Interview: Oksa Pollock authors Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf

11th Jun 2014

Interview: Oksa Pollock authors Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf
Oksa Pollock is just your average teenager: living in London and dreaming of being a ninja. Until she discovers her supernatural powers and a whole new fantasy world. We chatted to the authors of the six-book YA fantasy series...

The fantasy aspects of Oksa’s world are balanced with very real, down to earth relationships. Is that what gives Oksa Pollock such universal teen appeal?

Definitely! We wanted to stay close to the human side of the heroes, highlight that they are in fact human beings rather than supernatural creatures (magic is not the main thing going on…). Readers identified with the characters and cared for them because the characters are like them.

They share the same worries, the same strengths and weaknesses, the same values. The fact that the characters are realistic means that even when they’re dealing with extraordinary situations, you still instantly feel close to them.

I understand you actively seek feedback from your fans – what’s the best piece of advice or suggestion you’ve been given?

Indeed, we pay a lot of attention to how Oksa Pollock readers react. Some of them have gathered in pressure groups pro Gus or pro Tugdual, and their members try to influence us to change the plot! But we remain incorruptible and inflexible!

To give a more precise answer to your question, one of the questions we have found the most challenging came from a 12-year-old reader, who was wondering about Oksa’s future: will she ever have a child?

There’s a theory that boys are less likely to read fiction with a female protagonist. Have you found that to be true, or is it total nonsense?

These type of books seem to attract more girls than boys, that’s true. However, a generous third of Pollockmaniacs are boys, who are very keen and as demanding and committed to the series as the girls.

To be honest, this came as a bit of a surprise – we did not expect so much enthusiasm from the male side! The boys weren’t put off by the name of the heroine on the cover. Oksa Pollock is not just about a girl, there are quite a few boys and men in the book and they all play significant part in the story.

One of the questions we have found the most challenging came from a 12-year-old reader, who was wondering about Oksa’s future: will she ever have a child?You’ve tipped your hats to Harry Potter, but who are some of your favourite YA heroines?

Cendrine: Lyra in His Dark Materials. I love her and the fact that she has to lie to get out of trouble…

Anne: I’m a big fan of Damon Salvatore in The Vampire Diaries, for his ambiguity (and because there is a part of me which will always be a romantic young girl), and Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games for his skilfulness. As for the girls, they’re a bit younger, but timeless. Molly Moon (I love her imagination!) and Alice in Wonderland for her…wonders!

How does writing as a duo work on a practical level? How do you divide the work?

We each have our own roles (part of the secret recipe) but the key thing is to put the areas we’re the best at together – our creativity, our preferences and our sensitivities.

Our main goal is that the end result stay true to each of us, so that we can call it our own. That’s why we have to talk and listen so much to each other. We have to try to adapt to one another, make compromises, look further for the solution and fine-tune the story as we go along…

Your fairy tale publication story is the stuff of dreams. How did you find the strength to persevere when things looked less bright?

Ann: Cendrine has excellent intuition and is very determined – much more than me, with my unhelpful tendency to doubt everything. I trusted her; she gave me the courage I don’t necessarily have. To compensate, I put in the effort and worked worked worked…

Cendrine: I gave it all I had because I believed in it, that’s all!

Do you read much self-published fiction yourselves?

It’s terrible, but we have to reply honestly: no.

What do you think is essential to write a brilliant YA novel?

Create characters with more than one dimension, with depths and the ability to evolve and develop in order to make the story more interesting. Stay credible and consistent even if you’re writing fantasy.

Work on the pace and the plot but don’t forget to delve into the emotional and introspective sides of the story.

I’d normally ask what’s next on the horizon, but between the release of the remaining four books around the world, the forthcoming graphic novel and a string of movies, I understand you’re also working on a fresh fantasy series and a Tugdual spin off! Are you secretly robots?

Gosh no! These days, writing is a full-time job, so we work just as if we had an office job, but a very very interesting one!

You’ve mentioned the forthcoming Susan Hopper series as darker than Oska Pollock, but how so?

Susan Hopper’s universe explores a darker side of fantasy. Oksa is on the flamboyant magic and extraordinary adventures side; Susan’s world is supernatural, but more internal, with nightmares and ghosts. There are also fewer characters in Susan Hopper, and this creates an intimacy between the reader and the heroes.

Might you consider trying your hands at other genres – or even fiction for adults – in the future?

With the new series, Tugdual, we’re venturing into YA literature. Maybe that’s our way of inching closer to adult fiction…

Oksa Pollock: The Forest of Lost Souls, book two in the Oksa Pollock series, is available now.