I love YA books about music and the last couple of years have seen some fantastic ones – Remix by Non Pratt, My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend by Eleanor Wood, and Love Song by Sophia Bennett to name just a few. Chris Russell’s Songs About A Girl, released today, is one of my favourites and I’m delighted to have him tackling 5-4-3-2-1 to celebrate the release! (I’m also really looking forward to his YALC panel on Saturday, where he, Non and Sophia will discuss music in YA with Blame author and Radio 2 presenter Simon Mayo!)
5 books you’d save from a burning bookcase
Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson: Bill Bryson is one of my biggest inspirations as a writer. I love his easy-going style, and his effortless comedy.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess: Funnily enough, the film never really did it for me, but the book…? Wow. A masterclass in twisting language.
The Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams: I think I stole most of my sense of humour from this book. Also, the way in which the concept of an ever-evolving “guide to the galaxy” foreshadowed the internet is nothing short of spooky.
Asking For It by Louise O’Neill: I wanted to include a book I’d read recently in this list, and it just had to be Asking For It. I’d save this from a burning bookcase because everyone needs to read it. A searing slice of urgent, gritty YA.
American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis: This book is brutal, but if you can stomach the violence, I think it’s one of the most important novels of the last thirty years.
4 TV shows you can watch all day long (when not busy writing)
Peep Show: Probably the finest comedy series in TV history. Seedy, painful and weirdly true-to-life.
Family Guy: So ruthless, so clever and so entirely shameless. The Simpsons invented the genre, but Family Guy perfected it.
Arrested Development: Every time I re-watch AD, I spot new jokes. It’s the most quick-witted series I’ve ever seen.
Black Books: On top of being set in a bookshop (major bonus), Black Books is just so scruffy and lovable. The scene where Bernard is trying to do his tax return for the first time is absolute perfection (“Did your non-returnable outgoings for the first half of the year exceed your deductions for quarterly VAT returns? What? WHAT?!!!!”).
3 songs that sum up the last novel you wrote perfectly
I Knew You Were Trouble by Taylor Swift: This track is actually where Songs About a Girl started. The mood, the tone, the textures of the book, they all arose from the landscape of this song.
Story Of My Life by One Direction: I won’t go into too much detail, at risk of spoilers, but I was listening to this track when I came up with the central hook of Songs. It was a pretty spiritual moment. Angels appeared in my living room.
Standing In The Dark by Lawson: While I was writing the first draft of the novel, I assigned each main character their own signature song. Charlie’s was I Knew You Were Trouble, Gabriel’s was Story Of My Life and Olly’s was Standing In The Dark. Have a listen, and (if you get a chance to read the book!) you’ll see why.
2 actors who’d have roles in a film about your childhood (and who they’d play)
[Disclaimer: I’d need a time machine to make this work. If anyone out there has one, tweet me.]
Katie Holmes (Dawson’s Creek-era): As a teen, I was pretty devoted to Dawson’s Creek. So much so that, for several months, I dated a girl who bore an uncanny resemblance to Joey Potter. She was a very lovely person too (I’m not that shallow) but, y’know… she did also look like Joey Potter. And I thought that was pretty cool.
Andrew Garfield (Social Network-era): If I needed someone to play me at age 18, Andrew Garfield (circa 2010) would have been a fairly good shout. When The Social Network came out, I was receiving several texts a day from friends freaking out about how much he looked like me as a teenager. My mum said she loved the film, but could barely concentrate in the cinema because all she could think was HEY ZUCKERBERG, STOP BEING SO MEAN TO MY SON.
1 place you love to read
On tour! I’m currently working through all the excellent #boybandlit and music novels being published this year, and I’ve started a tradition of taking them out gigging with me. I recently took My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend to Italy, for example, and Instagrammed it on the plane, perched on the end of my piano etc. (Fantastic read, by the way…)