In your opinion what are the top three reasons why teens, or even adults, should consider picking up Dear Dylan the next time they see it online or in stores?
Well firstly, I hope it is an entertaining, page-turning read. Secondly, I hope that either teen or adult readers will be able to relate to the experiences of the two main characters and that the book will strike a chord with them. And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I wrote Dear Dylan to try and help anyone who is trying to overcome a major obstacle in their life. At the beginning of the book both of the main characters feel trapped by their life circumstances. Through their online friendship they manage to eventually find the courage to overcome their obstacles and chase their dreams. If the book manages to help encourage just one reader to do the same then that would be a dream come true for me. I always want to use my writing to reach out and help or inspire other people. That’s why I decided to give the electronic version of Dear Dylan away for free – so that it could hopefully reach as many people as possible.
Dear Dylan is told from Georgie’s point of view so can you tell us a little about her? Also, if you could offer her any advice what would you say?
I really loved writing the character of Georgie. She was very loosely based on a girl who came to a drama workshop I ran in London, in terms of her energy and resolutely positive spirit no matter what life throws at her. I also wanted to create a character who has no side to her – she wears her heart on her sleeve and that makes her very vulnerable at times but hopefully it makes her likeable too. As someone who is a bit more guarded personally it was a real release to write in her voice and let all of her feelings and emotions tumble out into her emails. If I had to give her any advice I would tell her not to trust her so-called best friend Jessica and I would also tell her to have more faith in herself and her talents.
Dear Dylan is told entirely in emails, so what made you choose to tell the story in this way?
I chose to write the book in emails because I saw it as a way to really get inside the heads of the two main characters. I think people tend to let go and relax when they are emailing and write in a very informal and chatty style. I hoped it would be a good way of capturing the characters’ real voices. It was a lot of fun to do but it did present some challenges – like when the characters decide to actually meet up. It took me a while to figure out how I was going to let the reader know what happened at the meeting, as the characters were hardly going to email each other afterwards with a blow-by-blow account of events. That was a real challenge!
In Dear Dylan Georgie has love for acting, so what made you decide to give her this characteristic? Was it something you took from your own life?
I’ve never wanted to be an actor myself but I have written and directed for the stage – and I run drama workshops for young people. I was also in a long-term relationship with a professional actor so I know all about how passionate people get about acting!
I absolutely loved the character of Nan, so what inspired you to include her character in the story?
hank you so much, I’m so pleased you liked her. I am a great fan of the book Goodnight Mister Tom, which explores a friendship that develops between a young boy and a much older man during the Second World War. I think that friendships that span generations have so much to offer – and not just one way. I wanted Nan to get just as much from Georgie as vice versa. As the mother of a teenage son I get sick of the bad press that young people often get. I wanted to create an older character who has been through a lot but still has a real young spirit at heart. Through getting to know Georgie, Nan is reminded of who she really is and the importance of her own hopes and dreams. I’m a great believer in staying young at heart myself – to my son’s frequent embarrassment I’m sure!
What a great question. I actually found a song called ‘Dear Dylan’ online by a Canadian artist. I almost contacted her to ask if she would like to team up and make her song the theme tune for the book. Maybe I still will… Failing that I guess it would have to be one of my favourite songs of all time, ‘Do You Realise’ by The Flaming Lips – it sums up the theme of the book perfectly I think.
In Dear Dylan there’s also mention and discussion about abusive, physical and emotional, in Georgie’s life, so what lead you include this as part of the story? Further more, do you any advice for teens like Georgie who are dealing with this in their own lives?
I always like to deal with some kind of issue in my writing. One of the best things about being an author to me is the ability to take a difficult subject like alcoholism or domestic abuse and try to make sense of it through your fictional characters and plot. And of course to be able to come to some kind of resolution. As an adult I have unfortunately experienced some of the issues raised in Dear Dylan and I want to try and help readers who might be going through similar. For any teens who are having to deal with similar issues to Georgie I would say don’t be afraid to seek help. No-one deserves to live in those kind of conditions, least of all teenagers or young children. There are organisations that you can speak to in confidence and I think that sometimes just discovering that you are not alone and there is somebody you can talk to can be a massive help.
Do you have a favorite scene or line from Dear Dylan? If so, would you mind telling us about it?
My favourite line is one of Nan’s to Georgie when she says: “Right now you are on a difficult page, but you won’t be stuck here forever. You have so many pages yet to fill in your life story – all crisp and clean and full of promise. So whatever is happening right now, hold on to that thought, and whenever you get the opportunity, have the courage to turn that page.” I think that is the best piece of advice an older person can give to somebody in their teens. As you get older you realise that nothing lasts forever and even the worst of times eventually come to an end. I think it’s also important to realise that sometimes you need to find the courage to get yourself out of a bad time – or to ‘turn that page’ in your life story. And this is exactly what Georgie does in the end.
What were you like when you were Georgie’s age? Were you similar to her in any ways?
When I was Georgie’s age (14) it was a real turning point in my life. I went from being quite shy and quiet to discovering rock music, dying my hair purple and spending most weekends on protest marches! I think fourteen is a really interesting age generally – a sort of gateway between child and adulthood. I seem to remember writing A LOT of angst-ridden poetry too! I guess I was similar to Georgie in that I was a real dreamer and romantic at heart.
How do you come up with your characters names? Is it something that comes to you easily or do you go through many before deciding on the perfect one?
Sometimes choosing names can take forever, but for Dear Dylan they all came really quickly. I really did run a workshop once where there were two boys who had been named after the pop star George Michael. I thought it would be even funnier if they had been girls and so Geogie and Michaela were born. I’ve always loved the name Nancy. And I called the actor Dylan because I thought Dear Dylan had a nice ring to it.
If you could live in any book for one day, which book would you choose?
I just recently read ‘The Sky is Everywhere’ by Jandy Nelson and absolutely fell in love with the characters and the world she creates. So it would be there without a shadow of a doubt. I am recommending that book to everyone I talk to – it is a masterclass in first person, YA fiction.
Name three things most people don’t know about you.
My middle name is Raissa (which is Russian). I used to play the flute in a youth orchestra but gave up when I discovered rock music! And I dropped out of university after two years to go and work in a video store! But ended up writing a novel about my experiences in the video store, which was published by Hodder & Stoughton - so I guess I came good in the end!
What’s up next for you book wise?
I am currently half way through my next YA novel, which is called ‘Finding Cherokee Brown’ and is all about a girl who ends up turning the tables on her bullies in quite spectacular fashion. It was inspired by a young reader who wrote into a magazine that I am an editor on, bemoaning the fact that the heroines in the YA vampire books are all a bit ‘sappy’. She wanted someone to write a really strong, young female character that readers could aspire to be. I cut out her letter and pinned it to my notice-board as a challenge. I only hope I succeed! On that note I’d love to hear from any other readers about the kind of characters and stories they would like to see in the bookstores. I really want to write what people want to read, so please feel free to contact me via my website: http://www.siobhancurham.co.uk/
Thanks so much, Siobhan! If you would like to find out more about Siobhan and/or Dear Dylan, head over to here website. She's actually offering free downloads of Dear Dylan on her website as well, so if would like to read a copy of this novel, this is a chance you shouldn't pass up.
And to read my take on Dear Dylan head over here.