With her debut novel Cherrington Academy coming out the 25th of this month, Rebecca (Becka) Caffery has a full plate, making it extra special to ‘sit down’ with her (ie, email from remote locations in separate time zones) and chat about her writing and her future plans.
What I love about this author is that she is candid, honest, and true to her own path. It even comes across in her stories, as you can probably infer from my review of Cherrington Academy. Interviewing her, speaking in her own words and her own voice, there’s something very down to Earth and earnest about her that you can’t force. It’s contagious—it makes me want to stay true to myself and my own path. I hope you all get as much out of this interview as I did.
So without further preamble, meet Becka Caffery!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hey everyone, my name’s Rebecca (but I am ALWAYS known online and by my friends as Becka). I am a politics graduate from Birmingham, UK, who’s about to start (crazily) my masters in public and social policy!
I have been writing since I was 14 years old (mainly fanfiction, but we are still going to count it), but started seriously working on my first novel Cherrington Academy when I was 21 – December 2017! Since then I have gone on to write a sequel for Cherrington and a Christmas novella, as well as several other projects including a Contemporary NA about Olympic gymnasts and a NA romance based on a study abroad year love story!
When I’m not writing you can find me either curled up with my Kindle reading mainly Contemporary YA/NA books (almost always with LGBTQ+ main characters) or binge watching a new series on Netflix (9 times out of 10 I say I will do this, but I actually just end up rewatching Brooklyn 99!)
What is your favourite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How?
This was a really hard one to answer, as there are so many books that I’d class as my favourite! But, my prewriting Cherrington Academy book that definitely inspired me was ‘Openly Straight’ by Bill Konigsberg. Although not my first LGBTQ+ read, this was one of the first books I read that felt really real for me and inspired me to write real life stories with LGBTQ+ representation.
Tell us about your novel, Cherrington Academy.
Cherrington Academy is a book about moving on from an awful previous life in the hopes of finding some kind of haven away from bullies and homophobia. It is a book full of hope, love and friendship, but it also explores some morally grey issues like cheating and keeping secrets from your best friends.
The book deals with all kind of issues that are alive in society like mental health problems within men, how being part of a big friendship group can affect you, how running away from life isn’t always the solution, as well as a proper focus on LGBTQ+ characters in their normal lives, rather than just a focus on their coming out story.
Without quoting the blurb for the book, Cherrington Academy follows 16 year old Logan Shields as he moves almost 2000 miles across the country to a boarding school in the hopes of a better life away from his neglectful parents and homophobic bullies at his old school. However, he’s completely unprepared for the life he’s about to find when he gets adopted by a popular bunch of students, finds himself entangled in a web of secrets between the group and on the receiving end of a crush from a gorgeous, but taken, guy. When his life starts to fall apart all over again, Logan has to figure out what is really worth ruining his life for – is it love? Is it friendship? Or does the boy just want to be happy?
What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your books?
That love can change you as a person even if you don’t intend it to!
That mental health problems within males are real and it is okay to discuss your emotions with other men and that you should never be afraid to reach out to friends and family for help or to actually seek professional help.
How important friendship is in your life and how one friend can change your life even when you least expect it!
What is different about your books?
I would say what makes my books different, is that I don’t hold back from the truth of situations I write about. I know this is pretty standard for contemporary books, but I just love to write a realistic picture of life. Things aren’t always easy breezy, love isn’t always straight forward and neither is friendship.
You talk about wanting your novels to be true to life. Were any of the scenes or problems in Cherrington Academy or any of your other novels inspired by situations that you or anyone you knew experienced?
I think the only thing that truly inspired my book from real life situations that I’ve experienced is some of the things I’ve portrayed within the big friendship group at Cherrington Academy. I’ve always been an extrovert and I’ve always been really good at making friends and in High School, College and Uni especially on my year abroad I had quite a big friendship group. I saw and experienced a lot of problems like having a couple within the relationship, unrequited feelings towards other members of the friendship group and even some of the cheating that is discussed. Apart from that the only other thing would be the mental health aspects of the story. I have both anxiety and OCD based on control in my day to life and I feel like I used some of the experience to build both Logan and Charlie’s mental health problems.
What or who inspires your characters?
I wish I could tell you. I definitely think that I’ve put a little bit of myself into all my MC’s across the books that I’ve written, but I think Logan may have actually got the least of that. Logan was a dream character, he came to me in the middle of the night and before I knew it, it was 3am and I was scrawling down all of these personality features that I just knew were Logan. I had a lot of music inspire my writing of Logan and Isaac’s relationship, I have a whole playlist of songs on Spotify for them, but one song ‘Did I Say That’ by Meatloaf actually inspired how their whole relationship ended up working out!
What are your plans for future books?
Welllllllll… Stay tuned to my Twitter page for a fun announcement on the 25th of July!
Also currently in the process of editing a book called ‘Olympic Enemies’ that I wrote during ‘CampNaNoWriMo’ in April 2020, as well as the fact that I’m in the midst of writing a new novel called ‘4000 Miles’ which is for July’s ‘CampNaNoWriMo’!
What inspires you to write?
I want to tell stories that haven’t been told. When I was a teen I wish I’d read stories that were actually real life rather than boy meets girl, falls in love, then happily ever after. I would love to have read books that dealt with mental health, friendship problems, how hard relationships can be and just how messy life really is! I now want to be the person that writes those stories.
I also have always wanted to see more books full of LGBTQ+ representation, it is so important with the world being such a diverse place that young people get to see themselves in not only books, but on tv shows and in films and in the media.
What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?
I think what I’ve enjoyed most about publishing is working with my publisher. SRL Publishing have been an absolute joy to work with. It’s a very different process than working with an agent who then finds the publisher for you, it was like I did that middleman bit for myself. Going down this route of publishing has meant that I have been able to be extremely hands
What has been your greatest struggle in the writing process, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?
My greatest struggle was actually during writing Cherrington Academy, I had this crazy fear that this was the only story I had in me to write and that after I’d written it I’d have nothing else to say. That Cherrington Academy was the only story that I was ever going to have and after that I’d have nothing to write and I felt like I’d be a little lost after. Thankfully that was not the case and since then I have written three other books, a novella and have just a casual fifteen shelved project ideas.
How would I inspires other to overcome it? First of all don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You don’t have to follow any rules to the writing process, not yours or anyone else’s. Work at your own pace and with your own style and try not to focus on what anyone else around you or on social media is doing. You’re doing a great job!
You mention you have a lot of projects completed or in the works. That can be intimidating for new writers to hear! Do you have any advice on increasing productivity, or keeping consistent for new, or even experienced writers?
For me, what I do to keep consistent is that I am a huge plotter. That means even though right now I’m publishing Cherrington, editing the sequel, editing Olympic Enemies and writing a new novel called 4000 Miles, the main this is I’m completely tracking where I’m at and I have such detailed outlines for all of them so I can work on them whenever I want! I know not everybody wants to be a plotter or can function like that, but this keeps me on track! In terms of increasing productivity I think having several different things to work on helps me be productive, because when publishing Cherrington Academy has been stressful I’ve taken a break and done some editing or writing for another project and that makes me feel like I’ve still be incredibly productive. I also think it gives my brain a break and then I feel more motivated going back to the project I should have been working on.
How can we purchase your books?
You can purchase my book on several platforms including Amazon, Book Depository and UK bookstores like Waterstones and Foyles. If you follow this link to my publishing site you can choose where you would like to purchase on!