Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to write?
I always loved books. When I was ten, the family rules on reading were:
- Do not read when crossing the road.
- Do not read at the dining table.
- Do not read on escalators.
Looking back, it seems strange that we needed these rules, but at the time I actually found them quite hard to keep. I got addicted to stories very easily and preferred to read from beginning to end without a pause, so I usually had a book in hand when I walked down the street. I didn’t see why I shouldn’t read at the dining table, and often tried to sneak a book onto my lap.
Anyway, as I loved books so much, I was keen to write them, but my early attempts weren’t very good and I put them away and became a lawyer instead. It wasn’t until after the birth of my son that I began having story ideas I felt excited about, and started writing A Girl From Forever. It was many years before it was finished, and longer still before publication happened!
Describe your desk / writing space.
A Girl From Forever was written in the spare bedroom, which at the time comprised an old card table and a chair, overlooking the street and railway line. It was a somewhat bleak space with peeling wallpaper and about five different colors of paint on the wall (we’d bought a house to renovate, and hadn’t then started). This strange space had zero distractions and was absolutely perfect for writing fiction!
The house renovation is finished now, but another thing that’s changed is that my husband works from home. He needs the spare bedroom for zoom calls, so I write from the living room sofa, trying to ignore the lure of the tv, the mewing of the cats (who always want a snack) and the constant drone from the spare bedroom above…
Do you have a writing routine or do you write when inspired?
I would love to have a writing routine, but it only exists in my imagination. But I don’t wait for inspiration either! Inspiration has a way of wandering off halfway through a manuscript…
Mostly what happens is that when the house is empty, I have a double expresso, turn on some very loud music (usually Muse’s Uprising), bounce around the kitchen clearing up until the song is done, then sit down and write for 3-4 hours. Some weeks this happens every day, other weeks it doesn’t happen at all.
I am not one of those writers who writers every day, my life isn’t organized enough for that. I usually write when the house is quiet. If there’s a long spell when the house isn’t quiet, I’ll write at night.
What was the hardest scene for you to write? Which scene was your favorite to write?
In Forever A Villain, we look back over Charles’ life to understand the events that made him the evil person he is and how he discovered the secret of eternal life. We begin in Victorian London, which was fun to write, but when we move into the 1940s, Charles takes a job in a concentration camp in order to get funding for his scientific research. This part of the story was difficult to write because I wanted to keep the book light enough that it remained suitable for young teenagers, and I didn’t want to write detailed scenes about life in Nazi Germany because that is a very serious subject and I am not expert enough to write on it. That said, a character like Charles would in that time and place have got involved in some very dark events. So I tried to hint at what he had done without writing graphic detail, and let the reader’s imagination fill in the blanks.
The most fun scene to write in A Girl From Forever, it’s a fight scene that takes place on the roof of a burning building. The characters fighting each other care deeply about each other, but both have been lied to, neither is certain at this point who the good guys are, and each believes the other is on the wrong side. Meanwhile the ground under them is starting to burn, their friends can’t get close enough to help, and there’s smoke everywhere. It was so vivid to me. It was also my editor’s favorite scene!
What are you working on next?
A sequel! The Flaw in Forever will be out in Spring 2022.
What authors or books have influenced your writing?
So. Many. Particularly Tamora Pierce, Frank Herbert, Poul Anderson, and Veronica Roth.
What is your favorite meal?
Ohhhhh you shouldn’t ask me this just before lunchtime! Pizza with pepperoni, goats cheese, and roast Mediterranean veg.
Or steak with peppercorn sauce and roast potatoes.
Or puff pastry tart with caramelized onions!
I’d better stop thinking about this because what is in my cupboard for lunch is crusty rolls and cheese.
Coffee or tea? Wine or beer?
Coffee! Preferably a double expresso poured over lots of ice cubes and topped up with milk…
Wine. Red wine…
Describe yourself in three words.
Loyal, mischievous, kind.
What inspired your book/series?
A Girl From Forever began in 2014, when my son was tiny and my husband was working overseas. I was listening to so much music, all kinds, just to hear words! I noticed the lyrics to Fall For Anything by The Script, and it made me a little sad, the way the song blames the girl for getting her heart broken. It’s a beautiful song but still – blaming the girl for believing her lover’s lies – that’s harsh.
