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C J Daugherty about ... Night School

Night School by C J Daugherty
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Read the Book Review of Night School by C J DaughertyRead the Book Review of Night School by C J Daugherty
C J Daugherty interviewed Jan 2012 by Sarah Rudd

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What 5 words would you use to describe Night School?
Mysterious, thrilling, dark, scary, sexy!

What inspired you to write this story?
When she was a teenager, my sister-in-law attended a private boarding school outside of the town where I live now. My husband and I drove out there one day a few years ago Ė he wanted me to see the building, because he said it was quite extraordinary. The school is hidden away behind high metal gates and down a curving drive, and is a huge, intimidating gothic Victorian structure. Having gone to a modern school in a big city, I tried to imagine what it would be like to be dropped off to face this beautiful but rather scary building alone. Thatís sort of where the idea came from. What would it be like for a city girl like me to go to school there? And what kind of things might happen there?

When we first meet Allie she's a rebellious teen who has already been arrested several times. What were you like as a teenager?
Haha! Youíve rumbled me! I was quite the teenaged rebel. I wore black all the time, my jeans were too tight... You get the picture. I think all young people struggle to be independent when and to grow up as fast as they can. I was certainly on exception.

Who is the character of Allie based on?
Allie is not me, and sheís not really anybody I know. She lives in my head rent-free, though. When I write, her dialogue just writes itself. I can look at something and know what Allie would say about it. She has bits and pieces of people I knew in school Ė my friend Suzyís athleticism, my friend Pamís troubled family life, my own rebelliousness and smart mouth. But mostly sheís just herself.

Cimmeria Academy is free of 21st century technology, including cell phones, computers and the internet. How would you cope in this environment?
To be honest Ė I DID cope in that environment. When I was in school Ė not THAT long ago I hasten to add Ė there were none of those things, certainly not as we have them now. Young people today have never experienced that disconnected world. These days itís almost scary not to be able to get a phone signal. If Iím someplace that doesnít have WiFi I feel anxious Ė as if Iím cut off from the world. So I wanted to explore that sense of isolation. Allie doesnít have the anchoring sense that her friends and family can be reached at any time. She is genuinely alone.

At the end of Night School we're left with a lot of unanswered questions and a sense that things are only going to get more dangerous for Allie and her friends. Do you know where you want the series to go from here or does the story take on a life of its own as you're writing it?
I do know where I want the series to go, at least to a certain extent, but Iím also a freeform writer, so I let the book play itself out. Sometimes the writing takes a different direction than Iíd expected. Those are really the best scenes Ė when it all just comes to me at once. Even if that does take me right off the straight road Iíve designed in my synopsis! So, letís just say I have a pretty good idea where the series is going.

You've had some really interesting jobs, including being a crime reporter. How have these writing jobs helped you to write your first young adult novel?
Being a crime writer helped me see more of society than I normally would have. I spent a lot of time in prisons and court houses, in police stations and police cars. Later, when I was working for Reuters, I covered the annual meetings of major corporations, and I interviewed billionaires, politicians, and even future presidents. These are the people who run the world. All of that played into the concept behind this book in some way. And along the way I met people from all walks of life Ė people who had different backgrounds from me. People who went to private boarding schools, for example. So, my whole life has, in some ways, led me to writing Night School.
Whatís the best thing and the worst thing about being a writer?
The best thing: The creativity Ė the sheer thrill of being able to invent characters and make them live.
The worst thing: Most of the time? The economic instability. My mother cried when I told her I was going to be a writer. And until she died she kept hoping I would at least MARRY a banker. You have to give up your dream of being rich if you decide to write for a living. You find your joy elsewhere. And mostly your joy comes from having a job you love. Which isnít too shabby when you stop and think about it.

Who are your favourite authors?
Oh we will be here ALL DAY!
Of contemporary writers my all-time favourite is Douglas Coupland, who wrote Generation X. I think he is a genius and I buy every book he writes. I am also a huge fan of Donna Tartt, who wrote The Secret History Ė a book that went some way towards inspiring me to write Night School. Iíve read all the CJ Sansom crime dramas set during the time of Henry VIII -- Sovereign is my favourite of those. And I spent all summer reading the George RR Martin books Ė Game of Thrones is the one I liked the most.
In terms of older literature, I love every book F. Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote, especially The Great Gatsby, and I have read all of JD Salingerís work over and over again Ė Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters is my favourite, with Catcher in the Rye a close second.

If you could give one tip to aspiring writers what would it be?
Donít give up. Keep trying. I wrote and threw away three novels before I wrote Night School. I wanted to give up over and over again, but my husband and some good friends kept urging me to try. Write something every day, and always look out for that one idea Ė the one you can REALLY write the heck out of. And when you do find it, donít doubt yourself. Just do it because you love it.
Thanks Christi and all the best for 2012!

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