Happy Thursday, Book Dragons!
I’m so ridiculously excited to be bringing you a Q&A with one of my favourite authors, Beth Garrod! Beth is the author of the Awkward series, Take a Chance on Me, All I Want For Christmas and most recently, Sister Switch. I highly recommend all of them, Take a Chance on Me is an excellent summer read, not forgetting Sister Switch! Thank you so much Simon and Schuster and Beth for the opportunity!
1. For those who aren’t familiar with it, can you tell us a little about Sister Switch?
Sister Switch is my first ever Middle Grade book, and it’s all about sisters Lily and Erin – who after one argument too many, end up being caught up in an unexpected body swap courtesy of Agatha, the Hairy Godmother. It’s a funny story about trying to pass yourself off as your polar opposite, while slowly figuring out that someone else’s life is never as it really seems. It’s also about a race to track down a magical hairdresser, an embarrassing encounter with the most famous popstar in the world, trying to stop your best friend rumbling your biggest secret, and being scared of bananas. I think that about sums it up.
Where did the inspiration for The story come from?
I’d love to say it came from the time I went in for a haircut and ended up waking up as my older sister Becca. But that would be a lie. So the more honest answer is that I love having a sister, but growing up we also used to bicker just like Lily and Erin (although my sister is seven years older than me, so was always ten steps ahead, and I always lost). So while this book definitely has a magical twist, it’s also very much about real life family dynamics, and – give or take the stress of a total body swap – about how brilliant siblings can be.
Your books are known for being funny (I find them hilarious!). How did you go about achieving the end result?
That’s lovely of you to say – thank you! I’m really glad that you do, as what one person finds funny someone else will really hate. For me the key is having characters I want to hang out with, and letting them drive the funny moments with their bad choices, or accidental slips. And while there is an element of magic in Sister Switch, the funny moments are hopefully all very much based in situations, moments and feelings that you can identify with. I mean, even if we haven’t experienced a body swap (although anyone reading, please let me know if you have?!) we’ve all wanted to try and come across one way (cool! calm! collected!), and ended up doing the exact opposite.
Sister Switch is your debut MG. Did the writing process for a younger audience differ from your YA books, if so how?
Before I started I did wonder if it was going to be something I was able to do. But you never know til you try, right? I actually found it quite a similar process as the YA I write, as the Awkward books and All I Want for Christmas/Take a Chance on Me are definitely the younger end of the YA scale, and in Sister Switch the characters are only a couple of years younger than that. And I soon realised that while the exact problems faced might not be the same, there’s a real similarity in the characters experiencing things for the first time, trying to figure it out as they go along, and also the friendships and family that help them along the way.
What are the most important elements of good storytelling to you?
For me personally – and it really differs for everyone – it’s characters I care about. Sometimes they can be ones you love to hate, or make terrible decisions, but I have to be cheering for them in some way.
Do you have any tips for overcoming struggles during the writing process?
I definitely don’t think I’m the person to give out good advice here, as my processes tend to be panicked post-it notes and waking up in the middle of the night and writing notes to myself that make no sense. But what I would say is you have to keep going. Do not give up. You will get there! For me personally, I’ve learnt that if there’s a chapter or a scene I’m struggling with I just move on and know I can come back to it. Future me can deal with that problem!
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
To not name characters after friends! You might think it’s a cute thing to do, but they will forever suspect that you’re implying the character is like them.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write what you love! Write what you’d want to read. And write even when you’re feeling as uninspired as a puddle. You can always go back and make it better, which you can’t do with a blank page.
We all love a good book recommendation, have you read any recently you would recommend?
Always! I’m loving You’re The One That I Want by Simon James Green and am about to start the Book of The Baku by RL Boyle as I’ve heard amazing things (although it sounds terrifying!).
What are you working on next? (If you’re able to tell us).
Ha, I tell anyone anything! I’m very lucky to be working with the superwoman Jess Hitchman on a pilot script about girls who code, and we’ve also got a young graphic novel series coming out next year (illustrated by the amazing Chris Danger) about a bunch of reject Inflatables in a water park. They are so much fun! I’ve got a new YA coming up next year and have just handed in my next middle grade book. And it’s one I’m really excited about….
About the Author:
Beth Garrod is the author of the best-selling SUPER AWKWARD series, ACCESS ALL AWKWARD and TAKE A CHANCE ON ME for teen readers. SISTER SWITCH is Beth’s first novel for readers aged 8+ with her familiar brand of comedy and trouble. Beth has worked in London, New York and Toronto for broadcasters including Radio 1, CBBC (Blue Peter), and MTV, launching everything from mental health campaigns and international youth unemployment initiatives to the Radio 1 Teen Awards. She now concentrates on social impact campaigns, working with charities and broadcasters around the world.