Bethany Rutter | 'Writing is not some painful, mystical talent'

Bethany Rutter | 'Writing is not some painful, mystical talent'

Bethany Rutter answers our questions about her second novel Melt My Heart (Macmillan Children's Books), which is shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2021

1. Can you sum up your book in one sentence?

It's a book about trying to take control of your future and figure out what you want that to look like! 

2. What inspired the book?

I feel like two major tensions were present in my life in my late teens — firstly, worrying that if I didn't lose weight then I wouldn't be worthy of a rich, fun life. Secondly, stress around my sexuality as I knew I was bi. My first novel, No Big Deal, explored the first element but through an exclusively heterosexual perspective. I wanted to write Melt My Heart to revisit some of the anxiety I felt around being bi, forming relationships, and figuring out who I was.

3. Which character in the book is your favourite, and why?

I think my favourite character is Lily's best friend Cassie. She's vibrant, laid-back, warm and creative. Just my kind of person!

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

Second novel syndrome is a real thing, and I worked really hard on Melt My Heart with my editor Simran. Knowing that all that hard work paid off, and that knowledgeable and experienced people like the panel saw something in the book means so much to me! Just having the book read and enjoyed is more than enough, so to be recognised by a prize is something I never even dreamed of.

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

A comment I get a lot from women in their 20s and 30s is "I wish I had this when I was a teenager," so I guess the best thing about writing for young adults is writing books that maybe will find them at the right moment, so they don't get to later in adulthood and only then find a story that they wish they'd had years earlier. 

6. What was your favourite book as a teenager?

I read The Secret History by Donna Tartt when I was about 16 and that swiftly became my favourite book for many years! 

7. What is your top writing tip?

Just do it. Don't get dragged into completely pointless narratives about what an author looks like or behaves like. Writing is not some painful, mystical talent, it's just a question of having an idea and expressing that idea by writing the words on the page. So my tip is always, much like Nike, just do it.

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

This book is set in the height of summer, so I'm going for the perfect summer banger "Fantasy" by Mariah Carey because it samples "Genius of Love" by Tom Tom Club, which is one of my favourite songs of all time

9. Who would you cast in a film version of your book?

This is such a tough question because I honestly don't know any fat British actresses who could play an 18 year old! I would definitely love the opportunity to try to find one, though.

10. Which book, film or TV show would you recommend to someone who enjoyed your book?

The TV show "Sugar Rush"! It was on TV when I was 17 and I feel like it has some similar vibes to Melt My Heart.

You can find out more about Melt My Heart and Bethany Rutter, and read the first chapter of the book for free, on the YA Book Prize website.​