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And Then We Ran

Katy Cannon

Lizzie, Megan's perfect older sister, died in an accident just over a year ago. While Megan is grieving for her sister, her parents seem to want her to become another 'Lizzie'.

Elliott, meanwhile, is trying to cope with an absent father who was imprisoned for defrauding many of the people in their home town. He can see no way out of the town, nor a future he wants.

Then Lizzie discovers a possible way out for them both, but just how much are they willing to sacrifice to get there?

We asked author KATY CANNON to tell us more about her latest book, AND THEN WE RAN (Stripes Publishing):

Q: Your new novel sees two teenagers eloping to Gretna Green - but what gave you the idea for this?

A: I woke up from a dream with the idea of two teenaged friends running away to Gretna Green in my head - and I ignored it for at least a year until I went back through my files and I saw it and thought, this could be fun.

I had to think carefully about they whys and wherefores. I knew I wanted the teenagers to be just friends, so then I had to work out what kind of people they needed to be to find themselves in this situation.

Q: The two main characters, Megan and Elliott, narrate the story - why did you decide to write it like this?

A: It was partly because Megan is such a strong character, she would take over the novel and it would have been hard to get Elliott's point of view because she just doesn't think about others.

Having two narrators made it easier to get inside Elliott's head. He doesn't say very much so when he does speak, we know it matters - unlike Megan who talks all the time but not about anything important.

Q: How did their characters develop?

A: I tend to think about characters very early on in the process. Megan came first, I wanted a heroine who decided what she wanted and then went after it, regardless, so she was a strong force from the beginning. Then I needed someone who would agree to her plans and Elliott developed from that. When I was 14 to 16 years old, my best friend was a boy called Andy and I had two teenage brothers, so I knew about teenaged boys and I used that to help develop Elliott's character.

Q: Did you draw inspiration for their story from your own teenage years?

A: I think that I have for this book, more than any other I have written. I went back to my teenage diaries again and again to see how I felt then and how things were. At that age you feel things very keenly and everyone comes with baggage.

I hope that most teens won't go to the extreme that Megan and Elliott chose to escape their current situation but, by exploring my characters' back stories, I hope the reader can understand the lengths they were willing to go to, to escape. I think the feelings they go through are universal - everyone has lost someone or felt betrayed at some point in their lives, even if you are fine now.

Q: In the story, Megan's parents feel they need to push her in a certain direction. Do you think that many teenagers struggle with their parents' expectations?

A: I think being a teenager is impossibly hard, I certainly felt it and I had the most supportive parents in the world. Even so, I felt there was this huge sense of expectation for me to be the person people wanted me to be. Looking back, nobody expected that of me, I just thought they did.

In the story, Megan's parents are being very demanding of her and I think they are wrong to do that - but by the end they do support her after they have talked it through because they just want Megan to be happy.

Q: Megan's passion is photography, why did you decide to give her this talent?

A: I think that because she is so impulsive and jumps into things without thinking about it first, I liked her having one thing that meant the world would stop for a moment, and it's the one time that she focuses on just one thing.

Megan begins by photographing landscapes but, as she learns to understand people better, she learns to take portraits of people as she gets to know them.

Q: The story is set in a small Welsh town - is that also drawn from your teenaged years?

A: I grew up in a large town in north Wales but I have a large and sprawling family so there was always someone who knew what I was getting up to.... I remember holding a lit cigarette for a friend who went into a shop and that was the exact moment half my family walked past. So even though I have never smoked a cigarette in my life, that's what they thought I was doing.

Q: Much of the story is focused on whether or not Megan and Elliott will leave the town so how did you go about planning the actual road trip?

A: There were a lot of things I had to factor in like the 30 day waiting period before you can get married in Gretna Green and there was also Christmas to fit in - so there was a lot of wrangling around the timelines.

As for the road trip itself, I had already done quite a bit of investigating into the practicalities because we were once invited to a wedding at Gretna Green - but couldn't get there because we were on holiday at Pembrokeshire. Going to the wedding would have taken four days out of our holiday because where we were was so inaccessible. So I knew how hard it would be for Megan and Elliott to get out of that area and to travel to Gretna Green, because I had already had a go at planning it!

Q: Do you plan to revisit Megan and Elliott to find out what happens to them?

A: On one hand I would love to - but I already have another idea for a book that I want to write. The next one will be a wildly romantic story - there isn't a great deal of romance in And Then We Ran, so it will be good to write something different.

Q: What advice would you give to your teenage self about becoming a writer?

A: I think I would advise my younger self to get help with writing sooner than I did. I knew that writing was something I wanted to do but I didn't want to show people what I had written and I didn't take advantage of writing groups.

There are so many organisations and conferences and seminars available now on creative writing and I think if I had shared my writing earlier, I would have improved more quickly.

Q: Can you explain how writers work with their editor and their agent?

A: I'm very lucky with my editor and agent and we work closely on my stories. I work with my agent to hammer out ideas for stories and to decide what is working and what isn't, and then I go to my editor to develop those ideas.

I like getting a lot of feedback now and having people's input and thoughts for what I am writing - unlike when I was younger. Although I still feel completely terrified when I'm sending off the finished book for my editor to read!

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