I’m super excited to be celebrating the release of Poppy Nwosu’s second book!
Taking Down Evelyn Tait is out TODAY! And oh, this book is so very special. It’s a #LoveOzYA story about a girl who’s tired of being the troublemaker, the misfit, the “bad kid”, and decides to outwit everyone (but especially the wretchedly perfect Evelyn Tait) by being better than them all. It’s mischief and chaos and makes you fall in love with the characters so fast.
I’m so lucky to have Poppy over for an interview today! And you can see the Q&A I did with her last year for the release of Making Friends With Alice Dyson (AGAIN — lovely book go read it). Poppy is the actual most kind and lovely person 🥺 and her books are pure gems. I was SO honoured also endorse this book! So you know I am a fan!! 😘😚
Taking Down Evelyn Tait is the kind of story you can’t help but fall in love with. It’s full of mischief, messy family dynamics, chaotic friendships, and characters with pure hearts of gold. Lottie is mischief personified and she is a glorious blaze of magnetic energy on every page. Also her character arc? Love! It really tackles the topic self-growth for the better vs the dangers of changing yourself to be someone you’re not. (And how exhausting that can be.) Lottie is sick of being in trouble, but she also never means to be. And doesn’t she deserve love for who she is right now too? (YES, LOTTIE, MY CHILD U DO.)
The whole story is gorgeously family-centric too and it balances the fun scenes with the emotionally vulnerable moments perfectly. It features a broken family being remade, and the ups and downs of figuring out life with a new step-mum and family. There’s friction on both sides, but again, SO much love and growth. Kind of gets me in the feels when I see bitterness turn to understand and resentment turn to love.
And you NEED THE CUTENESS OF THIS ROMANCE. I can’t even. Jude is the sweetest cinnamon son and he literally can’t say no to Lottie’s hairbrained scehmes. Also he’s ridiculously in love with her. And she has no idea. We gotcha friends to lovers.
Basically this is the type of contemporary I love and it has such glorious chaotic energy that won me over instantly!
Can you tell us what the first seeds of inspiration were for Taking Down Evelyn Tait?
I think mostly that a lot of the ideas for my new book were a direct reaction of having published Making Friends with Alice Dyson as my debut. I wanted to create a new story with a similar feel, that would hopefully appeal to the same readers, but I also really wanted to write something a bit different too, to keep it fun and interesting for me! (I get bored easily, ha!)
So I knew I wanted the protagonist, Lottie, to be much more confident and assertive and out-going, and I also really wanted the book to focus a bit more on family dynamics too.
I was also watching an English show called Misfits at the time, which has a character who is just the worst! He says the worst things, constantly does awful stuff, speaks and acts without ever thinking of the consequences, and yet is very charming and likable anyway. I was really inspired to create my own version of a character like that, which is how the idea for Lottie was initially born!
I always fall in love with your characters so hard! Do you have any tips for writing complex characters who feel so real?
Okay, I am going to admit that when it comes to my writing style, I am a complete pantster, and basically, I do make things up as I go along (for better or worse!). This is particularly true when it comes to my characters.
I don’t really know much about my characters when I start writing, other than some very big overview personality ideas (such as: she is outgoing / he is shy etc.), and so the characters develop as I work through my manuscript. By the end, the characters are usually quite different to how I intended them to be, and I often have to go back to the beginning of the book and adjust the way they are written at the start now that I understand them more!
I find just throwing myself in works a lot better for me, because if I spend too much time learning all the details about my characters before I start writing the book, I think I would get a bit bored of them and therefore find it harder to finish!
Did your writing process change at all between writing your second book vs your debut?
It did, yes! I think it was different in quite a few different ways. One way is that by the time I was writing Taking Down Evelyn Tait, I feel like I understood a lot more about writing as a skill and as a craft. I understood more about story structure and character development and other things like that. So in that one way it was easier to write this book.
In every other way though it was So. Much. Harder! I had so much trouble with this manuscript, stopping and starting, and in the end going back to the beginning to re-write it. I think the problem was that I was writing the book while worrying about whether people would like it, and imagining people thinking it was silly.
Because of that, I was writing for other people instead of writing for myself. Once I changed that mind-set and gave myself permission to write whatever I wanted, I had a lot more fun! After that, writing the book became so easy and smooth 😊
How do you decide on your characters’ names? Any stories behind their names?
I am obsessed with a German language television show called Babylon Berlin, and it has a character in it who I absolutely love called Lotte (short for Charlotte).
Originally, the main character in my book was named ‘Lotte’ after her, but after discussion with my editor, we realised it would be hard for readers to know how to pronounce her name, so we changed it to ‘Lottie’ to make it easier.
Was any chocolate harmed in the making of this novel?!
Thanks so much for having me on your blog and for the beautiful endorsement, Cait! I am sending you a lot of virtual chocolate now 😊
Aw thank you for coming and having an amazing chat with us!! 😍
Impulsive Lottie – heavy-metal fan, expert tomato-grower and frequent visitor to the principal’s office – is in even more trouble than usual.
Her best friend Grace has dropped an unlikely bombshell: she’s dating Lottie’s mortal enemy, good-girl Evelyn Tait.
Studious Jude, the boy next door, has the perfect war plan. Lottie will beat Evelyn at her own good-girl game, unveiling Miss Perfect’s sinister side in the process.
Taking life more seriously starts as fun, but soon offers its own rewards . . . so long as Lottie can manage gorgeous Sebastian’s sudden interest, Jude acting weird, and the discovery that she might actually be good at something.
Taking Down Evelyn Tait is a story about family, friends and embracing who you are. Even if that person is kind of weird.
Poppy Nwosu is an author of YA fiction. Her debut novel, Making Friends with Alice Dyson, was shortlisted for the 2018 Adelaide Festival Unpublished Manuscript Award, and the 2019 Readings Young Adult Book Prize, and will be published by Walker Books US in America in 2020. She was also awarded the 2019 Writers SA Varuna the Writers’ House Fellowship for Young Writers. Growing up in central North Queensland, Poppy enjoyed a thoroughly wild childhood surrounded by rainforest and cane fields. After studying music at university, she moved overseas to Ireland, where she spent two years visiting stunning Europe.These days Poppy and her husband still love to travel, but they also like to come home again to their house in Adelaide near the sea.Poppy’s quite obsessed with stories, books, movies, writing and music.
is this one on your TBR?! tell me some Aussie books you’ve read recently (or ones you need to read still)!