Q&A interview with Branford Boase Award shortlisted author and editor of The Bubble Boy
Stewart Foster’s debut The Bubble Boy was edited by Rachel Mann of Simon and Schuster. The judges described it as ‘deeply moving and completely gripping’, ‘a true original’; and praised the book for its ‘simple, clear writing, effortlessly believable characters’.
What was the inspiration for The Bubble Boy?
I wanted to write a story about good people and prove books can be entertaining without the existence of evil.
What did you most enjoy about the editorial process and working with Rachel?
I think all writers are protective of their words but it was an amazing feeling when Rachel jumped in and inspired me to write a far better and meaningful ending. It's about sharing a love and passion for something. I loved that.
You’ve written for adults, what did you find most rewarding about writing for children? What was the most challenging thing about it?
I like the fact that children don't curb my imagination; they make it grow. So when a whacky idea came into my head I could run with it and that could often lead·me in a new direction and hence I'd discover things about myself and my writing as I went. The most challenging aspect was getting Joe's voice right. He wasn't a 'normal' 11 year old. He'd spent all his life in the company of adults and I had to reflect that without it feeling contrived.
What are you most proud of in The Bubble Boy?
In its entirety I'm proud of the characters I created. They started off as a line of description or dialogue and grew into people I came to love. In isolation, I'm proud of the epilogue. I wrote it at 2am in the morning and never touched it again.
What piece of advice would you give a debut author?
I'd say love your characters and love your story, because if you don't then no one else will. Oh, and keep writing....even when you think it's rubbish, because you'll find something of use.
What was it about Stewart’s writing that most excited you when you first read the manuscript for The Bubble Boy?
The Bubble Boy was only half a story when I received the manuscript, but the poignant simplicity of Stewart's writing, and the sense of wonder that he wrote into Joe's voice, sang out from the first line. I had goosebumps within a few minutes of reading it.
What were the main things you worked with him on editorially?
Well, Stewart is such a pure writer that he had written all this feeling, and beautiful, hilarious characters, but had put them all down on the page without really knowing what their journey was going to be, or their relationship to each other. He knew Joe's voice, and his situation, and these two elements are of course the most fundamental to the story.·The key thing that we drew out together was who Amir was to Joe, and how they would help each other.·
The other challenge we both had, at times, was to authentically·retain the sense of hope·throughout. It was sometimes tricky to ensure that Joe's wonderful, curious spirit remained believable, when he was having such a terrible time. Plus poor Stewart couldn't escape Joe's bubble either, so occasionally·needed me, who could move more freely, to·cheer things up!
What did you most enjoy about working with him on the book?
I can honestly say that this was one of the best and most productive editorial processes I've ever been part of - Stewart and I somehow had a fun time even during all the sad scenes, and so the silly comments we'd write to each other in the mark-up made it all much·more bearable! His writing, too was, a joy to shape. I'm sure Stew would say I was an awful bully, though!
What is your favourite scene in·The Bubble Boy·and why?
I'm can't believe I'm saying this but –·MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT – I think it's·the scene just after Joe discovers that something has happened to Henry...I sobbed every time we worked on it. It just perfectly demonstrates Stew's ability to articulate the biggest feelings incredibly acutely, in a way that everyone, young or old, can relate to.
Thanks to Stewart and Rachel for answering our questions.