Interview with Tegan-lea

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
It's hard to remember the specific first story I ever read, because reading is something I've been doing for about as long as I've existed. However, if I had to speak about the first ever story that impacted me and made me long for more then I can give you a straight answer - The Divide, by Elizabeth Kay. It was a story recommended to me by my year four teacher, about seven or so years ago, and it drew me in just from reading the blurb alone. By the time I had gotten half way through, I felt as if I was going through withdrawal because I knew I was closer to the end than I had been when I began - so I was delighted when I discovered it was part of a trilogy. Of course, three books later and I still wanted more, and unlike most people who would just get over it, I began to create stories of my own to carry on the adventure.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
This is probably one of the most difficult questions I could possible have ever been asked because I go through books the same way I go through food - very quickly. I've read so many over the years that most of them have sadly slipped my mind, and narrowing it down to a top five of favourites might not be accurate. However, there are a number of books that have always been very close to my heart and always will be.

The first would have to be The Divide by Elizabeth Kay. I've already spoken about it so I won't go into detail, but the first book just made me long so much for adventure and I think that the fact that I read it at such an impressionable age actually has helped to shape who I am today, in a way.

The second - which was a really hard choice - is probably The Lottie Project, by Jacqueline Wilson. I know it isn't quite a sophisticated choice but again, it was a very early book that I read and the author did such a beautiful job with it. In fact, after reading the story I began to collect all of her books which was actually the beginning of my miniature library that I still have in my room today.

Next would be The Deep, which was a book in the Ingo tetralogy by Helen Dunmore. I haven't read that story for so long and yet I still remember almost everything that happens in it. It's a fantasy story, about a girl and her brother who are half Mer, and have all of these wonderful adventures under water. I can't even swim and yet for so long after I completed the book I wanted so badly to go on the adventures that they did.

Fourth is a book which I read not that long ago, called Between Shades of Grey. No, it isn't what you think - it's a historical fiction novel written by Ruth Sepetys about a girl living in a camp in Eastern Europe during the world war. It was the first ever book that actually made me cry my eyes out whilst reading it and the fact that it affected me so emotionally and deeply has just stuck with me.

Finally, fifth. This is going to sound extremely clichè of me but, I'm going to say that it's a shared win between all of the other books that I've ever read. It may sound stupid but every single page of every single chapter of every single book that I've ever owned or borrowed or taken from a library has helped to shape me into the adventurous, dreamful person that I am today - even those I have forgotten or those that I never got to finish.
When did you first start writing?
I first began to write stories when I was in year five, so I was about ten years old. I think I found one of the first ever 'novels' I wrote a few months ago - it was called The Maze, and it was written in the back of an old school book. It was awful, but I kind of regret throwing it away now because it was such a walk down memory lane to reread it.

Thinking back, it was actually my competitivity that convinced me to try to write a book of my own for the first ever time. There was another girl my age who was one reading level higher than me and the highest in the class and I discovered that she had a notepad with her own stories written in. Well, the next day I just had to walk in with my own chunks of scrap paper with blunt pencil scribbles on the back, declaring that I'd written a masterpiece. The thing is, without all of that, none of my stories would exist right now so I suppose I have to be grateful for those somewhat embarrassing memories.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I'm actually not quite done growing up yet. I've lived in a small town in the west Midlands of England where nothing ever happens and the only thing we'll ever be remembered for is a certain sauce created by Lea and Perrins. However, despite the tougher areas, it can be quite a beautiful and relatively peaceful place and the fact that it is quite dull is what has made me long so much for adventure and therefore has helped to shape my way of writing by making everything so much more exciting. When I write, I feel as though I'm living the stories that I might not have longed for had I lived somewhere more exciting.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy is knowing that there are people who understand your writing. I mean, everybody who reads my books or any other books is great, but when somebody literally understands every single message you're trying to get across and every single detail you're trying so hard to convey, it just makes me feel so warm inside. Knowing that there are people out there who understand how your mind works despite not even knowing you personally is probably one of the best feelings in the entire world.
What is your writing process?
I never have a set process with my stories and I kind of wonder if any author actually does because it's like sorcery to actually stick to a plan with writing.

Usually, I get an idea from a subplot in a movie or something I see at school or on the street and it'll be very vague and I won't think much about it. Then, when I go to bed I think about it some more and develop a really intricate plot line and amazingly detailed characters with beautiful names and I'll get so excited that I just want to write it all down now, cover to cover. But I don't because I'm tired and then I fall asleep and I forget about the whole thing for about two weeks before I finally write down a story plan for it. Then I get bored and completely change the entire story about thirty eight times and then, voila, a story is created.

It's fairly straightforward if I do say so myself.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Well, I did own a kindle but it was a really old one and I didn't even use it for books in the end, just for downswing pointless apps to waste time on. Currently, I use my phone with apps such as the Amazon Kindle, Wattpad, Kobo and of course, this. Personally though, I do have to say that nothing beats holding a brand new paper or hardback book in your hands.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
During the week, I have to go to school. I'm currently in my final year (UK) and so I'm kind of riddled with work and studying and revision for summer and I'm at school from eight thirty in the morning to six o'clock each evening - which surprisingly isn't as bad as you might think. The only thing is, by the time I get home and eat and have a shower it's already time for bed.

The weekends are pure bliss. Doing only two hours of work and spending the rest of the day chilling is literally heaven. I sometimes paint - mostly landscapes or portraits of my own characters. I'm also sad enough to create fan art for my own stories, and moving on quickly, I also like to act so I spend a lot of time working on my portfolio and looking into drama schools etc. Of course, I'd be lying if I didn't say that I don't spend the entire of Sunday binge watching all of my TV shows. Literally, I'm in every fandom to ever exist I think.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Well, on weekdays the answer would have to be school. It sounds quite sad, but I tell myself that the sooner I get out of bed, the sooner I can get to school and see my two best friends. They both mean the world to me in totally different ways to each other and I don't know how I'd go on without them. If they weren't in my life I don't know if I'd still be here today and so they don't just inspire me to get out of bed each day, they inspire me to actually live my life. Friends are the most important thing in the world, they're the family that you get to actually choose so, just choose very wisely. I know I did.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book has not yet been published, but the storyline follows a girl with a rough past who has buried all of her previous bad emotions, who then meets a messed up boy who kind of digs all those emotions up again. It's going to contain things such as depression, anxiety and suicide and I think it's a really mature book for me. It's hard to write about these issues and so it's taking me some time but I feel like there still isn't enough awareness for mental health. I'm still in school currently, and everybody I know, including myself, has had to go to one of the councillors at one point whether it be for stress, anxiety or disorders caused by school or other things and it kind of sickens me that there clearly still isn't enough help for those who are really suffering on the inside because not enough people know the signs of a person who is battling inner demons and losing. I hope that by writing this story, a few more people may begin to think - oh, I know somebody who shows these signs - and help them so that it doesn't come to something that it doesn't have to. I feel like stories are out there to send a message and if they can save a life or two along the way then that's even better.
Published 2017-01-21.
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