Interview with Erin Gough
Amelia Westlake is a wonderfully uplifting screwball comedy with a political edge that has appealed to many readers. Our Inky Judge Juliette got to pick the brain of award winning author Erin Gough to find out how she came up with a book so full of fun, great characters and uplifting empowering theme at the core.
- What character from Amelia Westlake do you relate to the most?
I relate to Harriet and Will equally, for different reasons. Harriet represents the type of person I was at high school – naive, ridiculously optimistic and completely unaware of my own privilege. Will is more like the person I am now – more cynical, more negative, and probably far less woke than she thinks she is. Like me, both characters still have a lot to learn, and the journey they undertake throughout the novel is towards a place where they come to appreciate that.
- Were any elements of the story (for example the Amelia Westlake hoax) inspired by your high school experience?
Yes. The original idea came from a hoax I did with two of my school friends when we were in our final school year. We decided to create an imaginary student called Amelia Westlake. We began small, by putting Amelia’s name down on lists for sports teams, graffitiing it on school desks, and accepting birthday party invitations on her behalf. We waited to see if anyone noticed.
They noticed. It is safe to say our classmates became somewhat obsessed with finding out who Amelia Westlake was. We carried on pranking until the end of the year without anyone working it out. Amelia Westlake donated prizes to Trivia Night; she sent postcards to our classmates from exotic locations; she even entered a painting (depicting a giant question mark) in the final year art exhibition. Our hoax was the most fun thing I did in my entire school career, and every time I see Amelia Westlake’s name on the cover of my published book I want to laugh out loud. It’s her best prank yet.
- Which Amelia Westlake prank that Harriet and Will orchestrated was the most fun to write about and why?
This is a great question! I enjoyed writing about all of the pranks for different reasons, but I think the final prank involving the school formal was the most fun. It is definitely the most elaborate and triumphant of the pranks, and it brings all of Will and Harriet’s classmates together.
- What are you hoping readers will take away from reading the book?
In the novel, Amelia Westlake’s motto is Play the Power, not the Game. It is a call to arms to young people everywhere. It means: challenge the structures around you, don’t comply with them. Stand up for yourself and others. Take action. Be creative. Be brave. And have some fun along the way.
- Would there be any possibility of you considering writing a sequel or a spinoff book? If you could, which character(s) would you consider revisiting?
I would be lying if I said I hadn’t considered this possibility. It is tempting, particularly because I would love to explore Nat Nguyen’s character more. She is smart and feisty with a lot to offer – I would definitely enjoy writing about.
And we would enjoy reading it! Thanks to Erin Gough for graciously answering these questions!