Thursday 14 April 2016

Blog Tour: Susin Nielsen's Literary Influences

I've got the final stop in Susin Nielsen's UK blog tour! Her books We Are All Made of Molecules and The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen are two of my favourite recent reads. Susin talks us through her literary influences:

Growing up, there were two authors who really stood out for me: Paul Zindel and Judy Blume.  They both wrote about teens in such a realistic fashion. Blume in particular was a huge influence on me and on my writing to this day.  I still remember reading Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, and feeling such a profound connection to Margaret. I feel deeply indebted to Judy Blume for making me realize “I am not alone,” and that’s something I try to do in my books now, too. Paul Zindel didn’t shy away from tough subjects – for example, in My Darling, My Hamburger, a character got pregnant and had to have an abortion. I’m not even sure that book would find a publisher today. But these authors really helped me negotiate my own teen years, and steered me toward writing realistic YA fiction.

Recently I rediscovered another favourite book of mine from my youth: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh.  I first read this book when I was eleven. Then I re-read it last year, the 50th anniversary edition. I was blown away at just how much Harriet, and Louise Fitzhugh, had influenced my own writing without my being aware of it. Harriet had clearly lived on in me all those years! Louise Fitzhugh broke new ground with her female protagonist. Harriet is the antithesis of a girly-girl and she can be really mean sometimes – in other words, she is utterly human and believable. My second novel, Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom, has a protagonist named Violet who is eerily like Harriet. I feel forever indebted to Fitzhugh and only wish she’d lived long enough to write a whole pile of books.

Lastly, there is author Christopher Paul Curtis. I read his beautiful novel, Bud, Not Buddy, probably ten years ago now, with my son. It’s a heartbreaking story, set in the Great Depression in the US, and told through the eyes of Bud, an African American boy who’s lost his mom. But it is also laugh out loud funny. CPC artfully uses first-person narrative, and that allows for humor to seep in thanks to Bud’s perspective on things. This book encouraged me to try my hand at my first YA novel, Word Nerd, which is also rather sad in spots but leavened with humor thanks to a first-person narrative.

Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen will be published in the UK in October 2016.

Thank you, Susin! I can't wait for Word Nerd!


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