Simon James Green Blog Takeover

Since I reviewed Noah Can't Even a few weeks ago, I've been dying to get a hold of Simon James Green as I had a plethora of questions I wanted to ask and as he's so lovely I managed to bag myself an interview with him, so I hereby welcome you to Simon James Green's blog takeover! *trumpet fanfare*

Noah Grimes is the new epitome of teenage awkwardness, is there a little bit of biographical truth deep within the character of Noah? I for one related to many of his problems at school, such as the PE incident...

Thankfully, not too much. As a rule, I was fairly socially inept as a teenager, so there is stuff in the book that’s vaguely based on the sort of things I might do, say or think… although I was never as extreme as Noah, honest! The thing that happens in Sophie’s bathroom where the tap splashes his trousers and it looks like he’s wet himself - that’s real. And I think you’d be hard-pressed (pun intended!) to find a teenage boy who hasn’t encountered any sort of er… boy-based awkwardness at some point in their lives! I suppose if anything, the feelings Noah is feeling, the emotional stuff he’s going through, that’s where the most truth lies in terms of my own time as a teenager.

Did you always have the story formulated in your mind from beginning to end, or were there last minute additions/removals that took place in the editing process?

I had an overall plan for how the plot looked and how certain elements would tie together. There are quite a few mysteries, clues and red herrings in the book and I find that without planning, I can’t make them all work and tie up nicely at the end. That said, there were a few elements that I suddenly ‘discovered’ as I was writing – and I would then have to go back and make sure the new ideas worked throughout.

"For me, writing is a mixture of planning but also the freedom to play around with it. And, if I’m honest, I think it’s usually the unexpected stuff you don’t plan that often ends up being most exciting." 

The actual editing process did involve removing and adding various sections – including the final four chapters, which were a complete re-write after I signed with Scholastic.

Noah Can't Even tackles many topics in such a beautiful humane scope, which is really refreshing in the YA genre as many novels tend to over romanticise certain things, was there any YA novels you took particular inspiration from?

Not really. You’re absolutely right, some novels do over-romanticise the teen experience, and I’ve also found some that paint a picture of teen life in a way that is completely at odds with my own experience: teens that are more poetic, mature and sensitive than anyone I’ve ever met before. It just doesn’t ring true, and that was something I really wanted to address. I wanted to write teenage characters like they were actually teenagers – not some slightly sanitized version that felt like they were for the adult market, rather than for teenagers themselves. I wanted it to be real and I wanted it to be messy, because that’s what life is. It’s like in some TV shows, when they cast 30 year-olds as High School students, and you just think “Why?!”

Noah reminded me a lot of Adrian Mole in terms of his fluent way of speaking and his way of approaching certain things, was Sue Townsend in any way an inspiration to the book?

Oh yes, definitely! I loved reading Adrian Mole as a teenager and I’ve always enjoyed his voice. Maybe it’s because of my own similarities with Mole, but I’ve always found him more authentic than a lot of other teen characters I read, and I wanted to create something similar with Noah. Noah, like Mole, is pernickety, quite grand (despite having no real reason to be), sometimes a snob, and is towards the bottom of the school food chain – and I think that connects with a lot of people’s own experiences, whether they like to admit that, or not!

What was your main thing you wanted to take away from writing the book?

I wanted to write a YA book with gay characters that was funny.

 "I wanted to show that it didn’t always have to be angst and gloom - that coming out can be positive, fun and happy. I really felt there weren’t enough books that had that angle."

In fact, I don’t think there are enough funny YA books at all. Laughter is so important – especially with the way the world is right now.

It's nice to see a writer paint a new refreshing portrait of conflicted male sexuality in YA literature, do you think there's still more to talk about in YA with issues that maybe haven't properly addressed yet?

I think there’s always more to be talked about, and more books to be written, in terms of diverse stuff in all its fabulous forms. But I think we should also celebrate how much more diverse stuff there is now and how the YA community has really been at the forefront of that. I would love to see more books with younger gay characters and I would love it if books were able to be a bit more honest in terms of sexual content. I’m not saying, ‘let’s write porn’, but in every other form of media that young people consume (online, TV, movies, gaming) the material tends to be a lot more upfront and bold in terms of sex. Publishing tends to be a little on the reserved side when it comes to including that, and I think that’s a shame. People bemoan the lack of young people who read, but ask yourself if the content reflects their lives, preoccupations and experiences and I think you’ve just found part of the problem.

What's your biggest moment that you 'couldn't even'?

I was about 13, and had been forced to take part in the high jump at sports day. It turns out that if you’re only wearing loose fitting boxers under your PE shorts, certain boy-based parts of your anatomy can come free and reveal themselves to the Year 10 girls doing the judging. It was so mortifyingly awful, I just couldn’t even

A ginormous THANK YOU to Simon for agreeing to this blog takeover/interview and for kindly sending me a copy of Noah Can't Even to review, I look forward to meeting you in person one day for tea and cake and to talk about more moments in which we couldn't even...

Simon James Green grew up in a small town in Lincolnshire that definitely wasn’t the inspiration for Little Fobbing – so no-one from there can be mad with him, OK? He enjoyed a classic British education of assorted humiliations and barbaric PE lessons before reading Law at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he further embarrassed himself by accidentally joining the rowing team despite having no upper body strength and not being able swim. When it turned out that being a lawyer was nothing like how it looks in Suits or The Good Wife, and buoyed by the success of his late night comedy show that involved an inflatable sheep, he travelled to London to pursue a glamorous career in show business. Within weeks he was working in a call centre, had been mugged, and had racked up thousands of pounds worth of debt. Finding strength and inspiration in the lyrics of Tubthumping by Chumbawumba, he eventually ended up working on a range of West End shows and UK tours, co-wrote a feature-length rom-com for the BBC and directed Hollyoaks for C4 / Lime Pictures. After trying really, really hard, he also managed to write Noah Can’t Even. If you are interested in stalking him, he still lives in London, where he spends a lot of time telling people that Noah Can’t Even is only partly autobiographical, and his mum has definitely never done a BeyoncĂ© tribute act. 

Noah Can't Even is out now published by Scholastic.

You can follow Simon on Twitter @simonjamesgreen or check out his fancy website


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