Today I’m super excited to host an interview with Leah Thomas, author of the wonderful Because You’ll Never Meet Me. It is one of the most extraordinary books I’ve read in a long time. You can read my review here on the blog. I had a few questions about Because You’ll Never Meet Me and Leah Thomas has very kindly answered them for me. Read on to find out what inspired Leah to write her wonderful story, where her characters came from and her favourite books and movies.
- I love Because You’ll Never Meet Me! I haven’t read anything quite like it. What inspired you to write this story?
Thank you, thank you! I love hearing “I love”! And I love hearing “anything quite like it.” But in truth, so many things inspired this story that to me it feels more like “everything quite like it.” Parts of it were inspired by my homesickness while living abroad, parts of it draw directly from the comics and superhero stories that informed my childhood, parts come straight out of working with kids and in schools, with being raised by social workers (like Liz, yes), and a huge chunk of the story comes from the conviction that distances don’t matter so much when you can share words with people, in stories or in letters or in music.
- When and how did the characters of Ollie and Moritz come to you?
Ollie was easy. Ollie demands to be heard, and I’m pretty sure he was hollering noisy things in my ears for at least a few years before I finally let him holler at other people. There are certain characters that really fight to exist, and he was one of them. I am often captivated by good people who put on a show of being happy even when they may not be, because they care more about how those near them feel than they care about themselves. This is, to me, a very selfless but sad way to live life, and with Ollie, he can’t quite pull it off, because he does value himself.
Moritz is the natural foil to Ollie: he’s very introverted and the front he puts up is that he couldn’t care less about the world, but the opposite is actually true. His self-loathing is so apparent but also so wrongheaded.
Both these characters are approaching their lives with whatever coping strategies they can, and when they contact each other, discover new possibilities for managing the crappy hand life dealt them.
I think these two boys really need each other. They are each other’s hope.
- Did you have to do a lot of research about their conditions?
Of course research goes into any kind of writing, and where medical issues are concerned this is a must, but I’m going to reiterate: this is by no means a factual book, or at least was never intended to be. Yes, I very much wanted to write about characters with disabilities (and will continue to, because representation is everything!), but in my mind I was doing so within a science fiction framework. On a personal level, an immediate family member has epilepsy, and certainly my experiences with that informed the book, and as far as research into echolocation – it’s true and truly amazing that some people who are visually impaired adapt in remarkable ways, but in the book this is hugely, hugely exaggerated.
Because You’ll Never Meet Me falls very much in line with the spirit of superhero stories – just with a realism aspect that I hope is empowering, if a bit odd.
- Would you rather live the life of Ollie or Moritz?
I feel like I already lived the life of Ollie! I grew up in the woods of northern Michigan, at the end of a dirt road, and so did a lot of my friends. It’s funny how many people from my hometown recognize aspects of our childhood in the book.
Having said that, I’d love to live in Germany. There’s a distinct lack of diskotheks here!
- What books and movies inspire your writing?
Oh, gosh, what a huge question! Have you got time to read another book? Because this could go for so many pages. I’ll try to name a few things, in a random blob of text:
Harry Potter, Kurt Vonnegut, Discworld, Wes Anderson, His Dark Materials, MT Anderson, Fullmetal Alchemist, Nancy Farmer, Hannibal (Bryan Fuller), Marvel Cinematic Universe, Coraline, Ray Bradbury, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Tim Burton (the older stuff – you should have SEEN my wall collages in high school), Steven Universe, Patrick Ness, Harold and Maude…
Seriously, do people find ways to answer this question?! INTERROBANG?!
- Can we look forward to more books from you?
Yes, yes, yes! (Sorry; I’m still excited by the fact.) The sequel to BYNMM, hesitantly titled Nowhere Near You, was actually drafted back in 2013, and will be released in early 2017! And following that, Bloomsbury’s also bought the rights to a work-in-progress called Birds and Other Transdimensional Things, which tells the story of a mother and daughter who have trouble with parallel universes, but more trouble with their relationship.
Thanks so much for having me aboard! I’m still pinching myself.