Originally published on Exeposé Online, 3 June 2014. Click the image to read the full article.
Christy Ku interviewed Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2014 winner author Holly Smale, who spent most of her teenage years being bullied before she was spotted by a top London modelling agency aged fifteen, when nothing changed at all.
Picture Perfect is the latest novel in the international best-selling Geek Girl series, following teenage geek Harriet Manners. She knows that New York is the most populous city in the US and its official motto is “Ever Upward” – but what she doesn’t know is how to model in the Big Apple…
Can you tell us about the idea behind Geek Girl?
I wanted to write a comedy about my experience as a teenage model, and it wasn’t until I wrote the first line, unplanned – “My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek” – that I realised it wasn’t really a story about modelling at all: it was really a story about geeks, and being an outsider. As it turns out, I had a lot more experience in both those things than I ever did in the fashion world, so the rest felt like the right story for me to tell.
I really loved how the transformation of Harriet Manners didn’t quite work in the conventional sense. Often, plot lines revolve around the Cinderella theme where a misfit is “improved” before being accepted and loved. How important do you feel it is to challenge this?
I think it’s essential. I always had a problem with the Ugly Duckling story, because what were we supposed to learn from it? Become beautiful and everyone will like you? Look ugly or different and you’re on your own?