I’m really excited here, because I’m launching what will hopefully be a weekly feature – guest posts from some of the best YA contemporary authors, and bloggers around. First up is the wonderful Keren David, who recently released the third book in the When I Was Joe trilogy, one of my very favourite YA series of recent years. (Check out my reviews of her books: When I Was Joe, Almost True and Another Life.)
For her guest post, Keren was kind enough to share with me the reasons she chose Archie as the main narrator of her latest novel, after the first two were narrated solely by Ty. It’s a fascinating read!
He’s obnoxious, spoilt, snobbish, naïve, impossibly bouncy and fancies every female he comes across. Why (I asked myself often) did I pick Archie Stone as the main narrator of my latest book, Another Life?
Another Life is the third book in the trilogy which started two years ago with When I Was Joe. It’s about Ty Lewis, an ordinary kid from Hackney who witnesses a crime and has to take on a false identity. I introduced Archie in the second book, Almost True when Ty is reunited with grandparents that he’d never met before. I needed a contemporary for Ty to interact with, so I invented an annoying rich cousin, Archie, who did everything possible to tease and torment poor Ty.
That probably would have been that for Archie, except my daughter, reading the book as I wrote it, developed a surprising liking for him. ‘Bring back Archie,’ she urged me as I wrote, so his role grew and grew, aiding Ty to run away, throwing a party for him, acquiring a girlfriend and visiting Ty in hospital. At first I found Archie just as annoying as Ty did. But later, somewhat to my surprise, Ty and I warmed to him. His stupid banter was more entertaining when it was clear that he was trying to cheer Ty up. Archie had a heart of gold buried under his designer clothes.
I had no plans to write any more about Ty, but when the first two did quite well I began to get letters from readers asking if there would be a third. Boys I met on school visits – quite scary boys – would ask firmly, ‘When is the next book coming out?’ One enterprising teen wrote to my publishers to demand that they commissioned another episode.
So I agreed to write a third book, and I had the idea that this book would show Ty from the outside, so the reader sees how easily he can be misunderstood and misinterpreted. I also wanted to put his story in a wider context, to show the vast gulfs and hidden connections between rich and poor in London. What better way to do so than to use Ty’s wealthy cousin as a narrator?
I admit at first writing in Archie’s voice made me grind my teeth. He’s just so…so…annoying, especially when he’s joking about corpses and fancying his aunt (‘You are a pervert’ said my daughter when she read that bit. I took it as a compliment.) He takes his many privileges for granted and looks down on people who haven’t had his luck.
But as I explored his life a bit more, I began to feel sorry for him. Archie, like many middle class kids, has two busy successful parents who don’t have much time for him. They send him to boarding school, which he doesn’t like much, and they don’t pay much attention to how he’s spending his time. He’s got a difficult relationship with his stressed and spiky father. Underneath all the bumptiousness, Archie is aimless, lonely and much less confident than he first appears.
Like a lot of teenagers, Archie’s in a hurry to grow up, and he sees experimenting with drugs as a way to do that. After all, that’s what his slightly older friends do, and their parents don’t have much of a clue about what they are up to, or what to do about it.