Hi there everyone,
Penny Joelson is the author of the YA novel I HAVE NO
SECRETS, which is a mystery thriller that you should totally
check out. Here is a link to her website http://www.pennyjoelson.co.uk/
I have a review for this book – click here. I’ve had the great privilege to ask her some questions. I highly recommend you go and read this book. Penny is such a lovely person and I really loved speaking to her.
I hope you enjoy!
*There are a few mild spoilers ahead*
Where did this story start and develop? What was your inspiration?
I had the idea of writing a thriller in which the person who knows who committed the murder is unable to tell anyone. Jemma’s character came to me quite fully formed. She came out of my experience of working with people with cerebral palsy though she wasn’t based on any particular person. I was also inspired by a play called ‘Paula’s Story’ about the life of Paula Rees, who has cerebral palsy and wasn’t able to communicate until she was ten, when someone discovered if they supported her arm that she could point to a letter board. From that point on she has written poems and songs that have been performed at the Chicken Shed Theatre in London, including songs in the play about her life.
Can you describe your writing process?
I am a planner – I like to have an outline of the story to start off with. I also spent a lot of time thinking about the idea and allowing it to develop in my head before I started. I use a jigsaw technique to plan – writing all the things that could possibly happen on post-its and then playing around with them like a puzzle, adding some and taking others away and re-ordering them until I’m happy. I do still make lots of changes while I’m writing too! It took me three years to write the book.
Is this book written from personal experience or just research? Did you know any people who have disabilities? If not, how much research did you do?
I used a mixture of my personal experience of voluntary work and research – reading books and online. I felt a responsibility to give a realistic portrayal and although I wrote from my imagination, I was grateful to people with cerebral palsy who read the manuscript for me and gave me feedback. I made some changes but was relieved that they were very positive about the book.
How did you come to write your characters? Jemma who is a quadriplegic and has cerebral palsy; Finn’s autism; Ryan who is an addict. Where did they come from?
Once I had created Jemma, the rest of the family just ‘appeared’. The foster parents were based on some foster parents I met during voluntary work I did, who had taken in children with a range of complex disabilities and were amazing in their commitment and dedication.
Did you always plan for Sarah to have the bigger role that she does or did the idea of her disappearance come later?
I have seen the bond that children (and adults) with disabilities can form with a very good carer and I planned from the start that she would be an important character and would disappear.
Who is your favourite character?
Jemma! She came so alive for me – she seemed to be telling me what to write and arguing with me in my head if she didn’t agree with what I’d written!
The sniff controller was so interesting, how did you come about that?
I knew I’d need to find a way for Jemma to communicate in the end but I wasn’t sure how. I found the sniff controller when browsing online and thought it would be perfect for the story.
Do you have any upcoming novels we can be excited about?
I am working on another thriller/mystery which I hope will be out next summer. Watch this space!
I’ve heard all writers pour themselves into their characters, which of yours do you most see yourself in?
I think it would have to be Jemma – even though my own experience of life is so different to hers.
The way I interpreted the message of this book was that everyone has a voice, what is the message you wanted readers to see?
I agree with the message you suggest – everyone has a voice – and everyone should have the opportunity to communicate and to be heard.
Thank you so much Penny for taking the time to answer my questions and giving me this wonderful opportunity. And I hope I’ve encouraged you to go and read this book. I really hope you do