Happy 2019! This weekend I was delighted to see the ebook version of Follow Me has been released by my publisher, Strident. You can download it by clicking here The fabulous cover, designed by the talented Ida Henrich, looks very vibrant on Kindle Fire!
It has been a few years since the launch of the paperback. I know a lot of people who read this blog already have their signed paperback copy (thank you!) but for new readers I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you a bit more about Follow Me and the inspiration behind it, by re-posting extracts from a couple of blogs I featured on around launch time.
First, here’s the all important blurb:
What is the deadly allure of The Barn? 17-year-old Kat Sullivan has been devastated by the recent death of her twin sister, Abby, the fifth apparent teenage suicide victim in a year in the town of Eddison. Kat begins a desperate search for an explanation and soon realises how little she knew about her sister’s life. Through Abby’s friends Kat is introduced to an underground hangout called the Barn. Here, Kat meets the enigmatic Rob and his friend, Michael, art students who have re-created the infamous pop artist Andy Warhol’s ‘Factory’; a place where creative types can construct art and socialise. Kat gets drawn into Rob’s social scene, initially enjoying the freedom and escape that comes with the Barn’s creativity and nonconformity. She is seduced by the attention of this very attractive stranger, but soon begins to realise that Rob holds a strange influence over the young people – particularly the females – while Michael has a fascination with famous actors and icons who committed suicide or died young. Can Kat trust them to help her find the answers she needs, or will they lead her deeper into a world from which she won’t be able to escape?
Fiona: (Author interviews) What inspired you to write your first book?
A couple of things sparked off the ideas for Follow Me. After reading a lot about the Pop Artist Andy Warhol, and his infamous artist studio, The Factory, I began to think how appealing an underground creative hangout might be for teenagers in a town where not a lot is happening – this fed into the creation of The Barn within my book. Newspaper stories from years ago had stayed in my head, about a large number of teenage suicides in a small town and the writer in me kept thinking, What if something more sinister was happening there and no one bothered to figure it out? That’s what sparked off the idea for the mystery element in my book; my protagonist, Kat, is trying to figure out what has really happened to her twin, Abby, refusing to believe she would take her own life.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t want to spell out all the messages as I think it will be more fun for readers to figure it all out… It explores a few themes: society’s fascination with celebrities, the sense of isolation and loneliness you can feel as a teenager, the allure of wanting to be part of something new and different.
Rosemary: (Reading and Writing) What attracted you to YA fiction and do you enjoy reading it?
When the story of Follow Me started to form in my head I knew it was going to be a story about teenagers so it fitted into the YA genre, but ultimately I wrote a story which I wanted to read. I love reading YA as I think a lot of these books tend to be driven by character and plot and the authors aren’t afraid to explore emotional and current contemporary issues. I think it’s more recognised now that even if a book is labelled Young Adult, a lot of the time that readership extends way beyond teens, which I hope will be the case with Follow Me.
* I can now say that Follow Me has been loved by both teens and adults. At a recent event a librarian said she felt it’s very much a cross-over which appeals to both age groups
There are a lot of Pop culture references as well as poetry – is this something that particularly interests you?
During my undergraduate degree in Communication and Mass Media one of my favourite modules was Popular Culture. I developed a fascination with Andy Warhol, one of the leading Pop Artists. Warhol was very perceptive about the direction society was heading in, with his art mirroring society’s increasing obsession with fame, celebrities, and ‘the surface image’. These are themes I touch upon in my story.
I always enjoyed analysing poems during Higher and Sixth Year Studies English (though focused on more contemporary poets during that time), and grew up surrounded by book cases containing a wide variety of poetry. I liked the idea of incorporating some quotes from poems into the story. Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn (quoted in Follow Me), is a brilliant poem, and I like the layers of meaning you can get from it.
Why did you make your story about twins?
When the plot was developing in my head, my main protagonist, Kat, came to me first, and I knew she was going to be struggling with the unexplained death (an apparent suicide) of someone very close to her. I thought it would be interesting to explore the relationship of twins and the guilt Kat would feel knowing she had distanced herself from Abby, wanting to forge her own identity. It also allowed a couple of instances of mistaken identity and confusing emotions between her and Rob (who knew Abby first).
Also Andy Warhol was a big fan of repeating images over and over in his work, to reflect sameness and the loss of originality. I think my subconscious was at work a lot of the time during the creation of this story!
Below is an extract from a post I wrote titled ‘Who is Andy Warhol?’ (you can see the full post in my archives here). This gives a bit of a background to the pop culture references and Andy Warhol influences in the story.
Warhol’s Factory studio was a magnet for celebrities and misfits – the artist’s workplace transformed into a social meeting place, attracting not only those in the art world, but film stars and other music icons.
As the plot for Follow Me began to form in my head I thought about how attractive and appealing an underground hang-out might be for a group of bored teenagers stuck in a small town where not a lot is happening – especially if out-of-town attractive art students were the creators. The Barn within my book offers an escape and holds an allure for the young people, but there is a darker side to the hangout, creating the mystery element of my story.
What always struck me was how perceptive Warhol was about the direction society in which was heading, in relation to our obsession with fame and ‘the surface image’. He was credited with the infamous line, that, ‘In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.’ With the over-saturation of reality TV and the oversharing of our daily lives – through personal photos and video clips on social media channels – it appears that today everyone is indeed having their fifteen minutes of fame. Society’s obsession with image and fascination with celebrities, (a fascination which appears to deepen when they die young, at the height off their fame), sparked off other themes within my novel.
Warhol became more than just his art – everyone wanted to know him and be with him. He actively encouraged and embraced this fame and recognition, and also constructed an ‘image’ of himself to portray to the world (donning a wig and sunglasses).
Through my studies I became more fascinated with the story behind his art work, and to me he became both an Icon and product of the postmodern world -Warhol himself is the art.
Follow Me is also available in paperback and can be bought from Waterstones, independent bookstores, Amazon and of course you can read it for free from your local library (if they don’t have a copy order it in!)
For those of you who keep asking when my next YA book is coming out. It is finished. I will post news when I can. Meantime I am focusing on book 3, another dark YA which I am VERY EXCITED ABOUT.