Thursday, June 14, 2018

0 Lucy Ivison and Tom Ellen, authors of FRESHMEN, on using funny stories from their time together at university

We're thrilled to have Lucy Ivison and Tom Ellen join us to share more about their latest novel, FRESHMEN.

Lucy and Tom, what was your inspiration for writing FRESHMEN?

We were at university together (in York, in the north of England), so we had lots of funny stories from our time there. We also felt there weren't that many realistic, funny British YA novels about the first year of university which seemed odd to us as so many YA readers are either at university or preparing to go!

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

TOM: There's a scene that Lucy wrote most of, involving a condom, that is DEFINITELY my favorite scene of the book. Still makes me laugh every time I read it. I am also quite proud of the scene where Luke - the male protagonist - goes to the college's awful sport initiation ceremony, as I feel it's a pretty realistic look at that kind of awful, toxic masculinity. I was never in the football team myself, but a lot of my friends were, and they told me horror stories about these 'hazing' events, so it was good to be able to show that stuff to make people realize how grim it often is.

LUCY: FRESHMEN explores toxic masculinity amongst college aged guys. Without giving too much away - there is a scene in the book where Phoebe has to confront a guy who has treated her badly. We thought a lot about how to do that in a way that was both realistic, as well as empowering.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

There are lots of great UK YA authors writing funny, awkward, realistic teen novels - any book by Holly Bourne, Non Pratt, Lisa Williamson or Juno Dawson is definitely worth checking out!

How long did you work on FRESHMEN?

It probably took us a year in total to write it, over the course of three different drafts. But we had talked about writing a university-set novel for years before we started, so lots of the ideas had been knocking about for a while!

What do you hope readers will take away from FRESHMEN?

First and foremost it's a comedy, so we hope they'll get some laughs! But aside from that, we both felt that there was an immense amount of pressure in the first year college/university - to have fun, to make friends, to fit in - so I guess we hope that readers might relate to our portrayal of how chaotic and crazy and difficult that period actually is.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

We've published two YA novels before FRESHMEN, and we are very lucky in that the first novel we wrote got published. We entered it into the Sunday Times/Chicken House competition in the UK; it got shortlisted, and although it didn't win, Chicken House chose to publish it anyway. We'd really recommend writing competitions to any aspiring authors - obviously it's great if you get shortlisted or win, but either way, they provide you with a concrete deadline which will help give you the push you need to actually finish your MS!

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

Lucy was working as a teacher while we were writing our first novel, and her students (girls aged 16 and 17) would always complain to her that there were no funny books for older teens. That was definitely an AHA! moment, as we suddenly thought: "Well, why don't we try and write one, then?"


by Lucy Ivison and Tom Ellen
Delacorte Press
Released 6/12/2018

Getting in is just the beginning.

Phoebe can't wait to get to college. On her own, discovering new things, no curfew . . . she'll be free. And she'll be totally different: cooler, prettier, smarter . . . the perfect potential girlfriend. Convenient: the only person from her high school also going to York is her longtime crush, Luke.

Luke didn't set out to redefine himself, but as soon as he arrives on campus, he finds himself dumping his long-term long-distance girlfriend. And the changes don't stop there. In fact, being on a soccer team is the only thing that stays the same.

Just when things start looking up (and Phoebe and Luke start hooking up), drama looms on the horizon. Rumors swirl about the Wall of Shame, a secret text chain run by Luke's soccer team, filled with compromising photos of girls. As the women on campus determine to expose the team and shut down the account, Luke and Phoebe find themselves grappling with confusing feelings and wondering how they'll ever make it through freshman year.

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Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison met at the end of high school and quickly became sweethearts. Though they broke up in college, they remain best friends. Lucy runs the online teen magazine Whatever After and teaches in girls’ schools across London, specializing in building confidence and creativity. Tom is a journalist and has written for Time Out, Vice, ESPN, Glamour, and many other publications. They cowrote A Totally Awkward Love Story, which was partially inspired by their own high school relationship. 


Have you had a chance to read FRESHMEN yet? Do you enter writing competitions? Do you find that concrete deadlines give you the push you need to finish writing? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Charlotte, Anisaa, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

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