I am joining the blog tour for A Song For Bill Robinson today, and I am pleased to be welcoming the author, Chantelle Atkins to my blog to tell us all about the inspiration behind her books. I’ll hand you over to Chantelle now, and tell you all about A Song For Bill Robinson further down.
‘Where do you get your inspiration from,’ is probably one of the most common questions a writer gets asked, and it’s not always an easy one to answer. Sometimes I’m not exactly sure where the idea for a story came from. Sometimes it’s one of those wonderful eureka moments, and sometimes it’s much more of a slow burn, of ideas and characters emerging and blending together over time. To celebrate the release of my YA novel A Song For Bill Robinson I thought it might be appropriate to take a stroll back in time and revisit each of my books and what inspired me to write them. The books are listed below in order of publication.
The Mess Of Me
When I started writing again after a decade off neglecting it, I started with The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, mainly because I knew I just had to get this book finally done. As I was writing it again, I started to get ideas for other books. It’s very true what they say; the more you write, the more you want to write. It was like a torrent of thoughts, ideas, characters and dialogue started filling my head. I knew I wanted to write a book close to my heart, one which mostly mirrored things I had been through myself. All of my other books have pieces of me in them, it’s unavoidable I find, but The Mess of Me is probably the book closest to the real me. Lou Carling, the main character, is a stroppier, feistier version of me as a teen. Her struggles with body image and eating were exactly mine. I was able to let rip in this book. I was able to voice thoughts and feelings I’d had for years through Lou. Her character and her experiences in this book were very much drawn from a personal struggle, but the plot was inspired by something else. When I was a kid my mum had a friend with five boisterous sons. She was a typical matriarch and ruled her roost with a rod of iron and plenty of tough love. We were all terrified of her. In the book, Lou’s best friend is Joe and his mother Lorraine was modelled on this woman. The younger boys were our friends but the older boys were unknown to us. To them, we were annoying little kids to be ignored. To us, they were mysterious, even exotic teenage lads we wanted to emulate. I can remember watching for clues of them and their lives. They were part of my life, yet I never really knew them at all, and that was partly the inspiration behind the plot in The Mess Of Me. Joe’s shady older brothers and the lives they lead which Lou and Joe become mixed up in.
The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – series
I first wrote the early version of this book when I was twelve. I’d already been writing stories for a few years and wanted to be a writer when I grew up. My previous stories had been inspired by books like Watership Down, so were all about lost or abandoned animals. At aged twelve, however, I was getting into darker stuff like Stephen King and watching a lot of horror movies. I remember watching The Lost Boys for the first time, and apart from falling in love with the actor Corey Haim, I had a big idea moment. You know the part where everyone realises that the mother’s new boyfriend is actually the head vampire? I started thinking, what if? What if your mother had a boyfriend in real life, who was a real monster, a human monster, twisted and cruel and no one believed you? What would you do? How would you fight them? Would you fight or escape? Who would you tell? At this time in my life my parents had divorced and had both started seeing other people, so I think this was playing on my mind when I started writing the book. It was the first book I ever wrote of a decent length and I fell in love with writing forever. It became my obsession. Those characters stayed with me for decades, talking in my head every night and telling me what happened next! The book was rewritten and published in 2013, and since then it has been developed into what will be a six-book series.
This Is Nowhere
This was one of my books that started with the character. I was reading a lot about Kurt Cobain around this time and listening to Nirvana again, as I had in my youth. Reading about his stomach problems and constant pain, created a character in my head, one that had similar, mysterious ailments, and a father he did not get along with. The plot took a while to develop. I had the characters and the family dynamics first. But eventually I had the plot too. A young man who has nearly always questioned the point of his own existence, is called back to the village he ran from as a teenager, as his elderly father has dementia and this older sister wants him to grow up and come back. But he also goes back for his own reasons; to find out what really happened to his beloved mother who vanished without trace in 1996.
