Interview with Rosie Rowell, winner of the Branford Boase 2015 award for Leopold Blue (Hot Key Books)
How did it feel to win this year’s Branford Boase?
It was unbelievable! I was blown away to even be longlisted, let alone shortlisted, so when I found out I had won I felt quite ill. It’s such a special award because it recognises the editor as well as the author.
What was your inspiration for the book?
Growing up in South Africa, I spent three years in a town that’s basically Leopold. We were the only English-speaking people in this tiny town, which had a very conservative Afrikaner population. I had a similar experience to Meg of wanting to be normal and I had a lot of the same struggles, knowing that the feeling of wanting to fit in isn’t right but feeling it nevertheless. It’s also a love story to those small towns that are disappearing as populations get bigger and the world gets smaller.
How long did it take you to write the book?
It took me five years on and off. I had three children under the age of three when I joined the Complete Creative Writing Course in London. We produced chapters every week, which was an impetus to keep going, and the writers I met there I still see once a month. Writing Leopold Blue was a process of learning to write, in fact.
What was it like having Emily Thomas as an editor?
Emily was fantastic. She isn’t at Hot Key anymore unfortunately [Thomas has moved to Blink Reality] but she was amazing. She just got the book and I felt like I was in a very supportive place. She had a good eye for what needed trimming down and what needed bringing up. Being South African, I don’t always realise what’s not clear to international audiences and she helped me with that.
Why do you think your book didn’t get as much attention as some of the otheRos
It’s quirky and it doesn’t tick the normal boxes of a YA read, I think. I was a bit worried that people wouldn’t relate to it because it’s about South African and its historical, but in fact lots of bloggers loved those elements.