I’m so pleased to be welcoming Holly Bourne, author of Soulmates, to the blog today! The post below is a real masterpiece and I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did when I first read it.
I’m half American and, sometimes, I really do feel that way- like I’m culturally split right down the middle.On my USA side, I tend to tell everyone, genuinely, to ‘have a nice day‘ before I hang up the phone, and I really really enjoy eating artificial cheese. Yet, on my British side, I think sarcasm is the best thing ever invented, I self-medicate with cups of tea, and I’m so obsessed with the weather I wrote a whole love story based around it.
Generally I’m happy with my hybrid identity. However, there are times when you have to pick a side and, when I sat down to write my debut novel, I wanted Soulmates to be British…why?
Because I wanted readers to be able to relate to the every-day life…
I love so many American YA novels and yet I can’t always get lost in them. Why? Because I grew up in England so I never took SATs, I never had a ‘Prom’, there were no cheerleaders or jocks or Taco Bells. It’s these little everyday moments in stories that make them believable – and when you read a book, you bring all your own experiences to the page and story. So, with Soulmates, I wanted these to match. I wanted British teenagers (and adult readers) to recognise things like A Level coursework, Cafe Nero, rugby players, cups of tea, beer gardens and the word ‘wanker’. That way, they could more easily imagine falling crazy in love and get lost in the story.
Because British people take the piss out of each other…
We bond by being horrid, and I bloody love that about being British. Since I got my book deal, my friends have sort-of congratulated me – but more used it as ample opportunity to take the piss. One introduced me at a party, saying, “This is my friend Holly, she’s a published author and she’s written a kids version of 50 Shades Of Grey.” I had to spend the rest of the evening swearing that wasn’t true! Or my boyfriend saying: “I’ve come up with a better idea than your book. ‘Trollmates – two trolls fall in love online whilst sending death threats to celebrities.'”
I honestly don’t think you get this I-take-the-piss-because-I-love-you anywhere else other than the UK. And it was really important to me it was in Soulmates. In fact, it turned out writing all the piss-taking scenes, where Poppy and Noah are ripping it out of each other, was actually more fun than writing all their smoochy stuff.
Because Brits really know how to tell a love story…
Soulmates is a self-referential romance book. It’s a homage to the genre, as well as a twist on romantic generic conventions. And, undeniably, the greatest love stories are British. Romeo and Juliet – written by a British bloke. Jane Eyre – British chick. Pride &Prejudice – British chick. Wuthering Heights – British. Even, One Day – British!
I think it’s our repressed stiff-upper-lip tendencies that lend themselves so well to romance. There is nothing more riveting than a love that takes a long time to be. The stolen glances, the repressed feelings, the missed opportunities, the unspoken declarations of affection… MY HEART IS THUMPING JUST THINKING ABOUT IT.
Then there’s the fact that the English language is so well-equipped to deal with the sumptuous topic of love. Italian may be beautiful to speak, German may have more logic to it, but English has such an abundance of words! Verbs, nouns, adjectives – our language is so crammed with options that making sense of love and romance has such variety .
Because I’d be in really great company…
This is such an exciting time for YA books by British authors. From the no-topic-is-barred Cat Clarke, the quick and hilarious quips of Holly Smale, to the uncomprehendingly-brilliant Patrick Ness – there is a literary feast of writing talent on the go. And I feel very blessed to be a part of that.
Thank you, Holly!