Lauren Henderson is the fun author of the Scarlett Wakefield series and much more. Her writing is full of tension- both the mystery kind and the romance type! Make sure to stop by later to win the first two Scarlett Wakefield novels: Kiss Me Kill Me and Kisses and Lies.
I am a total geek when it comes to reading. I am so utterly and completely addicted to books, magazines, anything in print that grabs me, that sometimes I need to go to the toilet really badly but hold it in desperately as I rush round the house, flailing madly for something to read for those five minutes that I’ll spend sitting down, doing my business. And it can get even worse than that; sometimes I’ll hold out even longer, to the point of near-imminent disaster, because I’m looking for the exactly-right thing to grab - a magazine with an article I’m dying to read, or one of the many books I’m halfway through.
Because I always have multiple books on the go. And stacks of newspapers. And magazines, and of course, websites to navigate around endlessly. The internet has meant that there’s an infinitely-wider pool of reading material than there used to be; you could spend twenty-four hours a day on it and never read everything that piques your curiosity.
And, of course, there are the books that I want to re-read. My groaning bookshelves contain comparatively few new books: ninety per-cent of their contents are books I have loved so much that I want to keep forever and keep re-reading, to experience their pleasures again and again.
But despite these extremely high levels of utter and complete geekness, no-one has ever called me a geek in my life. That’s partly because I grew up in England, where no-one uses the word. But I never got called ‘speccy’ (someone who wears glasses) or ‘swotty’ (someone who studies hard) or any of the insults we have in this country for geeky, speccy, swotty girls, because I had the good fortune to be sent to a school very much like Wakefield Hall when I was small (the one Scarlett’s grandmother runs in the Kiss Me books). I wasn’t a boarder – my school wasn’t a boarding school, unlike Wakefield Hall – but the school was isolated in the London countryside, just like Wakefield, and it was specifically for swotty, speccy, brainy, reading-addicted girls, which suited me down to the ground.
We weren’t trendy. We weren’t hip. We wore brown pleated skirts that came below our knees, brown blazers with yellow and blue trim, and sensible shoes (brown of course). I still remember with a mixture of fondness and horror the big stretchy brown knickers we wore for gym, name tags sewn in. When, at sixteen, I was sent instead to a school in the centre of London, on which I modelled St Tabby’s, it was a terrifying culture shock. The induction lecture basically consisted of the headmistress, dressed like Miss Moneypenny from the James Bond books in a snug-fitting suit with a short skirt and knee-high boots, sitting on a desk, swinging her booted legs sexily, and telling us firmly that there were already two girls signed to model agencies in our year and that nobody else was to sign with an agency without checking with her first.
But this school, hip and trendy as it was, also specialised in taking brainy, speccy, swotty girls and sending them to the best universities in the country. In both places, I was surrounded by girls who, like me, were addicted to reading and whose parents’ houses were full of books. My friends were the arty, brainy crowd, not the sexy girls in stretch Lycra who had multiple boyfriends and multiple drug habits by the age of sixteen. But even the sexy girls at my second school completely understood the value of studying. Otherwise, they would have been at one of the multiple schools in London for party girls to whom an education wasn’t half as important as dating boys with the right surnames and the right backgrounds, and knowing how to get in and out of Porsches elegantly.
So, in a nutshell, I was the luckiest geek in the world growing up, because practically everyone I knew was like me. Everyone studied hard and wanted to get the best grades they could. Everyone revised and was polite to teachers and was scared of getting called into the headmistress and told they weren’t working hard enough (apart from a frighteningly skinny girl called Camilla, who flirted so madly with the lesbian French teacher that she never seemed to have to do any work whatsoever. Still, she’s now a famous fashion editor, so whatever strategy she pursued seems to have worked for her.) And from school, I went onto a university where everyone read madly, studied hard, spent tons of time in the library – where, in fact, we had a copyright library, which means that technically it has a copy of every book published in the world, ever.
I spent a great deal of time in that library, tracing down the most obscure books I could think of that I wanted to read. And once you’ve been a student at that university, you have a lifetime’s membership to the library. I can go back any time I want to and look up any book I can think of. I don’t do it very often, but it’s bliss to know that the possibility is always there for me.
So I think I’ve established my reading-geek credentials. I just looked up ‘geek’ in the dictionary, and it says it means an ‘unfashionable or socially inept person’, and of course, that’s who everyone is in their teens, isn’t it? Even if everyone else thinks you’re fashionable and socially, er, ept, you don’t feel it inside. So I was a geek in my teens, and into my twenties. Now? Well, I’m a lot more confident and socially ept. But if I can write YA novels, and create characters who readers care about, I’m managing to tap into that sixteen year-old girl inside me who remembers what it was like to feel all those insecurities and raging hormones, mad passionate crushes and moments of absolute joy.
Ooh! And I just found a secondary definition of geek! ‘A person with an eccentric devotion to a particular interest’! That’s definitely me. I mean, running round frantically trying to hold your wee till you can find that copy of whatever book you’re in the middle of… well, that’s nothing if not eccentric…