Romance builds on monster success
Teenage Frankensteins who use spare body parts to build the perfect boyfriend have earned novelist Claire Skuse glowing reviews for her latest book.
The Burnham-on-Sea-based author of teen fiction has garnered a growing fan-base since her first novel was published by Frome-based Chicken House, run by Barry Cunningham, the man who signed up JK Rowling for Bloomsbury's children's list.
In her third novel, Dead Romantic, set in the grotty seaside town of Hoydon's Bracht, Camille and Zoe give up the fight to find a boyfriend with an athlete's body and a poet's brain and decide to construct one. The novel is shot through with the girls' sardonic wit, and an understanding of the anxieties and preoccupations of teenage life.
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Camille seems to find the idea of her parents having sex more repellent than a bag of body parts. Zoe has a secret serum which can bring puppies and hamsters back to life, something for which many a parent would be grateful.
Their surreal adventures have been praised as: "an enjoyable black comedy" by Daily Telegraph online culture editor Martin Chilton. Amanda Craig, reviewing for The Times said: "C J Skuse has been on my radar as one of the funniest writers of Young Adult fiction since Pretty Bad Things, and Rockaholic."
Ms Skuse, 32, was born and schooled in Weston-super-Mare and went on to pick up degrees in creative studies and writing for children at Bath Spa University. She now lectures a the university part time.
She said: "I tend to find something and take the mickey out of it and it seems to work. I don't know that I have ever left being a teenager really, I am still in the mindset. I still feel 17, and I think of the person I was when I was 16."
Pretty Bad Things, her debut novel, was set in the United States where teenage twins set out on a sub-Bonnie and Clyde spree, raiding sweet shops not for material gain but for fame which might bring them to the attention of the father they were seeking.
"It got a lot of attention and good reviews in the national press," said Ms Skuse, who also credited the links fostered through Chicken House's link to JK Rowling.
Her subsequent novel, Rockoholic, was again set in the US, about teens on a crime spree in Las Vegas.
But success overseas it is not all easygoing, says Ms Skuse. "Being published brings its own set of new rejections. Will the humour translate, will some countries be sensitive about the themes? But they are all part of the adventure."