CBBC presenter Lauren Layfield has just penned her first teen novel and the book is all about the awkward teenage experiences. Told in a diary style, Indi Raye is Totally Faking It is hilarious and authentic. Today, we are here to chat with Lauren about getting the teenage tone just right for the book.
Congratulations on your debut teen novel! Have you always known you wanted to tell this story?
Thank you! I’m so happy it’s out! Writing about teenagehood was always the plan. I’ve just devoured Heartstopper Season 2, my comfort blanket is listening to the emo music that I loved when I was 16 and my ideal movie night is watching Call Me By Your Name whilst crying into a bowl of pasta. I’m weirdly obsessed with anything coming-of-age. I always wanted to write a story that captured how fun (but also brutal!) growing up is so Indi Raye Is Totally Faking It became this story about a girl who’s trying to blag her way through all of those first teenage experiences; school, making friends, first parties, first kisses…basically all the embarrassing stuff me and my mates did immortalised in a book!
Indi Raye sounds 100% realistic. How did you get the tone so right?
I worked with a lot of young people when I was a presenter at CBBC, and it made me realise that teenagers in 2023 aren’t so different from when I was a teenager in The Noughties. Times have changed, of course, mainly thanks to social media – I think it’s much harder to be a teenager now than it was back then for me – but ultimately: teens are teens, they’ve still got the same stuff to contend with; friends, family, sexuality, exams. It’s all the same.
Me and my best friends also have a great memory for that time in our lives; my best mates now are the same best mates I had in secondary school and we’re constantly reminising about all the funny things that happened, so it was fun to tap into that when creating Indi and her friends.
Why did you decide to tell this story in a diary style?
As you might have gathered, I’m super nostalgic. I’m also really forgetful and since I was about 8 or 9, I had this overwhelming feeling that I should write everything down, every night, so I wouldn’t ever forget it. So I kept diaries religiously for years and reading them back now, its an amazing little snapshot of what was going on at the time.
When you apply that to a novel, I think a diary format makes you feel like you’re being taken directly into the inner workings of the main character’s head. You get to see first-hand how Indi feels day-to-day and I hope that makes the reader feel like they know her.
Aside from being relatable, this book also has great representations. Why is it important to have British-Guyanese representation in a teen novel?
It was a no-brainer. Growing up, my sister and I were the only British Guyanese kids we knew. We lived in a richly multicultural area of the Midlands, and our school was a bit brilliant mixture of kids from all sorts of backgrounds, but we were the only ones from Guyanese descent. It wasn’t until I went to University that I met another Guyanese person outside of my own family and we had a real ‘moment’ in a kitchen at a house party!
I literally didn’t know what Guyanese representation looked like as a kid, so I think making Indi British Guyanese was a bit of self-healing for me! Also I think it just made sense; being mixed race, I think its easy to feel a bit lost sometimes, you can feel quite unsure of which community you fit into and I thought that really added to Indi’s character who’s trying to work out who she is.
What about the more serious topics such as the need to live authentically? Why did you decide to tackle these issues in a lighthearted novel such as Indi Raye is Totally Faking It?
You can’t be a teenager and not deal with serious topics. It’s part of it. You can be SO excited to go to a Year 11 house party, but then end up getting bullied by the mean girls, like Nisha does. Or you can have made some really amazing schoolfriends but have a tricky home life, like Indi. To write a solely lighthearted novel just wouldn’t have felt authentic because a lot of young people have a really rough time as a teenager. But I hope the book serves as a reminder that if you have good mates in your life, all those rough bits are a 100x easier.
And finally, what’s next? What do you have planned for this series?
I’m writing it as we speak! I don’t want to say too much but I think we all want to see where things head next with Indi and Reece – are they really just friends? Oh and Gary the gecko’s back, of course, because he’s a little legend.