Linny has been living life in black and white since her sister Grace ran away, and she’s scared that Grace might never come back. When Linny witnesses the return to Miami of a cult movie star long presumed dead, she is certain it’s a sign. Surely Álvaro Herrera, of all people, can tell her why people come back – and how to bring her sister home?
Sebastian has come to Miami seeking his father, a man whose name he’s only just learned. An aspiring astrophysicist, he can tell Linny how many galaxies there are, how much plutonium weighs and how likely she is to be struck by a meteorite. But none of the theories he knows are enough to answer his own questions about why his father abandoned him, and why it left him in pieces. As Sebastian and Linny converge around the mystery of Álvaro’s disappearance – and return – their planets start to collide. Linny’s life is about to become technicolor, but finding the answers to her questions might mean losing everything that matters.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE IF BIRDS FLY BACK?
I spent a lot of time volunteering in care homes when I was younger, and I always thought it would be really interesting to set a YA novel in one, focusing on the juxtaposition between young and old. I also went through a lot of the same things as Linny: first love, questioning my place in the world, and confronting others’ expectations for me. The inspiration for Sebastian’s relationship with his father actually came from my husband’s relationship with his dad; there’s a big age gap.
WHY IS IF BIRDS FLY BACK SET IN MIAMI?
I knew I wanted to set my novel in Florida (warmth! summer!), and Miami is one of those curios cities where there’s a lot of teens and a lot of elderly people. It seemed like the obvious choice to me.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE THE FIRST DRAFT?
About a year and a half, I think, but I wasn’t constantly writing. I actually wrote the last 20,000 words in a one-week spurt!
WHAT WAS YOUR MOST FAVOURITE SCENE TO WRITE AND YOUR MOST CHALLENGING SCENE TO GET DOWN?
Not to give too much away… but I love the ball pit scene! It was originally quite short but then I kept expanding it because I was having so much fun. The most challenging scene was actually the opening scene; it was so hard to get it exactly right.
ANYTHING YOU CAN SHARE ABOUT YOUR NEXT WRITING PROJECT?
Snow. Summer camp. Kissing. Monster.
(That secretive enough?) 😉
FAVOURITE WRITING SNACK?
Cheesy oatcakes. Definitely cheesy oatcakes.
ALL OF YOUR CHARACTERS ARE FALLING OFF A CLIFF AND YOU CAN ONLY SAVE ONE! WHO AND WHY?
Probably Sebastian – I feel like he’s going to solve some big mystery of the universe someday, and the world needs that?
But I love Linny! Can I choose Linny?
Ughhh, Sebastian. Final answer is Sebastian.
ONE QUICK RANDOM FACT ABOUT YOURSELF!
I’ve been bitten by two monkeys.