An Interview With Alice Oseman

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Last week we had the incredible opportunity to interview Alice Oseman about her new book, I Was Born For This. The book covers friendship, family, fandom and all things band related. I absolutely adored it, i cannot talk about it enough. If you want to know more about my thoughts HERE is my review. This post is a transcription of our Alice Oseman interview and the questions we asked.

Did you intend of writing a coming of age story or did it just happen that way?
I guess that’s just the way it happened, all my books kind of end up being coming of age stories. That’s what I like to write the best. Yeah, it just happens.

I found it really interesting to read from two perspectives in a contemporary book. Did you find it challenging to write from two perspectives in one book?
Not as much as I thought it would, it’s the first time I’ve done duel narration. But when I was planning it I started with Jimmy, I wanted to write this super famous boy band guy, and then I realised I need to show these other perspectives of the fandom and the fangirl and I realised the book just wasn’t going to work unless it was duel narration, as I needed to show directly from both sides and how their views of each other are so different to the reality. So I didn’t find it as challenging as I thought it would be because the book just wouldn’t have worked if I hadn’t written it like that.

How did you find writing those two different characters with different struggles with anxiety? Was it difficult to represent more than one type of anxiety?
Yeah I guess just by starting by giving them very different personalities, that’s the main thing. So although they do both struggle with mental health issues in very different ways, their basic personalities are very different. Jimmy is quite quiet and negative, and grumpy. Whereas Angel is very loud and positive and kind of says what’s on her mind all the time. So just by starting with that very clear distinction between the two characters made it quite easy for me to switch between the voices because they are so different.

(We had a conversation about how interesting it was that Angel was portrayed to be quite loud and says what’s on her mind with a mental health issue and this isn’t the ‘standard’ that the world takes as reality.)

That’s exactly what I wanted to write. I’ve written characters that are very anxious like Alid in Radio Silence, he’s really quiet and has anxiety. But I wanted to write this different kind of anxiety, I guess, where the very loud character is being loud because she is having all this kind of emotional turmoil.

There’s a lot of representation in I Was Born For this, was it a specific goal for you to include a lot of realistic LGBTQ+ and BME representation?
Yeah. It’s always a part of writing for me. I don’t feel like it’s good to write a contemporary novel that doesn’t have diverse characters anymore. It doesn’t do good for anyone. If you are an author who has a voice and you are impacting on young people’s lives, it’s good to write diverse characters so people can find these characters and have someone to relate to.

How important do you think it is for people to read about fandom, not just be involved in one?
I have a lot of reaction from fans who read it [I Was Born For This] who’ve said it’s nice to be able to relate to these parts of fandom, but it’s also interesting to read about the negative sides of fandom. Because the books deals with the really good bits, like Angel finding friends and having this community. But also the really negative parts like the effect it’s having on the boys in the boy band. So, the reaction from people in fandom has been interesting and you know, it’s a lesson for people to understand that these things have good and bad events.

(We had a conversation about how Sophie appreciates the book because she never fully gets in to a fandom, she stays on the side lines. Whereas I throw myself in to them. We talked about how great I Was Born For This is for showing both sides of that and making it realistic.)

Did you specifically choose to write about a fandom, and why?
Yes. I started with wanting to write about a boy band, and wanting to explore what it’s like being famous. And that lead me on to thinking about ‘what is it like to be a member of One Direction?’ Or a really famous boy band or a really famous YouTuber? Someone who has a really intense fandom. So that brought me on to writing about fandom, which I’ve written about before. In Radio Silence there’s a lot of emphasis on fandom in that, so it’s something I know quite well and I really enjoy writing about.

Did you do any research in to how bands would feel in this situation? Or how fans feel? Or was it just experience?
Knowing about the fans came quite easily to me. Although I’m not really in any fandoms, I do lurk around a lot of fandoms. I keep up with the gossip, that’s enough for me. Obviously the boy band side was a lot more difficult to research. I watched a couple of documentaries about it, read some articles, and just used my imagination. It did surprise me how few really famous people don’t really talk about how stressful it must be to have that massive fandom.

Did you base any of the band on anyone?
No, I was very careful not to. I feel like that would have been so dodgy if I had been like ‘so this is Harry Styles.’ So no, they’re just completely fictional.

I want to say a huge thank you to Alice for allowing us to interview her and learn more about her most recent book, I Was Born For This. Also a huge thank you is owed to Kimi from Manchester Waterstones and the head of Teensgate Bloggers for setting us up with these incredible opportunities.

Go get yourself a copy of I Was Born For This, it’s one of my favourite books that i’ve read so far this year and deserves all the hype i know it will get. You can get a copy on Amazon*.

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