We asked Will Sutcliffe, author of YA Book Prize shortlisted novel Concentr8, six questions about being a writer and his favourite books!
1) What was your inspiration for writing this book?
The idea for the book came from a conversation with a friend of mine who is a child psychiatrist. She started telling me that one of her main professional concerns is that parents are bringing children to her wanting an ADHD diagnosis not only because they think the child might be genuinely ill, but because this diagnosis, and the associated prescription of Ritalin, will make the family eligible for disability living allowance. I was horrified by this idea – that we live in a country where the state pays parents to drug children who misbehave. This sounded to me like something closer to science fiction than reality, which set me to thinking how I could write a novel that would examine this idea. I was drawn by the challenge of writing a book with a premise that sounds like sci-fi, but which, as you read, turns out to be very close to reality.
2) What were the main challenges that you faced when writing this book?
Writing in so many different voices was the hardest thing about this book – particularly trying to convincingly create voices for teenagers living in South London council estates, which is a life very different from my own. It took me a long time to get that right. I couldn’t have done it without a year I spent, some time ago, as a mentor to a teenager living in this kind of environment. His voice and world view came back to me when I started writing this book.
3) As a child or teenager, did you want to be a writer and if so, is it as you expected?
I think I was a teenager when I realised I wanted to be a writer, but I never thought it would actually happen as a way of making a living, so, no – it is all very unexpected.
4) Who are the writers that have influenced you?
Every writer is a reader first, and everything you read influences you in some way. The four writers I most admire are probably Philip Roth, Joseph Heller, Evelyn Waugh and J.M. Coetzee. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is a recent favourite. I like books which are both funny and serious, ideally at the same time. The form of Concentr8 is inspired by William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.
5) What's in your reading pile currently?
I am about to start reading Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatle and Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence, because I’m doing an event with them at YALC which I’m very much looking forward to.
6) What is your all time favourite book?
Very hard to say, but I think I’ll go for Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess.