Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison are the authors of the most hilarious and relatable YA release of 2017: ‘Freshers‘. All about the highs and lows of first-year university life, this manages to be both a laugh-a-minute and an insight into the wonderful yet overwhelming uni lifestyle.
We got chatting to the dynamic duo of young adult fiction to see what their own uni life was like, and on just how true to fact their writing really is!
I am so ready to relive my universty days with Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison. Thank you @chickenhousebooks, you always deliver! . . #bibliophile #bookstagram #bookstagramfeature #bookishfeatures #igbooks #igreads #instabook #instareads #bookdragon #booknerd #booknerdigan #bookworm #bookgeek #bookgram #booklove #booklover #booklion #booklife #bookish #currentlyreading #currentread #amreading #bookpic #bookporn #bookphoto #bookphotography #booksbooksbooks #ireadya #yalovin #freshersbook
How did your decision to co-author come about?
We went out at school and uni, but even after we broke up we stayed good friends. One of the main reasons for that is we share a sense of humour, and even when we don’t… we know if it’s something the other person will laugh at. We were both keen to do something creative and something that would be fun and writing ‘Lobsters‘ seemed an obvious choice – we had experienced sixth form together and a lot of it is just us capturing the feelings and thoughts we had at that time.
And do you feel that your joint male and female authorship impacts your writing in any way?
Enormously. In ‘Freshers’, Luke really struggles at university and finds it hard to communicate how hard he is finding things with anyone. Luke is also a real teenage boy. He is selfish and confused and messes things up – a lot. He isn’t a Romantic Hero, he is flawed and a lot of the time, a bit of an idiot. There were times when Tom would send Lucy a ‘Luke chapter’ and she would despair at just how much of a plonker he was being. But that is real – Tom will never understand what it is like to be part of a ‘girl gang’, and vice versa. Our work balances out. If Lucy wrote Luke he would be a Leonardo Di Caprio on Titanic type, which would fulfil all her teenage dreams, but not be anything like an actual teenage male, unfortunately.
Whose the boss in your working relationship?
Genuinely neither of us. Sounds cheesy but it’s true. For it to work we both have to listen to each other and take on board the other person’s opinion. It just wouldn’t work if we weren’t completely equal.
Your most recent release, ‘Freshers’, chronicles the university experience. Did you go to university yourselves? How similar were your experiences to the characters’?
We both went to York. In some ways our experiences were similar. Lucy was happy go lucky and ready to embrace everything that uni had to offer, and Tom was a little more hesitant. Both of us felt lonely and adrift at certain points in our university experience and we wanted to explore that side of ‘Freshers’ as well as the ‘best days of your life’ version.
Tell us a funny story from your own school days.
We went out when we were in the sixth form and did A-level history together. Lucy was also madly in lust with the history teacher and so deliberately did not sit next to Tom or in fact acknowledge him in any way shape or form in case it prevented the teacher reciprocating her admiration.
Happy book birthday Freshers! I really wonder what me and Tom would have said if someone told us the night this was taken in a club in York in 2002 that we would write a book about it all one day. So many happy memories and some sad ones and hardly any of them captured on film but life is pretty weird when you think about it and never goes how you expect it to…
Freshers is described by Holly Bourne as “snort-tea-out-of-your-nose hilarious”. Was this the initial vibe you were aiming for?
Yes and no. We love writing humour and the best times in the collaborative process is when we are trying to make each other laugh or think of a better joke or a word that is intrinsically more funny than another word. But we knew that there was another side to university too. Loneliness, mental health struggles, growing up, peer pressure and sports team cultures were all things we wanted to explore. Because for us, the most important thing about our books is that they feel real, and it wouldn’t have felt real if we hadn’t looked at those things, as well as the utterly LOLs moments.
How did the darker elements of the plot come about?
From talking through our own experience of university as well as friends. There are so many books about falling in love for the first time, but not that many that explore falling out of love for the first time, which can be confusing and desperately sad. Issues around consent and peer pressure were also something we read a lot about and wanted to tackle.
If you both lived in D Block, with the other characters, who do you think you would be ‘first night Freshers friends’ with.
Lucy – Frankie, who is based on a girl who has just left my school, who just like ‘Fresher’s’ Frankie is a thoroughly good egg.
Tom – Arthur and Rita. They are based on two friends I met in first year, who were in the year above me, who seemed much cooler and more confident and laid-back than all the freshers I was meeting.
Any future writing plans?
Yes – we will always write together. We are always going for walks and planning books.
And lastly, for a bit of fun, if you had to describe the book as a ‘pre-drinks punch’ what ingredients would it contain.
Sherbert dip – a bit of a fizzy explosion.
Tequila – because tequila makes you do things that you will definitely regret.
Cider – a uniquely british experience.
Haribo – because we are both all about the starmix.
Our punch sounds truly awful…
Our book has a cover. Which means it is now an actual thing that is going to happen. We are proud of it because it is pretty true to the book we wanted to write. It's about how brilliant going to Uni is, but it's also about how scary and unravelling and hard it can be too. About how messy life is and how messy you make it without even really trying. So if you're a bit messy… you might like it. #chickenhouse #freshersbook #uni #universityofyork #yorkfreshers #ukya #bookstagram #authorsofinstagram