Every Line of You by Naomi Gibson and published by Chicken House, is about a lonely girl who creates her own artificial intelligence (AI) to love her. In the 24 Mar 2022 #242 issue of the national writing magazine Writers’ Forum, I interviewed Naomi about her inspiration and writing process for this YA psychological thriller.
The inspiration for Every Line of You struck in a writing class at a local college. One evening we were given lucky dip bags with items in and asked to create a character based on those items. Naomi’s had a mini screw driver, an adaptor – things like that which she decided belonged to a teenage hacker, and that’s how Lydia was born.
“The class left me so inspired I went home and I did a lot of character prep. I knew Lydia inside out so when I sat down to write, the plot came naturally to me because I knew what she wanted and what she feared. Then I wrote and wrote, sometimes until three in the morning, and didn’t stop until two weeks later when I had a first draft of around 60,000 words. I completed this first draft in a hot and messy two weeks back in 2017. I ended up re-drafting about seven times.”Naomi Gibson
Naomi uses this method for all her books she told me as I long as she knows the character backwards, the plot drives itself. She prefer to write first thing in the morning rather than pulling an ‘all-nighter’ as ideas percolate whilst she sleeps and when she wakes up it feels like her brain has sorted through it all, making for an easier writing session.
She told me she didn’t set out to write a book about artificial intelligence – the book was driven by her main character. Lydia is bullied at school and overlooked at home, and she pours all of herself into creating an AI named Henry after her dead brother. As Henry grows in sentience, he sees how Lydia is treated and helps her exact revenge on the people who’ve been mean to her. Soon his own desires grow to the point where Lydia must decide how far she’ll go to help him. It made sense to me that a lonely but intelligent girl would create her own AI. Her loneliness and desire to be loved drives the plot.
First and foremost it deals with grief and the relationship between grief and technology On another level it addresses morality and humanity, and what leads us to make decisions that might be ‘bad’ but understandable, and how certain choices are defined by our humanity – or lack of.
It was important to Naomi her characters were authentic, and to do this she leaned heavily on her own experiences and memories of being a teenager. Naomi explained it was through the use of a character questionnaire, she discovered Lydia had a very sad home life. Then she piled the stress on her: her younger brother had died – an event that tore her parents’ marriage apart and forced her dad to leave the family home, resulting in Lydia being left with her mum who was barely coping herself. She was bullied at school and there was nowhere she got any respite.
Naomi revealed she found her agent, Joanna Moult at Skylark Literary, through cold querying. She said, Jo was the only agent who ever gave her proper feedback on her manuscript and offered her a revise and resubmit. It took her a while to make the changes she suggested because she was so emotionally invested in the manuscript, but eventually she did and she is so glad.
In terms of advice, Naomi suggests approach at least 100 agents before you shelve a book. She revealed she was up to 50 rejections before she signed with Jo, and would have taken it to 100 if she had to.
“Getting those rejections is painful but the industry is so subjective. You need to approach a wider pool to give your book its best shot. I’m so very lucky that my book has sold to nine territories and been optioned for TV by Heyday Productions. None of that would have been possible without my wonderful publisher, Chicken House. They run a competition every year for young adult and middle grade writers. My writing tip to all aspiring children’s book writers is you should look into the next Chicken House competition as an alternative route to publication.”Naomi Gibson
You can find out more about Naomi Gibson on her website is www.naomigibsonwrites.com and on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok find her @naomigwrites on all three platforms.
To read the complete feature you can purchase a copy of 24 Feb 2022 #242 issue of Writers’ Forum by ordering online from Select Magazines.
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Lovely interview – lots of good tips. Challenged by Naomi’s persistence re agent querying – well done to her.