write a story about what happened next. A few days later I was walking to my grandma’s house, which was just down the road from where we were staying on holiday, and a thought popped into my head, like someone switching on a light: I’m going to be a writer. I finished that first novel, my sequel to Jurassic Park, when I was back at school, writing most of it in maths lessons with my notebook hidden under my work! As a result, I’m terrible at maths – but I never got caught, and I still have that novel tucked in a drawer somewhere.
What inspired you to write about a brutal, controlling police force in your novel ‘ACID’?
At the time I was planning ACID, I’d been thinking about things I’d seen on the news – about North Korea, where people’s lives are ruled by the authorities in terrible ways, and also a story about how the Shetland Islands had more CCTV cameras per person than the San Francisco police department! I began to wonder what it would be like to live in the UK if absolutely everything about your life – where you lived, your job, what you wore, even who you married – was dictated by the authorities, who watched everyone all the time, and locked people away for the smallest transgressions. Then Jenna Strong – 17, imprisoned by ACID (the Agency for Crime Investigation and Defence) for a terrible crime she couldn’t remember – walked into my head and demanded that I tell her story. How could I say no?
What is your favourite aspect of supporting a generation of young writers through your workshops?
I never attended writing workshops or groups when I was younger, mostly because I had very little confidence in my writing and kept it a secret from everyone except a few close friends. I know now that attending groups and workshops, and being able to write and create in a supportive environment, not only helps develop confidence in writing but confidence in yourself, too. It’s a transformation I’ve seen take place again and again in the groups, workshops and residencies I’ve run. Writing novels is a great job – I mean, you get to sit round in your pyjamas, drink coffee and make things up, and call it work! – but helping young people (in fact, people of all ages!) find a voice and realise they, too, can find ways to express themselves creatively is, without a doubt, my favourite aspect of being an author.
Question five: What might budding YA writers take from your workshop at Lichfield Literature 2019?
I hope it will help them realise that anyone can be creative, and be a writer – it’s not a job for the elite few. I hope they’ll also realise that there are many different ways to tell stories, so if writing them down isn’t your strong point, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a creative hobby or career! But most of all, I hope I’ll spark ideas and enthusiasm – that’s what it’s all about, after all.
For more information about Emma Pass’s Workshop at Lichfield Literature or to book, click here.