What do you think makes UKYA so special?
I’m very lucky to have Kendra Leighton on the blog tour! Kendra’s debut novel, Glimpse, will be out next year, and I am so excited about it. It sounds so good! Over to you, Kendra…
Hi Kendra! Welcome to Queen of Contemporary! To start, can you introduce yourself?
Hi, Lucy! I’m so happy to be here. I’m Kendra Leighton: YA writer by night, chocolatier by day (writing always goes better with chocolate!). My debut novel’s being published next summer.
I loved ‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Noyes. What made you set your novel, Glimpse, on it?
‘The Highwayman’ is wonderful, isn’t it? I’m not a huge poetry fan, but ’The Highwayman’ has stuck with me ever since I first read it in school. For anyone who hasn’t read it, it’s a fabulous dark romance and ghost story — I adore everything about it.
I rediscovered ‘The Highwayman’ poem at the same time as I discovered YA. I had a brief career as an English teacher, and was teaching the poem to year 8 as well as reading YA books from the school library. Paranormal romance was huge at the time, and since I’ve always adored gothic fiction, I fell so much in love with it that I decided to write my own. I thought about basing a novel on a real-life ghost story, then I had a brainwave — ’The Highwayman’ is already the perfect romantic ghost story, why not start with that?
I originally planned to write a re-telling, but when my imagination cranked into gear I ended up with a very different story, set in the present day and using ‘The Highwayman’ as a springboard. Glimpse was born!
What would you say to people who don’t read, and don’t want to read?
This is a tough one. I know from my teaching days that when people say they don’t like reading, there are no magic words that can force them to! Not everyone likes the kind of books taught in schools, and sadly that’s enough to put some people off. But I really believe there are stories out there for everyone. If you like films or TV or song lyrics then you already like stories; you just have to find the right books for you.
What was your writing process like when writing Glimpse?
Glimpse was the first novel I’d written. I spent three years writing and re-writing before submitting to agents, so it was a long process! It took me six months to write the first draft, and only then did I start studying the writing craft. Every time I learned something new I would go back and apply what I’d learned to the book, over and over, until it was as good as I could make it. I’m reaching the end of the editing process with my publisher now, and it feels bizarre that there’ll soon be a point where Glimpse can’t be rewritten!
Can you name a few of your favourite UKYA novels?Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, Rachel Ward’s Numbers trilogy, Sharon Jones’s Dead Jealous. There are lots of others I’ve enjoyed too, and I’m on a mission to read more!
It’s hard to pin down, but there’s definitely a different ‘feel’ to most UKYA. Having read so much USYA, it’s refreshing to read a book with settings I’ve visited or know about, and to read descriptions of school and being a teen that I can relate to (i.e. no cheerleaders or bleachers or high school cafeterias). There are some really great UKYA books that deserve to be just as big as their US counterparts.
And finally, what’s next for you?
More writing! I have lots of ideas up my sleeve…