Today is my stop on the YA Shot Blog Tour, and I have been looking forward to this for such a long time! Today, I will be sharing an interview with Orlagh Collins, author of No Filter, her stunning debut novel about love, friendships, and switching off from social media. You can read my review of No Filter from a few weeks ago here, and thank you to Orlagh, Bloomsbury, and the wonderful YA Shot media team for making this happen! I am also hosting a giveaway of No Filter over on my Twitter, so make sure to check that out.
1. Three words to describe No Filter?
(Refreshingly) grounded & sweepingly romantic. These are Bloomsbury’s words, but I’ll take ‘em.
2. No Filter is your first novel – what’s been the most exciting part about being a debut author?
Getting published last year was like a gift I never expected. Unlike most writers, I wasn’t writing away for years and it was a whole new world for me. I knew nothing about publishing or indeed the wonderful community of readers and bloggers out there. That said, I’ve always been a reader and adored stories in all their forms. Most exciting of all though has to be having an editor. I feel so lucky to have someone so smart engage with my work with the sole purpose of making it the best it can be. Also, holding a physical copy of your book for the first time, kind of blows the mind. I opened a box of the US hardbacks of No Filter last week and I genuinely gasped!
3. Did you always know No Filter would be set in Ireland?
Yes. I had to write what I knew. I grew up by the sea in very similar village to the one Emerald finds herself in in Dublin and as a debut writer, I needed that crutch of familiarity to write confidently. The Somerset landscapes and the imposing buildings that Emerald’s usually surrounded with in Bath are a direct contrast to the suburban seaside setting where her grandma lives and this opposition is important. In Dublin Emerald spends much of her time at sea, in every sense; either looking out at it or sat on an island in the middle of it. That endless horizon and this sense of limitless possibility was creatively key.
4. What was your favourite scene to write?
Both island scenes. Their first boat trip there is the moment where Emerald’s mask slips and it’s the point, after which nothing is the same for her again. She finally speaks her truth and was heard and supported. When she returns to Grandma’s house she’s been truly changed. I’ve such a clear image of herself and Liam huddled together on those cliffs, listening to the waves lapping about in the dark. The island is inspired by a real place, a private island off the North County Dublin coast, which I was lucky enough to visit it a few years ago. It’s a magical place with extraordinary wildlife. The part about the wallabies is true!
5. A really important part of No Filter is Emerald spending time away from social media – have you ever embarked upon a digital detox?
Regularly. I have to. When you work alone, from home, you have to be disciplined or you can lose hours to it. I enjoy social media. It’s fun and can be such a great way to connect and share ideas, but I do worry that it can stop us from being present. What I also find difficult is its extraordinary skill in diverting our attention away from what we want to be thinking about. I never turn on push notifications, simply because I don’t want my thoughts constantly steered elsewhere. When I have a lot to do, I’ll come off it entirely. Other times, I try to police myself to weekends but I’m not always successful. It can be so compelling!
6. Who were your favourite authors growing up?
As a child, Enid Blyton loomed large. The Magic Faraway Tree was one of the first books I read alone and it introduced the possibility of disappearing to lovely places inside my head. We had a large, illustrated copy of Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales in our house and I was obsessed with it. The pictures were so twisted and disturbing (like a lot of the text!) but I couldn’t stop looking at them. YA wasn’t such a thing in the late 80’s/early 90’s (I sound ancient now!) but thankfully we did have Judy Blume. I devoured Are you there, God, it’s me Margaret? when I was ten, and the just the right side of slightly-confused for it to feel unforgettably relevant. Margaret talked endlessly of her ‘loafers’ and I remember being desperate to know what they might look like. No Google in them days. I went on to read everything she wrote. I adored all the Brontë sisters, but Wuthering Heights was probably my favourite. I read it first at fifteen and I was captivated by the intense passions of Heathcliff and Cathy. The wild, mysterious Heathcliff hooked onto my teenage mind and my feelings for him were unsettling and fierce. I remember the excitement of reading Roddy Doyle’s The Snapper, The Van and The Commitments for the first time too. It was the language of the Dublin I knew and the dialogue leapt from the page. Of course, the Rabbitte family were hilariously funny, but Doyle’s affection for them was real and you could feel it. James Joyce too, not for any high-brow reasons but because Stephen Dedalus’s super-sensory teen angst in Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man woke me up to the possibility of language. It was the first time I immersed myself in a book just to marvel at the deliciously descriptive arrangements of words.
7. You also make films – the book industry and film industry are very different, but have you found any similarities between the two?
Film-making is a hugely collaborative process, whereas writing is solitary, but both are all about story. Memorable characters shine from both books and movies and unique voices endure long after we’ve closed the pages or left the cinema. You can have the starriest cast and the best CGI but ultimately a film will only deliver if it’s there in the script. Story, story, story.
8. And finally – what’s next for you writing-wise? Any plans for book two?
My (as yet untitled!) second book comes out in March 2019. It’s set in Camden Town in London when 16 year old Vetty (Helvetica), moves back to the flat where she grew up and the story picks up with her reuniting with her childhood friend, Pez, the boy from across the street. It’s about sexual identity, intimacy and friendship. It’s a very different type of love story to No Filter – no romance this time – and I’m really excited about it.