We've been chatting to Tamsyn a few months now on Twitter (TamsynTweetie) and of course said yes when we got invited to the launch for her excellent new YA novel "My So Called Afterlife" published by Piccadilly Press. (I would have had photos of this, but my Mac decided to eat the photos as I downloaded them).
After that, we unexpectedly stalked her at two other events (during which time she managed to pull off wearing the most incredible shoes) and found her to be charming and lovely - but of course, we wanted to know more. We fell a bit in love with her and Mark immediately renamed her Pepper Potts (from Iron Man, check out the similarities in look and attitude and you'll know why) and so using this flattery we proceeded to dazzle her with with some free juice and wine at an event and got her to agree to an interview.
1. Please introduce yourself to us (feel free to grandstand here!)
You mean you haven’t heard of me already? Where have you been?? I’m a London based writer who doesn’t like to take anything too seriously. My first novel, a bittersweet paranormal story titled My So-Called Afterlife, has just been published by Piccadilly Press Ltd. I live with my husband and daughter in a house where there are more pets than people and when I’m not working or writing, I like to pretend I’m someone completely different on stage with an amdram group. Oh, and I can lick my own elbow. I count this as my greatest talent.
2. Why did you decide to tackle writing a YA novel with a supernatural twist?
This is where I wheel out some spooky experience, right? I could tell you that I became a writer because a psychic told me to fifteen years ago (this is actually true) but the truth is that I didn’t really have a lot of choice about the kind of novel I wrote – Lucy Shaw turned up in my head one day and demanded I tell her story! Up until then I’d never considered writing for younger readers; I was working on short stories when the idea came to me and I knew Lucy was a ghost from the very first line. She brought with her a host of characters, some supernatural, others still living and make the book a joy to write. It was fun to write about sneaking into London Zoo without paying!
3. What came first for you with MSCA? Character or plot?
My main character arrived first, definitely, shaking her Uggs with disgust and making herself at home in my head. The plot wove itself around her and I didn’t have a clue about some of the things which happened – I certainly didn’t plan them in advance, although I knew roughly where we were going. I did have rough chapter notes though, which came in very handy when I lost my way a little bit halfway through.
4. Lucy is such a genuine personality on the page – she feels very real. How did you manage to keep her voice true?
I was the kind of teenager who always had to have the last word and that desire has never really left me so I identified with Lucy immediately. She’s smart and very funny and her voice was crystal clear from day one, which made it easy to keep her realistic. My daughter was also very helpful in ensuring I didn’t put my deeply unfashionable feet into my mouth – she was my credibility guru.
5. Tell us about music – did you have a playlist for Lucy? Or rather, did you have an overall playlist for writing MSCA?
Now how did you know that? Lucy’s IPod is chock full of awesome tunes – she’s a massive Muse fan (like me) so there are several tracks by them on there, from Unintended to Supermassive Black Hole; All I Need by the French band, Air; Beasts by Slow Moving Millie; Great DJ by The Ting Tings; Blame it on the Boogie – Michael Jackson and pretty much anything by Dizzee Rascal. Lucy has great taste in music.
6. Jeremy has to be one of my favourite characters in MSCA – he comes across as a bit hapless but determined to help Lucy. Were you ever worried that readers may not bond with Jeremy, who is the oldest person in the novel for teens?
It didn’t really occur to me, to be honest. Lucy and Jeremy might be unlikely friends but they do get on really well, in spite of Jeremy’s extreme lack of any kind of cool. It was important for Lucy to have an adult to help her in her afterlife and it needed to be someone who had no link to her old life, because it would have been too painful to have a constant reminder of what she’d lost. I think readers will see Jeremy as an older brother or an uncle – often embarrassing, mostly annoying but sometimes handy.
7. You have chosen to set the story in and around Soho and Oxford Street. How important was setting for you when you wrote MSCA?
I fell in love with London at the age of eighteen, when I came to visit University College London, and it’s been a love affair that’s lasted. Lucy is a Londoner born and bred so it was a no-brainer when I was deciding where to set the story. And there are so many great London places for readers to visualise – who can’t conjure up an image of Leicester Square or the London Eye? It’s one of the coolest cities in the world and fits Lucy perfectly.
8. What can we expect next from you in the Afterlife series?
I’ve just handed the manuscript for the follow up to My So-Called Afterlife over to my publishers. It’s called My So-Called Haunting and has a new main character called Skye. She’s a fourteen year old psychic who finds that settling in at a new school is the least of her worries once she starts helping a teenage ghost who is inextricably tangled up in the gang culture of East London. On top of that, she’s somehow caught the attention of the mysterious Nico, officially the most gorgeous boy in school. As things heat up between her and Nico, her psychic ability threatens to come between them and Skye struggles to keep her secret safe. Can she stay true to the spirits around her and have some kind of life at the same time?
9. What wise words of advice do you have for aspiring new authors?
The single biggest price of advice I’ve ever received is to be patient once you’re submitted your MS. Agents have a lot of manuscripts to read so no matter how desperate you are for them to get to yours, give them time to appreciate it without nagging for a response. Ditto editors. The publishing world is all about the waiting.
And please don’t write about vampires or angels unless you have a really fresh and original idea - like SpaceVamps (In Space, No-one Can Hear You Suck – hey, I might have something there…); they might be super hot now but they’ll be old news in the twelve months or so it takes to get a novel to print. And face it, you’re never going to beat Edward Cullen.
Thanks "Pepper" Tamsyn for visiting with us! Read My So Called Afterlife's first chapter here and I dare you not to want to rush out and buy it to read it! Find Tamsyn's website here. She also has some books coming out later this year for younger reads, but more about that then! But if you're interested, it's also all on her website!