Lisa Williamson opens up about difficult conversations in First Day of My Life

Lisa Williamson chats about how conversations can help navigate difficult situations with friends and family in First Day of My Life.


First Day of My Life is set on GCSE results day. Frankie’s best friend, Jojo, is missing. A baby has been stolen. And more than one person has been lying. Frankie’s determined to find out the truth and her ex-boyfriend Ram is the only person who can help her. But they’re both in for a shock… EVERYTHING is about to change.

We had the honour of chatting with Lisa Williamson on her YA Book Prize-shortlisted title, First Day of My Life. 

The events in First Day of My Life happen on GCSE results day and I completely agree with the comment made in the book – why the 1-9 grade scale? Why not A, B, Cs? Were you also thinking the same thing when you heard about the change?

When you’ve grown up with one system, it’s inevitable it’s going take a bit of time to get your head around a new one. I did my GCSEs just two years after the A* grade was introduced and remember it getting a similarly suspicious reaction from those who has already gone through the system (with A as the very top grade you could achieve).

Many readers praised how accurate your depiction of the ice rink in Nottingham is! Can you share with us non-Midlanders more about the ice rink? Did you go there a lot?

I did! Nottingham is the home of Olympic figure skating champions Torvill and Dean, and most kids I knew grew up going to the rink on a regular basis. The rink I skated on was pretty rundown. In the early 2000s it was demolished and replaced with a brand new arena. When I was writing FDOML, I popped in and took notes and photos and soaked up the atmosphere. It’s pretty snazzy these days, but the skates still absolutely reek!

And Swindon! Why did you pick that to be the city Jojo escapes to?

As an actor, I spent a lot of time on tour and Swindon was one of the towns I visited. I had a very nice time there, but was struck by how anonymous the town centre felt. It felt like the perfect place to disappear.

Any absurd baby kidnapping story you stumbled upon when searching for why people kidnap babies?

I read about a number of cases and found that in almost all of them, the motivation behind the abduction stemmed back to some sort of birth related trauma. Most accounts were desperately sad and revealed a great deal of pain.

Now onto the more serious ones: Frankie did not get into the Arts Academy she so wanted to, while her best friend Jojo did. It’s hard not to be jealous but you also want to be supportive. Have you ever gone through something like this and do you have any advice to teenagers who are going through situations similar to this?

Jealousy is a horrid feeling but it’s also very natural, and learning to deal with it is a massive part of growing up. My best friend at secondary school was really clever and a real favourite of the teachers. Looking back, this resulted in her regularly feeling under huge amounts of pressure, but at the time I was often envious of her reputation. Like Frankie and Jojo, I wanted to be an actor when I was at school, and would have struggled massively if I’d found myself in Frankie’s position. Communication is the key to navigating such situations. Frankie hides her feelings of jealousy from Jojo. Meanwhile Jojo suspects Frankie must be feeling awful but is too scared to confront the issue. It takes a lot of courage to admit you’re jealous, but having an open and honest conversation from the start is really the best way to stop these feelings from escalating and causing resentment.

Jojo running away was very out of character for her. Why do you think there are so many teenagers running away from home when the situation is tough?

Being a teenager is hard and so much of your existence and identity is tied to your home. In Jojo’s case, she feels like she can’t turn to her immediate family or best friend. Therefore, running away seems like the only option. When your life feels like a total mess, the idea of starting over somewhere brand new is naturally very appealing.

First Day of My Life shed some light on the difficulties that LGBTQ+ couples have in trying to conceive children. And Jojo can’t help but feel like she’s the reason why her mums can’t have a child. What do you think the mums could have done to reassure Jojo that it’s not her fault?

Again, communication is the key. Jojo only realises that her existence is getting in the way of her mum and Stacey accessing IVF services when she overhears a conversation between them. If they’d been honest and kept Jojo in the loop from the start and taken steps to reassure her that their difficulties were not her fault, Jojo may have made very different decisions to the ones she makes in the book. It’s obviously a very delicate and hugely emotive subject. When I was writing, I didn’t want to shy away from the pain and heartache that all three characters (Jojo, her mum and Stacey) are feeling. There is no villain. Many mistakes are made, but ultimately everyone is doing their best with what they have at their disposal.

Get your copy of First Day of My Life here.

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