The Deviants with HQ Young Adult and to celebrate, today she answers all my bookish questions! Have a look:
Yep, I’m the author of five YA books - Pretty Bad Things, Rockoholic, Dead Romantic, Monster and The Deviants. I was born in 1980 in Weston-super-Mare. I have First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Young People and, aside from writing novels, I work as a freelance children’s fiction consultant for publishers and scouts while also lecturing on the Postgraduate course in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. My sixth novel Sweetpea is a contemporary adult black comedy and will be published in April 2017 by HQ/HarperCollins.
Your latest book, The Deviants, is described as The Famous Five meets We Were Liars: five teens spend a summer getting revenge on the people who have wronged them, with tragic consequences. What inspired this story?
I started writing The Deviants in 2001, initially to do a modern YA mickey-take of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five novels; a group of teenagers would terrorize a small seaside town and then prove themselves by solving the mystery of a serial killer or something. Then I kept getting bored of writing it and I think that was my subconscious telling myself I wasn’t ready to write it yet. I picked it up again last year when I was contracted to write another book in the same vein as Monster and by this point, I was ready to write it and I knew what kind of story, tonally, it had to be. It was always in my mind to write an ensemble piece about a group of kids who ‘do something’ – it just took me a long time to realise what they did!
This book kept me in my toes for hours and surprised me more than once. When you were writing it, did you have it all figured out or did you let the characters play a bit?
For my last two books, I’ve had a general idea of where it’s going and both times, the ending has surprised me and this has greatly enriched the stories in my opinion. George R R Martin says that writers are either gardeners or architects when it comes to planning – I think it’s good to be a bit of both; to have some idea of how it’s going to go and how the characters all interact with each other but to also allow for the unexpected. For instance, in the very first draft of the story, Zane wasn’t even part of the Fearless Five. He was this very two-dimensional school bully who’d beat up the younger kids for their lunch money. But then I realised why he was so angry and how it related to the rest of the group. He’s actually my favourite character – I wanted to bring him into the story more but he wasn’t ready, until the end. I love how his arc develops.
Was it difficult to get in the head of these teens? They have so many issues and secrets, especially Ella. Did you have to research certain topics?
Yeah, without going into too much detail I found case studies in real life and online for all the characters in the story, even Neil. It was important for me that these characters comes across as realistically as possible. I also did a hell of a lot of research that’s not in the book about mental asylums as Jessica was originally going to have been sent to one and kept as a secret, but that subplot disappeared in about the 5,645th draft! I researched boxing a bit too, and legal highs, plus cerebral palsy and pregnancy. My research took me to lots of new places/people which is the wonderfully random thing about writing fiction.
What do you expect your readers to feel while reading The Deviants?
I just want readers to invest in it – to want to follow these characters and care about what happens to them. I also want them to feel Ella’s anger - because I think if you feel the way she does, you will understand why she acts the way she does, especially at the end – I want them to feel the chronic injustice of it all.
Why did you decide to start writing YA?
I don’t think I knew I was writing YA until someone asked me why all my protagonists were in their teens, and that’s because I was 16/17 when I started seriously thinking about pursuing writing as a career. Until that point, I wanted to be Gillian White or Irvine Welsh – I just thought I was writing stories. I was quite an unhappy teenager – I had total ‘square peg’ syndrome, so to speak; still do sometimes - and writing was a total catharsis for me. It still is today, while also being a job that I have to discipline myself in order to do. I tend to work out my feelings through writing. Each book I’ve written has been a direct response to an event in my life – bereavement, redundancy, heartbreak, it’s all there!
What are you working on now? I've read that your next book might not be YA, can you tell us a bit about it?
Yes, it’s a contemporary adult black comedy, being pitched as Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Dexter which is probably the most accurate summation of a book ever! I watched that BBC 3 show Fleabag recently too and there’s definite shades of that in it. My character is your everyday girl-next-door type of woman, trying to hold down a job, a relationship and friendships while simultaneously having an incredible lust for murder. It’s first and foremost a comedy but with dark themes and lots of killings. And it’s called Sweetpea.
For any readers that are new to your books, how would you describe your writing?
My books were once described as a children’s birthday party that someone has thrown black paint all over. I love that description and have used it ever since!
And finally, what is the latest book that has blown you away?
I bang on and on and on about this book all the time but it’s a book called Amy, Chelsea, Stacie, Dee which Penguin Random House have published in the States and which The Chicken House are publishing in 2017. I had no preconceptions when I picked it up in my capacity as a reader and at the time I was going through a massive YA reading slump – nothing was really impressing me and everything was getting a bit predictable – then this book came along and blew me out of the water. Constantly kept me guessing and confounded my expectations. Stunning novel.
Thanks so much CK Skuse for stopping by and answering all my questions! The Deviants is an unmissable read, I hope that you all pick it up after reading a bit more about it.
C.J. Skuse was born in 1980 in Westonsuper-Mare, England. She has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Children and, aside from writing novels, works as a freelance children’s fiction consultant and lectures in Writing for Children at Bath Spa University. C.J. loves Masterchef, Gummy Bears and murder sites. Before she dies, she would like to go to Japan, try clay-pigeon shooting and have Ryan Gosling present her with the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Find CJ on Twitter at twitter.com/CeejaytheAuthor
About the book:
Title: The Deviants
Author: CJ Skuse
Published: September 22nd by HQ Young Adult
Blurb: When you set out for revenge, dig two graves
Growing up in the sleepy English seaside town of Brynston, the fearless five – Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane – were always inseparable. Living up to their nickname, they were the adventurous, rowdy kids who lived for ghost stories and exploring the nearby islands off the coast. But when Max’s beloved older sister Jessica is killed, the friendship seems to die with her.
Now years later, only Max and Ella are in touch; still best friends and a couple since they were thirteen. Their lives are so intertwined Max’s dad even sponsors Ella’s training for the Commonwealth Games. But Ella is hiding things. Like why she hates going to Max’s house for Sunday dinner, and flinches whenever his family are near. Or the real reason she’s afraid to take their relationship to the next level.
When underdog Corey is bullied, the fearless five are brought back together again, teaming up to wreak havoc and revenge on those who have wronged them. But when the secrets they are keeping can no longer be kept quiet, will their fearlessness be enough to save them from themselves?