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>> Best friends - forever?

Best friends - forever?
23/04/2019

Best friends - forever?


Pez was Vetty's best friend, until she moved away. Now she's back, but they both have secrets they don't want to share. Can they get their old frienship back? Author ORLAGH COLLINS tells us more about ALL THE INVISIBLE THINGS.

ALL THE INVISIBLE THINGS is Orlagh Collins's second book following her debut, NO FILTER, about a summer when everything changes.

ALL THE INVISIBLE THINGS is a gorgeous read about friendship, love in all its forms, and finding oneself. It is aimed at readers aged 14+.

We asked author ORLAGH COLLINS to tell us more:


Q: You originally worked in film - are you still doing that work? What has been your favourite film project to date?

A: Yes. Film Production is a collaborative process whereas writing is solitary. Each have a very different tempo and being something of a sociable introvert, I thrive on the mix.

I've been lucky to work on a wide variety of incredible film projects, but in the past my role has been largely production based. I've just adapted my debut novel NO FILTER as a film and going forward I'd love to be more creatively involved.


Q: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

A: For a long time, I imagined if I was to write anything I'd start with a screenplay, but I was so intimidated by the technicality of screenwriting that I couldn't even start.

When I eventually began to write prose, I was surprised by how much it flowed, and I was encouraged by the fact that I could just sit down and crack on without having to rely on anyone else or having other parts of the production circus in place.


Q: Do you think your background in film has influenced how you write?

A: Without a doubt. I will always think in scenes and acts. I can't remove that filmic scaffold. It's stamped behind my eyes.


Q: What subjects get you excited as an author?

A: Whether it's books, TV or films, I love talky, thinky, emotional stuff. It's the stories that explore relationships, how we feel about ourselves and others, that really interest me. I like the minutiae.

We're living through an intense period of change due to the pervasive assimilation of technology and I'm also fascinated by how this affects our personal development and behaviour, on and offline. I'm particularly intrigued by how it further complicates the urgent and vital experience of being a teenager.


Q: How did the writing of All the Invisible Things compare to writing your debut, No Filter?

A: It was more difficult. I originally wanted to write All The Invisible Things from Pez's point of view but my editor felt it would be too dark. She was right, of course, but it took me some time to recalibrate and to weight the subject matter correctly. I'd never written to a deadline either. I tried to be organised and plot everything out in advance, but in the end, I had to accept that I don't work like that. For me, it's only in the writing that story comes alive.


Q: Your novel, All the Invisible Things, is about love in its many forms. What made you want to write about this?

A: Growing up, I wish we'd had access to more diverse stories about love. Wide representation is crucial for self-discovery and in broadening our capacity for understanding and empathy. So much of love can be distilled down to connection.

Vetty's bisexuality is paramount thematically since for her, intimacy is led by such connection, not gender, and it's precisely this connection and intimacy that's been missing in the sex that surrounds her childhood friend Pez.


Q: You follow two main characters, the narrator, Vetty, and her childhood friend Pez, who she needs to get to know all over again as teenagers. Can you tell us a little about how each of them developed?

A: This story was always about childhood friends picking up again as teens. After four years apart, Vetty and Pez, meet again at sixteen.

I knew both would worry that their true selves they may not be so loveable now. For Vetty, this uncertainty stems from how her bisexuality will be received and a fear that it could jeopardise her new friendships. For Pez it's his loneliness, the shame he feels about the hardcore pornography he watches and the paralysis he's begun to experience in intimate situations.

I wanted to write the vulnerability that underpins the best of friendships, mostly because I wish I'd had the courage to be more open growing up. It's only in finally articulating her truth that Vetty learns her own strength and understands that she is enough, and similarly Pez realises that he can't selectively numb his emotions without detrimental consequences.

Ultimately both characters come to appreciate that we're all imperfect and wired for some struggle; to feel vulnerable is to feel alive.


Q: Why did you decide to set the novel in north London, and make it so specifically this city?

A: I lived in Camden for many years. I love the area. It's diverse in so many ways.


Q: You explore some sensitive issues in the novel, including porn addiction and bereavement. How did you go about researching these areas and did you do your research before or while you were writing the novel?

A: While online porn is widespread, it is rarely touched upon in YA. I read a lot about porn addiction before starting to write and I continue to read around the topic. It appears we've yet to grasp the full extent of the effects of its proliferation, particularly on young people.

Children as young as 10 are regularly watching it and 40% of it depicts violence against women. Yes, mutually respectful, fun, inclusive, feminist and progressive pornography exists, but it represents a tiny fraction of what's easily available.

Online pornography is highly engaging and immersive and the younger the user, the greater the neural response, potentially long-term. In Pez's case, the instincts he's honed online make him seriously out of sync in his real-world romantic relationship. From the research I've done, I know he's far from alone.

My father died recently and I'm acutely aware of how such extraordinary loss informs our experience. Life goes on, because it has to, but bereavement alters you in a way that only those who've gone through it can understand.

Pez knew Vetty before her mum died and that he straddles her before-and-after-losing-mum lives is comforting for her. That he'll speak of her too is vital. I think one of the saddest parts of losing a loved one is that people are nervous to talk to you about it. I'm always grateful for an opportunity to talk about Dad.


Q: Vetty's journey through the novel is to find herself when she physically moves back 'home' to London, and especially to explore her sexuality as she believes she is bisexual. Why did you want to explore this for YA readers?

A: My oldest childhood friend is bisexual and when she first came out I didn't know bisexuality was even real. In my defence, queer rep in our 1980's Irish catholic suburbia didn't extend much beyond Oscar Wilde, Boy George and the odd arthouse film. Lesbian's barely got a look in and bisexuality? Fuggetaboutit!

As my beloved friend settled in to her identity, I knew I needed a better understanding. One day, I asked whether she prefers guys or girls and after a pause, she said, 'It's not like that. It's about the person. That's the starting point.' I'll never forget, because for the first time I grasped that this was about vibing on the same frequency as another human, as plainly and as beautifully as that. What a gorgeous starting point.

I was hyper-aware that I was writing outside of my experience on this book, but something being difficult is not a reason not to do it. While researching, I discovered how real and damaging bi-erasure is. Evidence shows that bisexual and questioning females are at a higher risk of depression, mental health issues and suicide than any other sexual denomination. My dear friend was kind enough to be one of my first readers and that Vetty's experience spoke to her meant everything.


Q: You have a range of supporting characters in the story, did any one of them stand out for you?

A: I have deep affection for all of them, particularly March and Aunt Wendy, but it's probably Arial, Vetty's young sister, who really holds my heart. My daughter is a similar age and I drew much from her, albeit unintentionally.


Q: Where and when do you write, and what are you writing now?

A: I don't have a typical day. Usually I'm juggling other work alongside my writing and I feel enormously happy and grateful when I have a clear run at it. I can be quite disciplined and I'll write anywhere, scrabbling time wherever I can. I now have several projects bubbling about at any one time. These include film scripts, a adult novel and other YA stories.


Q: What is your favourite escape from writing?

A: Writing IS my escape.


Q: You have mentioned that you enjoy 80s teen movies - what are the top three you'd recommend to our readers?

A: Ha, that's easy...

Say Anything - Lloyd Dobler is EVERYTHING. Smart and sensitive; I love his character with all my heart.

The Breakfast Club - I watched this repeatedly as a teenager and I can quote it word-for-word. It's interesting to examine this again through a contemporary lens but it's deconstruction of high-school cliques and their stereotypes still stands up.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off - 'Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.' Timeless comedy gold.
 
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