Wednesday 9 May 2018


Interview With 'Night of the Party' Author Tracey Mathias + Giveaway! [blog tour]

Night of the Party is an eerily timely young adult novel set in a post-Brexit Britain led by a nationalist party who forces everyone who is not BB (British Born) to return to their country. This timely and thought-provoking novel is one of the best books I've read so far this year, and I'm thrilled to have an interview with author Tracey Mathias for you guys today as part of the blog tour – as well as an opportunity to win 1 of 5 signed copies of this stellar read for yourself! 

Hi Tracey, thanks so much for joining Page to Stage today! As an introduction, can you please describe in a single sentence what Night of the Party is about?

It’s a love story and political thriller, set in a near future England dominated by a hard right, nationalist party.

This is your first YA novel, what has your journey to becoming a published author been like?

Long! – and very full of ups and downs; rather like a game of Snakes and Ladders. I started writing in 2005, with a middle grade fantasy trilogy that found a publisher in Germany but not in the UK, and after I’d finished writing that I had a long slide back down to square one. I floundered for a year trying to find something new to write, and then spent years completing my next book which is still in a bottom drawer.

But good things did happen during those years: most importantly, I joined my wonderful writers’ group, who have been such an important part of this journey. 2014 was a bit of a turning point: I took part in the Book Bound retreat which was hugely energising, and late in the year I started to develop the characters of Ash and Zara and the backstory of Sophie’s death – and knew that I’d found an engaging story that I absolutely had to write.

I wrote each of the four or so drafts quickly, but left a few months between each one, and I think that really did help me to come back to the story each time with fresh eyes and new ideas.

I submitted to agents early in 2017 and chewed my fingernails through weeks of silences and rejections. Then in May last year – less than a year before publication day! – I had the dream email from Molly Ker Hawn: she loved the book, could we meet? After that things sped up! I signed with her and revised over the summer.

I broke my ankle just before the book went on submission, and hopped to a meeting at Scholastic with editor Linas Alsenas. Scholastic bought the book. Because of its timeliness, they wanted to publish as early as possible so the next few months were a whirlwind of editing (it’s amazing how little time Christmas shopping can be compressed into), followed by a couple of nervous months waiting for publication.

The day itself was lovely; I suppose I was feeling the relief and exhilaration of completing a long journey. I’m massively aware that I wouldn’t have got here without many people’s help along the way.

"It’s a love story and political thriller, set in a near future England dominated by a hard right, nationalist party."

Even though you started writing your novel before the Brexit vote, the story captured within is eerily timely. What initially sparked the idea of setting your novel in a contemporary nationalist police state Britain?

The first clear thing I knew about the story was that Zara had known Sophie and been there when she died, and that she didn’t tell Ash. I needed to find the reason for her silence. I instinctively felt that she wasn’t free to speak; I gradually worked my way towards an explanation based on her political status. In doing so, I was drawing on a general political atmosphere, rather than any one particular incident.

This was early in 2015, with a General Election due in May. Labour seemed to be losing support in their traditional heartlands. The Conservatives were split over Europe. UKIP were on the rise in the polls, drawing support from left and right wings; over the next couple of months they picked up two parliamentary seats as Eurosceptic Tories defected.

I pushed the ‘what if’ that all this suggested as far as I could: what if the traditional parties did collapse, and a populist, right wing, nationalist party capitalised on their weaknesses, won a shock election victory, and introduced hard-line isolationist and anti-immigration policies? Other world building details (ID cards, conscripted labour) fell into place as logical consequences of those broad policies.

"I was drawing on a general political atmosphere, rather than any one particular incident."

Protagonist Zara's journey was a horrifying one (especially to a European citizen living in the UK like myself), but felt so very real. What research did you do to create such a scarily realistic portrayal of the uncertainty and inhumane experiences she was going through?

The opening section was partly based on anecdotes from Germany in the 1930s: stories of living in hiding, of disbelief at what was happening, of trying to weigh up whether to stay or leave. Oake Leigh is a fictional place under a fictional regime, but of course the UK does here and now have a system of immigration detention, and what I wrote is partly based on what I learned about real life institutions.

I read the official report into the 2002 disturbance and fire at Yarls Wood Detention Centre. There was a lot of journalistic coverage, while I was writing, of abuses at detention centres, and I drew a lot on those newspaper and TV reports. There are some hugely moving online testimonies recorded and written by ex-detainees. I was able to speak to a volunteer at one of the detention centres, and went to look at Yarls Wood: a bland building which could be one of those modern, rather faceless hotels if it wasn’t for the high wire fence and searchlights that surround it.

"The opening section was partly based on anecdotes from Germany in the 1930s."

I was hugely gripped by Night of the Party and cannot wait for more readers to read this thought provoking and eye opening story! But looking beyond this novel, what can you reveal about your next writing project?

I wish I could reveal more than I can! I’ve been very absorbed in Night of the Party and I’m just beginning to develop a new idea. I think it will be about a friendship between two girls, it’ll be set in Wales, where I grew up, and, like Night of the Party, it’ll take place in a parallel present which mixes aspects of the real world with more dystopian elements.

Finally some quick fire questions...

What is the best writing advice you've ever received?

‘Don’t get it right, get it written.’ (I’m not necessarily terribly good at following this advice!).

What is the best book you've read so far this year that everyone else should read right now?

Orphan, Monster, Spy by Matt Killeen. I thought it was outstanding; fabulous writing, and an utterly absorbing and virtuoso plot.

For anyone who is still undecided about reading Night of the Party, what three words would you use to describe it to convince them to pick it up?

Emotional, action-packed, thought-provoking

Wow, if I hadn't already devoured the book, this would convince me to read it asap. I can definitely attest to it being emotional, action-packed and thought-provoking, and I would add timely and hugely gripping to the list as well – an absolute must read.

And you lucky readers have the chance to discover the incredible story for yourself by winning a signed copy of Night of the Party right here on Page to Stage!

* * * * * GIVEAWAY * * * *

The team at Scholastic have been kind enough to offer me FIVE signed copies of Night of the Party by Tracey Mathias to give away and entering couldn't be easier!

Just follow @zarinatweets and @scholasticuk and retweet the below Tweet by midnight on 31 May 2018. Five winners (UK only) will be selected at random, so what are you waiting for?!

* * * * * BLOG TOUR * * * * *

This interview with Tracey Mathias is a part of the official blog tour for Night of the Party, make sure you check out the other stops too for reviews, excerpt and much more!

Night of the Party
is published by Scholastic and you can get your copy now from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.

🎵 Listening to: Fall Out Boy – What's This?

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