What follows in a transcript for the video we posted on our channel, when we got our Geek Girl books signed by Holly Smale! (Be warned: if you have not read Head Over Heels, you may find some of the conversation spoiler-y!)
Sarah: I did have to fangirl when you talked about Shakespeare
Holly Smale: How could anyone not love dinosaurs and Shakespeare?
Maddie: Write them in. Retelling!
S: That’s your next project
HS: That’s it. Hamlet but with a T-Rex!
HS: Did you have a good time, yeah?
Bee: Yeah, yeah, it was amazing! How are Nick and Harriet going to end? I feel so betrayed. We have already read ‘Head Over Heel’s because we got a review copy and I’m so torn, like, I love where this is going but…Nick?
HS: All I’m gonna say is that I’ve known for a long time what the story’s going to be and how it’s going to end so I’m doing it very carefully knowing what the end is. I think that everyone will be happy. But, it’s about the journey. I mean, that’s what books are.
B: I love the character development. You can see how Harriet becomes more and more mature and it’s like: this is great!
HS: Yeah, she does and that’s the thing. It’s really about Harriet developing, and also and what’s most important is that, with Nick and Harriet, it’s not enough to just love someone, you have to love yourself, to be strong enough, to be in a relationship and Harriet’s growing and it’s not unrelated that Nick can’t be there for all of it. She had to grow alone. She has to be strong enough to be in a relationship.
B: I love how we don’t know everything about their relationship, as well, because the timeline is quite jumpy but we don’t need to know.
Anna: Look at this smile. This is an author having a reader get exactly what she’s trying to do.
HS: I had someone go ‘I’ve missed a book’ and I was like ‘what one have you missed?’, I gave her the lineage and she was like ‘oh, no I haven’t, why is there five months missing?’ and I was like ‘that’s what I’m having fun with!’
B: If Harriet says she doesn’t want to remember it, we don’t need to know.
HS: And also, it’s part of the joy of an unreliable narrator. She fills you in on parts of it, then doesn’t fill you in and lies and pretends and fakes it and it’s what you do in real life, because you black out thing you don’t want to know and it also gives you the opportunity to do flashbacks to show you the story very organically, rather than A to Z, here you go, this is what it is, which I love doing. It feels more real to me, and the fact that their relationship is and the fact that everyone is so gunning for it, it makes me think that everyone else feels it’s real too.
B: I think ‘Head Over Heels is probably my favourite.’
HS: Really?! Everyone’s saying that.
B: It’s amazing!
HS: I was so nervous.
B: We can see Harriet mature and her friendships make me feel for her so much because having friends is what she’s always dreamed of.
HS: Honesty, there’s so much of me in her and I was someone that struggled with people at school like, as an adult, I’m surrounded now by people – I’m lucky I’ve met people that love me for me but the urge to clinge and to really force things is always there and when I was writing it, I thought this is how I’ve reacted to having that past so I’m going to give it to Harriet. That, like, ‘I’ve got what I want, I’ve got what I’ve always wanted and now I’m going to keep it, whatever it takes.’
B: Definitely gave me flashbacks to my secondary school experience like ‘I was Harriet!’
HS: Harriet is supposed to be a real person, and she reacts to things. You don’t just go ‘I’ve had this horrible thing happen to me, but la la la la la’, you’re over it but you have echoes back to it, so it’s just about showing someone psychologically processing. Not just that, but heartbreak, friendship, everything. Identity.
B: And Toby as well, he’s a real fave!
HS: Aww, I love him. You’ve read book five, yeah?
HS: I had the Rin intention from the beginning of book two.
B: It’s the only way it could have gone!
HS: Exactly! And I had that intention. Everyone was like ‘Oh, is Toby going to get with Harriet?’ and I’m like ‘Wait for it!’ I’m gonna give him something better than Harriet, I’m going to give him someone who actually thinks he is the king. I just think he deserves that and Rin would think he’s a king because he’s a boy Harriet.
B: I think that’s an excellent thing, that Rin comes back as well, because she’s such a beautiful secondary character that she needs to be more prominent.
M: Spin off series!
HS: I had a question yesterday at my event and they were like (they hadn’t read five) ‘is Rin coming back? She’s my favourite character’ so I was able to go ‘Yes!’ She was so special to me, there was no way I was just going to wipe her out. And that’s what’s lovely about series is that you can fall in love with characters and then go ‘I can bring them back!’ but then at the same time, it’s sad, because unless you want to write the same story again and again and again, which you don’t want to do, you can’t have them all having equal weight in every story, so you have to sit down and go ‘OK, in this book, Nat won’t be as prominent, but in the next book she’ll be a lot more prominent.’ For instance, in Book Five she takes very much a background but guiding role, more of the Annabelle thing, whereas in book six, she’s going to be very prominent. It’s going to be Nat’s main role in the book. Out of the series, it will be Six that will be Nat’s book.
B: Is Book Six going to be the last book?
HS: It is the last.
M: Sad noises.
HS: I’ll be tying everything up by this time next year and then obviously in the future, I’d love to come back and do Harriet a bit older.
M: Harriet at 27, Harriet at 53.
