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For eight years, James Dawson was a teacher specialising in Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education (PSHCE). His main remit was ensuring that these subjects were taught to a high standard across several schools. He collaborated on projects involving bullying, sex education, drugs and alcohol education and family diversity.
He now writes full-time and lives in London.
His debut, best-selling YA novel Hollow Pike was nominated for the prestigious Queen of Teen prize, and was followed by publication of the YA thriller Cruel Summer in 2013.
When he's not writing books to scare teenagers in a variety of different ways, James is busy listening to pop music and watching Doctor Who and horror movies.
© CleverPrime Photography
Here is James talking about his book, Being a Boy
A Q&A with James about Say Her Name...
What inspired this book in particular? People told me that Hollow Pike was scary and I wasn’t even trying so I thought it would be fun to write a book where I was actually trying to terrify the reader.
What was the toughest part to write? When writing horror, I found you can’t rely on ‘jumps’ or loud noises the way they do in films. The fear has to come from a more psychological place; it has to get under your skin. The only way I knew it’d scare readers was if I scared myself. While writing Say Her Name I was plagued by Mary-related nightmares.
What was the most exciting thing about writing this book? (No spoilers please!) I loved adding to that oral tradition of ghost stories. What’s really fun is when I go into schools and ask who’s heard of Bloody Mary, all the hands go up and everyone has their own version. Say Her Name is just my retelling of a dark fairy tale really.
What advice would you give to writers struggling with a second (or third, fourth or fifth!) book? This isn’t my advice, it’s Patrick Ness’s, but he just told me to write the book you want to write. If you start worrying about the expectations of your readers or editors there won’t be any joy on the page. I adored writing Say Her Name, I hope it shows.
How do you come up with ideas for all of your books? It’s almost always something that intrigued me when I was young. That period from about ten-twenty years-old, I just soaked up pop culture like a sponge and now it’s finding it’s way out in my writing.
Has the way you write changed since your previous book? Do you/did you do anything differently? With my second novel, Cruel Summer, I felt like I proved myself as a writer, that I wasn’t a one-hit wonder so to speak. That meant there was no pressure on Say Her Name to be anything other than hugely enjoyable and hugely scary. Of all my novels, this was the easiest to write. I’m also hugely proud of Bobbie in that she’s my first creation who isn’t, at least in part, based on someone I knew.
Have you got an idea for your next book? Or would you like to write something completely different? My next book is already done! I write fast – in fact I’ve done two! Such is publishing! My next book is another horror, but tonally VERY different from Say Her Name. It’ll be out in 2015, all being well, and it’s a much stranger, more psychological horror. Before that there will be my second non-fiction title, This Book Is Gay, a guide to identity, sex and relationships for young LGBT people.
We’d like to update readers on what you’ve been doing since your previous book came was published – would you mind filling us in a little? Clearly doing lots of writing! Since Cruel Summer came out, I’ve also become a Stonewall Schools Role Model, a role I’m very proud of. I’ve also been enjoying my stint as a ‘sexpert’ alongside the release of Being A Boy.
March 2015 Book of the Month A thoughtfully provocative and chillingly eerie tale that seizes your attention from the very first page and refuses to let go until the last. 17 year old Sally, quiet and careful good girl meets Molly Sue, who is perceptive, boisterous and extremely powerful. The author has written satisfyingly convincing characters, the friendship between Sally, Stan and Jennie feels very realistic, with squabbling skipping hand in hand with trust and love. Molly Sue is a wonderfully seductive character, she is fascinating and bewitching, just a teensy bit likeable and as you get to her know her, extremely intimidating. The suspense builds slowly, then like a wildfire it snaps and crackles out of control through to the brilliantly surprising ending. This is a fabulously gripping tale, proving that you can find strength in the most unlikely places... you just have to know where to look. ~ Liz Robinson A Piece of Passion from Emma Matthewson, Editor-at-Large Wow, James Dawson, Queen of Teen, has done it again. With Under My Skin he has written a chilling, thrilling horror story about a tattoo that comes alive, in fact, a tattoo that decides to take over Sally, the girl she is tattooed onto... brrr ... she really does get under Sally's skin in more ways than one... Anybody who loved Say Her Name (if you don't know it, take a look!) will love this. Maybe read it in daylight? Depends how strong you are feeling, I suppose ... And of course it depends on whether you have a tattoo yourself. That would change how you read this book. Yes, it would. Definitely. James Dawson was awarded the accolade of “Queen of Teen” – voted for by the public and awarded by The Book People.
Best-selling teen author James Dawson turns his hand to horror in this chilling school story. Summoning up an old school ghost in front of a mirror in a room full of candles as part of a Halloween dare seems like a harmless prank. Bobbie is sure that it is just an old and harmless legend. But when girls begin to go missing and terrifying messages appear in unlikely places, it becomes clear that this is much, much more than just a story. The sinister reason why old-girl Mary haunts the past adds a contemporary twist to a blood curdling tale. A Piece of Passion from Emma Matthewson, Editor-at-Large I am a real scaredy cat when it comes to watching scary films. So when I started reading the script for Say Her Name, touted as being an incredibly scary ghostly horror, set in a girls' boarding school, I was nervous. But I had seen and very much admired James Dawson's Hollow Pike, and so I was intrigued. And, boy, is Say Her Name scary! It is also funny, and very, very clever. James has been nominated for the UK Queen of Teen - and for good reason. He just 'gets' what's important for teenage readers. And how teenagers think, speak, bitch about each other, make up and break up. James's very funny writing, spiced with a ghostly chill is really quite unique. Read it and see what you think. But do beware of Bloody Mary. Oh, and have you got a dripping shower? Do get it checked out. Just in case...
A brutally frank and often hilarious look at what being a teenage boy really entails. It provides an uncensored look at puberty, from the social food-chain to sex, how to pull, being a boyfriend, dealing with spotty faces and everything guys need to know to survive. It's the essential guide to growing up – brutal honesty included.