Nothing Ever Happens Here...
8th Jan 20

Nothing Ever Happens Here...

Izzy thinks that nothing ever happens in Littlehaven, the ordinary town where she has grown up with her ordinary family. Then her parents tell them that her father will be transitioning into a woman. Now, everything will change....

What will it mean for Izzy and her family? How will Izzy deal with it at school - and with the school bully?

We asked author SARAH HAGGER-HOLT to tell us more about NOTHING EVER HAPPENS HERE:

Q: Why did you decide to write this book for young people?

A: I was interested in what the experience of a parent transitioning was like for a child in the family. I didn't set out to write a book that was just for children, but the character I started creating turned out to be 12 years old, so probably readers who are children will identify with her most.

Q: What kinds of research did you do to find out how a family might be affected when a parent transitions?

A: Very little has been written about this experience, so I made sure I listened to families in this situation.

I used my imagination too. Nothing Ever Happens Here is about how families deal with change. In this story, the change is a parent transitioning, but change can come in lots of different forms. It could be something completely different like a house move, divorce, bereavement, new sibling or even a lottery win - so I drew on a whole range of experiences of change, not just from families where a parent transitions.

Q: Was it a hard novel to write in terms of bringing in an educational element together with a good story?

A: Story first. Always. It was such fun to write. Hard work at times, but fun. As for the educational element - I don't read fiction to be educated, but if a book gives me an insight in someone else's way of seeing the world, then that's brilliant because it enriches my experience of the world too.

There are lots of misconceptions about trans people, so, of course, I'd be delighted if Nothing Ever Happens Here helps dispel some of the myths and increase people's understanding of what it means to be LGBT or have an LGBT family member. But most of all, I hope that readers enjoy the story.

Q: What were you most concerned about getting right in your novel?

A: The characters. After months of hearing Izzy's voice chatting away to me in my head as I wrote and of putting myself in her shoes, she became totally real to me. I hope people reading Nothing Ever Happens Here believe in the characters, and think, 'yeah, that's the sort of thing my mum says', or 'my sister winds me up like that too' or 'that's so like my best friend'.

Q: How did you go about creating the family that is at the heart of the story?

A: I started with the relationship between Izzy and her dad (who the family re-name 'Dee' once she transitions), and everything flowed from there. It sounds a bit pretentious, but writing this book felt more like uncovering a story and a set of characters that were already there, rather than creating something from scratch.

Q: And why did you choose the setting, Littlehaven?

A: Izzy's hometown, Littlehaven, is a small place and Izzy thinks that nothing ever happens there. But she's wrong, even the most ordinary places and people can have amazing stories. Sometimes it's harder to be different in a small town, like Littlehaven, than in a big city which adds to the challenges that Izzy and her family face.

Q: Why did you decide to write it from Izzy's perspective?

A: Izzy is shy and has always struggled to make friends. She's only just gaining confidence as the book opens, but everything is looking good for her - she has a fun best friend and a starring role in the school play.

I think what she finds most difficult is the worry that when people find out that her dad is transitioning, she will lose her friends and be lonely again. She's also scared that her parents might split up and that her relationship with her dad, who she loves, will change.

Q: There are some great supporting characters in the story, who stood out for you?

A: I like Sam Kenner, the cool boy that Izzy's best friend Grace really fancies. He's really thoughtful and supportive of Izzy, but in a very understated way, and trusts her with his own secrets. His kindness makes him even cooler in my eyes. There's also Mr Thomas - who wouldn't want a teacher as inspiring as him?

Q: Do you have a favourite moment in the novel?

A: So many! One of my favourites is when Izzy, her big sister and her little brother come up with a new name for her dad. Even though all three siblings respond differently to Dee's transition, this is a moment where they all re-connect and have a laugh together.

But for sheer drama, it's got to be the moment when Izzy's friend Grace takes down school bully Mia once and for all.

Q: Where and when do you write - and where is your favourite place to write? What are you writing now?

A: I squeeze my writing in between work and family life, whenever I get the chance, so it could be anywhere or any time. Sometimes I write on my train journey to work with my laptop balanced on my knees, or at the dining room table or tucked up in bed under the duvet.

I think about the characters and stories all the time though, so usually by the time I have an opportunity to write them down, I know exactly what's going to happen.

I'm now editing a second book and have started writing a third. None of the characters are the same between the three books, but they are all about family and friendships, just like Nothing Ever Happens Here.

Q: What are your favourite escapes from writing?

A: I escape to writing not from it. I have two brilliant children who I love hanging out with, and a job I enjoy, but I don't have as much time to write as I'd like. A real treat for me would be to escape my work emails and my chores at home, to go for a swim and then settle down with a large cup of coffee, ready to write.

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