Authors Five Minutes With Illustrators Uncategorized

Five Minutes With: Amy Kean, author, “The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks”

The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks is a book that the author, Amy Kean, says she’d wished she had read when she was young. Illustrated by Jessica Milton and written in the style of Go The Fuck To Sleep, it invites readers to empathise with “the struggles girls have faced / since the invention of the human race / Young women, confused on how to act / Archaic rules positioned as fact”.

What do you think will become of books?

I’ve thought about this a lot! It’s part hope, part fear, but I wonder if books will become as immersive as theatre can be these days, where the performance is all around you, and personalised. Punchdrunk, You Me Bum Bum Train and the like. So not only do you experience the product in the traditional way, but external stimulus kicks in to enhance the way you feel while you’re reading: sounds or smells or textures. I guess kids have this already with their scratchy, singing pop-up books, but it’d be a grown-up version that works with a full-length novel. I reckon augmented reality will be weaved into teen fiction, for sure.

I’m half way through writing a novel that has a ‘serving suggestion’ with each chapter. A meal, or a piece of music, or an alcoholic drink (mostly it’s alcoholic drinks) that makes the reader feel the way the main character felt, during. It’s not novelty; the protagonist has a hard time discussing her emotions because she’s scared of them, and so this extra layer provides you with insight that she’s not able to.

cecily rose wiped
Amy Kean on The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks: “I wrote a book I wish I’d read when I was young. About a character I wish had been me”. Pictured, the protagonist Elodie-Rose, illustrated by Jessica Milton.

I suppose purists might argue the imagination is more powerful than experience, but if I can read a love story and almost see it happening around me, if I could become a part of that story and even have a say in its outcome, my God I’d love it, and I’d remember it forever.

What’s the story and inspiration behind “The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks”?

I wrote the book because I was angry and wanted to channel my rage into something beautiful. I’ve just moved back from Asia where I spent two years working for the world’s biggest media agency. One of my clients was a big global pharmaceutical business and my job was to write communications strategies selling laxatives and IBS relief tablets. Career highlight alert! My research told me the single biggest driver of stomach problems for women across Asia is stress. Stress and anxiety increase adrenaline which can damage your stomach lining and result in digestion problems, causing intense abdominal pain. Particularly in South Korea I discovered, where pressures on women are many and there’s a heightened set of expectations for how women should behave and look. This issue isn’t restricted to just one continent of course; across the world women are literally making themselves sick with worry. What would happen, I wondered, if we stopped worrying so much?

So I wrote a book I wish I’d read when I was young. About a character I wish had been me! The hero of The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks is Elodie-Rose, who lives in a town where every girl must carry a basket around with them every day. It’s the rules! Their basket contains fucks: fluffy creatures representing their self-esteem and confidence and happiness and all those lovely things. Across the day, whenever someone – a friend, a boy, a teacher – makes them sad, or angry, humiliates them or inspires self-doubt the girls must open their baskets and hand out a fuck. Again, it’s just the rules. Needless to say, by the end of the day, every little girl’s basket is empty, and that doesn’t feel good. Because who in the world would want an empty basket? One brilliant unexpected day, Elodie-Rose decides to see what happens if she breaks the rules, and gives out no fucks. Weird, brilliant things happen.

“I predict that in ten years, circa 75% of published texts will be celebrity biographies. Can you really imagine The Bell Jar getting published today, in these utterly risk-averse times?”

Is Unbound democratising publishing for new authors and illustrators?

One of my advertising clients used to be a book publisher. In the few years I worked with them marketing budgets got lower and lower, the risks taken were few and far between and everything became about big celebrity biographies. I predict that in ten years, circa 75% of published texts will be celebrity biographies! We’re missing out on experimentation, weirdness, true irreverence! Madness. Can you really imagine The Bell Jar getting published today, in these utterly risk-averse times?

We’ve seen the news industry become preoccupied with sales to the extent that even civilised titles are resorting to clickbait to keep their businesses afloat. Every traditional industry is under pressure due to digital, although some others such as music and TV were disrupted far sooner and very effectively. Unbound feels essential, really. But it’s stressful, too! I’d much rather have got a deal with a publisher in the regular way but made things hard for myself by refusing to replace the letter U in the title with an asterisk!

book-amy-kean
Ten percent of the proceeds from the book will be donated to the charity Writing Through, an organisation that helps to build confidence in in children and women through teaching of creative writing.

What is your favourite book?

Blubber by Judy Blume: “There are some people who just make you want to see how far you can go.”

Epics, classics and tomes are great and everything, blah blah blah, but Judy Blume was my literary obsession (and life) for ten years. Blubber was painfully relevant for me at the time (I enjoyed snacks a bit too much as a child) and the empathy of Blume’s writing is unparalleled. You don’t even realise as a youth how well-written her books are. I never read Forever because I wasn’t allowed, but all the other girls at my convent school loved it!

What was the last book you read?

How Not to Be A Boy by Robert Webb. Always interesting to read a male perspective on gender differences.

Finally: poetry or prose?

I have a love/hate relationship with poetry. There’s some stuff that moves me indescribably every time I read it. Kate Tempest and Rishi Dastidar, for example, are so fresh and funny and relevant that I could just stare at their work for hours. But I also find much poetry self-indulgent and impenetrable. Literature needs to be accessible; it’s supposed to move the many, not the few! Which is why I believe prose is more powerful. I love dialogue, the unexpected twists and darkness of prose that slaps you around the face when you’re so engrossed it’s impossible to leave, impossible to put down even though it’s 4am, you’ve been reading for seven hours and you eventually have a full-time job to go to. Nothing beats that absorption.

The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks is now available via Unbound for pre-order. The book will be published as a full colour hardback of 60 pages with colour printed endpapers and bookmark ribbon. Readers (or “zero fuckers”) will be able to pledge for a copy of the book and a number of other themed treats, including tote bags, tickets to events on zero-fucks feminism and their very own personalised poem written to order, to accompany the hardback. Visit https://unbound.com/books/gave-zero.

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