Interview – Shalini Boland


In case you missed it, here’s our interview with +Shalini Boland which is also over on the Guardian Children’s Book website.

What can you
tell us about The Outside Series?

Set in the
near future, these three novels follow Riley as she overcomes the murder of her
younger sister by tracking down the killer across a post-apocalyptic Britain.
At the same time, she is forced to take on the might of a twisted regime intent
on conquering the nation.

The story is
full of action and adventure with a smattering of angsty romance. Books two and
three become more darkly dystopian.

Why did you
choose to write a dystopian novel?

Originally, this
series wasn’t even going to be set in the future. I had an idea for a
twist-ending to a novel, and worked the plot backwards. It was only after I had
the basic story that I thought about when and where I’d like to set it.
Dystopian novels and movies have always fascinated me, so I thought I’d give it
a go.

How do you get
your ideas?

ideas just come to me while I’m doing something other than writing. That’s why
I always carry a little notebook around with me. In fact I have a notebook in
most rooms of the house, as well as different ones in each bag and also in the
glove box of the car! Getting ideas isn’t the problem – it’s having the time to
turn them into books that’s my biggest challenge.

How important
is it to have a strong protagonist in a dystopian novel?

depends on the type of story – whether it’s plot-led or character-led. Some
novels are all about the plot, where the character is almost a device to unlock
the action. Other books are more about the character and their journey. But I
think the protagonist has to be believable – I’m not so keen on cartoony
kick-ass characters who are completely heroic and fearless. In Outside, Riley starts off as quite a
passive character, but as the trilogy unfolds, and as more and more terrible
things happen to her, she grows a backbone and becomes pretty tough, even
though she’s terrified most of the time.

characters grow as I write them. I always think of their upbringing and their
circumstances and what bearing this will have on their actions. I try to put
myself in their position – How would they really react in a particular
situation? I often back my characters into impossible situations or give them
difficult dilemmas, that even I don’t know how to deal with. I hope this makes
the story more unpredictable and the drama more realistic.

What should
the opening to a dystopian novel include?

to either intrigue or shock the reader. I know some people don’t like
prologues, but I like them, as they give the reader a taste of what’s in store.

What writing
tips can you give to our budding writers?

I wrote
a short post on my blog recently about things I wish I’d known when I was
starting out as a writer. Here are a few of them:

  • You can’t wait for inspiration to strike. If you
    want to be an author, you need to have the discipline to sit down and
    write, even if you ‘don’t feel like it’.
  • There is no ‘one way’ to write a book. Everyone
    has different methods. You can plot methodically, or go with the flow.
  • When writing a book, there always comes a point (usually
    around a third of the way in) when it becomes the hardest slog on earth,
    and you’ll wonder why you started writing it, and the whole thing feels
    like this giant waste of time. At this point, it’s advisable to have a
    good cry/punch a wall/ eat a whole jumbo size bar of chocolate. Now you’ve
    got that out of your system, you must push on through the pain barrier and
    kiss and make up with your masterpiece-of-a-manuscript. After a chapter or
    two of hard slog, you’ll be back in love with it again.
  • Get a thick skin. Once you finish your book,
    you’ll have all manner of people telling you, you suck. From editors with
    red pens, to harsh reviewers. Hard as this is, you must learn/ignore and
    move on. It’s not personal.
  • Don’t always get hung up on analysing the sales,
    marketing and craft aspects of writing a book. Allow yourself to wallow in
    your scenes and step into your characters’ skins. Have fun with the plots
    and delight in wicked twists. Yes, writing a book is really hard work, but
    it’s also a wonderful experience. And there’s nothing quite like that
    incredible feeling of achievement when you type ‘The End’.

What other
dystopian novels have caught your eye?

obvious ones of course: The Hunger Games
(Suzanne Collins) and Divergent
(Veronica Roth) were fun series to read. But also The Road (Cormack McCarthy), The
Forest of Hands and Teeth
(Carrie Ryan) and Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro) are dystopian stories with real
atmosphere and darkness.
Here’s where
you can find Shalini online:

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