Best friends are forever. They’re the most compelling relationships of our lives, closer than family in some ways and more understanding of us in others. They can also be complicated and messy like Taylor and Sierra in Risk. Added to this is the very contemporary online dangers teenagers can face and you’ve got an engrossing YA debut.
What’s more compelling is that the author herself is a former police officer and paramedic, and her experiences in both influenced Risk. This reiterates the most gripping part about Risk: it’s so plausible.
Read on to find out more about Fleur, her writing and how her experiences as a police office and paramedic influenced her.
Fleur, can you describe what sort of reader you were as a kid?
I always read, but I don’t remember reading more than anyone else. I was never one of those kids who hid under the covers and read by torchlight. As a younger reader I loved Enid Blyton. As a teenager I loved suspenseful, mystery thrillers. I remember reading the Flowers In The Attic series and those books have stayed with me.
Looking around at the titles kids, YA readers, NA readers have today, what makes you most envious as a reader?
I never feel envious as a reader. When I read something brilliant I get very excited and will congratulate the author and tell all of my friends how masterful they are. Great books inspire me to write more and to try harder.
How – or maybe why – did you get bitten by the YA writing bug?
I write YA fiction because it was one of my YA books that won a competition. I then found the confidence to send that manuscript to my agent and I was signed. I then got a publishing contract. My portfolio of work (eight novels) has adult fiction, adult non-fiction, YA, middle grade and picture books. I love writing about young adults because that time of a person’s life deals with so many firsts. Many people in that age group are still finding who they are and how they fit into their world. Adolescence can be an exciting time, but it can also be a confusing and turbulent time. They are capable of anything and everything, yet still have rules and boundaries set by parents and schools.
I’ve read articles that state YA books have less depth, are less layered than adult books. I don’t agree. As a reader of both, I can’t see it.
It seems like, reading your other interviews, that Risk was a title you had to write – that writing it was effortless. But, was there any part of it – character, plotting, pacing etc – that gave you pause?
No. Risk poured onto the keys with its own almighty force. Once I started writing it I didn’t stop, couldn’t stop, until it was finished.
But, if in my other interviews I made writing it (or any other book) seem effortless, then I must apologise for misleading you. When I’m writing, staying in character, in story, not losing momentum becomes an obsession. I hardly slept. I lived and breathed every character and by the end I was emotionally exhausted. For me, this all has to happen around a busy family and farm schedule. And laundry. OMGoodness! It’s as constant as the world turning.
Risk is your first novel and you’ve dived into a subject that every parent must be thinking about when their kids go online: grooming and their children’s safety. For your YA readers coming to the book and reading about the dangers Taylor and Sierra face, what did you want them to learn about the adult characters in the book?
When I wrote Risk, during the process, I didn’t stop to think about what anyone might learn from reading it. But now that I’ve had time to step back and think about the role the adults have in that story, I guess the message is that adults can help. When a teenager gets into a situation they no longer feel comfortable with, or can no longer handle, the adults in their life can and will help them.
Taylor and Sierra seem to have a complicated a relationship (given Taylor’s jealousy and their best friend status) – what, to you, was the most important thing you knew you had to get right about their relationship?
Taylor and Sierra’s friendship ran deep, but at the same time they had very different personalities and had their parents not been so close, they may not have chosen to hang out so often. It was important for the reader to stay right inside the head of Taylor so the dynamics of their friendship stayed clear. Sierra had annoying flaws, but she wasn’t mean. It was important that both Taylor and the reader maintained this understanding, even when they felt angry towards her.
You’ve said that someone close to you experienced something like this with their daughter, and this inspired your writing in some part. But you’ve also been a police officer and a paramedic, and I wondered how those experienced influenced Risk – and you as a writer in general?
Everything in Risk is something I’ve experienced, witnessed, dealt with, been told about, read about or investigated. I certainly drew on my police and ambulance experiences. Those roles have taught me that even the most bizarre occurrences are plausible when you step into the shoes of the people involved. When you trace every step and delve into the thought processes of each person as they made each decision, I could always see how even the most obscure situations occurred or evolved. I hope to capture this in my work and show that there are reasons for every act, every decision someone makes, even when we don’t understand, agree with or know what those reasons are.
Will you venture out of the YA genre, do you think? Why or why not?
I will always write YA, but I will also always write for adults and younger children, too. Whether my other work will be published, well, that decision is up to my publisher.
What’s next for you?
My next book is a contemporary YA thriller, also inspired by real life events. It’s fast-paced and has spooky elements. It will be released July 2016.
Have you read Risk? What did you think of it?
To find out more about Fleur, check out her website here.