Interview with Simon James Green


About the Author: Simon James Green is a London-based author and screenwriter. He was a finalist in SCBWI Undiscovered Voices and his debut YA novel, Noah Can’t Even, was published by Scholastic in May 2017, with the sequel, Noah Could Never, out in June 2018. The book is currently shortlisted for several book awards, and long-listed for the Branford Boase. The TV rights for Noah were also recently optioned by Urban Myth Films. Simon also writes for stage, TV and film with writing partner Sarah Counsell. Their credits include the feature-length rom-com Rules of Love (BBC); Cubiicle Two (Palm Springs); and The Diary of Me (West End, and optioned for multi-platform production).

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We like to thank Simon James Green for taking the time to talk with us about his writing career and the inspiration for his latest YA novel. Simon James Green’s debut YA novel, Noah Can’t Even, is published by Scholastic UK and was recently optioned for TV. The sequel, Noah Could Never is out June 7th.

Cheyenne Lopex: Where is your favorite place to write and why?

Simon James Green: I have an office at the back of my house in London, and that’s where I do nearly all of my writing. But my favourite place to write is actually down in Devon – which is a rural county in the South West of England. It’s beautiful down there – lush countryside, peace and quiet, and great food – which are all essential for writing! I love London, but I do find it hard to ‘get in the zone’ here sometimes because there’s always so much going on.

CL: In what ways are writing a novel different from writing a screenplay?

SJG: One of the key differences is all the extra stuff you need to put into a novel. With a screenplay, you generally allow the actor to interpret the lines and action in order to show the audience how they are feeling and what’s going on for them internally. With a novel, you need to get that on the page a lot more, and that was a big challenge for me at first. I’m also used to a much faster turnaround time with screenplays (I once had to do a rewrite in 48 hours), so it was lovely being able to work on the manuscript for longer than I’m used to.

CL: Where did the inspiration for Noah Can’t Even come from?

SJG: There are certain elements of the book that are semi-autobiographical (e.g. I grew up in a small town in Lincolnshire, just like Noah), but the real inspiration came from a desire to write a YA novel, and particularly a YA novel with an LGBTQ+ protagonist, that was funny. I don’t feel there’s anywhere near enough funny books out there, and especially not LGBTQ+ ones. Not only are funny books a great form of escape, and the perfect way to relieve the stress and gloom of everyday life, but humour is actually a really powerful vehicle to make your point. With Noah I wanted to say, ‘working out who you are isn’t always easy, and there can be lots of difficulties along the way, but it also can be happy and positive and life-affirming.’ I truly believe the world would be a better place if we all laughed a bit more.

CL: Noah is huge fan of mystery novels, do you have any favorites of your own?

SJG: I adore mystery novels, and growing up I used to read loads of Agatha Christie books – Miss Marple being a particular favourite. But I also enjoyed the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books too. I love how mystery novels lay clues for readers (some of which might be red herrings!) and then bring everything together at the end, and it’s something I try to do in my own books.

CL: Noah prefers the use of “police” over “cops.” What is your stance on the issue?

SJG: Ha! It’s true that Noah does have a bit of an issue with the way certain ‘Americanisms’ creep into British English. I should point out that he has nothing against your wonderful country (!) it’s more that he thinks little cultural and language differences should be celebrated – like the way you say ‘fries’ but we say ‘chips’. Whilst I understand where Noah is coming from, my own approach is a little more relaxed! Language is a constantly evolving thing, with new words and phrases constantly popping up, so I think if someone wants to say ‘cops’ they probably can… even if it makes them sound like a really cool criminal on-the-run in an American action movie!

CL: What can readers look forward to in Noah Could Never?

SJG: So, the sequel picks up about two months after the end of the first book. Noah and Harry are boyfriends, so a large part of the book explore what that really means in terms of how their relationship changes and how intimate they become. But naturally, this being Noah, things are not easy. For a start, the French exchange students turn up, and one of the boys seems to have his eye on Harry. Meanwhile, the police appear to be monitoring Noah, and he can’t work out if it’s because his dad is planning to steal Gran’s fake diamonds, his PE teacher is receiving mysterious cash infusions from Russia, or that drag queen Bambi Sugapops is hiding out at Noah’s house in the midst of a knock-down bare knuckle drag feud. There’s plenty of mayhem, lots of laughs, but at its heart, there’s a sweet story about what it means to love someone. I had a lot of fun writing it, so I really hope you enjoy it.

PRR Writer, Cheyenne Lopex