Jenny Downham’s Top 5 Facts About Furious Thing 

1) Furious Thing took three years to write. This is very slow! It took that long because I don’t plan – I get bored if I do. I use free-writing techniques instead. This is where you write continuously for a set period without worrying about the rules. So, I might open a book and put my finger on a word and write for twenty minutes. Then I might look out the window and write for another twenty minutes about the first thing I see. Do enough free writing in enough locations over enough weeks and months and a story begins to emerge. It’s a great way of writing with real energy and gathering lots of material. Themes, characters, location, all begin to clarify. With Furious Thing a golden family came first, then a 15-year-old girl who was ‘different’ from this family. She says, ‘I’m an ogre compared to the rest of them.’ Then came the notion of scapegoating – where one person is blamed for the things that go wrong. The drawback of freewriting is that you throw a lot of material away. It’s slow. And it requires a certain amount of faith. But the benefits outweigh the negatives in my opinion. I’m never bored. I’m often surprised by where characters take me. And the writing that doesn’t appear in the book is great at rooting motivation and giving the characters a strong past.

2) I had more fun writing Lexi (the 15-year-old narrator) than any other character I’ve written. She’s not academic or popular. She’s wildly rude, badly behaved and always in trouble. Writing from the point of view of someone who doesn’t consider outcomes before they act is enormously freeing. If I ever got stuck in the story, I’d just turn to Lexi and ask, ‘So, what happens next?’ She’d always have something up her sleeve. Her actions speak for her. She might not be as academic as her siblings, but she’s emotionally eloquent. She was constantly getting into trouble for creating chaos and I had to get her out of it. I loved that about her. 

3) Furious Thing explores controlling and coercive behaviour – a range of abusive acts that attack the personality rather than the body. It’s a pattern and happens repeatedly over time – one partner is controlling and there's an ongoing sense of fear. It’s a hard area to police because it happens slowly, subtly and covers a range of possible behaviours. It’s also deeply personal because the perpetrator has intimate knowledge of the victim, so the patterns of abuse and control are specifically tailored. It’s illegal in the UK and has been since December 2015. 

4) I hope the book encourages more girls to find their voices. Studies have shown that being angry makes women feel powerless. We feel it will damage relationships and get us nowhere. Women and girls finding allies and feeling they have a right to share their stories is hugely important. Campaigns such as Everyday Sexism and #YesAllWomen and #MeToo allow us to know we’re not alone. 

5) My debut novel, ‘Before I Die’ was at the centre of the Daily Mail’s ‘Sick Lit’ outrage - should we be allowing our young people to read books about grim subjects? Surely, writing about the death of a young person is unnecessary? Isn’t there enough tragedy in the world already? My answer was (and still is) that the LIVES of young people are full of tough things. It’s illusory to think we can keep them safe by only allowing them access to certain books. We need to find the joy among the difficult stuff, rather than ignoring the difficult stuff. Lexi goes through a lot in Furious Thing. But the book contains love, many moments of joy and ends with a great sense of hope. 

Furious Thing by Jenny Downham is out now from David Fickling Books. 

Extract from The Grateful Boys by Francoise DeMaurier

“Welcome to Corpus. A Quaint Town with Country Charm. Speed Limit 45.” A man and his wife had just driven seven hours from Orange, Virginia. They made their way through the Carolinas, North and South, and finally hit their destination state, the professed buckle of the Bible Belt— the great Peach State of Georgia. It would take another ninety minutes before they finally crossed that “Welcome to Corpus” sign. “Never heard of a Corpus, Georgia,” the wife said. “Nor have I,” her husband responded through yawns, his hands on the wheel. “How much longer until we reach Savannah?” “Bout thirty-forty miles, I reckon. The drive through this tiny little dump shouldn’t take long.” “I swear I don’t recall seeing it on the GPS,” his wife said spuriously. “Nor have I,” he repeated. It was dark out now. Very dark. After five minutes riding through Corpus, Georgia, the paved road itself seemed to have vanished in favor of a dirt stretch. But it wasn’t the dirt road that bothered them, it was the blanket of fog that covered everything around them. Their sights were limited only to the view allowed by the headlights. “Dammit, I can’t see a thing. Never been in a town so foggy,” the man said as he clutched the steering wheel and leaned in. “Nor have I,” his wife shot back ironically. Another wheel clutching mile or so went by until the husband told his wife to turn the damned GPS back on. “Are you lost?” she asked as she turned her phone on. “Just wonna confirm we’re going in the right direction. To hell with these detours.” There it was, the luck of the draw. The moment her GPS turned on, the engine of their beat-up old Volvo sputtered to a climatic end. “Oh, not now. What did you do!?” she asked. “Me? It was your idea to make the drive when we could have flown,” he mumbled. “Don’t you roll your eyes at me. Get out and do something!” The wife quickly snapped her head to side. She went wide-eyed upon hearing a loud horrific screech from outside their vehicle. Her husband could see her trembling. “It’s nothing,” he said as he opened his driver door, slammed it shut, and lumbered toward the front of the car. Up went the hood and down went his head. “So what is it?” the wife signed as she rolled down her passenger window. “Might not be the engine. Might be the carburetor,” he said as he closed the hood after a quick inspection. “Either way, call Triple A. I don’t wonna be out here all ni–” Before he could finish his sentence, a dark winged figure swooped upon him. His wife screamed as the black shadowy demonic figure slammed him onto the hood of the car. The wife’s deafening screams matched the screech of the demon as it pulled her now bloodied husband into the dark of night. His screaming stopped as he faded out of sight and into the fog. Panicked. Sweating. Fearful. The wife rolled her up window at once, fumbled for her phone, dropped it under her feet, and fumbled for it again. With a panic attack on the rise, she dialed three numbers on her phone. “911, what is your emergency?” “SOMETHING JUST GOT MY HUSBAND! SOMETHING IN THE FOG! WHERE’S HE AT? WHERE’S HE AT?” she screamed. “Ma’am, calm down. Tell us your location and we’ll have assistance respond to your emergency as soon as possible.” “Corpus, Georgia. Our car stopped. Something got him! Oh God! Something got him!” she screamed through tears. Nerves frayed. She couldn’t quite understand what else the operator was asking her. A giant thud was accompanied by an immediately dent made upon the roof of her car. “It’s back!” she screamed into the phone. “Don’t end the call, ma’am. Help is on the way,” the operator responded. But there would be no help for the couple that drove seven hours from Orange, Virginia and intended to make a pilgrimage to Savannah, Georgia. The unintended stop they made in the tiny town of Corpus would be their last. The operator asked the wife if she was still on the line. Before she could answer, her window was shattered into a million pieces. A hooked arm as black as the night itself, that could only be described as belonging to no human on earth, swooped into the car and impaled the wife. And everything went black.  

