I was lucky enough this year to be involved with the release of Kate Mallinder’s Summer Of No Regrets, and was very kindly gifted a copy of the book from Firefly Publishing. I absolutely adored her debut novel (my full review is HERE), so wanted to get the chance to speak to Kate about her book and how she’s found the writing process!
Keep reading for my interview with Kate about everything summer, best friends and powering through writing!
How has the release of your debut novel been so far?
Really enjoyable! And a little bit nerve-wracking. I’ve had so many exciting mini-dreams come true. They’re all tied up with having a book published, but seeing my book in a bookshop, having people read it and love it, signing books in a bookshop, talking to school students about being an author, talking about my story on the radio – lots of brilliant moments to treasure. It’s been fun, but at the same time it’s tiring and scary doing so many new things in such a short space of time. It’s a funny mix of emotions but on the whole it’s been an incredibly positive experience.
Did the friendship group in the book come to you as you wrote, or did you already have this tight-knit group in mind?
They came as I wrote. I knew Cam already, but the others started off differently, then changed the more I wrote. I think it takes as long as in real life to get to know a character – often several months of regular contact.
Did you intend on writing a YA book or did that end up where the story felt most comfortable?
I’ve written stories for several different age groups in the past and I never set out to write for one specific age-group. However, I’d been told my teen voice was good, which had been a surprise at the time, so I was exploring that.
A lot of difficult topics are discussed in Summer Of No Regrets (anxiety etc), did you find this difficult to write or did it come naturally?
A bit of both I guess. Some of the topics, like anxiety, were easier to write as I have personal experience of them, but even with personal experience, I wanted to make sure I got it across in the best possible way. So I wrote my first draft, then did lots of fact-checking and research to make sure it was as close to the lived experience as I could get it. I then asked others to read and to double-check what I was saying. The accounts won’t be everyone’s experience, but hopefully will be recognisable as possible.
Who was your favourite character to write and why?
This is SO HARD! I love my four main characters, and each of them had fun and tricky bits of their stories to write. But if I had to pick one, then Sasha, because she’s my wish fulfilment character. I got to rewrite some of my experiences the way I wished they’d gone.
What was your inspiration behind Summer of No Regrets?
I started writing six years ago with the idea that I would give it my best shot for a decade, and if nothing came of it, then I’d at least have no regrets about really trying. The more I wrote, the more I realised I wouldn’t be able to give up after ten years, but the principle was still the same. I was going to give it everything I’d got and if it didn’t work out, I’d still be able to feel proud that I’d tried. And I guess this eventually trickled through into my story – about going outside of your comfort zone, and going for it, even if you feel scared.
Do you think that your book fits in to the ‘early YA’ category?
Absolutely. This is a teen book through and through, which means it can be read from age 11 and up, but especially for those first few years of secondary school, where the older YA stuff is perhaps still too much, but they’re looking for something a bit more about the teenage experience. But it’s not just limited to teens – I’ve had a group of women in their sixties and seventies tell me how much they’ve loved it, either because they wished they’d had teenage years like it or because they did! I love hearing who has read it and why they’ve enjoyed it.
Are you seeing a change in YA? Aka it being divided between older and younger readers of YA?
I would love to see that change happen. And as I’ve started to go around bookshops and school libraries, I think I’m not alone. I’ve heard of libraries having teen and teen plus – like you get 12 and 15 movies. It’s not on reading levels, but on content, and some content really is for that older age group, which they do need. I think it would help out parents, teens, librarians and booksellers if there was a label or some indication of content, so that you wouldn’t have to know someone who has read it to find that out. It’s interesting that the question I’m most often asked by adults is ‘Is it suitable for year 6?’
Do you think this change is important to readers and finding books appropriate for your own age?
Absolutely. It’s about informed choice. And parents and young people need to be able to find this out for themselves. It shouldn’t be a secret, it should be easily available.
Will we be seeing more of these characters in the future?
There are no plans to, no. But I have more stories for them in my head. I couldn’t not know that they’d be okay!
I want to say a huge thank you to Kate, who has very kindly taken the time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions and to give such wonderful and thoughtful answers. It’s been a lot of fun interviewing Kate and she’s an author that i want to keep supporting as best i can. I have definitely been inspired by what Kate has said in this interview, especially about her willingness to keep writing.
Summer Of No Regrets is incredibly fun-filled and is exactly what you need for a light-hearted reading experience. I adored it, and Kate is such a wonderful person to go along with her wonderful book!