WHSmith Zoella Book Club: Author Interviews (Books 1-4)

As many of you reading this will probably already know, I took part in the first WHSmith Zoella Book Club during the summer and fell in love with it. I've always been a big reader but I enjoyed this book club so, so much. Zoe Sugg chose eight books that she loved and shared them with us. I joined in with their Twitter events, bought and read every book and wrote blog posts about them. So, imagine my excitement when Zoe announced that should would be doing another round of the book club through autumn/winter, into February 2017.

I was very kindly sent the whole new collection of eight books and I did an unboxing post in October (here). I noted in that blog post that I was going to keep the layout of my posts the same as last time, talking about the first four books at the halfway point and then talking about the other four books at the end. However, this time I got the amazing opportunity to ask the authors questions about their books, so rather than me talking about the books and reviewing them with my own thoughts, I'm going to post interview-style, with the questions I asked the authors and their responses. Then, at the end of the whole book club, I will review all eight books and rank them just like I did before.

If you're wondering what all of the post-it page markers are in all of the books, they're notes on parts I like or ideas for questions I could ask the authors.

So, let's get into the interviews:

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Hi, I finished your book in 24 hours. I adored it.
Well I adore you! Thank you so much.

I loved the use of comic books and Star Wars. How did that come about?
Trans people tend to socially withdraw before we transition so a lot of us end up as nerds, and it’s something not many people know. Sandman by Neil Gaiman is especially important for us when young because it has trans characters in it who aren’t terribly done.

I love some of Bee’s lines, like ‘I’m not the plucky queer sidekick in your romantic comedy’. Do you have a favourite?
That one, honestly! We’re on the same wavelength.

Which part of the book did you find hardest to write?
The scene on the road after homecoming. It was pretty upsetting to think about.

Do you think things would have been different had Grant read the letter when Amanda wanted to tell him?
Oh absolutely! But do you think they stay together after the end?

I’d like to think they’d stay together.
Would you ever write a follow up to If I Was Your Girl, or do you think it’s been left in the perfect place?
Amanda has a cameo in upcoming books but otherwise I want to leave it to y’all. Write some fan fiction!

That’s the answer I was hoping for. I loved the way it ended. The last few lines are perfect.
Um no, you’re perfect.

The flashbacks add so much depth, were they planned from the beginning? I connected most with Amanda’s feelings in these.
No, I originally did them as a character exercise but then my editor saw them and loved them so we put them in.

I love this answer. Well done to your editor.
I think I’ve got answers for or discussed all of the points I marked in the book.
That is a lot of post it notes.

I marked all of the parts I loved and wanted to talk about – so basically the whole book.
Let me flip the script… Who would you cast for the movie?

I’d cast Tom Holland as Grant for sure. I pictured him whilst reading it, just with the darker hair.
See that’s amazing. I don’t know enough celebrities to do my babies justice.

Thanks for answering all of these questions. If I Was Your Girl was amazing and I can’t wait to see what’s next from you.

It’s been a pleasure!

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

Hi Alex, it’s great to be able to talk to you. I loved Frozen Charlotte.
Hooray! Thank you, Janay! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

My first question is more about yourself than the book: Do you have a particular place you like to be when you’re writing?
I really like writing at sea. I wrote a third of Frozen Charlotte on board the Coral Princess. Otherwise, anywhere with a cat!

Where did you get the inspiration to write Frozen Charlotte?
I guess the original Fair Charlotte poem was my inspiration. I stumbled upon it by chance online.

What can you say about what readers can expect from the upcoming prequel?
To learn more about the Frozen Charlotte dolls, and how they came to be evil in the first place!

What made you choose this setting for this book?
I thought that the island setting would make the main characters feel more cut off and isolated from the rest of the world.

What made you include a Ouija board app rather than an actual board?
I wanted to put a modern twist on it, and also thought this would provide the opportunity to have more spooky effects, like music playing.

Did you know about cartilogenophobia before writing the book? What made you choose this?
No, I discovered it during my research. I like the thought of a phobia that the character could never escape from.

I have to say, I’ve never read a book where the end of every chapter makes me want to immediately read the next!
Thank you so much! I love cliffhanger chapters in fiction.

Was there any part of the book that you found difficult to write?
I found the scene where we learn how Rebecca died a bit tough to write, just because one of the other characters is so brutal here.

Would you like to see Frozen Charlotte made into a film, or do you think it’s best as a book and left to the imagination?
I absolutely love horror films so I’d be thrilled if Frozen Charlotte was ever a film.

Do you have a favourite line or part?
I don’t think I have a favourite line as such. The bath tub scene is one of my favourites, though.

I read that scene whilst I was in the bath, and I’d already been warned about a “bath scene”. Silly move!
Eeek! That’s super bad timing! I’m sorry for any nightmares!

It’s OK, I was more scared when I went to bed straight after reading the part where she checked her room for the doll!
Dolls who can move around on their own and want to kill you is never good news.

I love the opening flashback to 1910. Was this written early on or added in later?
It was added in later.

I loved Dark Tom, he almost acted as a warning signal. What made you add him into the story?
Thanks! I liked the thought of having a parrot who could talk and repeat some of the many unspeakable things he’d heard inside the house.

Where any of the characters based on real people and who did you enjoy writing about the most?
No one was based on a real person. I think I enjoyed writing Lilias the most, just because her bone phobia made her so interesting to me.

Thank you so much for answering my excessive list of questions this evening. Thank you so much for creating Frozen Charlotte, I loved it.
You’re very welcome. Thank you so much for the amazing questions!

