Sarra Manning is a teen queen extraordinaire. She spent five years working on the now sadly defunct UK teen mag, J17, first as a writer and then as Entertainment Editor. She then joined the launch team of teen fashion bible Ellegirl UK, which she later went on to edit and has consulted on a wide range of other youth titles including Bliss, The Face and More.
About Sarra Manning
An Interview with Sarra Manning
More About Sarra Manning
Sarra was most recently editor of BBC’s What To Wear magazine. She’s now advises a number of UK magazine publishers as well as being a contributing editor to Elle UK. Sarra has also contributed to The Guardian, ES Magazine, Seventeen, Details and Heat and wrote the Shop Bitch column for Time Out London. Pretty Things is her second title for Penguin and she’s currently working on her next book, Let’s Get Lost. Sarra lives in North London with her devoted dog, Dino, the mongrel she saved from an untimely death.
An interview with Sarra Manning
Where did the idea for Pretty Things come from?
Well, it was certainly inspired by my own wild, teenage years when I’d get out-of-control crushes on boys who always, but always, turned out to be gay. In fact, the first three boys I ever kissed all went gay on me about six months later, which I thought was wonderfully sophisticated but left me rather worried that I was doing something wrong.
And as I started writing Pretty Things, I had a post-it note stuck to my iBook with “Freaks and Geeks meets Sex and the City” scrawled on it as a constant reminder of what the finished book should be like.
You begin each chapter with song lyrics...is there a particular song
that’s been stuck in your head lately?
I’m in the middle of writing my next book, Let’s Get Lost and I always make a little playlist to get me in the head of my characters. So I think the two songs I’ve been listening to on loop at the moment are Broken Social Scene’s “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl” and “Crazy, Mixed-up Girl” by Thelma Houston.
Charlie, Brie, Walker and Daisy are all very different. Are your group
of friends the same way?
I have a lot of friends but I don’t have a big group of friends that I hang out with all the time. I have my fashion friends that I go shopping with. And I have my rock ‘n’ roll friends who are in bands or make films that I live vicariously through and then there are my comfy friends who come round for Chinese and Gilmore Girls marathons. It would be so boring to have a cookie cutter collection of friends who were into all the same things and never challenged you or introduced you to new thing.
What adjectives would you use to describe Pretty Things?
Well, pretty obviously. And snarky. And sexy. And sulky. And er, something that doesn’t begin with ‘s’… brave! It’s a brave book that might piss off some people because it’s not boy meets girl, boy and girl live happily ever after but then how often does that actually happen?
What book would you take to a deserted island?
Just one book? I can only pick one? Gosh, maybe Secret History by Donna Tartt because I re-read it every year and it always feels like a brand new adventure. Or maybe it should be Raftbuilding For Dummies.
Do you have a favorite place to write?
Even though I use a laptop, I have to be sitting at a desk to write. I can’t loll around in bed or in front of the TV. So, I guess the only place I write is my study on a 50’s kitchen table with a whole mess of junk around me from back issues of Sassy magazine to a gazillion CDs so I have plenty of distractions.
What’s on your Ipod?
What isn’t on my iPod? I’m just about to upgrade from my old skool, 10gb which is completely filled up. My favorite tunes at the moment is last year’s Polyphonic Spree release, “More Adventurous” by Rilo Kiley, the new Belle & Sebastian compilation Push Barman To Open Old Wounds and my own “Damn Proud Of It” playlist which has lots of fey emo stuff on it.
What are you reading now?
Unfortunately I’m reading Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim for my book group. It’s meant to be a classic British novel but I am not loving it. Not one little bit!
Have you started working on your next book? Can you give us a sneak
I’m very hard at work on my next book as I have to deliver it to my UK publishers in mere weeks. It’s called Let’s Get Lost and it’s much darker and sadder than anything I’ve ever written. It’s about a girl called Isabel who’s just lost her mother right in the middle of her teen rebellion phase. On the surface, she’s a nasty bully but people are never, ever what they seem and when she meets a boy called Smith she can be the girl she wants to be, rather than the girl people think she is. The post-it note I have stuck to my iBook for Let’s Get Lost says “Mean Girls meets I Capture The Castle.”
And a little sneak preview just for you, where Isabel has just told Smith that he has a rep as a total playa and that she’s not that kind of girl…
“I don’t just want that… I want that, yeah. And I think you’re cute but I want to get to know you too.”
“I’ll save you the trouble,” I hissed, turning round so quickly, I almost toppled over and his hand shot out to grab hold of my arm. “There’s nothing to know, don’t you get that? You’ll get to know me and then you’ll wonder why you bothered. I’m not anything that you think I am. You’re not going to break down my defences and find this sweet, gooey soft center.”
His face was in shadow but I could still see the way those lips flattened out into a tight line. “Maybe you’re frightened that if someone manages to breaks down your defenses, then they’ll find that you do have that soft center. That you’re not as badass as you think you are.”
“Yeah, whatever. Thanks for that insightful analysis, Mr. Freud.”
Never shield your oddness, but wear your oddness like a shield.
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