Writing Young Adult Fiction Books
with Simon Mason

Simon Mason Author

Today we're thrilled to welcome author Simon Mason. Simon joins us as part of his blog tour to talk about writing and Hey, Sherlock! the latest offering in his award-winning Garvie Smith Mysteries series.

1. Congratulations on the publication of your young adult fiction book Hey, Sherlock! Can you tell us what the book’s about?

Writing Young Adult Fiction Books - Simon Mason's Hey Sherlock Book Cover

A summer storm at night.  A missing girl.  Vans.  A shooting.  Fences.  A disused garage in the woods.  Maths.  A storage warehouse out on the ring road.  A boy called Garvie Smith with too much attitude and not enough respect.  His mother.

2. When you wrote ‘Running Girl’ did you intend for it to become a series?

I dangled that possibility in my mind, but intentions are, of course, contingent on reality, and various interested (sometimes not-so-interested) parties – i.e. the author, the publisher and, most importantly, the reader – need to agree.  Put simply, if people want to go on reading them, I’m more happy to go on writing them.

3. Did you always want to be a writer?

Yes, but I hid it from myself.  Not very effectively, obviously.

4. What does your typical writing day look like?

Writing Young Adult Fiction Books and drinking tea

Get up early determined to work hard all day.  Furiously throw myself into various forms of displacement activity.  Fall back exhausted.  Drink tea.  Read through yesterday’s output.  Fall back depressed.  Drink tea.  Remember to do the laundry.  Answer various automated cold calls which politely inform me that: my internet provider is about to disconnect my service; qualified fire-risk assessors are willing for no upfront fee to come and inspect my loft; I can claim compensation for the recent car accident that I was not in; a warrant has been issued for my arrest.  Fall back annoyed.  Drink tea.  Realise that night has fallen.  Write.

5. You write for both adults and children. Is it hard to switch between the two?

I don’t find it hard.  This is not the same as claiming I do it well.  But, for some reason, the story I have in mind always seems to dictate the terms of my engagement with it.  A story about an eleven-year-old girl wants to be told one way, the story about a broken-down old drunk another.  Of course it would be interesting to swap things round, to write about adult characters and events as if for a young audience, and so on, but it would probably piss people off, and besides I’m very conventional.

6. Has your career in publishing influenced your writing?

Yes.  I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or not.  See above.  For instance, knowledge of the market steers me in a certain direction, pragmatically.  But is that the right direction, creatively?

7. Which of the books you’ve written has been the easiest to write?

The four Quigleys books.  Pure autobiography.  When the books appeared, the reviewers enjoyed these ‘tales of hapless parenting.’  My wife was a little pissed off.

8. Have you had a favourite character to write?

In my experience there’s always one character who basically gate-crashes the story.  I’ll have given them just a few lines to say, but they talk on and on.  They turn up in scenes they have no business being in.  They steal the best gags.  They prove indispensable in the denouements.  It’s very irritating.  In the first draft of Hey, Sherlock! Smudge had the tiniest bit part.  In the second draft he’s everywhere.  (Still, I’ve got to say I like Smudge.)

9. What are you currently working on?

Writing about rats

My tax returns.  Also a picture book about a delinquent rat.  A crime novel for adults about a trailer-park boy who becomes a rather brilliant detective.  A book of interviews with an imaginary twentieth-century English novelist.

10. Which book do you wish you had written and why?

So many.  I’m a deeply envious reader.  At the moment, I’m going through Virginia Woolf.  What daring, what intelligence, what a sense of humour!  If I found that, in some alternate universe, I had written To the Lighthouse, I’d stand in front of the bathroom mirror and dance around like a drunken donkey.

11. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? 

Read a lot.  Doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s always fun. 

12. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?

The great spy novelist Mick Herron has the best advice on his website:

1. Give up.

2. If you ignore that – don’t give up.

Thank you to Simon Mason and David Fickling Books for inviting us to join the blog tour for Hey, Sherlock!

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