5 Brave Protagonists By Erin Stewart 

I love reading protagonists (particularly girls) who fight back against villains, but maybe not in the action-packed, swashbuckling kind of way we usually think of bravery. I have a special spot for young adult characters who are waging war against more internal or social enemies. Give me a YA hero who takes on the world by standing up for her convictions, by speaking up when it would be so much easier to be silent, and by being true to who she is no matter what the world tells her she should be.

That’s brave in my book. And that quieter, internal strength is what keeps me turning pages and endears me to the characters. Here are five brave protagonists who captured my heart from the first page:

 • Melinda Sordino, SPEAK, by Laurie Halse Anderson. While Melinda spends a good chunk of the book hiding what’s happened to her, her bravest moments come when she finally tells what happened. This is not small feat. In a world where people often don’t believe victims and girls are shamed for the actions of others, speaking up is perhaps one of the greatest acts of bravery. This book also embodies bravery to me because Laurie Halse Anderson wrote a book at a time when readers didn’t necessarily want to hear about “such things” and were uncomfortable by seeing something so shocking on the pages. But just like Melinda, Anderson knew that speaking up is usually the only way to fight back. 

 • Katniss Everdeen, THE HUNGER GAMES, by Suzanne Collins. Arrow-wielding Katniss is brave and tough on The Hunger Games battlefield, but that’s not why she makes my list. Katniss is brave because in chapter 1, she puts herself in danger to save someone she loves. She doesn’t even think about it. She does steps forward, raises her hand and takes her sister’s place in a battle that will most likely end in her death. Because of that one moment right at the beginning of the book, I am in Katniss’ corner until the very last page. And as Katniss fights for her life, she uses her smarts, her strength, and most of all, her humanity to survive. 

 • Jo March, LITTLE WOMEN, by Louisa May Alcott. No list of brave girls would be complete for me without Jo March in Little Women. Growing up, this was my favorite book (and really, let’s be honest, still is). Jo embodied everything I wanted to be: smart, funny, rebellious and creative. In an era of embroidery and early marriage, Jo bravely did her own thing. She wrote books in a world of male writers who told her she’d never make it. She tromped through woods when other girls were in the kitchen. Most of all, she was 100 percent Jo, no matter what anyone said. She knew a simple truth that all brave girls know: her strength and her power was in her differences.

 • Auggie, WONDER, by R.J. Palacio. Auggie is brave every single day in very small ways. He treats others with kindness when it would be so much easier to be mean. He goes to school (without his helmet!) when he’d rather stay safely at home. Auggie is actually one of the inspirations for my own book because his story made me think about how a girl and a teenager would react in a similar situation. 

 • Which brings me to my final brave protagonist—my own! Ava is the main character in SCARS LIKE WINGS, my recent debut young adult novel about a burn survivor who is heading back to school a year after a fire left her with severe scars. Ava fears no one will ever see her as more than the Burned Girl, but as she makes friends and lets people into her life again, she realizes she has a choice: stay isolated and angry, or let the people by her side help her fly. A lot of people in her life could look at Ava and think she’s brave because she survived the fire. She endured horrible surgeries and pain. But I think what makes Ava the bravest is her choice to let people back into her life and into her heart. She chooses to not let her scars define her, and instead defines her life by the amount of love she lets in and gives out. To me, that’s the ultimate bravery—choosing to be vulnerable, choosing to love, and choosing to live.  

Everyone has scars. Some are just easier to see ... 

 16-year-old Ava Gardener is heading back to school one year after a house fire left her severely disfigured. She’s used to the names, the stares, the discomfort, but there’s one name she hates most of all: Survivor. What do you call someone who didn’t mean to survive? Who sometimes wishes she hadn’t? 

 When she meets a fellow survivor named Piper at therapy, Ava begins to feel like she’s not facing the nightmare alone. Piper helps Ava reclaim the pieces of Ava Before the Fire, a normal girl who kissed boys and sang on stage. But Piper is fighting her own battle for survival, and when Ava almost loses her best friend, she must decide if the new normal she’s chasing has more to do with the girl in the glass—or the people by her side. 

 The beautiful, life-affirming debut from Erin Stewart that's being called the YA answer to Wonder. Perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Nicola Yoon and John Green.  

About the author 

Erin Stewart is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern and a BYU undergraduate who works as a freelance writer and editor, as well as a weekly columnist in Salt Lake City. Scars Like Wings is her debut novel and is already set to publish in 14 languages.