Hello everybody! Today, I’m really excited to welcome Nina de Pass, author of the phenomenal the Year After You for an interview as part of her blog tour for the book. Onto the post!
Thank you so much to Ink Road Books for sending me a free copy of this wonderful book, and for allowing me to interview Nina as part of the blog tour! I received no payment/incentive for this post other than my gifted copy.
Hi Nina! Thank you so much for being here!
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Amy, and for these fantastic questions.
1. First of all, can you describe The Year After You in 5 words?
It’s a book about grief, guilt, friendship & second chances.
2. I loved the boarding school setting of the book so much. Was there any reason that you decided to set the book there?
I adored reading boarding school stories like Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series growing up and was definitely inspired by those stories when I was writing The Year After You. I think friendships at boarding school can be more intense in some ways, because there are no distractions, no phones, you can’t call in sick or skive, and when the students are there, they have no real tangible connection to the outside world.
I knew that Cara needed to go somewhere totally in contrast to the place she has left behind. When I started writing, I couldn’t get the image of the school building out of my head. It’s literally located on the edge of a mountain, surrounded by snow and totally isolated. By locking my characters there together, I knew they would naturally become close very quickly, but I also knew there wouldn’t be an escape from one another. Eventually, they’d all have to face each other with the truth.
3. On a similar note, which fictional boarding school would you most like to attend, and which would you very much want to avoid?
Hogwarts. Always, Hogwarts. I haven’t given up hope of an acceptance letter to this day.
I think I’d least like to go to the Point Blanc Academy in Point Blanc, the second book in Anthony Horrowitz’s Alex Rider series. If you haven’t read it, it’s a creepy, sinister place where students are locked in the basement and replaced with clones. Not for me, thank you!
4. Another thing I absolutely adored was the friendship group that Cara becomes a part of after she arrives at Hope Hall; I DESPERATELY want to be friends with all of them! If you could pick a book character to become friends with, who would it be and why?
That’s such a wonderful thing to hear. I really am so thrilled you loved them, because to me they’re such a key part of Cara’s story. There are so many great characters I’d love to be friends with – this is such a brilliant question. At a push, I think I’ll say Lara-Jean from Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy, because I think she’s a deeply relatable and kind person (who also makes fantastic cookies). Another of my absolute favourite characters is Lou Clark from Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You trilogy. She somehow finds a way to be endlessly resilient and upbeat despite everything she goes through – I so admire that quality in people.
5. Cara`s narrative voice felt really distinctive and it hooked me immediately. What tips would you give to writers looking to create a strong narrative voice for their protagonist?
Hmm . . . I actually read an interview with Jojo Moyes a while ago in which she said she put her characters through little tests to see how they’d react. I think this is really good advice, which has definitely helped me. If I wasn’t quite sure what Cara was thinking, I’d present her with something really random, like a toffee apple. So, for example, at the beginning of the novel when Cara has isolated herself so much, I knew she’d look at it with pure disinterest, which gave me a huge sense of what was going on inside her head and how she would respond to other things. I would then present that same toffee apple to another character – Hector, for example, would probably have looked at the toffee apple for a second, thought it was a bit weird to be given one when it wasn’t Halloween, then eaten it anyway. I think these little distinctions help.
6. Also on the theme of writing, what is your writing process like? Do you have any unusual habits or quirks?
Well, alongside my writing, I work full time at a literary agency – a job I absolutely love. So, it’s a bit of a juggling act, and finding writing time is normally pretty chaotic. I write early mornings, late nights and weekends. I also write notes and snatches of conversations on the bus, tube and while walking down the street – I have hundreds of pages of strange conversations.
7. Finally, before a few fun quickfire questions, can you share anything about what you`re working on at the moment?
I’m about three-quarters of the way through a new YA novel. It’s about two sisters who have drifted apart but are about to need each other more than ever. I won’t say any more as it’s early days . . .
Hogwarts house? Hufflepuff.
Favourite chocolate bar/type? Crunchie.
Animal you`d most want to be? A dog (ideally in my parents’ house where the dogs rule all).
Top 3 reads of 2018? The Explorer by Katherine Rundell, Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner and Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman.
Top 3 most anticipated releases of 2019? I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella, The Paper and Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie and Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus.
Are you planning to pick this up when it’s released? Which fictional boarding school would you most like to attend? I’d love to hear in the comments!