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Hi, I had already read I Was Here before it was part of the Zoella Book Club but I was happy to read it again. How does it affect you when writing about the topic of suicide?
Sometimes, I internalise my characters without even realising it. When I showed my sister a draft of Where She Went, she said ‘Now I see why you’ve been such a bitch’… With I Was Here, I wrote a draft minus Bradford. He’s the only villain I’ve ever written and I was scared of him… But generally, I’m empowered by the books I write.

Is there a message you’d like readers to take from this book?
I don’t write message books. Which is to say I don’t set out to write books that’ll teach you something. Such a book would suck. But with I Was Here, I think I inadvertently wrote a book whose message, among others, is that mental illness is real. Though we’ve come far, there’s still such a stigma attached to mental illness. It’s something amiss physiologically. I hope the book helps people see that, helps people attach less judgement to it, reduces the stigma.

Do you plan to write a sequel to I Was Here?
I didn’t really consider it. I know people were used to duets from me, but I Was Here was a standalone. The only other person’s narrative I’m interested in is Meg’s, so conceivably there could be a prequel. I don’t know that I’d want to spend so much time in Meg’s head, following her down a dark path, and know I can’t set her right.

I loved Cody’s interactions with Ben. What do you think this added to the story and made it work so well?
Thanks. I found the antagonistic relationship with Cody and Ben a total delight to write. Hate at first sight. There are definitely readers who disapprove of Cody and Ben (SPOILER ALERT) getting together, but I try to write characters as they are, not as I think they should be. Life is messy. Love is messy. Grief makes strange bedfellows. Sometimes literally.

What about I Was Here being made into a film?
I’ve seen a draft of the script and met with the producers just yesterday.

Do you have any advice to those who would love to write a book?
So much. Read widely. Revise. Revise. Revise. It’s not easy. IT takes a lot of work and repetition. What Malcolm Gladwell calls the 10,000 hours to master something. And my other advice to writers is not to put the cart before the horse. This means don’t worry about getting published or writing the genre that’s hot. Write the story you’re dying to tell. Write the story that only you can tell. Then write the hell out of it. Make it about the work first.

Are you able to say anything about what you’re working on now?
I just got back from an epic book tour (30 cities over more than 2 months) and now I’m trying to get focussed on what’s next. I think a lot of us in the States are trying to absorb what happened here and how to fight back, both in life and art. So I’m grappling with that. Pablo Picasso once said “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” I think about that a lot these days.

That’s a great quote. Thank you so much for answering these questions. Thank you for such a memorable reading experience with I Was Here.

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Hi, I just wanted to say how much I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
Rachel Cohn: Thank you! We had ridiculous fun writing it.

David Levithan: Especially playing with all the holiday tropes.

What was it like to build on Dash and Lily’s relationship in this Christmas-themed book?
RC: Interesting to find them a year later in a deeper but harder place. Fun to bring them to Christmas spirit.

DL: Writing about people who’ve been dating a year is very different from a “meet cute” – that made it interesting.

Do you like writing with alternating narrators and why do you think it works so well?
RC: Love writing dual narrators because I never know where DL will go next – always a fun surprise.

Why do you think New York is such a magical setting for a Christmas story? I’m going in two weeks for my honeymoon and Christmas?
DL: The energy level goes up about 20 notches at Christmas, with so many tourists and so much decoration.

RC: The magical lights, the chill in the air, the manic Christmas frenzy! Also the pizza! Have fun and congrats!

DL: And NYC is magical at pretty much any time. Perfect place for a honeymoon – I hope you get to see snowfall because I love NYC when the most when the snow falls and everything goes quiet.

Do you have a favourite part of the book?
RC: I love the glitter skating massacre and every Dash/Langston exchange. Plus, Boomer!

DL: The conversation between Dash and Langston on the ferry is one of my favourites, as is the skating scene.

Were any parts of the story inspired by true events?
RC: Yes, for me in that I have a big, Christmas-loving family and I adore introverted bookish boys.

DL: There’s a nod to The Hard Nut, a modern Nutcracker, because my friends dance in it, and while the parents in the book aren’t based on mine, the do remind me of some of my friends’ parents.

Would you ever like to see Dash and Lily adapted into a film?
RC: Yes Please.

DL: Absolutely! We’ve had amazing adaptations of our previous two books. It would be great to go for a trio.

Do you have a dream casting for Dash and Lily?
RC: I like the boy from Sing Street for Dash. No Lily in mind.

DL: Definitely the boy from Sing Street, and if it were ten years ago I would have loved to see America Ferreira as Lily.

Where did the idea of naming the tree come from?
DL: I just loved the idea of Boomer being a “tree whisperer” and, of course, he’d think each tree deserved a name.

Are there any plans to further continue Dash and Lily’s story?
DL: I think we’d always be happy to return to Dash and Lily. We’ll see!

Thank you for answering all of my questions this evening.

I'll be back with the interviews for the other four books at the end of January-beginning of February, followed by my reviews.

If you've read any of these four books mentioned above, please feel free to share your thoughts, either in the comments section or via my social media (Twitter and Instagram).


  1. Great post Janey. I'm also working my way through these books. I've read The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily and The One We Fell in Love With by Paige Too . I'm a bit scared of Frozen Charlotte tbh as I am not a big horror fan and I'm a big baby lol. I look forward to reading your interviews for the other 4 books.

    1. Thank you. I'm not a huge fan of hour either but I really got into this one. Just don't read it before bed and don't read it if you're home alone - I freaked myself out a couple of times! I haven't read The One We Fell In Love With yet, but it's probably the one I'm most excited to read. Thank you again for the kind words. Look out for part two of the interviews at the end of January/start of February, and I'll also be posting a review of all eight books in February too.

    2. It's just been brought to my attention that my phone autocorrected the word 'horror' into 'hour'. Oops!