Thursday, May 16, 2013

Interview with CJ Harper, author of The Disappeared

Hurrah! Please give a warm welcome to CJ Harper, author of The Disappeared a dystopian YA novel that was published in January of this year from Simon and Schuster. I really loved The Disappeared, especially the ways in which the main character changes throughout the novel.  I'm really pleased that CJ is here today and I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel out next year! 

To find out more about The Disappeared or CJ Harper please do visit the following links:

Tell me something about yourself and your novel, The Disappeared?

I grew up in a tiny house with a big family. I’m the fourth of five sisters, which means I still eat with my arm shielding my plate. I’ve got a daughter (the Ginger Ninja) and a son (Goblin Baby) and a computer-genius husband. There are enough Children’s and YA books in my house to build a fort with. But I absolutely haven’t ever skived off work to do that.

The Disappeared is about arrogant teenage super-brain Jackson, whose perfect life implodes when his best friend dies in a violent incident and suddenly everything changes: his teachers claim not to know him; his records are deleted. Jackson has disappeared.
    Jackson is dumped an Academy where the teachers are kept in cages for their own safety and the only thing that matters more than how well you can fight is the colour of your hair.
    Jackson has to get over his arrogance and learn to trust people he’s always been prejudiced against, in order to discover the truth behind the lies his life has been built on, and he has to do it fast, before the man at the heart of it all makes Jackson disappear for good.

Did you use mood/inspiration boards or write to any particular music while working on The Disappeared?

One day I would like to collect pictures that represent my story, and to make inspirational playlists, but at the moment I find that the best I can hope for when I’m writing, is that no one is playing the recorder or poking me in the ear with a crayon. I’ve become very skilled at tuning out CBeebies or requests for biscuits. Except my own. I’m quite capable of stopping mid-word if I get hungry.

Setting is very important, especially in dystopian novels. Would you say there is a place that has been very influential to you in your life or in your writing?

It probably says something about the interior of my mind that the ‘grid’ that students in The Disappeared are strapped to and the disgusting dining hall with its ‘feeding pods’ are straight out of my imagination. The only setting that was inspired by a real location is the drum-shaped fighting room, which is taken from a school I worked at. I used to fantasize about making the rudest children battle it out like gladiators in there. Obviously, I never actually did that, and any child that says differently has forgotten that confidentiality agreement I made them sign.

What was the first book you loved?

What a great question! See, this is why I became an author, so I could bang on about my favourite books. (And obviously telling stories from heart and all that . . .) So, The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord is probably the very first book I loved. The town has a wasp problem so they make a giant jam sandwich to trap them in. The illustrations are amazing; they made me desperate to have a go at spreading butter with a tractor.

Which author would render you speechless if you were to meet unexpectedly?

Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman or Geraldine McCaughrean. I would be struck dumb. But don’t worry; I’ve prepared flash cards declaring undying adoration, for if the occasion should ever arise.

Were there any particular scenes or characters that you really struggled to write?

I find it takes me a lot of energy to write action scenes. When I’m working on a fight scene I swear it burns as many calories as a spinning class (and that’s what makes my numerous writing snacks totally acceptable). I did actually have to draw little pictures of scrapping stickmen for some scenes. It’s hard work keeping track of where everyone’s limbs are. I keep thinking that maybe in the next book I write, everyone will just sit around and chat.

If you could be best friends with any fictional character, who would you pick?

*Envisages thousands of tiny waving hands emerging from the book shelf accompanied by tiny voices calling ‘Pick me! Pick me!’*
    When I was younger I had Anne of Green Gables as an imaginary friend. She was pretty cool. Other high scorers on my fictional friend list include, Lyra from Northern Lights (I named my daughter Lyra – that’s how much she impressed me), Queenie from Code Name Verity (I’ve always wanted a friend who swears in a cut-glass accent), Rose from the Casson Family series by Hilary McKay and the Marquis de Carabas from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.

The Disappeared is one of my mostly anticipated books being published in 2013, which book or books would be top of your list?

Gosh, thank you.
    Everything is Fine and Other Lies I Tell Myself by Cathy Brett, Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O’Porter (this caught my eye because it’s set in the 90s – a period I remember fondly, so it had better be good) and I am very much looking forward to the final instalment of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. Also, I’ve just discovered Jenny Valentine and Sarah Dessen so I will be getting stuck into their backlists.

Finally, what can we expect from you next?

Well, it’s not the washing up so my husband needn’t get his hopes up.
    The second book in The Disappeared trilogy, which is called The Wilderness, is coming Feb 2014. In a ghost-city Jackson discovers a bloodthirsty captain training a ruthless Resistance who are everything that Jackson has hoped for, except for one thing: they’re a bunch of kids.
    I’ve also got a completely different kind of book called Have A Little Faith coming out this August (published under the name Candy Harper). Faith is in big trouble because her head of year, Miss Ramsbottom, seems to think that she is always blowing stuff up and giving supply-teachers radical haircuts. Whereas, as Faith points out, it was actually just that one time. Faith’s diary charts her blood feud with Miss Ramsbottom, and also her attempts to ignore the immaturity of old people, and her quest to find herself a boyfriend who knows how to have a good cheese fight.


  1. Oh, you;re in for a treat with the Sarah Dessen and Jenny Valentine backlists! Great interview, ladies!

  2. Great interview! I really enjoyed THE DISAPPEARED & I'm looking forward to the next book.


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