Lisa Williamson, author of The Art of Being Normal (David Fickling), on her book and YA fiction.
What is The Art of Being Normal about?
The Art of Being Normal is about two very different teenagers, David and Leo, and is narrated from both their points of view. 14 year-old David is struggling with his gender identity but unable to share his feelings with anyone but his two best friends. Meanwhile, Leo (15) is the mysterious new kid at school, assumed expelled from the rough school across the other side of town. Leo's only wish is to keep his head down and finish his GCSEs. Falling for Alicia (the coolest girl in year 11) is definitely not part of the plan. Neither is standing up for David in a fight, which lands the two in detention. From here their lives become increasingly intertwined, much to Leo's annoyance at first! Gradually though, they begin to bond, culminating in a journey to track down the Dad Leo never met. Although gender identity is at the heart of the story, it's also a book about friendship, family, first love, fitting in and self-discovery – themes I suspect we can all relate to.
What does it mean to be on the YA Book Prize shortlist?
God, everything! Getting published in the first place is exciting enough, so to then find out you've been shortlisted for a prize alongside writers you really admire is all kinds of amazing. I love the variety on the list and the fact I can't call the winner at all. It makes it such an exciting thing to be a part of.
Why do you think your book should win?
Five years ago, The Art of Being Normal might have struggled to find a publisher. Ten years ago I'm almost certain it wouldn't have. The representation of trans issues in the arts and media has transformed over the last two years in particular and I'm stupidly overjoyed The Art of Being Normal has been a tiny part of that. It's very exciting to me that a subject that flew under the radar for so long is suddenly being discussed openly in a largely positive and sensitive way, something I know from the emails and tweets I receive, means a lot to young trans people. I just think it would send an extra really cool and positive message if The Art of Being Normal won!
What is special about YA in the UK and Ireland?
The people! Seriously, the UKYA community it so bloody nice. From fellow authors, to publishers, to bloggers, there's not one bad apple! Writing is a pretty solitary job so having a really solid and friendly network around you is pretty incredible and I'm grateful for it every single day.
What kind of YA books do you like to read?
I'm a sucker for contemporaries, preferably British. Anything with a really engaging voice, a bit of humour and an engrossing plot keeps me happy. Having said that, every so often I like to step out of my confront zone and try a different genre. Reading my way through the books I hadn't already read on the shortlist, for example, has been brilliant fun.