Simon James Green is perhaps one of our favorite UK YA authors. He has chatted with us about Gay Club! and recommended us books to read based on our favourite musical. To celebrate You’re The One That I Want being shortlisted for the YA Book Prize, we sat down with Simon James Green to chat about this drama-filled (it’s the drama club after all) novel.
After a particularly awful night when he embarrasses himself in front of Jasper Perry, the gorgeous teen star of his mum’s new show, Freddie decides to follow a new, proactive philosophy designed to transform his social and romantic life: saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity. It works! Freddie finds himself auditioning for the school musical (Grease), actually going to parties, and flirting with hot new boy Zach! He’s becoming a whole new Freddie – maybe even one that his mum might be proud of.
You’re The One That I Want immediately draws readers in with Freddie’s adorable awkwardness — making a mess with canapes. Let’s start off simple: Any tips on juggling canapes, drinks and tissues at parties?
The biggest mistake that Freddie makes, and which I always make, is getting over-excited when the food starts being served, and taking too many things at once. Can anyone realistically hold a drink, and also a sausage roll, chilli prawns, mini fish and chips, and some kind of tomato tart? And yet, every time, I will try. So the tip is: calm down, relax, you don’t need to hoard all the food at once out of fear of missing out – more always comes round.
Were you ever involved in the school’s drama club? Are you more a theatre kid or backstage crew member?
Oh yes! I was a total theatre kid and did every school production (I was Eugene in Grease) as well as shows with my local am dram company and the National Youth Theatre. I loved it, but at Uni I found that I loved actually directing more, which is how I ended up working as a theatre director for several years.
Any personal favourite musical?
The Rocky Horror Show. I actually worked on this as Associate Director for about two years, as it toured the UK and in the West End. It’s such a fun, anarchic, brilliant night out. It’s sheer entertainment, and that’s what theatre should be as far as I’m concerned.
When Freddie did not get any role for Grease, he was initially upset, though he ultimately enjoyed being a crew member a lot. Why is it that the crew often do not get enough recognition?
It’s always the way. It’s the actors on stage (or on screen) that get most of the glory – their names in lights, big interviews, fans wanting autographs – and the folk who actually make it happen mostly don’t. I guess it’s partly about visibility – crew just aren’t seen a lot of the time, so people just don’t appreciate how hard they work and how much they do.
Part of The Freddie Project is to say yes to almost everything. Have you ever done something similar yourself?
I’ve never gone that far, but I’m generally a believer in luck and opportunities being out there, you just have to spot them and grasp them. Saying ‘yes’ to absolutely everything sounds like a recipe for burnout to me, so I try to adopt an attitude of saying ‘yes’ to the things that sound fun, useful, or which interest me.
While of course, as You’re The One That I Want progresses, we see how saying ‘yes’ might not necessarily be the way to finding oneself, would you still recommend teens who are lost to try saying yes to everything first?
It depends. Freddie does it because he’s been saying ‘no’ a lot and he’s scared to move out of his comfort zone, even though his comfort zone is making him miserable. I think it’s probably true to say if you want things to change, you have to start doing something differently. That doesn’t need to be as drastic as saying ‘yes’ to everything, it might just be trying one new thing, trying to change your outlook on the world, or telling yourself you’ll take ten minutes out of your busy day to de-stress – I think there’s lots of ways of doing it.
Fred struggles to find his own identity partly because of his mum’s success. What advice would you give to teens who feel like they are in their parents’ shadows?
Your teenage years are the start of a process where you break away from your parents and forge your own identity. You’re your own person, and you need to work out how you feel about the world, what things are important to you, what you want to fight for, what you believe in, and what path you want to take. You are not a mini-me version of your parents. You are you. So take the time to work things out, discover who you really are, learn to believe in yourself and love yourself, and get ready to venture into the world as you.
Get your copy of You’re The One That I Want here.