Today I’m thrilled to host a Q & A with Night School author, C. J. Daugherty on her blog tour. I loved Night School (you can read my review here) and I wanted to ask C. J. a few questions about Night School, her characters and writing.
- What 5 words would you use to describe Night School?
Mysterious, thrilling, dark, scary, sexy!
- What inspired you to write this story?
When she was a teenager, my sister-in-law attended a private boarding school outside of the town where I live now. My husband and I drove out there one day a few years ago – he wanted me to see the building, because he said it was quite extraordinary. The school is hidden away behind high metal gates and down a curving drive, and is a huge, intimidating gothic Victorian structure. Having gone to a modern school in a big city, I tried to imagine what it would be like to be dropped off to face this beautiful but rather scary building alone. That’s sort of where the idea came from. What would it be like for a city girl like me to go to school there? And what kind of things might happen there?
- When we first meet Allie she’s a rebellious teen who has already been arrested several times. What were you like as a teenager?
Haha! You’ve rumbled me! I was quite the teenaged rebel. I wore black all the time, my jeans were too tight… You get the picture. I think all young people struggle to be independent when and to grow up as fast as they can. I was certainly on exception.
- Who is the character of Allie based on?
Allie is not me, and she’s not really anybody I know. She lives in my head rent-free, though. When I write, her dialogue just writes itself. I can look at something and know what Allie would say about it. She has bits and pieces of people I knew in school – my friend Suzy’s athleticism, my friend Pam’s troubled family life, my own rebelliousness and smart mouth. But mostly she’s just herself.
- Cimmeria Academy is free of 21st century technology, including cell phones, computers and the internet. How would you cope in this environment?
To be honest – I DID cope in that environment. When I was in school – not THAT long ago I hasten to add – there were none of those things, certainly not as we have them now. Young people today have never experienced that disconnected world. These days it’s almost scary not to be able to get a phone signal. If I’m someplace that doesn’t have WiFi I feel anxious – as if I’m cut off from the world. So I wanted to explore that sense of isolation. Allie doesn’t have the anchoring sense that her friends and family can be reached at any time. She is genuinely alone.
- At the end of Night School we’re left with a lot of unanswered questions and a sense that things are only going to get more dangerous for Allie and her friends. Do you know where you want the series to go from here or does the story take on a life of its own as you’re writing it?
I do know where I want the series to go, at least to a certain extent, but I’m also a freeform writer, so I let the book play itself out. Sometimes the writing takes a different direction than I’d expected. Those are really the best scenes – when it all just comes to me at once. Even if that does take me right off the straight road I’ve designed in my synopsis! So, let’s just say I have a pretty good idea where the series is going.
- You’ve had some really interesting jobs, including being a crime reporter. How have these writing jobs helped you to write your first young adult novel?
Being a crime writer helped me see more of society than I normally would have. I spent a lot of time in prisons and court houses, in police stations and police cars. Later, when I was working for Reuters, I covered the annual meetings of major corporations, and I interviewed billionaires, politicians, and even future presidents. These are the people who run the world. All of that played into the concept behind this book in some way. And along the way I met people from all walks of life – people who had different backgrounds from me. People who went to private boarding schools, for example. So, my whole life has, in some ways, led me to writing Night School.
- What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a writer?
The best thing: The creativity – the sheer thrill of being able to invent characters and make them live.
The worst thing: Most of the time? The economic instability. My mother cried when I told her I was going to be a writer. And until she died she kept hoping I would at least MARRY a banker. You have to give up your dream of being rich if you decide to write for a living. You find your joy elsewhere. And mostly your joy comes from having a job you love. Which isn’t too shabby when you stop and think about it.
Who are your favourite authors>
Oh we will be here ALL DAY!
Of contemporary writers my all-time favourite is Douglas Coupland, who wrote Generation X. I think he is a genius and I buy every book he writes. I am also a huge fan of Donna Tartt, who wrote The Secret History – a book that went some way towards inspiring me to write Night School. I’ve read all the CJ Sansom crime dramas set during the time of Henry VIII — Sovereign is my favourite of those. And I spent all summer reading the George RR Martin books – Game of Thrones is the one I liked the most.
In terms of older literature, I love every book F. Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote, especially The Great Gatsby, and I have read all of JD Salinger’s work over and over again – Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters is my favourite, with Catcher in the Rye a close second.
- If you could give one tip to aspiring writers what would it be?
Don’t give up. Keep trying. I wrote and threw away three novels before I wrote Night School. I wanted to give up over and over again, but my husband and some good friends kept urging me to try. Write something every day, and always look out for that one idea – the one you can REALLY write the heck out of. And when you do find it, don’t doubt yourself. Just do it because you love it.