Do you have a writing ritual or routine?
At the moment I am drafting something so my routine is to go into the office and chat to other writers who also work in the space and then kick myself up the arse and write 1000 words of new material even if it is terrible. This routine is new for me and I feel very kamikaze about it. For all my other books I wrote slow, luxuriously rearranging sentences as if I had all the time in the world. (But I know now that I don’t and I also don’t really want a five year gap between books, if I can help it.)
How long does it generally take you to complete a first draft?
It’s been different for each book. I started Notes from the Teenage Underground in 2004 and it was published in 2007. Everything Beautiful took just under a year – and it’s the book that has the best reader reactions (but not critical). I started Girl Defective in 2008 and it was published in 2013. Many drafts along the way. The thing I’m working on at the moment I started about two years ago, wrote 10,000 words of then stuck in a drawer. I brought it out at the start of this year when I was getting bored with my other WIP and now THAT one’s gone in the drawer. My agent is very lovely and patient because I am always hurling starts of manuscripts at her and then changing my mind.
What draws you to a character?
I like outsiders. I like characters who are deluded about some things but smart about others. I don’t want to read about pretty people, especially. I want to read about weirdos.
What kinds of stakes do your characters face and how do you raise them in a realistic way?
I think for the most part the high stakes my characters face are social, Darwinian things – just trying to find their place in the world and a way to cope with the facts of their existence. Usually they do this by finding the things that make the world tolerable (which are, for me, music, art, movies, flowers, good people, jumpsuits (not really). I suppose such ‘stakes’ may not seem high but look – this person explains it far better than I can:
“At a neural level … we perceive social rejection as a threat to existence. Knowing this might make it easier to abide the hysteria of a 13-year-old deceived by a friend or the gloom of a 15-year-old not invited to a party. These people! we lament. They react to social ups and downs as if their fates depended upon them! They’re right. They do.” source
As to raising them in a realistic way, I don’t know that I always do. To be honest I don’t think about it much. I try to write things that seem real but still entertaining, but not cliche – that’s my basic aim :)
Do you come to a point where you feel your book is done?
Maybe when I am sick sick sick of it.
Are you able to let go of your stories once they’re published?
No. I find it really sad that they can’t be celebrated by the world at large on a weekly basis.
Why do you write? (feel free to wax poetic)
I knew from an early age that writing* was the only thing I was good at. In high school I used to write my friends essays for them for money. (I suspect I got the idea from this from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. All of my ideas then came from movies and most of them still do now.) But even though I was okay at writing, there were years (about 10-15 of them) where I was trying so hard and I couldn’t get published or kept just missing out, or coming third, or nothing. By then I had invested too much time to give up. I wrote then and I still write now with a chip on my shoulder and I know not from where it came. I write because I love it and because if I don’t do it I get sad. I write also because I love to read and every so often something I write connects with a stranger and that is a cool thing.
*and BMX racing
Simmone Howell is the writer of YA novels NOTES FROM THE TEENAGE UNDERGROUND, EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL and GIRL DEFECTIVE. Currently living in country Victoria, taking long walks, and writing book four.
Web Twitter Goodreads