Tuesday, 22 October 2019

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. 


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