Chapter Two with Alice Oseman

We asked Alice Oseman all about her second novel, Radio Silence, which will be published by HarperCollins on February 25th. If you'd like to read our spoiler free review of Radio Silence first, click here!

What inspired you to write Radio Silence?
When I was seventeen, I made a very poor life choice and decided to apply to do English literature at a range of highly academic universities. I've always kept up very high grades at school, and before I became an author, was generally perceived to be a very studious, academic individual. I thought of myself this way too, actually. I thought that the most 'special' thing about me was my ability to get good grades.

After only a few weeks at university, I quickly realised that I hated academia - I hated writing essays, I hated studying, I hated reading ancient books and literary criticism, I hated my entire degree. I hadn't realised this before then because I'd allowed most of my self-esteem to rest on my academic achievements. After I became an author and I realised what it actually was that defined me - my creativity - I started to question what had made me decide to do a degree when I hated and have always hated academia. I felt like I'd been brainwashed into believing that grades = uni = money = happiness.

Essentially, I wrote Radio Silence to try to stop people making the same mistake I did. Also because, as always, I had a story to tell.

You said that you struggled with plotting Solitaire; did you have that same issue with Radio Silence?
Yes, and it was fifty times worse. I first started trying to plot Radio Silence in May 2013, but didn't start writing the draft that became the final book until about two years after that. Radio Silence is different to Solitaire in that there is no action-based plot. Solitaire has the Solitaire mystery happening in the background - the pranks, the running around after bloggers, etc. Radio Silence is much more exclusively a 'people drama'. And my issues was - why would people want to turn the page? Why would people find this interesting?

After two years of writing and re-writing plans and drafts, I finally figured it out. Or at least, I hope I did!

After a novel and 2 novellas, was it hard to step away from the characters in Solitaire?
Definitely! All six of the Solitaire protagonists (Tori, Michael, Becky, Lucas, Charlie and Nick) can be found in Radio Silence (though I don't address them by name!). My Solitaire characters are very precious to me and I expect they'll make more appearances in things I make in the future. That's not to say that I love my Radio Silence characters any less though...

How long has it taken you to write Radio Silence?
Almost three years! I finished the final copy-edit last week [beginning of January] and I started planning it in May 2013.

What did you learn about novel writing from Solitaire, and how has that affected the way that you’ve written Radio Silence?
Less is more. The most intense emotion can be expressed in one word, in one look even. I feel in Solitaire, especially in the early drafts, I had a tendency to over-dramatise things. I cut back on this in Radio Silence and as a result I think it's both a lot more realistic and a lot more emotionally harrowing.

Did the response to Solitaire influence aspects of this novel? For example, did you consider including a couple similar to Nick and Charlie as many readers loved their relationship?
Definitely. I've had more panics than I can count about the comparisons between Solitaire and Radio Silence. "Why would anyone want to read it if there's no effervescent boy like Michael? No enviable couple like Nick and Charlie? No #relatable emo like Tori!?" I always knew that the only way to go about it was to write characters that are extremely different, but a lot of the things that I wrote in Radio Silence are sort of... subtle nods towards things from Solitaire. I can't say much more without spoiling things, but there are a few deliberate links between the two books. Solitaire is a part of me, a part of who I used to be, and I wanted that to be a part of Radio Silence, which is who I am now. I almost do see RS as a sequel, in a way...

Was it difficult knowing that this book had to be written in order to fulfil your 2 book deal, and did that pressure change your writing habits?
The deadlines did add an extra element of pressure when writing. I had my deadline extended loads of times, I even had to get the publication date moved to about six months later - Radio Silence was supposed to come out last July, about a year after Solitaire came out. I found writing phenomenally more difficult while at university compared to school. But I don't think my writing habits changed at all - I still just write whenever I want for however long I want!

Was the experience of writing your second novel as you expected or did any aspects surprise you?
I didn't anticipate it would be as difficult as it was. I'm sure many authors who've written a book 2 would say the same!

And finally, are you more excited for Radio Silence to be published than you were for Solitaire?
I'd say it was about even. I was excited for Solitaire to come out because it was my first book, and everything was new and I had no idea what was going to happen. I'm excited for Radio Silence because I want my Solitaire readers to read it, because I'm excited for people to see how I've progressed as an author, because I'm excited to get people talking about the issues I cover in the book!

A huge thank you to Alice for answering our questions! 
You might also enjoy: 6 Questions with Alice Oseman | Book review of Solitaire