As huge fans of HALF BAD, we were thrilled to catch up with author Sally Green and talk witches, wonderful characters and what’s next for Nathan.
Let’s start at the beginning! Why witches?
I chose witches for a couple of reasons. Firstly I thought it would be interesting to play around with expectations that the White Witches would be the good guys and the Black Witches would be the bad guys—in Half Bad that isn’t the case, but the opposite isn’t true either. Also, I wanted to have a witchy world where the females generally have the stronger powers and higher status in the witch society, so I made it that there’s no such thing as a wizard, but male witches are just that (male witches). As for witchy powers, Gifts, I wanted to make them relate to the individual personality, whether it’s the ability to become invisible or the usual Gift of making magical potions or anything else. There are no wands, no broomsticks and no schools for witchcraft, and the Gifts relate to an inner ability and are more mystical.
When you started writing, did the series originate more with an event or with a character?
I had a number of ideas about witches as I’ve mentioned in the previous question, but the story only came together when I started writing in the voice of Nathan. I knew straight away that he was a wonderful character—he can be so loving and so nasty, which is great fun to write.
What was the first scene that really came to life in your mind when writing Half Bad?
I wrote the story chronologically then changed the order to open the novel with the scene of Nathan being kept in a cage at age 14. So the first scene I wrote where I felt I’d got something good was the one early in Nathan’s life when he’s sitting on the bed with his not-very-nice sister, Jessica, and she’s telling him about how unwanted he is. I can still see that scene clearly in my head and her making as if to touch him and then pulling away because she never touches him as she says he’s too dirty.
What do you love most about the series, and why?
That’s a hard question for me. There are so many things I’m pleased about as a writer: the range of characters, the sense of place and some of dialogue. But the thing that gives me a thrill is that readers are engaging with the characters, and particularly with Nathan and Gabriel. Nathan and Gabriel’s relationship is special to me and it’s great when other people feel as emotionally involved with them as I do.
Can you share a little about what we can expect in sequel Half Wild?
Lots more Gabriel and Nathan, some more about Marcus and Annalise, too. There’s trouble brewing across Europe from the Council and new characters…the beautiful and intelligent Van, and the annoying yet loveable Nesbitt. Half Bad broke records as the most translated debut novel (51 territories) pre-publication, even beating out The Hunger Games and Twilight.
Has the wild success of the series changed your life or the way you write?
It’s changed my life wonderfully in that I now think of myself as a writer who earns her living from writing. On the practical side of writing I’ve changed how I write to do it much more 9-5 (actually more like 9am – 10pm). I’m still loving it.
What do you hope fans take away from Nathan’s story?
I hope they enjoy the story. I don’t write to make a point or preach at all. If readers get something out if it then whatever it is, I’m happy. For me, I get that perceptions are just that, people are so much more than a label and more than one incident, one story. People are complicated and they change too and who am I to judge anyone?
Let’s close with a Lightning Round.
1. Favorite quality in Nathan? Brutal honesty/humour—for example, if he thinks you’re stupid he’ll say so and on one level he’s joking whilst being really honest.
2. Your favorite setting in the series is? Gran’s wood. It’s a wood near our house where I walk a lot and get a lot of inspiration.
3. The last book you read on a recommendation is? Just finished Winger by Andrew Smith. It is brilliant (recommended by my editor). Just started Feed by MT Anderson and loving it (recommended by David Levithan who I’ve just done some events with).
4. Describe Half Bad and Half Wild in one word each. Caged. Uncaged.