Books, interviews, Reviews

Meet the author: C.J. Skuse – Rockoholic


rockaholicFrom Chicken House website:

Jody loves Jackson Gatlin.

At his only UK rock concert, she’s right at the front. But when she’s caught in the crush and carried back stage she has more than concussion to contend with. Throw in a menacing manager, a super-wired superstar and a Curly Wurly, and Jody finds herself taking home more than just a poster. It’s the accidental kidnapping of the decade. But what happens when you’ve got a rock god in your garage who doesn’t want to leave? Jody’s stuck between a rock idol and a hard place!  

From the pen of C.J. Skuse, author of last year’s super cool debut PRETTY BAD THINGS, comes a tale of rock star obsession gone nuts. Hilariously and sharply explores the fantasy and reality of celebrity worship through a teenager’s eyes. C. J. Skuse has been billed as the new Nick Hornby for teens.

Rockoholic is the first book I’ve brought after following the author on Twitter. CJ Skuse is funny and friendly online and the title of the book caught my eye as a music obsessive myself, I thought this might be right up my street. I was right. This book is totally unique, the characters are well drawn and entertaining, the premise is brilliantly bonkers and the execution is hilarious, sharp and very British with some great emotional moments and a warm fuzzy ending. I loved the popular culture references throughout and CJ’s down-to-earth, witty style of writing. The chapter headings also gave me some LOL moments. I really enjoyed this book and will pick up more from this author in the future.

I asked CJ if she would answer some questions about the book and writing and she did! Here you go:

On Rocoholic:

What was your inspiration for Rockoholic?

A concert I went to where I was certain the lead singer was going to see me from the stage, fall in love with me, and then we’d elope and have babies. That didn’t happen, sadly. Instead, I queued up all day outside the venue, got shat on by a seagull, accosted by drunks, pulled out of the mosh pit after three songs and spent the rest of the night buying every piece of band merchandise in existence, just to compensate myself. This event became a memory I would cringe over so I decided to fictionalise it to make it better. I do this with all bad memories now, to make them go away.

Jody, the main character in Rockoholic is obsessed with a rock star – were you ever obsessed with a singer when you were a teen and would you have wanted to meet them?

 I was obsessed with someone for every year of my teens: to begin with it was Christian Slater, then the following year it became Keanu Reeves (circa Point Break), then I liked Pearl Jam for a bit, then I got into footballers and liked Andrej Kanchelskis, Jamie Redknapp and Lee Sharpe, then I got into fictional boys and Gerard Way and I just sort of stuck with them really.

 I loved the references to music and popular culture in the book (especially Harry Potter!) – how did you choose which ones would have a role in the story?

 I can’t actually remember all these Harry Potter references I made, though reviewers keep mentioning this. I was reading the books while writing Rockoholic so I’m not surprised there are a few in there! I seem to remember Dumbledore’s invisibility cloak being used, maybe that was one. I think if you start referencing something like that, most people will know what you’re talking about so it was a pretty safe bet. I reference things I really like as a rule. I adore My Chemical Romance so I try and crowbar in a lyric here and there in each book too.

You mention in the acknowledgements that some of the characters were inspired by actors – can you tell us more about that?

Basically, since I read that Roald Dahl used to cut out magazine pictures of people he could envisage as his characters, I’ve done the same, so my characters usually always off as someone famous or someone I see in a magazine and by the end of the novel, they’ve shape-shifted into Mac or Jody or whoever. For instance, for the template of Mac in Rockoholic I used Adam Lambert, merely because I think he gives off a really comforting vibe and I think he’d be a great friend and nice to hug. By the time I’d finished writing Mac, he was just this 18-year-old good-looking, musical-loving guy besotted with his best friend.

What do you hope someone reading Rockoholic will take away from the book?

I guess the message of the book is in the Oasis lyric ‘Please don’t put your life in the hands of a rock and roll band who’ll throw it all away.’ It’s about not putting celebrities on pedestals because they, nine times out of ten, are doing it for the fun and the money, not the love of the fans. Fans give their heroes such adoration and spend an s-load of money putting them where they are I just don’t think half of these singers/bands/actors give a toss. To paraphrase Suzanne Collins, they have no idea the effect they can have.

On writing:

Why do you like writing for teens?

I just think they’re cool people to write for. Once you hit adulthood, it gets so boring, It’s all about working and mortgages and kids and taxes and caring about the Budget deficit and death. I don’t ever want to grow up. It’s so unoriginal.

Rockoholic is a stand-alone book – do you prefer writing stand alone stories, and what challenges do you face writing them?

I prefer stand alone stories because I have so many ideas they all deserve books of their own. I don’t have the patience or intelligence to write a trilogy or series. The challenges I face are usually based on self doubt. But when I read a review that someone found it funny or it brightened someone’s day, it makes it all worthwhile. I try not to read the bad reviews because they make me doubt myself all over again and that’s never good for a writer. That’s a big challenge actually, not reading the reviews. Someone asked me the other day if I could envisage writing a sequel to Pretty Bad Things and if I did, would I tone it down to appease those offended by Paisley’s behaviour in the first book. That book was designed to offend the people it offends and I couldn’t be happier with it but it sometimes smarts a bit when people tell you your baby’s ugly. Nevertheless, I said if I did write the sequel, the content would get worse and Paisley’s behaviour in the first book will look like missionary work compared to what I’ve got planned for her in the next.

I think it’s very difficult to write a genuinely funny book (which Rockoholic is!) – do you have any tips for writing with humour? Were there any parts you struggled writing?

I come from a family of very funny people, all of whom are older than me and funnier than me, so as I’ve grown up I’ve constantly strived to make myself be heard and make people laugh at things I say to impress them, so I think it’s down to my family. My dad, for instance, was the kind of dude who if you gave him a subject, any subject in the world, he could tell you a joke about it. And it would actually be funny too. I don’t like writing sad scenes. I absolutely hated writing the scene with Cree in the pond. I wrote that entire scene sobbing my heart out.

The book is very British I think in its voice, use of slang etc – how important was that for you?

It was very important that the book be very Brit-centric because, despite all this country’s faults, I really love it here and I couldn’t live anywhere else. My first book, Pretty Bad Things, was a love letter to America that didn’t get there, and this one was a love letter to Britain and to rock and roll and I think it arrived safe and sound.

Your chapter headings were very clever and funny – how did you come up with them?

I’m just a pun machine.

Thanks CJ! Feel free to join me following CJ on Twitter: @CeejaytheAuthor 







7 thoughts on “Meet the author: C.J. Skuse – Rockoholic”

  1. I just wrote on my miserable teen dealings, chasing the sparkly boy band singer of the moment, so I’m cracking up reading this. They definitely weren’t rock stars but the general “Pick me & let’s have babies” feelings were all there 🙂 Sounds like such a fun book!

  2. What a fun interview. Love her personality and the way her sparkle shines through. Sounds like a great read. Always a fantasy of mine too. My lastest heart throb would be Adam Levine. 🙂

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