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Friday, 6 June 2014

Author Event: Meeting Simone Elkeles

Back in March I got to meet Simone Elkeles. One of my most favourite authors. What a treat!

I took the train into London and arrived at Bloomsbury's gorgeous offices in Bedford Square. Simone was over here for just a few days to work with the marketing team and her editor on the UK publication of Wild Cards.

The book will be published here under the name of Better Than Perfect and here is the cover. Do you like? It reminds me of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.

I began by asking Simone how much of a challenge it was to start writing a new series after the success of Perfect Chemistry and she said it was difficult but that she was ready for a change. She loved the Fuentes brothers as much as her many fans but she also needed a fresh writing project.

Better Than Perfect is the first novel in a new series. The first book told in a split narrative between Ashtyn and Derek. Simone said she was tapping into her own feelings of loss and regret when she was writing Derek. He lost his mum and Simone was open about losing her dad and wanting just one more chance to speak with him. I'm sure they'll be young people reading the book and understanding all of Derek's emotions.

In Ashtyn she was living a dream. She always wanted to try out for the American Football team when she was in high school but she never did because her friends wouldn't. She said it comes down to fear. I asked if she wanted to help break down barriers for young women in sport and she said she did. She says she's a guys’ girl and has many male friends. Like Ashtyn, she's always trying to one up guys.

Simone thinks Wild Cards will be a four book series but she also hinted that she might write another Perfect Chemistry novel in the middle. Great news for all her fans. Especially me.

I asked Simone if she had any burning writing ambitions still to fulfil and she said she'd like to write about a character with a serious mental health issue. She said it would be hard to write and hard to read. I can't help but agree. As readers, we want to like characters and if they exhibit unusual and dangerous behaviours we may find it hard to relate to them. But I also think that such a book needs to be written. Mental illness is still not spoken about enough. People are still not open about it and all the statistics say that one in four of us will suffer with some sort of mental illness in our lifetime. If it isn't us, it will be a member of our families. Reading about it will certainly help develop more awareness and also help people learn how to deal with it.

One of the things that struck me about Simone was how much she cares about her fans. Simone said she always writes for herself and not the reader. But now she's a YA mega star she has hundreds or thousands of fans and she often gets to know some of the really well. She spoke about Amber, a girl close to her heart who recently passed away. Simone wears her name on a bracelet and talked about visiting Amber during her medical treatments. I can't imagine Simone would have ever expected this sort of relationship to develop when she wrote her first book but she is a very generous person with her time and money. She's a 21st century philanthropist. She said she embraces it all.

She even embraced the skittles challenge set by the Bloomsbury team. Ashtyn is allergic to the purple dye in skittles so she picks those ones out. Simone is super talented with a pair of chopsticks but me, not so much!  

After the challenge we celebrated Simone joining Bloomsbury UK with cake and fizz. What a fantastic day! Thanks Bloomsbury.

Better Than Perfect is out as an ebook today!

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