PaperBound caught up with YA author Julia Tuffs to chat all about her debut novel, HEXED! Join us as we discover more about Julia’s writing, her top current reads, and how she came up with the idea for HEXED.
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Can you tell us a little about your novel, Hexed?
Hexed is about Jessie Jones; new girl, witch and accidental activist. Jessie’s life is turned upside down when her mum suddenly moves the family back to her home town on the Isle of Wight. All Jessie wants to do is fade into the background, coast and avoid the attention of school douchebag Callum Henderson and his toxic cronies, but when strange and uncontrollable magical powers start to manifest during her period, flying under the radar becomes impossible. Hexed is about finding your place and your power and learning to love your differences.
Your novel deals with important and timely themes, such as sexism and toxic masculinity, and easily puts the reader in Jessie’s shoes. What inspired you to write about these issues?
Donald Trump – amongst other things! It was really painful to watch as someone who had boasted about grabbing women’s genitals was elected president and it was a moment in time that highlighted how little society values women and women’s rights. I wanted to write something that looked at how ingrained it is in all aspects of society – our schools, our media, our courts, our government – but I wanted it to be relatable and focus on what all girls experience and are forced to navigate through on a day to day basis.
These themes are woven into a story about witchcraft. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea to combine these two things?
I was thinking about the recent surge in our reproductive rights being threatened and all the ways men in power try to control women and women’s bodies (Britney, how can we help?!) and that led me to the witch trials; the way women were strip searched for Devil’s marks and how anyone single or widowed could be suspected and tried. Even today, like hundreds of years ago, if women don’t fit into a prescribed box – if we dare to be angry or outspoken or stray out of our lane – we’re labelled and shamed. I found the parallel interesting (and terrifying) and I loved the idea of that which makes us different actually making us stronger – which is how the period witch idea came about – wearing a super plus but being able to magic up your dinner and punish nasty boys!
The setting of Hexed is vividly portrayed. Did you always plan on setting it on the Isle of Wight? What was it about this setting that you were drawn to?
I love the Isle of Wight! My husband is from the Island and we lived there for a few years when our children were small. It’s such a unique setting – beautiful in places, 1950s seaside in other places, removed from the mainland and with a population that doubles over the summer. I wanted to explore how someone would feel moving there from a big city, especially if that person was trying so desperately hard to be invisible – which is basically impossible in a small town setting where everyone knows everyone and it’s harder to escape! I also loved the idea of being on Jessie’s journey with her as she falls in love with the Island and begins to appreciate how special it is.
Can you sum up your novel in 3 words?
Funny, feisty, feminist.
What’s the one thing you’d wished you’d known before becoming a writer?
That it’s a rollercoaster of emotions and A LOT of waiting – waiting for edits, waiting for news, waiting until you’re allowed to announce news, waiting for publication day…
What are your top reads from the last year (MG or YA), and why?
Oooh, this is hard – there have been so many good books! For YA, I’d say The Yearbook by Holly Bourne which is in her typical style of being frank and funny whilst also dealing with serious issues and Afterlove by Tanya Byrne which is a gorgeous and heartbreaking love story.
After a brief (but fun) stint working in television and as a primary school teacher, Julia decided to take her writing dreams more seriously. She lives in South-West London with her family and ragdoll cats (Billy and Nora) and spends her time writing, reading, dreaming of holidays and watching too much reality TV. She aims to write the kinds of books that shaped and inspired her as a teenager. HEXED is her debut novel. You can keep up to date with Julia on Twitter, Instagram and by visiting her website.
HEXED was released in July 2021 by Hachette. It is available NOW in the UK and Australia.
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