HS: Adrian Mole style, you know? I would love that, and I’ve already got ideas for it, but it needs, first of all, for me to do something else so that I’m not just Geek Girl forever, but also it needs time for Harriet to actually get older. So it’s not like ‘Oh by the way, it’s six months later but now she’s twenty!’ I need that time.
S: You need to take a break to write Shakespeare and dinosaurs.
HS: Yes, yes! Hamlet with a T-Rex, that’s what I’m going to be writing.
M: I’d like to say that Annabelle and Richard are my favourite characters in the whole thing. They’re so lovely.
HS: I love them!
M: I love that they’re such prominent parents as well because parents are something that’s just invisible in YA.
HS: Yeah, I did that on purpose, because parents are important you know!
M: And when you were saying about the gender balance in raising children and I really liked how Richard was always there and Annabelle was the lawyer mum
HS: It was really important to me to show that parents don’t have to be ‘MUM’, ‘DAD’, the stereotypical roles. They can be loving, they can be fulfilling different roles and also showing a romance between adults rather than just teenagers to show that the love story isn’t just Nick and Harriet and Nick and Jasper- Nick and Jasper! That would be another story!
HS: But, it’s showing this adult love which is established and is decades old and has it’s own pattern. I think it’s nice to show that life doesn’t stop, that love doesn’t stop when you hit teenage years.
M: It definitely added the term ‘maverick’ to my dictionary. The amount of times it came up in the first book, I was like ‘this is going to be used now!’
HS: Richard is basically my dad. My dad is a self-declared maverick.
B: He’s adorable. Richard is adorable.
HS: He’s adorable. My dad is an idiot but he is adorable.
M: We like exactly the same things about these books, so when she was talking I was like ‘yeah, yeah!’
HS: You know what, I know this sounds arrogant, but I love these books. I love, LOVE them. I read them and I go ‘God, they’re good!’ But, I love the characters and they do what I want them to do. I wanted an adult parenting team that show the love element, but also a man that wasn’t afraid to be feminine, and a woman that was more masculine and showing this journey as a teenager gets older and more experienced but also making mistakes and being quite childish at times, and love coming in and out and having to deal with that, so it’s not just a love story because that’s not enough.
M: What was your favourite modeling adventure in the books, so far, because obviously she’s got Australia to go?
HS: Do you know what, one of my favourite things is thinking up her shoots. I am the most selfish writer; I’ll just do whatever I feel like. I love elephants, so the elephant shoot was pretty amazing and I only did it because I love elephants so much, I was like, ‘I’m doing an elephant shoot not matter what anyone says!’
M: It makes sense!
HS: Well, I’ve washed an elephant in a pool, so I’ve done it, so I know what it’s like to stroke an elephant and cuddle it, so I love that. I loved the Japanese ones.
M: Oh gosh, that one in the pool.
B: Harriet with the lights in the water.
M: I can so imagine it.
B: I can picture it. I need to draw it! It’s so gorgeous.
HS: And in the glass box, with all of the dolls. It’s such a fun job because I get to go ‘what’s the most fun, weird, wacky thing’ and I never did any of the shoots that she actually does because mine were weird in another way and I like making them up so once I had to dress up like a raspberry. In Geek Drama, I made her dress up like a carrot, so I do tweak it. But, I did some really wacky stuff, and I go through Vogue and I go like ‘why is a woman standing in an elevator, I don’t know.’
HS: [about Geek Drama] What’s so fun about it is getting to come at it from Harriet’s perspective, because she’s so dry, and so sarcastic, and being able to slam Shakespeare while also adoring him. Being able to go, I personally think Hamlet is a complete idiot, but I love Hamlet the play.
HS: I just love my job and I’m going to be so sad when [Geek Girl] finishes.
M: I absolutely love when Harriet’s doing the shoots, when she’s trying to do what they want her to do, and they’re like ‘no, no, that’s not it’ and when she’s being herself that’s when they really love her. I think that’s a really lovely message, that you’ve got to be yourself, and that’s what people will enjoy more than trying to be someone that you’re not.
HS: Yeah, exactly. And, it comes across in pictures, you know. The really good models are models that are able to relax and show something through the pictures, not just standing there woodenly, which is what I did, which is why I was rubbish. I had two facial expressions and it was this or this.
M: That with a smile!
HS: Just really, really, really happy and scared.
S: Was the pout not a thing?
HS: Oh, I didn’t know how to pout. Everyone else was pouting and I was going like this. Everyone was like ‘you look like a little owl!’ Also, again, showing a variety of models, showing that models come from every background and every type of person. You get thick ones, you get smart ones, you get nice ones, you get bitchy ones. They’re so many types of people and you can’t just stereotype, like ‘this model’s going to be a bitch and stupid,’ you know?
M: Harriet’s definitely not a stereotype and that’s what’s so wonderful about her! We literally promote it to everyone: read Geek Girl, it’s the best thing!
B: On our channel, it’s like every other video. It’s always relevant.
M: Now whenever we say Geek Girl people are like ‘shh!’
HS: No, no, you tell ‘em to ‘SHHH!’ Keep talking!
B: Thank you!