Interview: Annabel Pitcher on Silence is Goldfish

Published on: 06 October 2015 Author: Katie Webber

BookTrust's Katie Webber talks to award-winning author Annabel Pitcher talks the inspiration for her newest novel, Silence is Goldfish, the pros and cons of social media, and why she doesn't consider her books 'issue books'.

Annabel Pitcher's highly-acclaimed debut novel, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, won the Branford Boase Award and a Betty Trask Award in 2012, and was also listed for over 30 other prestigious awards. Her second novel, Ketchup Clouds won the 2013 Waterstones Children's Book Prize.

Her newest YA novel, Silence is Goldfish tells is about a girl named Tess who becomes a selective mute after discovering something on her father's blog. How she deals with her discovery makes an entirely riveting and heart-breaking story told through Tess's eyes. Silence is Goldfish is a lyrical and unique search for identity and a place in the world.

Annabel Pitcher

What inspired your newest novel Silence is Goldfish?

It is always the voice for me. That is what I really love, getting inside someone's head, figuring out what their situation is, what their insecurities are, what they are good at. It is weird... you can start wrong in so many ways, and then all the sudden something clicks and the writing just flies, and I love that.

With Silence is Goldfish, I wanted to write about a girl who struggles to have a voice, and about why it is so difficult to say what is going on in our heads. For example, why do we tell white lies, why do we say we are fine when we aren't? That is what interested me... the voice came first and her story came from there.

What do you think about books being labelled as 'issue books'?

It is a bit reductive, and it might put people off who aren't interested in that particular issue and they might think the book is only about that. In a bad way it separates YA fiction from the rest of fiction, we don't categorize adult fiction that way. If there is depression in an adult book, we don't call it an 'issue book', we talk about those books as great works of literature and amazing stories with fascinating characters, and I don't think it is any different for YA.

I didn't set out to write a book about a certain issue, I set out to write a book about a character who happens to be a real person, and part of being a real person is brushing up against issues.

I think labelling something an issue book makes it too heavy and dark and intimidating. Reluctant readers don't want to read that, they want to read a great story.

Annabel's Book

The online world and blogging play a big part in Silence is Goldfish. How do you feel about social media?

I don't know where I sit with social media, because I love it, but I don't know if it is healthy how much I love it. I get completely torn thinking this is the way of the world now and it is ridiculous not to be modern, but I find it depressing when I walk down a train and no one is looking out the window, and everyone is staring at their phones.

You wonder what it is doing to our brains, for example the first thing I do in the morning is check my phone and I think never having that respite or still brain, never having the time to daydream, I think it chips away at what it means to be human.

But when I suffered terribly with anxiety there was an amazing website about anxiety that was just a lifeline to me. When I was having a panic attack and couldn't talk myself down, just reading that someone else had been there was hugely important. So it isn't one way or the other, I think it is important that we remember that it isn't the only way to get help or find friendship.

You often do school visits and meet with students. What is that like?

I think school libraries are the best places in the entire world, and I've seen such amazing things like book blind dates. It was never my experience as a teacher that students didn't like reading. I never found any apathy or lethargy about reading. For so many teenagers reading can be a lifeline.

Check out Annabels' book

Ketchup Clouds

Author: Annabel Pitcher

Fifteen-year-old Zoe attempts to come to terms with a dark secret by writing letters to a murderer awaiting execution on Death Row.

Read more about Ketchup Clouds

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