I am pleased to welcome author, Lou Morgan onto the blog to talk about her recent book cycle for Sleepless, which was recently published by Red Eye, a new imprint from Stripes Books.
The original idea for Sleepless came from a handful of articles I'd read about the increased use of "study drugs" at universities over the last couple of years. As someone who went into her undergraduate finals armed with pack after pack of Pro-Plus, the thought of taking actual medication (as opposed to "17 coffees in a pill") to get you through revision and exam stress interested me… particularly when you add my past experience of anti-depressants into the mix. I've been on the receiving end of brain-altering medication, and while my experiences of that were positive, the initial side-effects left me with a profound respect for anything that messes with your head.
When my agent told me Stripes were planning a series of YA horror novels in the vein of the Point Horror series I'd loved growing up, I knew I wanted to write about pills… and pills that went wrong. I wrote an outline and an initial chapter… and fortunately, Stripes liked the idea.
Sleepless was go.
My editor Katie suggested I read Ben Goldacre's Bad Pharma to give me a little background into pharmaceuticals. We met for coffee to talk over the general plot and feel of the book, and then we went to the Barbican in central London. As part of my initial outline, I'd already decided that the Barbican was as much of a character in the novel as the actual people: it's the perfect place for a story like this - all concrete and confusing walkways and hard edges. It's notoriously difficult to navigate, and people get lost there all the time: a perfect place for my poor teenagers to lose themselves.
So Katie and I walked and talked, and I took her around the locations I'd already picked out. The great thing about this was that Katie spotted the waterfall in the middle of the complex and said "We have to use that!" - and, if you've read Sleepless, you'll know that we did.
If you don't know the Barbican, or the surrounding area, take a look at the Pinterest board I put together for the book [here]. [https://www.pinterest.com/loumorganauthor/sleepless/]
When it came to actually write the book, I knew I wanted the teenagers in it to be wealthy. More than that: they had to have the kind of lives where they were used to getting what they wanted; no questions asked, no consequences. The kind of lives most of us can only imagine. I mainlined whole seasons of Gossip Girl and found myself hopelessly addicted (ironically) to Revenge - an addiction I'm still trying to break. The shows were perfect, glossy shop windows for the privileged lives of the Sleepless crew.
And then, of course, they take their Fokus-Pro pills and it all goes horribly, horrifically wrong.
I tend to write to music, so there were lots of songs that found their way into my head while I was working on Sleepless. The Prodigy's Music for the Jilted Generation seemed like a perfect fit for everything falling apart… but it was Katy Perry's Dark Horse that somehow turned into the book's theme song.
No, I'm not sure that happened either.
Bit by bit, the book came together. The body count rose. I managed to creep myself out a couple of times. I had a map of the Barbican on my computer to keep track of everyone's movements, and to make sure nobody did that impossible thing of stepping out of a building and out onto a street a mile away. I had floor plans of the Barbican centre itself and the flats in each of the Barbican's residential blocks (because, naturally, they're all different. They would be, wouldn't they?) and I think - I think - you can literally follow in Izzy, Grey and everyone's footsteps in the real world, should you want to, all round the Barbican, out into Smithfield and as far as St Bartholomew's Hospital.
Should you wish to, of course…
Here's a few things you probably didn't know about Sleepless…
- Izzy and Grey, the two main characters, bond over terrible horror DVDS, the first of which is Warlock. Katie and I both discovered we loved this when we initially met.
- The character of Juliet is named after my fantastic agent, Juliet Mushens.
- Izzy's flat, on the 13th floor of Lauderdale Tower, is based on the flat my parents lived in for a few years… also on the 13th floor of Lauderdale Tower.
- The names of the twins, Mia and Dom, are a nod to the Toretto siblings in the Fast & Furious franchise.
- Izzy's surname is Whedon in honour, of course, of Joss Whedon.
Young, rich and good-looking, Izzy and her friends lead seemingly perfect lives. But exams are looming � and at a school like Clerkenwell, failure is not an option. Luckily, Tigs has a solution. A small pill that will make revision a breeze and help them get the results they need. Desperate to succeed, the group begin taking the study drug. It doesn’t take long before they realize there are far worse things than failing a few exams.
To find out more about Lou Morgan: