Hello there my dears!
Today’s post is an exciting one! I was lucky enough to receive and advanced readers copy of Behind Closed Doors by Miriam Halahmy and today we have an author interview with Miriam herself!
Josie has a secret: her mother is a hoarder. Tasha has a secret, too: her mother’s new boyfriend keeps trying to sneak into her room and seduce her. The two 16-year-olds don’t get along at school, but one night Tasha bolts from her dangerous home and finds herself at Josie’s door. Josie’s mother is in jail for debt, and the girls are alone in the cramped, crowded, bursting home. Slowly, they begin to talk about the challenges they face, a process of sharing that lessens their shame, guilt and fear. With each other’s support, they may even find a way to save themselves from their parents’ demons. Behind Closed Doors is an unflinching examination of the stigmas surrounding mental illness, abuse and poverty, and an affirming portrayal of the power of female friendships and the power of honesty to heal.
Can you describe behind closed doors in 5 words
Challenging, fast paced, topical, poignant, heartfelt.
How does it feel to write YA that cover a lot of challenges that young people face now, now that you are no longer a teenager?
I am someone who has very good recall and also someone who feels things very deeply. I therefore not only remember a great deal about my childhood and teenage years but also remember all the different feelings I experienced. I think that has helped a great deal in writing Y.A for young people today. However, I don’t just rely on recall.
I was a teacher for many years and taught children and teens, many of whom were facing the kinds of challenges I write about. Again I remember so many individuals and their personal circumstances. I am therefore able to draw on my working experiences for material to make my books as authentic as possible.I have brought up two children and my husband and I have worked with young people all of our working lives.
We share a deep empathy for young people and the circumstances they find themselves having to deal with often beyond their years. We also share a respect and admiration for the young people we have worked with. I keep my ears open on the bus, I talk to young people whenever the chance arises, I meet young people in schools and it is clear that I have a genuine interest in who they are and what is important in their lives. Young people help to keep me young.
One of the aspects of the novel I really enjoyed was the friendship between Josie and Tasha, was there a particular friendship that inspired you to write this special friendship?
Josie and Tasha form such an unlikely friendship in my book. They are so different – cool, goth Tash surrounded by friends and isolated Josie wondering if she will ever have a best friend or a boyfriend. Terrible circumstances throw them together and at first they both hate it. Then everything changes in one moment and they realise that they have a bond. It is this turning point which drew me in as I started to think about the arc of my story.
I have always had strong friendships. My girlfriends are very important to me. But sometimes due to a shared experience I find myself creating a bond with the most unlikely of people. Someone I might have very little in common with (and they probably feel the same) and yet such a bond can last a lifetime. It is these unusual friendships which inspired the development of Josie and Tash’s relationship in this book.
Behind Closed Doors doesn’t shy away from tough issues of abuse, mental illness, and poverty. How did you find the research and writing process surrounding these issues?
My novels deal with some of the most challenging issues of our time. I think this is partly because I have always been drawn to literature which draws a picture of lives lived at the edge and partly because of my working life with young people. I’ve worked with teenagers with special needs and many of them were dealing with these kinds of problems.
I have been immersed in tough issues all of my working life. I always do a huge amount of research for all my books. I love to winkle out those tiny details which can make all the difference to the authenticity of a text.I have also worked with young people whose families are homeless and forced to live in bed and breakfast accommodation and with adults who are homeless. People who live on the margins of society often experience not only poverty but also the other issues in my book.
The writing process is very much propelled by developing my characters and folding in my research without information dumps. I don’t want to preach. I want to tell a story and therefore this book includes romance, family relationships and love within families; and humour – especially with Dom’s awful ‘rappa speak’ and lively little Crystal. I had a lot of fun writing these characters who helped to lighten the narrative and carry it through the edgier chapters.
You’ve written a very important book for the YA reading community, what books inspired you as a young person?
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, two grumpy, unloved children find a way together to a whole new life; Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, an amazing story of rebellion from childhood; anything by Enid Blyton because I loved adventure stories; The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, because I have always wanted to be Lucy and have tea with Mr Tumnus; I Robot by Isaac Asimov because this book established the three robotic laws still in use today.
Quick Fire Round
Crisps or chocolate? Chocolate
Favourite place to read? The Sofa
Top 5 reads of the year so far? Any Human Heart by William Boyd; Take Courage by Samantha Ellis; Shirley by Charlotte Brontë; Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean; The Relive Box by T.C. Boyle.
Favourite band or artist? Bob Dylan
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Where I live now, near my children and grandchildren. I can travel to other places but if I move to Australia (Perth is amazing) or the south of France ( sigh) I wouldn’t be happy away from my family. They are my world.
And there we have it! It has been an absolute pleasure to interview Miriam on my blog today and I would like to say thank you for joining me to celebrate the release of her wonderful book (yes, you can get your copy today!). You can get your copy from Amazon, Book Depository and all other places that sell good books!
Peace and pages