First we were making friends with Alice Dyson, now we're taking down Evelyn Tait.
Poppy Nwosu is an Adelaide-based author of YA fiction. Her debut novel, Making Friends with Alice Dyson, was shortlisted for the 2018 Adelaide Festival Unpublished Manuscript Award, and the 2019 Readings Young Adult Book Prize, and will be published by Walker Books US in America in 2020. She was also awarded the 2019 Writers SA Varuna the Writers' House Fellowship for Young Writers.
Taking Down Evelyn Tait is Poppy's second novel and was published by Wakefield Press in April 2020. Here's a little bit about it.
Impulsive Lottie - heavy-metal fan, expert tomato-grower and frequent visitor to the principal's office - is in even more trouble than usual. Her best friend Grace has dropped an unlikely bombshell: she's dating Lottie's mortal enemy, good-girl Evelyn Tait. Studious Jude, the boy next door, has the perfect war plan. Lottie will beat Evelyn at her own good-girl game, unveiling Miss Perfect's sinister side in the process. Taking life more seriously starts as fun, but soon offers its own rewards ... so long as Lottie can manage gorgeous Sebastian's sudden interest, Jude acting weird, and the discovery that she might actually be good at something. Taking Down Evelyn Tait is a story about family, friends and embracing who you are. Even if that person is kind of weird.
First of all, Poppy – thank you so much for agreeing to answer a few questions about your latest #LoveOzYa book, Taking Down Evelyn Tait, which is already garnering some rave reviews.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Sue
It’s over a year now since I chatted with you about your debut, Making Friends with Alice Dyson – with all that’s happened in between what have been the stand-out moments for you?
Wow, it is hard to even get my head around everything that has happened in the last year, things feel very different! I guess my stand out moments would have to be when my debut was shortlisted for the 2019 Readings YA Book Prize, when I was awarded a residency at Varuna The Writer’s House in the Blue Mountains (through Writers SA), and also when I found out my book would also be coming out in America (which will happen in September 2020.) All of those things were really unexpected, and they made me feel very happy.
In Taking Down Evelyn Tait, you’ve created a very memorable cast of characters. Who did you have the most fun bringing to life? And which relationship dynamic?
Definitely I had the most fun with Lottie, who is the main character in my new book. I think because she has no filter, and really just says and does whatever she wants without ever worrying about consequences, she was just very enjoyable to write! And in terms of relationships, I always adore writing romance, but in this book I also liked looking at Lottie’s changing relationship with her stepmother.
As you've said, Lottie is the main character in Taking Down Evelyn Tait. She's very different to the studious Alice in Making Friends with Alice Dyson. Which of the two did you enjoy writing about more, and why?
Haha, this is such a hard question … I am not really sure. I really love Alice because of her thoughtfulness, but I suppose it is a little bit hard to go past Lottie, who is such a loud and fun character. Maybe Lottie is actually the favourite for me (though it feels weird to choose, ha!).
Did you have to make adjustments to Lottie’s character as you wrote about her? How much did she change during the process of writing the manuscript – or did she come to you almost fully-formed?
To be honest, I didn’t find it very hard to write Lottie’s voice and character, and although I only had a vague idea of who she would be when I began writing the novel, it wasn’t very difficult to get in her headspace and create her. So although she certainly developed throughout the novel, as I got to understand her more and more, in a lot of ways she was a very easy character to write, almost arriving fully-formed.
There are a number of surprises in the book. Did you have the main points of the plot firmly in your mind when you began writing, or did the twists and turns come to you once you’d started?
No, I really had no idea what the plot was going to involve, other than the main idea of a girl everyone considers to be bad, deciding to become good. In a lot of ways though, I think I like to focus more on the character journey and development as the main core of a story, and sometimes because of that, I use the plot more as a framework to ensure the characters can get to where I want them to emotionally.
When I talked to you last time, you said that doing interviews, panels and podcasts were probably the things that took you furthest outside your comfort zone. Is that still the case or have you become more relaxed now that you’ve had to do so many?
Haha, oh my gosh, this has not changed at all! Even after a whole year. I have actually done SO MANY live interviews, panels, events and speeches now, so you would think I would be very confident about them, but I still get nervous every time. Once I get started though, I always do have a lot of fun.
But I have been told that feeling nervous is a good thing, because it means you care about what you are doing! So I like thinking of it like that.
Given your ambition previously was to have a book published – and you’ve now done that twice – what are your goals now?
To have a million books published? Haha.
Seriously though, I do think that is what I want now. I want to continue writing books, I want there to be an avenue for continued publication, and I would love most of all to have a long sustainable career as an author. It is what I love most in the world, and there is nothing else that I would rather do with my life.
Last time we spoke, you said you write for two hours each morning before work. Is that a routine you’ve been able to maintain or do you have a very different routine now?
Yes, I have mostly maintained that same routine over the past year, getting up early to write before work. The main difference now is that I work part time instead of full time at my day job, and that has provided me with a lot of extra hours to write each week, which has been amazing. But I still try to get up early on my work days anyway. For me, a day that begins with me making some positive progress on a creative writing project is a really good day!
In terms of your own reading, what have been some of your favourite YA books so far this year?
I have loved so many lately!
Some recent LoveOzYA books I’ve read and loved are Luminous by Kristy Fairlamb (book two in a fantastic series), Snow by Gina Inverarity, Ironheart by Jodi McAlister and The Long Distance Playlist by Tara Eglington. I’m also just about to start Deep Water by Sarah Epstein.
Finally, I’m sure your readers will be dying to know: is there likely to be a 3rd book to sit alongside Alice and Evelyn?
Gosh, I really hope so! I have a project I am working on, which is a bit of a road trip book that I am very excited about, so watch this space!
Thanks so much for your interesting questions and for having me on your blog Sue 🙂
Taking Down Evelyn Tait is available from all good bookshops (ISBN: 9781743056974)
and it is also available as an ebook.
If you'd like to find out more about what Poppy's up to, head to her website: http://www.talltaleswithpoppynwosu.com/