Interview with Leah Thomas, author of Because You’ll Never Meet Me

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.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

There is nothing quite like finding a new author whose book you fall in love with instantly.  When the book you read is that author’s debut novel you are both disappointed and excited.  Disappointed because you can’t gobble up everything else the author has written (because this is their first novel) and excited because you’ll (hopefully) have more of their stories to look forward to.  I was overcome with these emotions when I finished Leah Thomas’ debut YA novel, Because You’ll Never Meet Me.

9781408862629.jpgOllie and Moritz are two teenagers who will never meet. Each of them lives with a life-affecting illness. Contact with electricity sends Ollie into debilitating seizures. Moritz has a heart defect and is kept alive by an electronic pacemaker. If they did meet, Ollie would seize. But turning off the pacemaker would kill Moritz.

Through an exchange of letters, the two boys develop a strong bond of friendship which becomes a lifeline during dark times – until Moritz reveals that he holds the key to their shared, sinister past, and has been keeping it from Ollie all along.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me is one of the most extraordinary books I’ve read in a long time!  This book is unlike any book I’ve read and I struggle to express how truly wonderful it is.  The story is original and intriguing and the characters are two of the most interesting teenage guys you’ll ever meet.

The story is told in alternating chapters, by Ollie and Moritz, two very different guys who could never meet but find solace in the letters that they write to each other.  Ollie lives in America, in a cabin in the woods with his mother, far away from civilization and everyone else his age.  Ollie has know nothing but this isolation for as long as he can remember.  Ollie must live this life because he is allergic to electricity.  Whenever he gets close to anything electrical he starts to see loops, swirls and plumes of colour, which triggers crippling seizures.  Moritz lives in Germany, was born without eyes and sees using a form or echolocation, like a bat.  He also has a heart condition and is kept alive by a pacemaker.  He is ignored by his peers and tormented by the school bully.  Ollie and Moritz can never meet, because if they did Moritz’ pacemaker would make Ollie seize.  Through their letters to each other they share their experiences and their unique lives, giving each other strength when they need it the most.  Leah Thomas hints that there is some connection, other than through their letters, between the two boys, and when this is revealed the story goes in a different direction.  I won’t talk about this as it is a great twist in the story.

I got completely caught up in Ollie and Moritz’ stories and put myself in their shoes.  You know it’s a great book when you want to know what’s happening with the characters when you’re not reading their story.  My heart was in my throat so many times while I was reading and I just kept on hoping that Ollie and Moritz would make it through their tough times.

One of the things I love the most about Leah Thomas’ book is that she tells this incredible story in just one book.  Everything comes together perfectly at the end and there is a real sense of hope.  You don’t need any more books to carry on the story of these two characters. They stay with you and you can imagine where their story might go next.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me is a truly memorable story that will stay with me for a very long time.  I highly recommend it, especially if you love Annabel Pitcher or R.J. Palacio’s book, Wonder.