Later the same day, I heard Fifteen by Taylor Swift, which I had somehow missed out on before. That song felt very redeeming for the girl in Fall For Anything. Of course we trust the things people say, I thought! We have to do that most of the time, or the world couldn’t function. If someone is lying and things go bad, that’s not on the victim. Then I thought – wow – these are two songs I just listened to randomly on the same day, but they have such similar themes, this scenario must be so common… Yet, when I was a teenager, I thought I was the only girl to be gullible.
So then I got to thinking about a character like that, the teenage girl who gets her heart broken by someone who’s willing to tell her any lie to get what he wants. And, from a writer’s point of view, I got curious about the male character. It’s easy to say he’s a bad guy, but… What if he’s not? What if this situation happened in a dystopian thriller because the guy did what he felt he had to, but they would actually be the perfect couple, and he just doesn’t know it yet? Are there any circumstances in which she can forgive him?
From there, I decided that if they’d been together physically, it was all just too unforgiveable. But… What if they’d only been together in mind, but not in body? What if the male character was telepathic? So then I had Fern and Rehan, and I started thinking about why he would lie to her, and why she wouldn’t be able to meet up with him. She’d have to be an almost Rapunzel-like figure, I decided. Why? Why is she locked up?
The answer to that question came from a screenplay I’d written years before, Starsong, which was a Romeo & Juliet retelling on a shipwrecked spaceship. In my screenplay, the ship belonged to the last surviving warriors in an empire ruled by an immortal elite. (Starsong had itself started as a thought experiment: what would Romeo & Juliet look like in space?) The screenplay never got made into a movie, and I shelved it, but there were elements I loved. As I started working on A Girl From Forever, I couldn’t resist stealing the immortal imperial elite from Starsong and winding them back millennia in time, to when they were just a cult on Earth, only a few years from now… Fern was born into that cult.
Who is your favorite character from your book and would you get along?
I love Fern, the main character of my first book. She’s born into an Institute and raised by people who couldn’t care less about her, but she manages to stay an optimist and maintain a kind of innocence. I felt quite protective of her! I hope we’d get along…
If you could live anywhere, in this world or fantasy, where would you live?
Lake Garda, Italy. In a villa halfway up a mountain, with a pool, a roof garden, and some seriously good views…
How do you come up with the title to your books?
Usually they just pop into my head, and I love it when that happens. When it doesn’t… I brainstorm words associated with my story, then go through Amazon looking at books aimed at the same target audience as mine, trying to work out what their titles have in common, so that I can decide how best to signal to potential readers what kind of book I’m offering them. For example, books with the word ‘girl’ in are giving a hint to readers that this is a young adult book. (Stories with ‘wife’ in the title are often psychological thrillers). I also use this research to try to ensure that no book has the exact same title as mine – although I can’t control what happens after publication!
I was a bit nervous about the title of my second book, Forever A Villain. This is the sequel to A Girl from Forever, and it’s the villain’s origin story. I was concerned that it might sound like a horror story, which it definitely isn’t. But this was one of those titles that just popped into my head and felt right, and it was hard to imagine the story with any other title, so I followed my instincts and went with it.
About The Author
Yolanda grew up in London, where she worked as a lawyer, a supermarket assistant, a civil servant, and at a cat shelter. Her work took her to California, Serbia, and Dubai, but her fondest memories are of Bermuda. (She’s still homesick for Bermuda. Especially the pink sands of Elbow Beach…)
She now lives in a village just outside London, with her husband and son, two suspicious cats and some very ungrateful fish. Sometimes she climbs mountains.
Would you choose loyalty or love?
The secretive Forever Institute towers over London. Some say it’s a cult, others call it mafia. To seventeen-year-old Fern, Forever is simply home, run by the scientists who created her. A home she’s never been allowed to leave…
Forever gave Fern everything, a body that will never age, psychic abilities (if she can work out how to access them) and a purpose: Fern will be part of a new dawn for humanity, although she’s never been told exactly how.
Then Fern is contacted by a cryptic telepath from outside the Institute, and learns some dark truths: children are being murdered, and Fern is in danger. But Fern’s new friend has secrets of his own…