Interview With Author Rosie Talbot

Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today I’m sharing my interview with Rosie Talbot, author of Sixteen Souls, which you can read my review of here, and the synopsis of below.

Someone is stripping Europe’s most haunted city of its spirits. When self-destructive, 16-year-old seer, Charlie Frith, realises that one of his own ghostly friends has gone missing, he must put aside his own safety – and reclusive existence – if he is to find them.

Charlie reluctantly teams up with Sam Harrow – the new seer in town – and a rag-tag group of ghosts, to save their friends from a fate literally worse than death.

But there is a dark purpose behind these disappearances – more sinister than Charlie could ever have imagined. And, as he slowly comes to terms with his romantic feelings for Sam, the stakes become even higher as time quickly runs out!

Hi Rosie, and thanks for taking the time to talk to me today about your debut novel, Sixteen Souls. How does it feel seeing your book up on those shelves?
AMAZING! What author doesn’t dream of seeing their book on a table or shelf at Waterstones? After so much hard work, it’s an incredible feeling and because I’m also a bookseller I get to really enjoy seeing it there, all day!

Sixteen Souls is full of brilliant and important messages, some of which take longer to come to light than others. What was the key story you wanted to get across in the book? 
Oooh that is a hard one because I really have layered things in there! Um… that disaster teens are not the most qualified to save the world but will 100% give it their best shot. That queer found family is the BEST. In all seriousness I think it’s about how the concept of ordinary/normal is a meaningless idea. There is no normal, there is only normal-for-you.

Charlie, the protagonist of Sixteen Souls, doesn’t have much control over his circumstances. Seeing the dead is very dangerous and he has to live with that fear. He resents his circumstances, seeing only the negative aspects of his normality. Over the course of the book he learns to take control of what he can, to find that within his circumstances he does have some options and that he can forge new and unexpected opportunities. I think it’s an experience that many of us can relate to. We’ve all faced an impossible, scary situation, or had to deal with difficult life events that are beyond our control.

How did you find the balance between commonly accepted ghost folklore and your own spooky take when it came to writing Sixteen Souls?
When I set out to write Sixteen Souls I hadn’t actually read that many books with ghost folklore. I do remember Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake and The Women in Black by Susan Hill. Both are very different but in them ghosts are very scary. I wanted to play with this idea and have ghosts that were friends as well as some ghosts who were foes.

I didn’t plan ahead, I just started writing and piecing the worldbuilding together as the first few chapters emerged. The incorporeal nature of ghosts often means worldbuilding around them can be quite gentle/soft with the boundaries of their abilities as something flexible. I wanted to introduce quite solid rules and ideas to my world. But, some of the things that Charlie thinks are rules, are lies, and can lead to unexpected surprises. It was very fun worldbuilding to write.

Why did you pick the setting for the book as you did, and did this setting play a key role in how the story played out?
One thing is certain, I couldn’t have told this story anywhere else. The characters and events are directly tied to York’s history and ghost lore. I’ve always been a bit in love with York, even though I didn’t actually get to visit it until after I’d written my first draft of Sixteen Souls. I live in the south and it is expensive to travel, but I did make it there for the editing stage of the book and that was really special. 

York has an incredible history and much of that includes some fabulous ghost stories. It’s said to be the most haunted city in Europe and is sometimes called ‘The City of A Thousand Ghosts’ so when it came to choosing a setting York felt right. I did a lot of research and worked hard to try and capture the atmosphere of the city, a real challenge to do from Google Street View. I know I haven’t gotten everything right. I was initially going to self publish and had limited resources, then the turnaround when Scholastic picked me up was very quick. Now I get to write a sequel I aim to improve!

When it came to writing the friendships – living and dead! – in Sixteen Souls, how did these develop? Were they instantly clear in your mind or did they take a while to develop?
Charlie’s ghostly friends like Heather, Ollie, Broomwood and Audrey were surprisingly natural to write. Their individual relationships to Charlie fell into place quite easily. Sam was the most enigmatic of the characters, it took me a while to find him and understand how he thinks and what he wants but when it came to Sam and Charlie’s growing friendship turning into something more, I found the pacing of that happened naturally and was a lot of fun to write. I love a bit of angst!

What drove you to write young adult, and is this a genre you read a lot of yourself? 
Absolutely! I read a lot of YA, it’s pacy, fun and often has the most diversity. Sixteen Souls was always going to be a book aimed primarily at teenagers because it’s the queer found family disaster teen novel I wanted to read and didn’t haveat that age. I wrote it for myself and I feel very lucky to have the chance to share it with the world.

Finally, how would you describe Sixteen Souls in three words? 
Atmospheric, spooky and (very) queer.

Thank you so much to Rosie for joining me for this post. If you’re looking for a book to really tug on heartstrings yet make you laugh all the same, you only need to look as far as Sixteetn Souls.


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