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>> What's on your list of worst nightmares?

What's on your list of worst nightmares?
24/10/2017

What's on your list of worst nightmares?


What would be on your list of worst nightmares? Lobsters? Caves? And would you ever be brave enough to face your fears? We speak to author Krystal Sutherland about her new book, A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares - which includes lobsters and cornfields!

The lobster on the cover of KRYSTAL SUTHERLAND's new book is just one of the 50 things that make up Esther Solar's Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares; other things on the list include ghosts, driving, cornfields and caving and the novel follows Esther's attempts - with the help of expert pickpocket Jonah, her twin Eugene and best friend Hephzibah - to overcome each of these fears.

The novel is a coming-of-age exploration of mental health, family and identity and follows her debut novel, Our Chemical Hearts.

We asked Krystal Sutherland to tell us more about A SEMI DEFINITIVE LIST OF WORST NIGHTMARES:


Q: Why did you decide to explore fears and phobias in this novel?

A: The initial idea came when I was living in Amsterdam and my sister had come to stay with me. I had hired a couple of bikes for us to explore the town but she was so terrified of getting on the bike and cycling that she had a panic attack. Eventually, though, she managed to get on the bike and we had a lovely time riding around Amsterdam.
It gave me this idea of a girl who is so afraid of so many things who eventually has to face her fears but I had this sense of Esther as a brave person who was compelling to write about.


Q: Through the story, Esther confronts her fears but why do you also make the rest of her family affected by mental health issues through the idea of a 'family curse'.

A: I think that things like anxiety and depression affect most families - and did mine, too - but it isn't openly discussed, there is a taboo around it. I hope that books like this will encourage people to have those conversations.
I also think that while Esther's family is tortured, that's what it can feel like as a teenager, that everything is overwhelming and everything is going wrong. Esther believes that her family is 'cursed' because she needs that story to deal with it all. The reader is never sure if the curse she believes in or the magic she senses is real or a story in her head; it's up to you to interpret it; it's her justification for the mental illnesses within her family.


Q: There is also a love interest in the story, Jonah, who helps Esther to face her fears. Had you always planned this novel as a romance?

A: It was definitely not at the forefront of my intentinos but when I put the two characters, Esther and Jonah, together, I found that they had this chemistry. Esther is very serious whereas Jonah is not, and she needs that.


Q: Death is a key character in the story; how did he develop?

A: I've just always been interested in Death as a character and especially in making him a sympathetic character. He's not terrifying, he's very human, so I decided to explore that. We find out that he is exhausted by the job he is made to do; he is young and naive and has to grow into the job.


Q: Among Esther's key fears - other than death - are heights, caving and even lobsters. Did any of your top fears make the list?

A: Definitely the caving thing, where she agrees to go into a cave but is terrified that the creatures from The Descent are going to come and get her... that would definitely have stopped me going into the cave. In fact it crossed my mind that I should perhaps research caving to help me write that part - but I chickened out... Also I'm not good with heights.


Q: You mention a lot of films and characters from popular culture in the book; why do you want these in the story?

A: These references make the book of its time. At first I had worried that they would date the book, so I went through my draft and removed mentions of Facebook and Twitter, but when I reread Pride and Prejudice, I realised that these books are of their time. It's the story that's timeless, not its setting, and I decided that as it's written in 2015, I'm going to make it feel like it's written in 2015 with references to films and song lyrics. I think that helps people to identify with it.


Q: What's the best film you've seen recently, and what are you reading?

A: I'm looking forward to seeing the new Blade Runner movie, I've heard that it's good, but I've also enjoyed Arrival and Alien Arrival because I enjoy fantasy and sci-fi.
I'm reading leigh Bardugo's Crooked Kingdom and I've finished the Six of Crows, which I've enjoyed very much.


Q: Esther loves to dress up in different characters; who would you choose?

A: For Esther this is part of being a teenager; she's not one hundred percent sure who she is yet or how she wants to be perceived. By dressing up, people are seeing the costume, not her, so it's a coping mechanism.
As for me - I'm wondering about this year's Halloween costume. Usually I love zombies but this year, I think it will have to be a handmaid from The Handmaid's Tale. That's definitely scarier than any zombie....


Q: What do you do if you're stuck for ideas with your writing?

A: Ideas come to me from so many places but if I'm trying to think something through then listening to music while I'm walking definitely helps. If I'm actually writing, though, I need to be sitting somewhere quietly; I don't write on the go, and I write best before the sun comes up.


 
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