Best-selling author Sophie Kinsella may be most known for her widely popular Shopaholic series, but she has many other tales to tell — and that is why she recently released her first young adult novel, “Finding Audrey.”
The 304-page hardcover, published in June by Delacorte Press, tells the story of a 14-year-old girl suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder who becomes a virtual prisoner in her own home after being bullied at school. Audrey’s family and, especially, her brother’s friend Linus help with her path to recovery. “Audrey is [a] brave, charming and resourceful girl, and I hope she will inspire you as much as she has inspired me,” said Kinsella on her website. “I always fall in love with my heroines, but with Audrey I feel a special protective fondness, too.”
And she sure has a lot of heroines to love! Currently living in London with her husband of 24 years, Henry Wickham, and their five children (Freddy, Hugo, Oscar, Rex and Sybella), the 45-year-old British scribe has written more than 20 novels (mainly in the chick lit and romance genres) since the mid-’90s under both her pen name (Sophie Kinsella) and her married name (Madeleine Wickham). Not too bad for a woman who began her professional career as a financial journalist, huh?
Next up for Kinsella is the another installment in the Shopaholic series: “Shopaholic to the Rescue.” The book, which will be released Oct. 27, features the titular character on a “hilarious road trip through the American West to Las Vegas.”
But before Kinsella returns to the world of Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood), she chatted exclusively with HNGN all about books — from “Finding Audrey” to the young adult genre to her favorites….
“Finding Audrey” is your first young adult (YA) book — what made you want to try that genre?
Teenagers are so fascinating, so sharp, so witty — it’s a brilliant age to write about! But the truth is, I didn’t sit down intending to write a young adult book. I simply had three characters in my mind — Audrey, Frank and their mother, Anne — and when I started writing, I realized I wanted this to be a story about teenagers, for teenagers. So it became a YA book.
Was it harder or easier writing for a YA audience?
I didn’t really approach it any differently than an adult book in terms of plot or character, but I did feel lucky to have my own teenagers to consult along the way. They advised me on the gaming in the novel and the swear words they use.
In the book, Audrey becomes a victim of bullying. Was that ever a problem for you?
I’m lucky that I’ve never really suffered at the hands of bullies, but I have seen it happen and heard of so many instances [of it]. It is a topic of constant debate in the U.K., as much as in the U.S., I’m sure. I have great sympathy for children who are miserable at school or can’t bring themselves to go because of bullying, and I think that, unfortunately, social media has taken it to a whole new level.
Why did you pick the name Audrey for your main character?
It just came to me. Sometimes the right name for a character will just jump out at me — as if the character is introducing himself/herself. That’s what happened with Audrey.
How long did it take you to write the book?
I wrote “Finding Audrey” in a month, which is the fastest I’ve ever written a book, by far. Once I started, I found I just couldn’t stop! Usually, it takes far longer — I’ll plan and think about a plot for ages, maybe even a couple of years, and the writing will probably take about nine months.
Will there be a sequel to “Finding Audrey”?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I’ll have to wait for Audrey to come knocking — that’s what Becky [from the Shopaholic series] does!
Do you plan on writing any more YA novels?
I’ve loved the experience of writing YA, and I do have some ideas floating around. So who knows?
Why do you think the young adult genre is so popular right now?
I think there are some great stories out there. It’s so exciting to see teenagers and young adults reading so much — and having so much good fiction to read.
Should adults read “Finding Audrey”?
Yes, absolutely! I do think of it as a book for adults too. Anyone who’s a parent, has a family or has ever suffered from anxiety should find things to relate to. I’m certainly more like Audrey’s mum and wrote it understanding her struggles just as much as Audrey’s. The family comedy should appeal to any age.
Should adults be reading young adult books in general?
Yes. Why not? There are some great books out there and often they defy being categorized as “YA” or “adult” — they’re simply wonderful stories.
Who are your current favorite YA authors and/or books?
I’ve recently enjoyed “Saint Anything” by Sarah Dessen, “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart and “Every Day” by David Levithan. It’s not exactly YA, but I also adored “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio — it’s so thoughtful and heartrending.
What were your favorite YA books growing up?
I loved anything by Judy Blume, and I read “Fifteen” by Beverly Cleary about a million times.
The eighth book in the Shopaholic series — “Shopaholic to the Rescue” — will come out later this year. What can you tell us about it?
Becky is on the road, heading to Las Vegas on a mission to help out her friends and family. It’s possibly her biggest challenge yet!
Did you always want to be an author?
Stories were always a big part of my life growing up, but I didn’t really imagine being an author, maybe because I did so much music as a child and that’s where the emphasis lay. It was in my early 20s that I realized how much I loved words and stories.
Your real name is Madeleine Wickham. Where did the name Sophie Kinsella come from?
I originally wrote novels under my real name, but when I came up with the idea for Shopaholic, I knew it was something completely different. I wanted it to be judged on its merits, so my agent submitted it to my publisher as Sophie Kinsella. I was so nervous!
Do you enjoy being called Sophie by fans? Do you ever correct them?
No, I don’t correct them — I do feel like “Sophie.” I think it’s been nice to separate my public and private selves with two different names. It releases a little bit of the pressure on my everyday life.
For more on Sophie Kinsella, visit her official website.