Can you tell us a little bit about your book, Code Red Lipstick?
Jessica Cole’s an average teenager, except when she’s modelling and helping out her private investigator dad, Jack, on surveillance jobs. When the former MI6 spy vanishes mysteriously, the 14-year-old takes matters into her own hands.
Following her dad’s trail to Paris, her investigation leads her to AKSC, the beauty headquarters of former supermodel, Allegra Knight, and a conspiracy involving an MI6 double agent. Jessica needs her wits about her and lots of gadgets to help give her the upper hand against dangerous adversaries.
I'd read a newspaper interview with a famous supermodel while she was still at school, talking about juggling school work while modelling at Paris Haute Couture Week. Immediately, the idea of a teenage spy came to me. Fashion is a good ruse for travelling the world alone - investigating conspiracies while maintaining a legitimate cover. I liked the idea of a girl having to negotiate the trials and tribulations of leading a dangerous but thrilling double life.
The book is your debut novel, what was your favourite part of the writing process, and did you learn anything new about yourself?
I really enjoyed doing the research for the book - I read up on MI5 and MI6, gadgetry and pretty much any spy-related story I could get my hands on while trawling the internet. I also visited an annual security conference in London, which was pretty thrilling. I experimented with the latest tactical ladders used in hostage situations and the high-tech grapnels used to scale submarines as well as encrypted mobile phones and facial recognition technology, which can spot even the partly obscured face of a target in a crowd. I was shown how to use the hidden gadgets in armoured car to disable or even destroy a vehicle in pursuit. I learnt that I'd quite like to have been a spy if I hadn't been an author and journalist!
During the actual writing, I loved the action scenes and trying to get Jessica out of difficult situations. I also enjoyed re-writing - cutting out sections I wasn't happy with and starting some chapters all over again. It felt really satisfying to know I was improving the book. I learnt I wasn't afraid to cut and change things around or even start from scratch.
Did you relate to your main character, Jessica, at all whilst writing the story?
I'm very close to my mum - who lost her own mum at a very young age. It still upsets her now whenever she talks about her. For Jessica, her mum's death years ago is crucial to who she is and what she's going to become. I could identify with how hard is for Jessica growing up without a mum because of the experiences my own mum went through.
Code Red Lipstick is the first book in a series, Jessica Cole: Model Spy. How is the rest of the series coming along?
I've already written book two and book three. Book two's currently being edited and will be published in January 2015. Book three comes out in June 2015.
Did you always plan for the story to be a series?
As soon as I finished book one, I realised I wasn't done and wanted to write more adventures for Jessica. Another idea for a gripping conspiracy came to me and I started planning and writing book two pretty much straight away. While I was doing that, I made notes on the main plot for a third book. I then made another file for possible plots for future adventures. I think I was pretty fired up that day!
What made you decide to write for a teen audience?
I have vivid memories of my own teenage years - at heart I still feel like a teenager, even though I don't look like one!
What were some of your own favourite books to read as a teenager?
I loved Wuthering Heights, To Kill A Mocking Bird, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Daphne du Maurier books, particularly Jamaica Inn and Rebecca, and other authors including Agatha Christie, Judy Blume and Stephen King - a lot of very different books.
Finally, can you give us a random fact about yourself?
I'm a brown belt in karate, about to grade for brown with white stripe. Fingers crossed!
* Code Red Lipstick is published by Scholastic.
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