What is it about a scary story that keeps us coming back for more. Is it the mystery, the fear, or the thrilling journey into the dark unknown that keeps us turning pages until the very end and tingles our spine in the dead of night? Whatever the reason this is how we felt when we were reading the latest offering from the astounding author James Dawson, Say Her Name, which reimagines the myth of Bloody Mary for a new generation.
Here at Vada there is nothing we like more than talking to great artists in any field, so we were pleased as punch when we got to interview James Dawson to talk about his books and what it is like to be an author.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book – Say Her Name?
Say Her Name is about a boarding school girl called Bobbie who’s dared to summon Bloody Mary. She think’s it’s rubbish until the next day when a friend disappears and a strange message appears on her mirror. Bobbie realises she has five days to figure out who Mary really was before the spirit comes for her too.
What inspired you to write a story with a new twist on the Bloody Mary legend?
The fun with urban legends is that everyone has a slightly different version. This is just my take on a classic! I also wanted to write something really, properly scary.
Can you tell us what reaction there has been surrounding the books release?
So far, reviews have been fantastic. Say Her Name has one job and that is to chill readers. It seems to be doing its job – people are tweeting me to say they’re putting the book in the freezer or are too scared to go to the toilet at night. That’s the highest compliment!
Following on from the publication of your other books, Hollow Pike and Cruel Summer, we have to ask do you still get the same high from hearing good things about your books?
Oh absolutely. I think authors are an attention starved bunch. It’s like we write these stories and then beg people to read them and say ‘do you like me? Do you really like me?’ We’re no different to those kids who queue up for the X Factor, we just have a different skill set. I read the Velvet Rage last year and I think there’s a grain of truth to it – I crave external validation!
Does it ever feel surreal to see people reading your books and knowing that you were the man behind it?
I’ve worked so hard over the last three years. It’s a tough market at the moment – too many books and too few readers – so it’s very special indeed when people get in touch to say they’ve read the books. My fans are a loyal bunch and I’m very lucky.
Ever had any up close and personal time with some of your fans?
Do you mean like have I snogged them? No! Most of my fans are teenage girls! However, in the more PG sense, yeah I’m doing a whole load of festivals this summer – just did Hay last week and then YALC in July. Really looking forward to that one!
A little birdy told us that you were also recently nominated for an award – what was that like?
I’m up for a few awards this year: Lancashire Book of the Year, Sheffield Book of the Year, Sussex Book of the Year AND Queen of Teen! Awards are cool because it’s nice to know people are reading and loving the books, but if I spent any time PLANNING to win awards I’d go mad and write awful books.
It isn’t just fiction though that you have written, you have also written Being a Boy, which is a frank discussion on growing up and puberty for young men. What inspired you to write that?
Because there was nothing quite like it. I think sex ed fails young men because it doesn’t talk about the pressures of masculinity or actual practicalities. I wanted it to be funny too. Ain’t no one got time for a humourless sex book.
We also heard through the grapevine that your next book This Book is Gay, will follow the same idea but talk to young people about being gay. This is a daring move, so can you tell us what made you want to write it now?
It was actually my editor Tori who suggested This Book Is Gay. At first I said no because I didn’t feel like I had any authority to tell young LGBT people how to be LGBT, but I mulled on it and came up with idea of making a collection of stories from many LGBT people. About 300 LGBT people contributed tips and guidance.
Are you hoping that young gay people will read this book and help learn something more about what they are going through?
There’s a lot about identity in there but again I wanted it to be practical guidance too. Where to meet people; sex education; a guide to services; how to deal with homophobia and how to come out. There’s a lot to be said for learning through doing, but I hope I can make life just a little bit easier.
Following these next books have you had any thoughts about what you want to write about next?
Publishing works about eighteen months ahead of publication so my next two novels are actually done! I write fast! The next is a psychological horror and then late next year I’m releasing my first love story!
We will be sharing our own review of Say Her Name here at Vada so don’t forget to keep checking back to see what we thought of the book.