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Dog's Advisory Board: Interview with Nova Weetman, Author

Jan 29,2018
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Nova Weetman is an author of both middle grade and young adult fiction books. Some of her works include The Haunting of Lily Frost, A Hot Cold Summer and Everything Is Changed.

The Secrets We Share is the sequel to 2016’s The Secrets We Keep and continues the story of Clem Timmins, a young girl who lost everything to a house fire almost one year ago. Clem has finally begun to rebuild her life and is about to start high school with her best friends Bridge and Ellie. But her world is suddenly turned on its head again with the unexpected arrival of her mother who tries to pick up where everything left off.

I had the amazing opportunity to interview Nova Weetman about her novel The Secrets We Share which was released in October 2017. - DAB member Tanzeem

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First, an important question, what is your Hogwarts house?

I think I have to say Gryffindor with a Ravenclaw rising.

What is your process behind writing stories? Does an idea for a story just hit you like lightening or does it come to you gradually?

Usually it starts with a thought. Either about a character or about a scene I want to write, and then I build the rest around that. Sometimes, I might be lucky and have a whole story come to me at the beginning, but mostly it’s a character first.

You’ve written both middle grade and young adult fiction. Do you feel like your process for writing a story changes a little depending on the audience you are writing for?

I don’t think the process changes dramatically for me. Obviously the stories are very different for middle grade and young adult, but the way I approach them is fairly similar. I may try and answer more narrative questions before I start writing young adult just because the story is more complicated, but otherwise my bash-it-out process remains the same!

The Secrets We Share is the sequel to 2016’s The Secrets We Keep, did you begin writing the first book with a sequel in mind or did you decide that you wanted to continue Clem’s story after finishing the first book?

I never intended to write a sequel for The Secrets We Keep. I thought it was a standalone novel and it didn’t even occur to me that I could write a second book. My publisher suggested it. And once she planted the seed, I started thinking about the characters again. Clem is one of those characters that gets into your head and is very hard to shake. I decided that if I was going to write a sequel, then I wanted the focus to be another transition in a young person’s life. My daughter was starting high school and it made sense that Clem should too.

How did you feel revisiting Clem and her family for the second story? Was it like you were reuniting with some old friends?

Totally! I love Clem. She’s definitely my secret favourite character. She’s feisty and angry and strong and gives me the chance to explore very real emotions. I also love her dad and her neighbor Maggie and her friends. When I wrote the first book I was very careful to make the people in Clem’s life supportive, as a way to offset the turmoil in her own head. Returning to these characters felt like I was falling into safe arms.

Where did the inspiration for Clem as a character come from? Was she influenced by how you remember yourself being when you were her age?

Clem is a version of my daughter and a version of me. I don’t think I ever had a reason to be as angry as Clem when I was young, but I’ve definitely felt that level of anger since. I wrote the first book with my daughter’s help. She would read my words each day and edit the emotional journey of the characters. She had a very big hand in shaping Clem to be the character she is. Maybe that’s the other reason I love Clem so much.

In The Secrets We Share, Clem is about to begin attending high school with her friends. She’s a little nervous about starting at a new school, was any part of Clem’s pre-high school jitters influenced by your own experience starting high school?

I still have my teenage diary and it’s very clear that there were a lot of friendship tussles and boy dramas during those years. I remember clearly the feeling of being in a friendship triangle and wondering where I fitted in. Also I was writing the second book as my daughter was preparing to start high school so I guess I based much of it on her. That gentle anxiety she felt around the idea of change and of being a small fish again was very palpable.

After the events of the first book, Clem has a little bit of a strained relationship with her parents, especially with her mother, resulting in her spending a lot of time with Maggie and her nephew Matt. Do you think Matt is almost like an older brother figure for Clem?

I think Matt is a friend that sits outside all of Clem’s dramas. He’s older and male and an outsider so he’s not capable of making her feel bad in the same way her best friends are. I suppose it is a sort of older brother role, because he has the ability to discard her when his peers are around.

Matt appeared in this book because I was swimming in a city hotel pool on a roof, and I met a teenage boy who told me he was rooftopping. I was intrigued and asked him lots of questions. He explained that he rode the trains in from the suburbs and knew the easiest hotel pools to sneak into. He was honest and funny and totally convincing and I just had to write him into this book!

Matt is a new character who we didn’t meet in the previous book and his character also has some family troubles. Do you think the relationship between Clem and Matt is similar to the relationship between Ellie and Clem in the first book?

I think Matt serves the same purpose Maggie did in the first book. Except where Maggie was a kind place to fall because Clem needed a mother figure, Matt is pushing her to feel something again by making her take physical risks. I remember loving the fact that I had friends who weren’t part of my school social circle to retreat to on the weekends. I think Matt is that for Clem.

This book discusses the importance of friendship between the characters. Do you think that readers will be able to relate to the characters in the story, whether it’s Clem, Ellie, Bridge or Matt, and do you hope the story can help readers who are experiencing their own friendship troubles?

Friendships dominated my life when I was this age. I wanted to show that as Clem gets older, she’s less entrenched in the world of her parents, and more affected by the relationships with her peers. I hope readers can relate to one of the characters in the book, and that maybe seeing how messy Clem’s life gets when she’s not upfront about things, means they see their own friendships differently.

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