In 2009 we all fell in love with Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur, in fact an Independent review declared it to be ‘Quite simply the best book for girls of nine and over that I have ever read.’
Today we are very excited at the publication of Suzanne's new book, Eight Keys, which is just as gorgeous, heartwarming and tear-jerking as her debut. We caught up with Suzanne to talk about her books, her readers and what's next . . .
What inspires you to write for this particular age group?
I actually decided to write for this age group way back when I was a member of it…when I was nine I developed a passion for writing and thought there should be more books for people my age to read (and that grown-ups should be more respectful of them!) so I decided I wanted to write books for kids. I never changed my mind!
Do you draw on emotions that you remember from your own childhood?
Definitely. A lot of the troubles Elise has at middle school in Eight Keys are directly built around how I felt there, too: people were being needlessly mean, we were drowning in homework…
Do you feel that because you write for such an impressionable age, you need to tread more carefully in your writing than say a 13+ teen author?
Not really. The story comes forth naturally, and, because Elise the narrator is that age, most of the story is appropriate without extra effort on my part. I will admit that one thing I was aware of was a few instances in which the characters may have used "swear" words…I think many kids her age actually do use them sometimes (I've worked with kids and heard them myself!) but I kept them out of the book.
How do you manage to capture such a young mindset with such authenticity?
Mostly I just "listen." I trust my narrator and write what I "hear" her saying…I know that sounds nutty! I think a better way to explain it is that the voice of the narrator leads me rather than me trying to decide what needs to be written (that would give a very forced result). The character's voice brings with it the mindset of her age.
What three books would you take to a desert island?
Can I cheat and take three long stories? I would take Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. There will be no need to try to pick me up from the island, thanks!
How do you manage to balance the sadness and hope in your books so beautifully?
Again, I think this balance is something that happens naturally…life itself is an intricate balance of happiness and sadness, so a good story will seek that balance as well. I actually never set out to write something sad (that is an utter accident), but hope is what takes you towards the end of a story and leaves you knowing that the story isn't really over even when the last page has been read.
What are you working on next – will it be a book for a similar age?
I am writing a book for the same age group but I always keep my new stories a secret until they're all done!