If anyone had told me that I would be interviewing Lisa Williamson on Chouett today, I would probably reply. “Yes in my dreams, probably”!! You see I bought “The Art of Being Normal” as a gift to myself last Xmas having absolutely no idea where the whole blogging adventure would take me. It’s as if I am coming full circle!! Life can be really amazing.
It is my honour to introduce you to Lisa today and share with you a little bit of herself.
- When did you realise you were a writer? Or are you still an aspiring actress?…Or maybe both?
I was a writer before I was an actor. As a really little kid I loved drawing and making up stories and wanted to write and illustrate children’s books. Then I decided I wanted to be an actor and that sort of took over. I’d been acting for a while when I realised I was craving another creative outlet and started writing again. They’re both forms of storytelling, so although one profession is typically more solitary (the writing), and the other is more social, they both have a lot in common. I still act (mostly in TV commercials) but my heart lies with the writing.
- When did you know that you had something really good and that “The Art Of Being Normal” was a story worth telling?
The Art of Being Normal was inspired by the young people who visited the Gender Identity Development Service (an NHS service for under-18s struggling with their gender identity) when I was working there as an administrator between 2010 and 2012. I’d been writing something entirely different and it was only after a year of working at the service, it dawned on me I should perhaps try writing from the point of view of a transgender teenager. I was deeply moved by the session notes I typed up every day and felt putting a young person struggling with their gender identity (on top of all the usual other tricky stuff you have going on during adolescence) at the centre of a fictional story had the potential to move others in the same way. I knew I had something straightaway but it took me ages to come up with a good plot and put it all together.
- Who came to you first? Who was the first character you felt needed to tell his story? Was it Leo or David?
David came first, very closely followed by Leo. For a while David was the sole narrator and Leo was a supporting character but Leo kept shouting to be heard so he was soon promoted to share narrative duties with David. It took me ages to work out how they would meet. For a while they went to entirely different schools and met under all kinds of bizarre circumstances.
- How do you feel about your novel, having resonated with so many people, that is with cisgenders and transgenders alike?
I feel very proud of it. I worked hard to make it as authentic and real and sensitive as I could and so to hear it’s rung true, not only for trans readers, but for cis-gender readers too, is such a joy. I think the theme of self-discovery and working out where you fit in is such a powerful one and something we can all relate to.
- As a writer, do you feel there are topics that are “no go” areas?
There are things I personally wouldn’t write about, but I think that’s more about preference, than feeling I’m not allowed to write about them. In YA fiction particularly, there are very few topics that haven’t been covered at least once. One thing I am passionate about is providing readers with a sense of hope. I love a bleak read every now and then, but as I naturally optimistic person, I can’t help but inject my books with hope and a bit of magic. That’s not to say I don’t put my characters through the mill first though – they have to work for that smidgen of hope!
- Can you share with us a moment in your life you felt was a “ah ha moment”?
I went on a writing course at City University way back in early 2010. It was the first time I’d shared my writing with strangers and it was just so exhilarating to be around other aspiring authors and to get positive feedback on my work. I remember coming home every Monday night on a complete high. I’ve done loads more writing courses since. In fact it was another course (this time at Curtis Brown Creative) that helped me figure out I was writing for young adults (light bulb moment!) and another (a weekend course on writing for children and young adults at Faber Academy) that cemented this decision and really focussed my writing. Courses are great basically!
- If you could go back in time and meet an author who has unfortunately already left our world, who would it be and why?
Nancy Mitford. We’d drink cocktails and go dancing. I’m a bit obsessed with the Mitford sisters. It would lovely to have some of Nancy’s wit rub off on me.
- What is your favourite flavour ice-cream?
Chocolate. Always chocolate.
- Can you tell us “10 things” we don’t know about Lisa Williamson?
- I played the mum in the John Lewis 2014 Christmas advert
- I can balance a pound coin on my nose (rich tea biscuits work well too)
- I love Hollywood film history and have loads of books on the subject
- I have really flat feet!
- When I was nine I won a McDonald’s drawing competition. My prize was a McDonalds party and a tour of the kitchens…
- I LOVE model villages. Bekonscot in Beaconsfield is my happy place.
- I have an ‘innocent’ heart murmur
- In 2006 I appeared in pantomime with Basil Brush and Christopher Biggins. I played Princess Jasmine in Aladdin and sang ‘You Raise Me Up’ with Claire Sweeney who was playing Aladdin
- My five all-time favourite books are One Day by David Nicholls, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe, Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld and The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
- I don’t drink hot drinks and have never smoked a cigarette
- What is your perfect day?
Disney World with all my best mates.
Thank you so much Lisa, it has been a real pleasure!!