1. Can you share the inspiration behind Room Empty? What compelled you to put Dani’s story to paper?
Room Empty came to me whilst listening to a self-development video on You Tube – I love self-help! I regularly listen to life coaches on YouTube and one session in particular inspired me. The coach focused on looking at what was in our ROOM. Everyone has a room, it’s the internal space where we keep emotional secrets hidden. It was such an arresting and visual image, I could not resist having a quick look at what was in mine. There are many skeletons in the cupboards of my family – mental illness, addiction, pain and death have all played walk-on parts – so it did not take me long to realise it was packed pretty full, and how difficult it is to detach oneself from such a place. It was from there that I started to think about everyone else’s rooms, specifically Dani, the protagonist in Room Empty. What was locked behind her door, and could she escape from it in order to be happy?
2. Room Empty deals with drug addiction, anorexia , rehabilitation and traumas. Mental health is currently a big topic in the UK and readers are calling for books dealing with these issues head on. Why do you think it’s so important that young adult literature talk about this?
As in so many areas of human development, literature and stories often lead the way. A well-told, moving narrative can get inside the human condition, showcasing inner truths about what it is to be human. In ROOM EMPTY, I invite readers to meet characters who are struggling with addiction and mental health, confronting their inner truths at full speed. Similarly, I think it is no exaggeration to say that for centuries we as a society have treated those with mental ill health in a shameful and barbaric way. There is so much more that can be done to get people the kind of help they need without feeling ashamed. If ROOM EMPTY gives just one reader a glimpse into the life of someone struggling with mental illness and helps opens their heart up a little, then it will have done well.
3. What do you hope readers will get out of Room Empty?
Apart from a story that grips and moves and makes the reader think, I hope readers will stop and examine themselves, their belief systems and decide to question reality a little more vigorously. I hope readers will identify with Dani and come to understand that however bright and shiny any family looks to an outsider, inside nearly all are people struggling, dealing and coping. Ultimately I hope the reader will feel they are not alone; you can find hope and love even in the darkest and scariest of empty rooms.
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