Holly Bourne: 'This was something I’d wanted to write about for years'

Holly Bourne: 'This was something I’d wanted to write about for years'

Holly Bourne answers our questions about her YA novel tackling toxic relationships, The Places I've Cried in Public (Usborne), which has been shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2020.


1. Can you sum up The Places I've Cried in Public in one sentence?

A girl learns what love is, and what love isn’t, by retracing all the places her ex-boyfriend made her cry in public.

2. What inspired the book?

It was actually after crying in public myself, at Clapham Junction train station. It made me think about how much you remember the places where you’ve broken down into tears — how it leaves a stain on your memory whenever you pass it in the future. Then I had to ask myself — what would make anyone cry so much? And I realised I wanted to write a book that explores emotionally abusive relationships. This was something I’d wanted to write about for years, after seeing the epidemic of abuse in teen relationships while I was working at a youth charity.

3. Which character in the book is your favourite?

Alfie — Amelie’s ex-boyfriend. I think it’s so important to be upfront about the fact that abusive relationships are a gender issue - where abusers are disproportionately male, and victims are disproportionately female. We can’t shy away from this. We have to understand why this is in order to stop it. However, it was so important to me to show positive representations of masculinity in the book. Alfie is everything a boy should and can be. We should save our hearts for the Alfie’s of this world.

4. What does being on this year’s YA Book Prize shortlist mean to you?

I always write for my readers first. But it’s wonderful to be recognised by the industry too. And the shortlist this year is superb — I feel honoured to be up against these books and authors.

5. What's the best thing about writing for young adults?

Absolutely everything — but their passion most of all. A teenager connecting with a story creates energy like I’ve never seen before. It’s like an electrical storm. It’s a magical age-group to write for. Tough to win over, but totally worth the challenge.

6. What was your favourite book as a teenager?

Angus, Thongs, And Full-Frontal Snogging. It’s a comedic masterpiece.

7. What is your top writing tip?

Stop thinking about writing and actually write. Embrace the fact that the act of writing is all about ruining that perfect idea in your head.

8. What song would be on a playlist for your book?

All Too Well by Taylor Swift. One of the best pieces of storytelling I’ve ever listened to.

9. Who would you cast in a film version of The Places I've Cried in Public?

Oh, I’d love to give the chance to some unknown, British young actress.

10. Which book, film or TV show would you recommend to someone who enjoyed The Places I've Cried in Public?

"Sex Education" is doing some truly brilliant and healthy things right now. Just don’t watch it with your parents!

Find out more about The Places I've Cried in Public by Holly Bourne and read the first chapter of the book for free on the YA Book Prize website.​​​​