Juno Dawson is a best-selling author of YA fiction, a successful journalist with bylines in publications from Glamour magazine to The Guardian, a former teacher who specialised in PSHCE and behaviour, and a former First Story Writer-in-Residence. Ahead of her appearance at our Young Writers’ Festival next month, we caught up with Juno to ask her about writing for and working with young people.
Has being a teacher influenced what you write about and how you write?
Not really… I think what is has done is kept me in contact with young people. There is nothing worse than adults attempting to mimic the way teenagers speak and interact. It’s so important not to patronise or preach when you’re writing for teenagers. A great starting point is to read what teenagers are actually writing themselves.
Your writing is full of strong female characters and strong LGBT characters – how important is representation in writing? What more could we be doing to encourage these stories?
I think the best thing we can do is empower marginalised writers to tell their stories. It’s one thing to represent minority groups, but it’s better to create a space at the table for writers from those groups. That said, no minority writer is forced to write memoir – we should all have the freedom to create characters and put ourselves in the shoes of people who might lead different lives to us.
It’s one thing to represent minority groups, but it’s better to create a space at the table for writers from those groups.
Your non-fiction work also deals with pressing conversations – mental health, gender, sexuality – why do you think these topics interest young people? Does this research influence your creative-writing?
We’d all love young people to get through school effortlessly, but that’s simply not going to happen. Young adults are dealing with all the same trials as adults but with the added horror of it being for the first time. I think we have a responsibility to talk about sensitive topics. They are a reality for thousands of young people.
Finally, what was it like getting to write a Doctor Who book!? And to write the opening novel for the first female Doctor?
Writing for Doctor Who was a dream come true – although very challenging. It’s very difficult when you can’t, in any meaningful way, change the characters. I had to give them back as I found them. The thing with the Doctor is their inherent ‘Doctorness’, I’m not sure the fact a female actor was playing her especially informed my writing if I’m honest. She is always the most brilliant person in any room.
Juno will be headlining our Young Writers’ Festival in December 2019. To find out more and book your place click here.