Blog tour: The Miseducation of Evie Epworth

Welcome to the blog tour for The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor, which will be published in hardback by Scribner on 23rd July 2020.

It has been described as “Cold Comfort Farm meets Adrian Mole in the funniest debut novel of the year”. Intrigued? Then keep reading to learn more about it in the author’s own words!

Hi Matson! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of The Miseducation of Evie Epworth! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Thank you! Yes, the book is about quite a few things... It's a book about that funny time between childhood and adulthood, a time in which we're a bit of both and we're not really sure which one's best. It’s a book about when the ‘50s finally became the ‘60s, exploring that no-man's-land time (again) between the chronological start of the decade and when the decade actually got going. And it's a book about lost mothers, uncoping fathers, and muddled daughters - hopefully a warm, sad, funny story about growing up and being lost then found.

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing the book or did it take an unexpected turn as the characters grew on the page?

A: The main shape of the book was always there. I knew where Evie would be at the end of the book and pretty much how she'd get there. Most key scenes were in my head right from the beginning but they were just broad outlines - I knew what I wanted the chapters to do but not exactly how they'd do it. The flashbacks (or interludes as they're called in the book) were also always there but I expanded them a bit because after I'd written the first draft I realised that the backstory of certain characters demanded to be told! 

Evie’s role models are Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine and the Queen. What are yours? 

A: Mine change all the time! I think in terms of writing it has to be Sue Townsend - she wrote so well and said such clever things with such little pretension. Other role models, in no particular order, include Cary Grant, Beyonce, Alan Bennett, Sara Cox, Brian Cox, Armistead Maupin, Julie Walters, Sophie Ellis-Bextor (for her lockdown disco), Pedro Almodovar and, of course, absolutely everyone working at the moment to keep us safe and healthy and keep the country up and running.

If this novel was going to be turned into a film, who would you cast in the role of Evie?

A: That's a really difficult question! Evie's 16 1/2 in the book so it would need to be someone young but also, because she's such a strong character, someone shot-through with life and fun and at the same with a clear vulnerability too... How about Millie Bobby Brown or Eloise Smyth?

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: Many scenes in the book were really, really good fun to write, for example the car journey (chapter 5), the village fete (chapter 12), and the scene in the hair salon (chapter 16). In fact, it was impossible not to enjoy writing all the Evie scenes - her voice took over and there was a tremendous energy to the writing - it just came tumbling out of me and then all I had to do was edit and shape it. But I also really enjoyed writing the slower, more emotional scenes too - I wanted the book to make people cry a bit as well as make them laugh and so exploring Evie's feelings, especially towards her parents, was really satisfying to write.

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: There was quite a lot of cutting between drafts (about 20,000 words at one point!) but it was all taking 'padding' from scenes rather than cutting whole scenes. Cutting and editing is great because it gives you space to try out new ideas and make everything tighter and stronger. Hopefully most of the book whipcracks along and I think it's the cutting and rewriting that produces that. And as for the characters... all the characters in the finished book are the same as the ones in the first draft - I'm very happy to say I didn't lose anybody! 

If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: Well, it's the follow up to The Miseducation... I had a very clear idea for Evie's story right from the start. It (hopefully!) runs over three books, with each book set in a different decade. I only started writing the second book fairly recently and I was quite nervous about it but, luckily, as soon as I started writing Evie's voice was there and I absolutely loved it. I've written a couple of chapters so far and am very happy with them - it's really good to be back with Evie and I can't wait to see where she'll take me...

What are you reading at the moment?

A: I'm reading a couple of books at the moment. Jeanette Winterson's memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. Both are brilliant. I'm very jealous. 

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: It's all very new to me, to be honest. I've avoided social media until fairly recently and only caved in because my agent and the team at Scribner said it was a really good way to connect with readers (which I'm keen to do). I was quite sceptical at first (and a pretty poor poster!) but I'm actually enjoying it now - early readers are getting in touch and sharing their views on the book and it's all been incredibly positive. Independent bookshops have been contacting me too, which is really nice. It is a distraction though and I think it has definitely slowed my writing down - I need to be a bit more organised and perhaps have a daily social media hour after lunch (when my mind usually wanders away from writing to coffee). I think all writers are seeing the benefits of social media during lockdown - it's pretty much the only way to meet and interact with readers now that all the bookshops are closed. Having said that, I can't wait to meet readers in real life when the bookshops re-open (or, if that takes a while, be invited to my first Zoom bookclub meeting!!!)

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: I'm going to be naughty and give two:

1. Read your writing out loud. Good writing should have a rhythm, a flow. Writing isn't just sticking a series of words between two full stops - those words have to 'sing'. If you can't hear the singing when you read your words out, you'll need to get your editing pen out. If you need oxygen by the time you get to the end of the sentence, the sentence is too long. If they don't sound like the right words in the right order, change them.

2. Get a writing buddy. It makes a real difference to your writing when you know that you're going to have to sit down with someone and listen to them comment on it - it ups a writer's game, I think. And a writing buddy will often spot all those things that you knew weren't quite right but you left them in hoping nobody would notice (so take them out!). Plus reading other people's writing and thinking about what works and what doesn't will improve your own writing. Good luck!

Thank you for your time!

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