May 26, 2015

Welsh Week Interview: Sarah Govett

1) Could you tell a bit more about yourself?

My name’s Sarah Govett (but I guess you know that already!) My debut YA novel, The Territory, has just come out with Firefly Press. I was originally a lawyer, then a tutor, a mum and now a writer. Please buy my book as I really like writing and want to keep doing it!

2) Your novel is set in 2059, why this time?

The exact year isn’t important, I just wanted it to be enough into the future for global meltdown to have happened, but close enough that people and their attitudes are pretty recognisable.

3) Water has made the world a messed up place, how did you get this idea?

I see global warming and resultant flooding/environmental catastrophe as a very real and present danger, and one that we, as selfish humans, are completely useless at confronting. I think we’re at a point where we need to take decisive action, but we’re rubbish at prioritising long-term gain over short-term hardship. I mean, my husband and I recently decided not to eat fruit imported by air and this seemed like a massive sacrifice, but come on – it’s only a packet of blueberries!

4) Noa, the main character, lives in a difficult time. She's smart, but she's not always strong. Is she like any girl her age? And do children in that time have to grow up too quickly?

I see her as being more driven and sparky than most girls her age in The Territory and she manages to keep her sense of humour in a frightening world. They all have to grow up quickly when death is a daily occurrence, but I think they’d still have the concerns of teens today – Does he fancy me? Do I look OK? Are my parents embarrassing? And so on …

5) After reading your book I think a lot of people would think about how good we have it now, is that something you deliberately want to show your readers?

I actually wanted the book to serve as a metaphor for today’s results-obsessed and unfair education system so I guess no, not completely. I think teens today, well in Britain anyway, are under such enormous pressure from exams. They have to work so hard to sit exams in 9 or more subjects, often then to have their results denigrated by newspaper headlines declaring this year’s exams to be ‘the easiest ever’. The Territory is supposed to be a greatly heightened version of real life. 

6) Will there be a sequel?

There will. I’m writing it now!

7) Every action has consequences and in 2059 making a mistake will cost people dearly. How would you cope with that pressure?

Hmmm. Probably not too well! I can handle exam pressure, but when the issue is how far you’d go to survive – that’s harder. I think that’s why I like dystopia as a genre – when the issue is survival, conventional morality collapses and humans become much more primal.

8) The worst thing for me was that there was hardly any reading for fun any longer. That would be my worst fear/most horrible scenario for the future. What's yours?

Not being able to protect my family. With two young girls I’ve become the ultimate soppy mum and anything that involves risk to children is like a sucker-punch. I watched The Lion King for the first time the other day and when Mufasa died I was in floods of tears. Bambi – don’t even go there!

9) What inspired you to build the world you're writing about?

I think the biggest influence has been working as a tutor these past 12 years. I’ve taught some incredibly bright and talented pupils at low performing schools, who, without additional input, have no chance of competing against their often less able peers at more spoon-feeding, exam-factory style schools. I wanted to take this unfairness and heighten it to a life or death situation.

10) A love triangle is never easy, what kind of advice would you give someone who's in Noa's situation.

Looks are important, I’m not going to deny it, but try not to make them your focus. We’re all going to end up old and wrinkly. Go for the person who nourishes your soul.

You can find my review and giveaway of The Territory here.

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