As part of our ongoing project to hack the Reading Well for Young People book list, young people from Lewisham and Gateshead interviewed Reading Well author Juno Dawson about Mind Your Head and her latest novel, Margot and Me.
These interviews took place via email in February 2017, as part of an LGBT History month promotion.
Fliss, the main character, was clearly not a country person at the beginning of the novel. Are you a city or country person and can you speak any Welsh?
“I’m definitely a city person – I freak out if I can’t see a Starbucks. I speak a little Welsh from my student years working in H Samuels!”
Is keeping a diary something you have done yourself?
“I did for a while as a teenager but I was a really boring one so it wasn’t very spicy.”
Do you have any favourite books or films about WW2 which influenced your novel?
“I love Carrie’s War, The Book Thief and Rose Blanche. And X-Men.”
Margot is a very strong character. Who in real life would you say were strong women and good role models for girls?
“Women are under a pressure to be role models in a way that men aren’t. I have so many personal role models: Bryony Gordon, Caitlin Moran, Jo Elvin, Grace Coddington, Leomie Anderson…the list goes on and on!”
How difficult was it to write about the more serious themes in the book?
“Probably less difficult than it would be to live then.”
If Margot and Me was to be turned into a film, who would you want to play Margot and Fliss?
“Definitely Helen Mirren as Margot! As Fliss, I don’t mind as long as she’s young enough.”
Which other genres of books do you enjoy writing, and are you planning on writing any more books soon.
“Yes! My next novel, CLEAN is out in April 2018! I just love telling stories.”
How old were you when you started having anxiety and panic attacks when you were a young person? How regularly did you get them? What helped?
“I first developed anxiety issues when I was about 12. It started as anxiety about getting lost and then generalised. It’s something that still bothers me, but not as much as it used to. You learn strategies for dealing with it.”
How old where you when you wrote your first book?
“I started Hollow Pike when I was about 26 I think.”
What is it that particularly interests you about the age gap in Margot and Me / how the past influences the present?
“I loved the idea that Margot and Fliss are actually very similar even though they live in different eras. I think young people always have the same motivations, regardless of the time they grew up in.”
Juno Dawson is one of the authors on our Reading Well for Young People list. Her book, Mind Your Head, covers topics from anxiety and depression, to addiction, self-harm and personality disorders. It is frank, factual and funny and is a great first step if you want to start a conversation about your mental health.