Hi Guys! And welcome to Day 26!
I have with me today Olivia Levez, author of The Island, a book that I was BEYOND excited to get a review copy of. I love survival/ marooned stories, and this sounds like the perfect read.
So go ahead and read her amazing answers, check out her book and enter the supremely cool giveaway!
What is the creepiest thing you’ve ever experienced?
I once stayed alone at Bagdale Hall in Whitby. This is reportedly one of the most haunted hotels in Britain. Clutching my Cath Kidston bag, I was shown into a huge dark panelled room with a four poster bed and mullioned windows, huge stone fireplace, you get the general idea. I wanted to write a story with a gothic setting at the time, so…perfect. Except it wasn’t. Not one bit.
I had to sleep with all the lights and the telly on. Every time I closed my eyes, I was expecting something to touch the back of my neck or pull my covers off. In the early hours of the morning, after a disturbed sleep in which I dreamt the wardrobes were being thrown around the room and some male presence was pressing a pillow over my face, trying to smother me, (I actually did dream those things. It was terrifying.) I lay awake listening to heavy footsteps creaking up and down the stairs outside my room. It was four in the morning.
Next morning, I read in a local guidebook that the ghost of a smuggler reportedly haunted the hotel, and his ghostly footsteps were common ly heard by guests.
The worst thing was, I had to go through it all again the following night.
Three things I’d need if I were marooned on an island:
1. A cast iron wok. Perfect for cooking up delicious stir fries and curries and also fending off wild animals.
2. Paper and pen (can these count as one item?) so that I can write my next magnum opus.
3. A pair of tights. Only because they have many survival uses, ranging from: a sling shot, mosquito net, cordage, arm sling, tourniquet, blister preventer, vegetable pest controller, bag, bandage securer, water filter…All of which Learnt during my research for The Island!
One author you’d kill to collaborate with:
Definitely Sarah Waters. She writes sublime Dickensian-style, gothic-y, character-driven books with some of the best plotting I have ever come across. I’d get her to teach me how to seed incredible plot twists (*that* twist in Fingersmith!). She’s also queen of the unreliable narrator. And I love an unreliable narrator.
What inspired you to write The Island and what is it about?
I was inspired to write a castaway book after reading a stunning true-life account of a year on a desert island by Lucy Irvine (Castaway) and after noticing there weren’t any survival stories in the school library where I teach, other than Robinson Crusoe and Lord of the Flies. I’d just had my dystopian book rejected and was looking for something new. I also wondered where were all the girl survivalists?
My book The Island is the story of Fran, a girl who gets marooned on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean after the plane she is on crashes. She is on her way to a boot camp for young offenders, as punishment for a crime she has commited. Whilst on the island, she has to battle, not only for survival, but also the memories of what she’s done to bring her there.
What are you currently working on?
My second book is another stand-alone contemporary adventure, about a girl who runs away from home to try to join a circus. So a switch from a castaway to a runaway…
Your opinions on negative reviews?
As an author, you have to toughen yourself up against possible negative reviews. Most writers I know are part of a critique group, and are used to regularly receiving honest feedback on their work in order to improve it. You do feel vulnerable though, after your ‘baby’ has been released into the world. But art and literature is always going to spark different reactions, and that is what makes it so exciting and vibrant. And you’ve got to realise that your book isn’t actually you, it’s not personal.(Saying that, the first negative review I had did feel like being kicked in the stomach!)
Olivia Levez lives in Worcestershire, where she is an English teacher in a large high school. When she is not teaching, she binge writes in her caravan in West Wales.
Olivia likes hula-hooping, yoga and real ale, but not at the same time. She lives with her husband, two sons and a Jack Russell named Basil.
Olivia’s debut YA book The Island is published by Rock the Boat, Oneworld.
Frances is alone on a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. She has to find water and food. She has to survive. And when she is there she also thinks about the past. The things that she did before. The things that made her a monster. Nothing is easy. Survival is hard and so is being honest about the past. Frances is a survivor however, and with the help of the only other crash survivor, she sees that the future is worth fighting for.
The Island is a gripping and thoughtful story about a girl who didn’t ask to be the person she is but is also determined to make herself the person she wants to be.