Meg Rosoff wrote her first book, How I Live Now, at the age of 46; she had no previous literary experience, and had spent years in an unfulfilling career in advertising. A darkly poignant tale for young adults about love, adolescence and a third world war, the book won the 2004 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. From her Q & A with The Barnes & Noble Book Blog's Melissa Albert:
A lot of YA is very plot-driven, but How I Live Now is so voice-driven. Did you start off with your plot, or did you start with Daisy?Learn about the book Rosoff wishes she'd written.
I never start out with plot. Having written six novels now, if I have even a vague idea what the book is going to be about, it’s pretty radical for me. Usually I start with either a single line, or in the case of Daisy, it was really the sound of her voice in my head. I actually first started writing it in the third person, which lasted about a day. But the minute I started writing in her voice, I thought yeah, I’ve got it.
I was working with a New York illustrator called Sophie Blackall at the time, and I sent her an email that said, “Dear Sophie, I’m writing the great British novel. It’s really boring, I think I’ll throw in World War III.” So because I’m really lousy at plot, I just took the oldest children’s book plot in the world: a kid goes to live with another family. And I was writing during the period in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq by the U.K. and the U.S., and it was a very frightening time. So that was really echoing around in my head, and whatever’s echoing around in your head comes out in your book.
Did you set out to write a YA book?
It was kind of by mistake. I wrote a practice novel, a horse book, and it became very, very dark. My agent said, “I don’t think I can sell a horse book with so much sex in there.” I said to her, “If it’s supposed to be a book for teenagers, what are the rules?” She told me that...[read on]