Hello everybody! Today, I’m so thrilled to finally be bringing you another post as part of my #AreYouWithUs initiative, which will now likely continue into June as I just haven’t been able to fit everything I have planned into May. Today is an interview with 2023 debut author Jenny Ireland, who wrote one of my favourites of the year so far. Onto the post!
1. Hi Jenny, thanks so much for being here today! To start us off, can you describe the First Move in 5 words?
A teen romance with disability representation
2. This is your debut, and I believe you were part of Penguin’s WriteNow scheme, which aims to increase inclusivity and diversity. What was that experience like? What would you say the most difficult part of coming into the industry as a disabled writer?
I loved being on the Penguin WriteNow scheme. My kids still remember the day I got accepted as the day I said f**k three times in a row. I got matched with my editor Ruth Knowles, who I still work with now. It was absolutely life changing. I would definitely encourage any eligible writer who’s on the fence to apply for the program. In terms of my disability, I haven’t come across too many obstacles when it comes to the publishing industry. During covid, many of the festivals and events moved online and it was wonderful. I think many of them have moved back to in person which makes it completely inaccessible for some disabled people. I would love to see the return of hybrid festivals.
3. On a different but related note, what’s been your favourite part of the book finally being in the world? What do you think it would have meant to you to have a story like this in your own teenage years?
My favourite part of my book being out there has definitely been getting reader feedback. I recently received a message from a reader with a similar condition to the arthritis that Juliet has in The First Move. They told me how much they could relate to Juliet and that it had given them hope that they would find their own Ronan. Tears may or may not have been shed when I read it. To have someone spend their precious time reading my story, for them to relate to it and for it to give them hope, is more than I could ever have asked for. In terms of my own teenage years, I wasn’t diagnosed with arthritis until I was twenty -three, however, having more Young Adult books with disability representation at that age would have been brilliant. Teenagers reading about characters their age with disabilities and chronic illness should be the norm, not only because every child and young adult should see themselves in a story, but just as importantly, so we can learn about other’s experiences.
4. Speaking personally, I related hugely to Jules and her experience of being disabled in high school. It makes me so happy that disability representation is finally becoming more commonplace. Can you maybe recommend some other books that feature disabled characters? Is there any kind of representation or representation within a certain genre we haven’t gotten yet?
Same! It’s so wonderful to see far more books with disability representation. I loved ‘Sick Kids in Love’ by Hannah Moskowitz. Both the Main character and the love interest have chronic illnesses. I also recently enjoyed ‘The Stickleback Catchers’ by Lisette Auton. It’s an utterly enchanting Middle Grade adventure with a gang of characters who just happen to be disabled. One of my favourite books of all time is ‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here’ by Patrick Ness. The concept of the novel blew my mind as it centres around the ‘other kids’ the ones who aren’t the heroes, saving the world. The Main Character, Mike, lives with OCD. Personally, I’d love to see more kids books with characters that live with cerebral palsy. It would be wonderful to see kids and teens with cerebral palsy in more fiction, going on adventures, or in sweep-you-off-your-feet romances!
5. Another huge part of the book is the focus on chess, as it’s what kick starts Jules and Ronan’s entire relationship when they start playing chess online together, not knowing who the other actually was. Were you going for You’ve Got Mail, but make it competitive, vibes? (Which I loved, btw) And do you have any interest in chess yourself?
Ha!I love You’ve Got Mail and it wasn’t until after I wrote the book that I noticed the similarity. I also adored Simon vs the Homosapien agenda. I think I have a thing for mystery messaging more than the competition element. Actually, it’s my husband who’s more into chess. He finally convinced me to learn over lockdown and he showed me the app he uses to play online and that gave me the idea. It’s a great game, but I’m rubbish at it. I’m very lazy and resent the forward planning involved when it comes to moves.
6. My absolute favourite thing in the entire book was Jules’ best friend Michael, like I cannot tell you how much I want him to come be part of my life!!! Who are some of your favourite friends in fiction? Is there any chance of a Michael spinoff? I’d actually die!!
I’m delighted you loved Michael. He’s my favourite character too. I always have a thing for side characters, and I tried to write Michael as the best friend that everyone would love to have. He has empathy coming out his ears and see’s all the things in Juliet that she can’t see herself. I would LOVE to write a Michael spinoff. But it’s not on the cards right now. But if my agent or editor ever suggested that it might work, I’d be on it!
7. The book is written in dual POV, and I loved that we got to see both Jules and Ronan’s sides of falling in love. What tips would you give to other writers telling a story from multiple perspectives? Did you find anything about it difficult?
I think the only thing I could advise when it comes to dual POV, is that it makes it much easier if you have a strong sense of who each of the characters are before you start. Otherwise it’s easy to get mixed up and confused as to whose chapter it is! The thing I found most difficult was the timeline. Working out who had done what and when and trying to make it all match up. GAH! However, I had some amazing copy editors who helped me with that.
8. Also on the subject of writing, what’s your writing routine like, if you have one? Do you have any unusual habits or quirks?
When I’m writing, I get up at 5am. This started when my kids were really small and there was absolutely no time during the day to get any writing done. Now that they’re at school, I still get up at 5am. I definitely do my best writing in the morning. Habits or quirks… I listen to a lot of music when I’m writing. I’ll make playlists for each book and go for long drives just listening to the songs so that when I start writing I feel like I’m in some kind of zone. I have a special editing mug. I only use it when I’m editing. I hope it never breaks, because then no more editing can be done… . And I definitely don’t write everyday. I’ll write for weeks and get up at 5 every day and then I’ll stop for weeks. Then I watch a lot of television and call it research.
9. Finally, can you give us any hints about what might be coming next for you? I can’t wait to read it!
I am currently working on edits for book 2 and it is another teen romance (shocker). But this time it was inspired by my experience of having brain surgery. I promise it has a happy ending 😀 Now I just need some other medical condition to inspire my book 3…. JOKING (please no)
Favourite chocolate? STAR BARS
Animal you’d most like to be for a day?
A Blue Whale
Best Irish slang or phrase?
What’s the craic?
Top 3 books of 2022?
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow By Gabrielle Zevin
I’m Glad my Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Top 3 books of 2023 so far?
The Eternal Return of Clara Hart by Louise Finch
Ghost Girl Banana by Wiz Wharton
Mrs Hart’s Marriage Bureau by Sheena Wilkinson
Thank you so much for reading! Have you read this book, or are you planning to? It should for sure be on everyone’s TBR! What do you think of Jenny’s answers? I’d love to chat in the comments!