Bird People and Other Stories
The idea for this book came from another writer who suggested short stories related to novels might be a fun way to promote books. I immediately got loads of ideas and therefore, most of the stories in this collection are inspired by or related to my published novels.
The Tree Of Rebels
This was one of those rare times when the idea came before the character. A few years back, I kept seeing posts about Monsanto on my Facebook feed, and I read a few articles about the owning and patenting of seeds and crops. My mind started coming up with ‘what if’ scenarios and before I knew it I had a YA dystopian set in the future on my hands. This book was hard to write because the plot came first, which is unusual for me, and because it was a futuristic dystopian which was quite far out of my comfort zone! There is a sequel planned though.
Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature
This book idea was very annoying as it arrived when I was in the middle of The Tree Of Rebels. I suddenly got this new and unwanted idea and set of characters, who would just not go away. Because I was struggling with The Tree Of Rebels, it was very tempting to jump ship from that one and focus on Elliot Pie, but I managed to hold him off. His character came to me first and was very much a reflection of my own thoughts and fears at this time. Wondering if the world is doomed, if it’s too late to halt climate change, if things would continue to get worse, if people are basically all pretty awful and so on. And trying to remain positive for my children and convince myself and them that people are mostly good and that we need to have hope. Elliot and his mother became the two sides of this argument. Elliot is an optimist, whereas she has given up. The plot about him making friends with strangers to prove a point came along very easily after that.
A Song For Bill Robinson
And finally, my latest release, which is actually the first in a series of three books. When I was around 16, I watched the film The Commitments for the first time and absolutely loved it. I’ve always had a really eclectic taste in music, and films with awesome soundtracks are my favourite. I loved everything about this film, and in usual writerly magpie fashion, I stole a few ideas and went with them. I wanted to write a book about a grumpy teenage boy who loved to sing. And I wanted to build added pressures and problems around that desire; so the character of Bill Robinson has a complicated family life, a local murder to solve and a growing addiction to alcohol. The alcohol storyline was also inspired by the struggle a very close friend of mine has had over the years and she was incredibly kind and helpful helping me get this aspect of the story right. I wrote an early version of the book aged 16 and then forgot about it, until I discovered it in an old suitcase in 2016. I knew right away that I had to rewrite it and publish it. I started with the two short stories you can find in the Bird People collection and then when I had the time, I started the novel. Other storylines emerged by themselves, such as the fight to save the community centre and the love triangle that develops between Bill and his best friends Adam and Summer. As soon as I finished it, I knew there would be a follow up book!
Thank you so much Chantelle, for that wonderful insight into you work. Now, onto the all important details regarding A Song for Bill Robinson.
Tensions are building on the notorious Holds End estate.
The local community centre is fighting for survival and the murder of 15-year-old Lewis Matthews remains unsolved…
Wannabe teenage singer, Bill Robinson, just got out of hospital after surviving a vicious attack. He thinks he knows who attacked him…and why. When a violent feud escalates between him and local thug Charlie McDonnal, Bill vows to find the killer and help save the community centre by taking part in the local singing contest.
How can music bring a shattered community together? And can Bill keep his own demons at bay long enough to win the singing contest and find out who killed Lewis Matthews?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Chantelle Atkins was born and raised in Dorset, England and still resides there now with her husband, four children and multiple pets. She is addicted to reading, writing and music and writes for both the young adult and adult genres. Her fiction is described as gritty, edgy and compelling. Her debut Young Adult novel The Mess Of Me deals with eating disorders, self-harm, fractured families and first love. Her second novel, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side follows the musical journey of a young boy attempting to escape his brutal home life and has now been developed into a 6 book series. She is also the author of This Is Nowhere and award-winning dystopian, The Tree Of Rebels, plus a collection of short stories related to her novels called Bird People and Other Stories. The award-winning Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature was released through Pict Publishing in October 2018. Her next YA novel A Song For Bill Robinson will be released in December 2019. Chantelle has had multiple articles about writing published by Author’s Publish magazine.
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If you want to know more about this great sounding book, check out the other blogs taking part in the tour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.