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The Places I've Cried in Public

Holly Bourne

Amelie fell hard for Reese, and was sure that he loved her, too. But is real love supposed to hurt like this?

By retracing their story, revisiting all the places he made her cry, Amelie hopes that she will start to understand what happened between them, and begin to get over him.

HOLLY BOURNE tells us more about THE PLACES I'VE CRIED IN PUBLIC, which is published by Usborne this month!

Q: Was there one incident or memory that sparked the idea for The Places I've Cried in Public, and did you have the title from the word go?

A: This was definitely a book where the title came first. A few years ago, after a very bad day, I ended up stranded for over an hour at Clapham Junction train station and burst into uncontrollable, public, tears. Aftwards, I sent a jokey tweet asking if anyone else had ever cried at that station and got so many replies saying 'yes!' with lots of detailed stories of what had caused their tears.

I got that fizzing feeling you get when you know you've stumbled onto something creatively, and that's where I got the idea for the book.

Q: The book follows Amelie as she looks back over an abusive relationship through her memories of places they had been together. Why did you want to explore this kind of relationship and the effect it can have?

A: I worked with a lot of victims of abuse when I was an advisor for a youth charity and really wanted to change the narrative around it. So many teens think abusive relationships are things that only happen to older women - wives and mothers - not them. They also think there has to be physical violence in order for it to be 'abuse'.

Emotional and sexual violence is at epidemic levels in teen relationships in this country and I wanted to address that.

Q: And why did you decide to structure it through a 'memory map'?

A: I find the idea of memories so enthralling, and remember being obsessed with the pensive sections of the Harry Potter books. I love the idea that memories are trapped in the fabric of the world around us, and we're just sitting on a bench somewhere, not realising we're maybe sitting in the memory of someone's most painful moment.

Memory is also something that gets distorted in abusive relationships - as the victim is brainwashed into not trusting themselves and their versions of events. So the structure sort of fell into place in that way.

Q: Where did you go to explore the issues these kinds of relationships can raise?

A: I went through the online Freedom programme training, which educates you on abuse and abusers and how it works. I also read an incredible book called Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft, as well as talking to experts in abuse, like Women's Aid.

I also spoke to young women still tarnished by the abusive relationships of their past. It's terrifying how many of us have this story to tell.

Q: Amelie's journey is powerful and painful - how emotionally engaged are you with your characters, and does this make it hard to write books like this?

A: I cried a lot writing this book, which is very on-brand! My heart broke for Amelie so many times, and it was a hugely painful book to write. I felt every emotion she had. But I'm hoping, if the reader can live her journey through the safety of these pages, they can learn the lessons she learned, without having to actually live them themselves.

Q: How did the writing journey compare with other books you have written?

A: This book was a sucker to write. I hated my first draft and felt the whole thing didn't work. It was only when my critique partner, Alexia Casale, read it and told me I needed to shift one of the narratives into third person that I knew what the problem was.

Unfortunately, there's no computer software that does this for you. So I painstakingly had to go through sentence by sentence, changing the point of view. This took MONTHS, but, when I read it back, the manuscript was singing and I knew it was worth it.

Q: You explore how addictive controlling relationships can be, and why, but was it a difficult experience or feeling to describe?

A: "Why doesn't she just leave him?" is the phrase that comes up repeatedly when you talk about abusive relationships, and it comes from such a misunderstanding of how abuse works. It makes victims out to be weak, or stupid. When really they've been quietly and systematically brainwashed - it's the equivalent of joining a one-person cult.

That's why I wanted to show one play out from start to finish - to show how charismatic and 'romantic' an abuser initially is, to how it feels when that affection is withdrawn, to how the abuse builds up over time, without any obvious incident where it's clear you should 'just leave him'. You need to tell the whole story to describe the complexity of emotions a victim feels.

Q: How much are you thinking of your readers who might be going through similar experiences as you write?

A: I feel a huge amount of responsibility towards my readers, especially as, legally, they are still children. So I try to write my books as safely as possible, with my safeguarding hat on at all times. However, I believe it's important never to patronise young people and to tell the truth about the world, even the bad bits. Education is so empowering so I never shy away from being honest about the darker stuff, hoping my books will bring them some knowledge and light.

Q: What would you like your readers to take from The Places I've Cried in Public?

A: To not give your heart to someone who repeatedly makes you cry in public!

Q: Can you tell us about the next book you're writing?

A: My next teen book explores the legacy of secondary school, and the power of telling your own stories.

Q: Where is your favourite place to write, and what is your best writing time?

A: I'm useless unless I write in the mornings, so try to be at my desk by 9am. If I don't start til the afternoon, then I tend to not write anything. I write at home a lot, but also enjoy the Barbican and British Library too.

Q: Can you describe your dream 'Writer's Shed', and where would it be?

A: I would love a little hut in the forest somewhere beautiful and quiet. And no wif-fi to stop me aimlessly scrolling rather than writing.

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