1. Is there a specific time or place that you do your best writing in?
I quite often find myself writing between 10pm and midnight, when I've had the whole day to think about what to write and my children are in bed. In an ideal world I'd have a nice light study with a big desk and bookshelves - I'm sure I'd do my best writing there - but at the moment I have to make do with the dining table.
2. Who were your favourite authors as a teenager? Are they different to your current favourites?
When I was a teenager there weren't many YA books around, although I loved - and still love - SE Hinton's The Outsiders. I also liked Agatha Christie's crime novels, Georgette Heyer's historical romances, and classics like Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice. I've not read any Christie lately, but I still love all the others.
3. If you were only allowed to take three books to a desert island, what would they be?
Oh that's a really hard question. One might have to be a survival guide, but assuming they're there for entertainment then I'd take two big thick heavy classic novels to keep me going, probably Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) and Bleak House (Dickens). And Bridget Jones's Diary to make me laugh.
4. Is there a novel that you wish you’d written? Why?
I had a severe case of book envy recently when I read Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. Stunning writing.
5. Gang crime is a highly publicised topic in the UK at the moment that uninvolved people often don’t think about. Why did you decide to write about it?
I started off with the idea of writing about witness protection. I liked the idea of a teenager struggling with his identity. The crime was less important to me. But when I was writing there was a horrific spate of knife crime in London, some of it gang-related. Everything I read in the papers helped me understand Ty and the world he came from. It turned into a book about gangs and knife crime.
6. Where did you get all of your information on gangs, organised crime, witness protection and police procedures from?
My background is news journalism so I already knew quite a bit from years and years of reporting and news editing. I read the papers and I talked to a friend who is a criminal barrister and has worked with protected witnesses. For the sequel Almost True I consulted an old school friend who has been a police officer for 25 years about police procedure. I also read the Home Office guidelines on intimidated witnesses, and about as many actual cases as I could find, particularly that of Danielle Cable who had to take on a new identity when she was a teenager and witnessed her boyfriend being stabbed to death. Later on I read the report of the House of Commons Select Committee on knife crime. But some things I just made up.
7. Ty’s personality changed drastically with his new name and appearance. Why did you do this? Do you think that these factors have a substantial influence on behaviour?
The teenage years are a time when your identity is shifting and changing, when you believe in the ability to change yourself completely. Ty wasn't very happy or confident as Ty, and he falls in love with the idea that he can be someone different as Joe. The question really is how deep that change can go. On the surface Joe is cool and confident, underneath the old, scared, sensitive Ty is still there - and he's very traumatised so his grip on either identity is a bit shaky.
8. Will we learn more about Ty’s London life in Almost True?
Yes and also about his early life.
9. Are you working on anything at the moment? Can you tell us anything about it?
I'm at the very early stages of starting out on something new. It's very strange not writing as Ty and I miss him. The narrator is a girl - you wouldn't think that would be more difficult, but it is.
Thank you very much, Keren! You can visit Keren’s blog here and read my review of When I Was Joe here.