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Switching lives

Switching lives

Friendship and romance, drama and a battle for the environment unfold in KATY CANNON's THE SWITCH-UP: L.A. EXCHANGE, in which best friends swap lives, and discover more about themselves.

THE SWITCH-UP: L.A. EXCHANGE is the second 'Switch-Up' book, the first introducing us to two teenage girls who meet at an airport and decide to swap their lives for the summer.

In the follow-up, L.A. EXCHANGE, Alice and Willa are back, this time on Willa's home turf of LA, where are plenty of opportunities for Willa and Alice to swap lives once again, and to get to know each other - and themselves - better.

Look out for friendship and romance, fights and forgiveness, and plenty of fun along the way!

Author KATY CANNON tells us more about THE SWITCH-UP: L.A. EXCHANGE:

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your new book?

A: The book is actually the sequel to last year's novel, The Switch Up, in which two girls, Alice and Willa, meet on a plane to London and decide to switch lives for the summer.

This year, they get to meet up again, this time in LA, where Willa is living. The idea is to have a relaxed holiday, sightseeing, visiting the beach, having fun together. Of course, fate (or Willa) has other plans, and its not long before they're switching places again!

Q: And the two main characters, Alice and Willa?

A: In the book, Alice comments that, if it hadn't been for their summer swap last year, the two of them would never have become friends, because they're total opposites!

Alice is shy, a little introverted, loves reading, is passionate about the environment, and has no interest in things like fashion or trends. She starts the book unhappy at her new school, and hoping that two weeks with Willa in LA will help her find the kind of confidence she had last summer, when she was pretending to be Willa.

Willa, on the other hand, is a born extrovert, passionate about film making, loves clothes and makeup, and starts the book by convincing her school mates to put on a massive flash mob dance so she can film it for her YouTube channel.

Q: What is it like returning to the same characters, who we met in the first book, The Switch Up, rather than starting a story with new characters?

A: It was so much fun! It really was like visiting old friends, and it was so lovely to have the chance to imagine where Willa and Alice were now, and what lessons they still had to learn from each other about life and friendship.

Q: Why did you decide to set this book in Hollywood, LA; have you visited there yourself?

A: In the first book, Willa's mum is living and working in LA (she's an actress), and at the end they talk about Alice going out there to visit, so it followed on very naturally.

I've never actually been lucky enough to visit LA myself, so there was a lot of research involved. But with Willa's love of film, and determination to become a famous director, where else could I set it?!

Q: There is a strong storyline involving environmental campaigning in LA Exchange, why did you decide to introduce this?

A: I think the climate crisis remains one of the biggest issues facing our planet today. When I was writing the book, young people across the globe were standing up and shouting to be heard on the subject and I think, since the climate crisis will affect their futures so much, it is important to address it.

With Alice's father being a marine biologist, she's naturally very involved in environmental issues, especially concerning our oceans. I wanted to show her passions more in this book, to balance out Willa's passion for film.

Q: Both your characters develop in self awareness during their two-week break, was it hard to chart those changes in quite a short period?

A: I think that we can go years not truly seeing ourselves, or being ourselves. Then all it takes is the right moment, or the right person, to bring things into focus. With Alice and Willa being such opposites, they're really good at showing the other a different point of view, and that always helps with developing self awareness!

Q: In the story, Willa and Alice pretend to be each other; if you were a teenager again, who would have been the person you most wanted to be like?

A: When I was a teenager, I wanted to be more like my much-cooler friends. These days, if I could go back and be a teenager again, I'd want to be more like a lot of the teenagers I meet and hear from today. They definitely seem to have it a lot more together than we ever did!

Q: What have you got planned next for Willa and Alice?

A: Well, Alice's dad is getting married, and they're both bridesmaids, so I'm hoping I'll be able to tell the story of all the wedding swap hijinks! It might end up as an exclusive short story for subscribers to my newsletter though, so if you want to read it you'll have to make sure you're all signed up.

Q: Where have you been writing during lockdown, and what has been your favourite escape from your desk?

A: I've had both my kids at home during lockdown, so I've been home schooling AND writing, which has been a challenge! Luckily my husband has taken on his fair share of it too, while also working from home, so we've both been taking turns doing a shift in my study as time allows. I've been working a lot of evenings and early mornings in there, so I've strung fairy lights all around the room to add a little sparkle. I miss escaping to coffee shops and libraries to write, though!

Q: What are you looking forward to doing most once lockdown is over?

A: Hugging my parents. They're two hundred miles away, so I haven't seen them in months, and don't know when I'll be allowed to again. But we've had a family video chat with them and my two brothers almost every single day since the lockdown started, which has helped.

Q: Any top recommended reads for teenagers?

A: At the moment, my daughter is eleven, so I'm reading more of the younger teen books to keep up with her reading habits. She's just discovering the Ally Carter books, especially the Gallagher Girls series, which I adore. She's also finally started reading my books, which is exciting!

When I'm reading for me, I love everything by Beth Garrod for funny contemporary reads, and Harriet Reuter Hapgood for slightly older, more emotional stories. I'm a big fan of Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels too, and adored Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufan and Jay Kristoff last year (the sequel is at the top of my TBR pile).

Oh, and for non-fiction I have to give a mention to the brilliant Find Your Girl Squad by Dr Angharad Rudkin and Ruth Fitzgerald. It's wise, funny, and very, very helpful for girls navigating friendships in their tween and early teen years. I also always recommend The Confidence Code for Girls by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman for tweens and You Got This by Bryony Gordon for teens.

Q: Top tips for using real life for inspiration in your writing?

A: Always ask yourself 'What if?' It's the question that turns any everyday occurrence into a story with possibility. What if your teacher didn't show up today? Why? What happened to her? Does she need rescuing? Or what if the people moving into that house across the street weren't normal people but shapeshifters? What if you turned right instead of left like usual at the end of the street by the forest, and ended up in the fairy realm? What if you got on that plane and, instead of getting off as you at the other end, swapped lives with another person?

There are story ideas everywhere - especially in newspapers, or online. The trick is to twist them and expand them into adventures. Or books, as most people call them.


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