As part of the tour I was lucky enough to get to do a Q&A with the brilliantly lovely Harriet Reuter Hapgood, author of The Square Root of Summer'.
1. Gottie’s grief over Grey is intense and so palpable. Did you make yourself upset at any point during writing the novel?Sometimes. One of the very first scenes I wrote was Gottie in the hospital after Grey’s stroke, him dying. I had no idea then what exactly I was writing, and where that would slot in as a puzzle piece. And that was written instinctively, and pretty much from life – my grandmother had a huge stroke a few years ago, and hospitals are just the worst. I was also going through some other pretty tough life stuff for a couple of years too, which I don’t talk about because it involves other people’s stories and privacy, but if you know me you can read between the lines of the book and see why the grief is so intense. And I definitely channelled all the bad and poured it into the page and got myself in a tizz a lot. Of course, other times I made myself upset because writing is hard! I definitely remember crying over the book not because of an emotional scene, but because the stupid words weren’t working!
2. The Square Root of Summer is rather full on with the physics. Are you a physics whizz or did you get confused as well?
I stopped studying maths and physics at GCSE – and I’m a summer baby, so I was 15. And started writing the book 16 years later, so...not a physics whizz, no. I didn’t find it remotely confusing, though, and I’m FASCINATED by people saying it is! Maths is really just a language. Think of the numbers and mathematics as the grammar and punctuation, and the physics theories as the literature. It’s just stories – black holes, wormholes, time travel, quantum… Once you let go of trying to solve it all, it becomes easier – like poetry. You don’t have to know the answer. Honestly, if I can understand it – and I literally have a degree in Dawson’s Creek, which tells you where I’m at brain-wise – anyone can.
3. Tell me a little bit about your debut year. Has it been as you expected? Anything unexpected or surprising?
Oh, man. I had zero expectations, I knew nothing. There's a ton online about how to write a book, there's no preparation for "how to be an author, publicly". And it has been intense! I spent years happily writing this book ALONE in my CAVE and working as a sub-editor on magazines, which is the journalist equivalent of being in a cave, then suddenly I was in a spotlight! I went on two US book tours and one UK one, so in a very short timespan I learned how to read from my book in front of an audience without throwing up… Not to wear a short skirt if the stage is raised… How to sign my very long name quite quickly… It’s all been wonderful and whirlwindy and wild. The most unexpected moment was climbing on top of the Flatiron Building in New York, barefoot, while slightly tipsy with my editor… But the best part is getting super-intense long emails from readers, it's just pure joy.
4. What’s your favourite read of 2016 so far?
The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, The Serpent King by Jeff Zenter, and Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky. I have three favourites and I would save them all from a fire.
5. Can you tell me anything about book two?
Um… It’s currently untitled and I’m on a last-ditch draft to get it to my agent by the end of September. It’s another contemporary-ish standalone YA, this one a dual POV about three friends in their final year of high school in an idyllic California small town – think a west coast Stars Hollow meets Buffy. And plays with my favourite YA/teen TV tropes: boys next door, love triangles, core friendship groups, ridiculous whimsy. The main romance is between two girls, and it’s really about self-perception and destiny vs self-determination. There’s magic, gelato, a cat (of course), ghosts, memories, kissing, the ocean, grimoires, a diner – and everything is not as it seems…
6. If you don’t mind, I’d love to see a snap of your TBR!
I wish I could show you! All my books – including TBR! – are at my parents’ house because I live in a damp hovel in Brighton undergoing major renovations. My writing space is a folding garden table! And I don’t read YA while I’m writing YA, so… Some books on my TBR though are: 'The Graces' by Laure Eve, 'Super Awkward' by Beth Garrod, 'The First Time She Drowned' by Kerry Kletter, 'Girl In Pieces' by Kathleen Glasgow, and 'Girls in the Moon' by Janet McNally. Lots of YA, lots of debuts, lots of female writers.
Buy your tickets for YA Shot right here.
Thank you so much to Harriet, Bea and Chelle for organising all this.