Alice Oseman talks Solitaire and her literary crush

I’m going to be honest, I have a bit of a fan crush on Alice Oseman. At just 19, she’s celebrating the publication of her debut novel.

I first read the manuscript for Solitaire at the start of the year and devoured it in one night. I was so delighted by how funny, wry and honest it was about being a teenager and I LOVED the pop culture references (I knew I was going to adore the book when, in the first chapter, there’s a reference to Harry Potter). It’s truly the Catcher in the Rye for 2014 and I was pretty excited to have the chance to ask Alice a few questions.


 When I first read Solitaire, I could picture it as a very cool and funny indie film. Who would you cast as Tori, Michael, Lucas, Becky and the gang if you had your pick of famous actors?

I think it’d make a great film too! Hint hint Hollywood…

Okay, here’s my main six:

Tori –Tori is SO difficult to cast.The only actress I can think of is Ellie Kendrick, who plays Meera Reed in Game of Thrones. She looks perfectly moody and 100% done.

Michael – Michael has always and forever been Robert Sheehan, my favourite loud-mouthed community service superhero (everyone’s seen Misfits… right?).

Becky – I’m going to say Chloe Grace Moretz because firstly, she looks badass all of the time, and secondly, she can do an extremely convincing English accent (see Hugo). But Maisie Williams would be pretty cool too.

Lucas – Lucas is super difficult too! Ugh… I’m going to have to say Evan Peters, because he does look quite awkward, but he would also be able to work a very pretentious Joy Division t-shirt. Fingers crossed his English accent would be good.

Charlie –Asa Butterfield. There is no other.

Nick–You do not know how long it took me to decide this. I’m going with Alexander Ludwig, but we’d have to time travel back to 2009 and get him when he was actually seventeen. Failing that, I’d say Sean Teale, who coincidentally played a character called Nick in the third generation of Skins. Again, time travel is necessary.

Are there elements of Solitaire that resemble your own experiences at high school?

Definitely! I went to an all-girls grammar school which accepts boys intothe two final years(Sixth Form), just like Tori does. I based the school on what I knew from my school – the school assemblies, the common room, the cliques, the layout, even the nameless town in which the book is set. Solitaire’s backdrop is completely taken from my world. And while the characters are all fictional, they are definitely inspired by types of people I knew at school. Hipsters, sassy teachers, pessimists, partyers – school really is full of stereotypes, and part of the fun I found in writing Solitaire was smashing those stereotypes into pieces.

If you could invite five fictional characters to dinner, who would you choose?

Firstly, I’d invite Jay Gatsby. Actually, I’d let him just take over the organisation of the dinner. He’d be sure to make it fabulous. I’d invite Kathy from Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go so she could tell me about her life, and then with Artemis Fowl, because he’s my most extreme literary crush and also a well-known genius, I would plot how we could rise up against the dystopian regime Kathy is stuck in. So I guess I’d have to get Hermione Granger in on it as well, because we would need all the intelligence we could get, and magic would undoubtedly be useful in our uprising.

And finally, I’d invite Lizzy Bennet, so we could sit back and scrutinise everyone else there.

What was the last book you read?

I probably shouldn’t tell you the last book I read because I really didn’t enjoy it! But the book I’m currently reading is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s absolutely beautiful in every possible way.

Young writers are always told that teens never get published. What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received about writing?

The only writing advice I’ve received is what I’ve looked up myself on the internet, as I didn’t ever tell anyone about my writing! In a way, this worked to my advantage, because nobody ever told me that I couldn’t get published –nobody knew I was trying to get published in the first place!

But the worst advice I’ve ever seen is probably that stupid “rule” about adverbs. Apparently something is wrong with adverbs. I’m still not quite sure what. But the idea that writing has a specific formula with a rulebook and do’s and don’ts just makes me want to laugh. My favourite thing about writing is that it has zero rules. Anybody, no matter how old they are, can write, and anybody can write in any way they want to.

The best advice I’ve seen is a Hemingway quote (pretentious, I know, I’m sorry) that’s stuck by me since before I began to write Solitaire. He said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” So that’s what I did. Except with a laptop.

Read the first chapter of Solitaire here