Interview With Half Bad Trilogy Author Sally Green

I caught up with Sally Green to find out why she decided to write about something barely written about before, why she finds writing for YA a unique experience, and why she thinks that YA books never need a message.

The reason why most people can't get enough of the YA genre is because of its diversity, constant evolving and boldness to go down paths barely trodden by authors before. YA has had its share of fads: first there were wizards, then vampires, then a world in which children were subject to an horrifying ordeal that involved fighting to the death... But then, like a much-awaited breath of fresh air, British author Sally Green appeared on the scene. There was an overwhelming fan response from the YA community and beyond with the publication of Half Bad, a tale of witches, and to keep fans satisfied until the publication of the next book in the trilogy, Half Wild on 24th March next year, Sally Green is releasing a new short story Half Lies which is being published on eBook and all digital platforms on the 13th November.

Set in the months before Half Bad, Half Lies takes the form of a diary written by Michele, the sister of Gabriel, Nathan's Black witch friend. Having fled Europe for Florida, Michele falls in love with a local White witch boy. There, she finds that the divide between the Black and White witch communities is just as dangerous as it was in the life she's left behind. I caught up with Sally Green to find out why she decided to write about something barely written about before, why she finds writing for YA a unique experience, and why she thinks that YA books never need a message.

Why did you decide to write about witches, and what inspired you to go down this route?

The main thing that attracted me to witches was that they're women. I wanted to create a community where the women had stronger 'powers' than the men. This is lost a little as the key protagonist is male and powerful, but the community is led by women and the Hunters (the White witch army/police force) is mainly made up of frighteningly amazonian women.

However, I didn't want pointy hats, broomsticks and there are definitely no black cats. The magic is much more what I think of as 'of the earth' and also from within the person, rather than being dependent on spells and cauldrons.

Did you expect the overwhelming reaction from the YA community that Half Bad has experienced?

Half Bad is my first novel so I didn't expect anything at all. My dream was to get an agent and sell maybe a few hundred books. Now Half Bad is sold in 50 different languages and many countries and it's wonderful that the story resonates with young (and not so young) people all over the world. In a way it's giving me hope - showing me that people are people with the same issues and concerns wherever they live (and whatever age they are).

What was different for you when writing a short story instead of a full-length book?

I much prefer writing a full novel, short stories scare me. I think this stems from doing a lot of creative writing courses where I had my short stories assessed, and I dreaded getting the marks and comments! But really all writing is fun for me and I love developing the characters. Writing Half Lies (my new short story linked to the world of Half Bad) allowed me to explore the world of Black and White witches a little more and to build on the character of Gabriel.

How do you go about creating amazing characters that your readers adore and sympathise with, like Gabriel?

I do believe in all my characters and think of them as real people, even though of course I know they're not. Gabriel is one of my favourite characters and he came up pretty much with no planning at all, but then he developed in my mind very rapidly and I fell in love with him. I decided he would be homosexual but didn't want him to be a stereotypical gay person. I wasn't sure how to do it so I just wrote him as a man whom I would find very attractive (handsome, strong, intelligent, masculine) but I also made him be in love with Nathan.

What do you find exciting about writing for YA?

Definitely pushing the boundaries of my own writing, seeing what I can do with the words on the page. I'm experimenting with swear words at the moment - lots of them, or rather one of them lots of times!

I don't think there's anything that you can't do in YA now. I think some people still think you need to have a happy ending or (worse) a 'message'. But I'm convinced you just need a good story, and the reader will find the message appropriate to them in there.

What was your favourite book when you were a teenager?

I never found one, that's why I wrote Half Bad - it's the story I would have loved when I was 15.

Which character in Half Bad do you think is most like yourself?

Annalise (her determination to do the right thing, whilst really being terrified... more of this in Half Wild).

What advice would you give to young, aspiring writers?

Have fun but take it seriously too - learn to analyse a piece of writing, pull it to pieces to find out why it works or why it doesn't work.

Could you sum up Half Bad in three words?

Cage, scars, tattoos.

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