“There is a way if there is a will,” a powerful quote from the depths of the Internet claims. Did she find it browsing the timelines of her social media accounts? Although she might have bumped into that phrase somewhere on Tumblr, she certainly didn’t need it as she can be an example of the saying being wholly true. Writing her book while still at school and securing a two-book deal by the age of 19, Alice Oseman shares how she manages to stay motivated and what she reads – both online and in print.
Alice adores Bret Easton Ellis – she’s read all of his books, most of them during the summer she was working on “Solitaire” – and Patrick Ness. But if she had somebody writing a novel about her, she would travel back in time and get Jean Rhys or J.D. Salinger to do it. The young writer even has the idea of the short summary for the story.
“I’d describe it as: ‘Girl creates an alternate universe in her head, and then runs away to live there’,” she sums up.
Creating the alternative worlds brought her to publishing “Solitaire” and getting a deal for her upcoming book. She was quite secretive: nobody knew that she was working on a novel until she started looking for an agent. Even though she was writing ever since she was small, the big project astounded her family and friends at first.
“When I finally told them, they were surprised, but clearly didn’t expect much to come of it. Everyone was overwhelmingly happy for me once I’d secured an agent,” she says.
The young writer put her ideas together when she was still at school, during the nerve-wracking period of exams and handing coursework in. However, she took a “relaxed” approach which allowed her to both enjoy writing and overcome the widely known nightmare called writers’ block.
“As silly as it sounds, writing my novel wasn’t something I was taking extremely ‘seriously’. It was just something that I did when I had time and when I wanted to do it,” she explains. “I didn’t put any pressure on myself. So when I was a bit stuck, I just gave myself some time out, and after a little break I was soon itching to get back into writing.”
So far, so smooth – but were there any difficulties that she faced?
“I’d say that my biggest problem was probably how much sleep I lost during school time due to staying up late writing!” she laughs.
Moreover, it took some planning to organise the time for her “most important hobby”, as she calls it, in such busy times. That’s why she used to do her homework at school to have time at home to write.
“And I was obsessed with writing, so every spare minute I had, that’s what I was doing,” she states.
Getting a response from the publishers took around three weeks. Her agent, Claire, sent the manuscript out to various publishers. From several offers that she obtained, Alice picked HarperCollins. She signed a deal for two books, so in between lectures, seminars and handling the university coursework, she is now working on her newest novel. What can her readers look forward to? It’s going to be another realistic contemporary for the audience that had “Solitaire” on their growing-up reading list.
“It’s not a sequel, but it is another Young Adult standalone. I won’t give away any details yet,” she unravels just a tiny bit of information, “and it features characters a little older than those in SOLITAIRE. It’ll hopefully be out in early 2016,” she adds.
“Solitaire”, her debut on the literary scene, was warmly welcomed by many critics. She can’t remember the first review of her book, though.
“I am very appreciative for all the positive reviews I received when it first came out – it really filled me with confidence,” she says.
Active on both Tumblr and Twitter, the writer receives lots of messages of thanks from her fans online. Besides being a medium of contact with readers, can those websites spark inspiration? She confirms that both of them influence her in different ways.
“I’ve had Tumblr since 2010 and it’s always been about finding things that are relatable or aesthetically pleasing or interesting. I love Tumblr because it’s so colourful and fascinating,” Alice explains. “Twitter’s much more about interesting articles and opinions and world views and connecting with fellow writers,” she adds.
Well, does it not contradict, on the other hand? Can “a writer” still be a career path nowadays, when everybody keeps on repeating that printed word slowly goes to rest?
“Definitely!” Alice claims. “There are loads of ways to make a career out of writing – from being an author to ghostwriting to freelance journalism. Just because it’s a difficult and risky business shouldn’t stop people trying,” she proves.
And what would she say to all of us who are still trying to pull themselves together and write something decent – whether an another epic tale or a story of something we know?
“Write whatever you want, and get obsessed with it,” Alice advises. “That will bring out your best writing.”