Stefan Mohamed talks to Forbidden Planet
9 March 2018
Stefan Mohamed won the Sony Reader Award for his Bitter Sixteen, and is a regular guest at Forbidden Planet. And we've asked him a couple of questions about his brand new title!
Can you tell us a bit about Falling Leaves? From where do you draw your insights and inspirations?
Falling Leaves is about a young woman, Vanessa, whose best friend Mark disappears without a trace when they are both sixteen. Seven years later he reappears, no older - as far as he is concerned, no time as passed. It’s a fantasy adventure, sort of a love story, an exploration of friendship and trauma. With jokes.
I think writers pick up inspiration wherever they go, whatever they do, whoever they talk to, and not always consciously. For this book, much of the inspiration came from my teenage years, the town where I grew up, but also from the experience of going away to university, then graduating and not having much of a clue of what to do!
In terms of insight… well, hopefully there’s some in there somewhere…
You work as an editorial assistant. Does this help with your writing, or do you try and keep the two things separate?
Ah, that’s what it says on my old bio - I’ve worked my way up to sub-editor now! It does help being constantly immersed in words and grammar, even though the actual content of my day job couldn’t be further removed from what’s in my books, the technical side – the nuts and bolts of writing, editing, spotting typos, making things flow and so on – is definitely useful.
Having said that, sometimes typos do slip through, and when you’re holding your beloved book in your hands for the first time, you flip through and it’s obviously the first thing you notice, forever tainting the experience. Because writers don’t deserve joy. We just don’t, it is what it is.
Your previous books have gained huge critical acclaim. Do you find this makes writing a new book more difficult?
Having good reviews is obviously lovely and gives you a boost, but I try not to think about it when working on new stuff. I think you could drive yourself mad dwelling on it too much. I just try and concentrate on one project at a time, on making each story as good as it can be on its own terms, rather than constantly comparing.
Have you ever considered writing something different – classic SF, fantasy or thriller?
I don’t tend to think in terms of genre when I’m writing, I just write what I happen to be writing at that moment – talking about genre tends to come later during the marketing process! That being said, everything I write tends to have some sort of fantastical or science fictional edge to it. I’d never say I wouldn’t write something without those elements but it always depends on what story comes along. Basically whatever genre structures and tropes best support the narrative, I think that’s the way to go.
I’ll happily incorporate thriller elements into a story, it’s always fun to write something propulsive and twisting, but I’m not sure I have the brain for hard SF – you need to know about, like, science and stuff. And proper high fantasy isn’t really my thing. I prefer to write about fantastical elements encroaching on a recognisable real world setting, it’s fun to explore how a regular person would react to that sort of thing, rather than someone already living in a fantasy world for whom it’s an everyday occurrence.
Although I am actually working on something new at the moment which is much more SF-ish than my previous stuff – but I’ve managed to wangle a method of telling the story that doesn’t actually require any scientific knowledge, which is a relief.
What kind of person will love Falling Leaves?
Literally everyone in the world, bar none.
You can join Stefan signing Falling Leaves at our Bristol Megastore on Saturday 17th March from 1 - 2pm!