Her book Cell 7 is Debut of the month here at Thrillers & More, but who is Kerry Drewery? We got curious about the woman behind the book so we sent her a message on Facebook asking her if we could ask her a few questions. Her answer was ‘YES’ and you can read it all below!
Who is Kerry Drewery? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I live in Lincolnshire with my husband, youngest son, a Leonberger dog and a Maine Coon cat. I love going to the cinema, the theatre, shows or live music, and I like TV series such as X-files, Stranger Things, Breaking Bad, The Wire. I don’t like cooking at all, and I don’t like housework or shopping.
When I’m not writing I do triathlons and last year I represented GB for my age-group at the European Championships in Denmark. I much prefer to swim in lakes to swimming in pools, and I once swam across the river Humber.
Why did you start writing? Is it something you have always wanted to do?
I’ve always made up stories. When I was young I used to have trouble sleeping so my mum told me to make up stories in my head. When I was about thirteen I sent my first ever story to a magazine called Just Seventeen. It was a horror story about an evil garden gnome that attacked people! Not surprisingly, they didn’t take it but they were kind enough to write back to me and give me advice.
Cell 7 is a first in a series, how did you come up with the idea for this story? What was your inspiration?
I wanted to write about the experience of being on death row. I was fascinated with how people coped with it – that some turn to religion, some are remorseful, some angry – and I wanted to explore that. I also wanted it to be a teenager on death row. The two problems there are a) the UK doesn’t have the death penalty anymore and b) even if I set it in the US, they don’t put teenagers on death row (although they used to). So I started asking myself how I could do this. How could I put a teen on death row? How could I tell her story?
I’d also been following things in the news such as the Oscar Pistorius case, the Meredith Kercher case, and thinking a lot on the OJ Simpson trial and was interested in the media’s interpretation of them.
So rather than being one idea walking into my head, Cell 7 evolved from a lot of different influences.
Why did you change from romantic stories to a dystopian thriller?
I don’t think my two previous novels are really out and out romance stories – they’re more to do with determination to survive and coming-of-age. I think there a lot of base similarities between them and Cell 7 – they’re all concerned with how we treat each other and the strength of the human spirit. However, moving towards dystopia and away from real life gave me more freedom to explore themes and issues, and more freedom to create the story I wanted rather than having to keep true to real events.
Your books are very well-received, do you think there is a specific reason why young adult books with current themes like the ones you use are so popular?
Good question. Maybe because they explore things that are important to their readership, or that are familiar to them (such as reality TV). Perhaps it’s because they have different elements that appeal to different readerships. Or that they raise questions but don’t try and offer a quick fix. I don’t know. I think there are probably lots of different answers to that. I think good fiction opens up questions to readers but doesn’t try to answer them. I don’t think an author should be answering them. I hope mine inspire the reader to think and to question.
Would you like to write an adult thriller someday or just stick to young adult?
I would love to! I have an idea for one, but I’ve also got an idea for another young adult book and I think that one will win my attention first!
What kind of books do you like to read yourself? Is there an author you look up to? Who inspires you?
I read all sorts of different things, all kinds of genres – I’m really not picky – although I probably do read more young adult than anything else.
I’m inspired by books that do things differently. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, for example has multiple narratives that tie beautifully together, Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet, is told in three distinct parts. I admire that, and it inspires me to try different things.
Do you read while you write? Or does that make it difficult to focus on your writing?
I didn’t used to at all, because I found it difficult to take my head out of the one I was reading and then put it into the one I was writing. I’m working on this though! Because otherwise I just don’t have opportunity to read.
Who is your favourite author? What is your favourite book of all time?
I don’t have a favourite author. I’m not a very faithful reader – I won’t necessarily stay with a particular author, instead I tend to dot around depending on the book itself.
Some of my favourite books though are The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Chrysalids by John Wyndham and Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet. All of those are very different!
Having said that, I’m quite into Claire North books at the moment. I loved The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, and then read Touch which I enjoyed as well, so now I have another of hers – The End Of The Day – on my to-be-read pile.
What makes a good book a good book? What do you dislike most in books?
Oh a mixture of things! For me, I have to be involved with the character – I need to feel that I want to find out what happens to them. That doesn’t necessarily mean I have to like them though! I like something with a good pace too, and something with a realistic ending. I’ve recently finished Olivia Levez’ The Island – the ending was ambiguous, but I thought it was perfect for the story.
On the flip side of that, I don’t like ‘happily ever after’ endings.
Do you have a specific ritual while writing? Loud music, absolute silence, loads of chocolate within reach?
I much prefer it quiet, and I definitely couldn’t work with loud music on – I find myself singing along to it instead of writing. If I have a deadline and am struggling to keep focused then I’ll give myself small rewards – a cup of coffee in half an hour – a couple of crumpets in an hour – things like that. I try not to have food within reach though because I’d just scoff it all!
You have been on a short list of a book prize a few times now, how special is this to you?
It’s just wonderful. An absolute honour and a privilege, especially when they are prizes that young people have voted on. It means the absolute world.
Your books have been published in different languages; do you have a say in the covers? Or is it out of your hands?
No, it is out of my hands, but that’s ok, and I don’t mind at all. There hasn’t been one that I don’t like, and it’s fascinating to see different countries approach it differently.
Are you working on your next book? And if so, will it be a series again?
The whole Cell 7 trilogy has been finished for a while now. It’s as bit sad to be honest – it’s been lovely to be able to spend that much time with the characters and to develop them over more space than just one book.
I’m currently working on something that’s a standalone, but I do have an idea I’d like to develop for a series as well. I’m very superstitious though, so I’ll keep it all under wraps for now.
Would you like to tell us more about what you do for UKYA Extravaganza?
The UKYA Extravaganza are events that myself and YA author Emma Pass organise together. So many book events are held around London and are difficult for a lot of younger people to attend, so we wanted to take authors and events to them instead. So far we’ve held them in Birmingham, Newcastle and Nottingham, and have had around fifty authors at each event.
They’re about celebrating writing and reading, and making that accessible to people regardless of geography or finances.
And finally….if stranded on a deserted island..and you can only have one book…which one would it be?
Oh crikey, only one? Well today I’d say The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, but if I was to answer that on another day, I might change my mind. I pick that one because it’s a decent length and it’s a complex story – I think it’s one of those books where you’ll keep seeing new things in it the more you read.