Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.
Sabitha: Joshua Neal is with us today to talk about his YA science fiction novel, The Debt Diary. Josh, take it away!
Josh: The Debt Diary is dystopian young adult fiction. It focuses on Harry, a teenage climate refugee, as he struggles to survive living on the streets of an inhospitable city. The book also has a supernatural hook in the form of Harry’s debt diary, a book that Harry uses to track his debts but that begins to predict his future.
Sabitha: That sounds very topical. What inspired you to write this book?
Josh: Brexit, mostly. But also a complete and utter disdain for the heat. There was a decent amount of xenophobia tied up within the Brexit narrative, and I’m sure I don’t need to make anyone aware of the continuing discourse about our changing climate. Take these two things to the extreme and you’ve got some very desperate people in very desperate situations. I was also inspired more specifically by the Essex lorry deaths and other similar news stories.
Sabitha: Which character do you relate to the most and why?
Josh: I think Harry is the most relatable character. He has no idea what the future holds, yet he’s forced to make decisions every day that will inevitably change that future. Whether it’s changed for better or for worse, he has no idea. All he can do is make the best, most informed decision that he can and hope the rest falls into place.
Sabitha: We have a lot of writers in our community. What’s your writing process?
Josh: The writing process for The Debt Diary was very different from the process that I’m developing now. The Debt Diary is my first novel, and I pantsed it pretty hard. I just put my head down and wrote until I finished it. Then, I sought direction from a number of sources and used the feedback to fix everything that I’d done wrong (which was a lot). The experience was enlightening but I’m plotting my current projects far more thoroughly.
Sabitha: What was the hardest part about editing?
Josh: Fleshing out act two and trying to ensure that Harry’s transformation was a satisfying and moving one. Also, trying to tie together the two book’s two primary themes and ensure that they synthesise in the final act.
Sabitha: What do you most want your readers to take away from reading your book?
Josh: That the future is uncertain, but that doesn’t mean that you can compromise your morals or hang others out to dry. We can achieve more together than we can alone, and it’s up to each of us to continue to build connections rather than burn bridges.
Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your story and your process. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?
I’m donating 25% of the proceeds of my book sales to a local charity in Norwich. You can find out more about this on my website.