Overemotional by David Fenne

Steven is one unlucky closeted sixth former. Whenever he has a strong emotion, be that happiness or sadness, weird things happen. Like, potentially dangerous things. Recently, he kissed another boy for the first time and . . . the boy’s head literally exploded. Steven flees to the miserable town of Grunsby-on-Sea, determined not to hurt anyone else with his “Emomancy”.

With a best friend as determined as Freya, it is impossible to stay hidden for long though, especially when she realises Steven might be in danger after a mysterious organisation called DEMA start asking questions about him. Where Freya goes, her boyfriend Marcus and American friend Troy soon follow. Together, they are determined to find out more about this organisation and what “neutralising” someone like Steven might mean.

By chance, Steven meets a handsome stranger who claims to share his powers and who offers to teach Steven how to control them. But who is he in relation to DEMA? What on earth happened to make Grunsby-on-Sea so lethargic a town? And can you really trust a charismatic stranger you meet in a café bathroom?

Ink Road
Overemotional cover artwork by Jacqueline Li

I’ve been neglecting the blog over the last few months, but what better to come back to it with than a Q&A with a brilliant debut author, David Fenne. Overemotional, a UKYA queer fantasy set in the most boring town in England, is great fun.

What aspect of Overemotional came to you first?

The concept of the powers came first. I had been rolling the idea around in my head based on conversations I’d had with my husband about how his anxiety manifests. I thought emotion-based powers were an interesting concept to explore, but they would just result in someone just trying to be happy. So I thought, “What if it were reversed?” What would the pursuit of misery do to a person? Almost immediately, Steven’s voice began to form in my head.

How soon in the process of creating the story did you decide to start with a head exploding?

Actually, VERY early on. I wanted something to kick off the plot in an explosive manner … literally! It’s such an extreme scenario, especially after what was a formative first queer experience, that sets up his character arc for the rest of the book. The initial concept was slightly different to how it plays out in the finished book, but I think this way is great at catapulting Steven back in the closet and rasing his walls at the start of the book.

Who was your favourite character to write as?

I find Steven’s voice the easiest because he’s the most similar to me, but I love Troy. He’s so earnest, polite, and optimistic in everything he does, and his fish-out-of-water point of view (being an American in the UK) is a great comedic vein to mine. He’s such a golden retriever that you can’t help but love him.

Writing comedy is notoriously difficult, but the voices were full of humour, was it difficult to balance jokes with tension?

Sometimes. My background is in comedy, being an improv comedian, so humour comes quite naturally during the writing process. I never wanted the humour to eclipse sincerity, though. There are times when it can break the tension or subvert an expectation or trope, but I think people are a little exhausted with “Marvel-quips” that don’t allow moments of genuine sincerity to land. The book gets quite tense at points, so I made sure jokes or funny situations (like throwing breast pumps at a monster) don’t entirely diminish from the tension built up.

Have you thought about what Steven & his friends do next? Or have you finished with their story and moved on to something else?

Well, funny you should ask! I’ve just handed in book 2 in the OVEREMOTIONAL Trilogy! The gang will be heading off to London for university, but not everything is as it seems . . .[CFi ed: I didn’t notice that it was first in a trilogy and I’m so pleased that we’ll meet them again a little older, with the new challenges of uni!]

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I’m currently reading Murder on A School Night by Kate Weston and I am LOVING IT! It’s a laugh-out-loud funny murder mystery featuring death by period products. It’s so refreshing to have such an overtly feminist, period-positive voice in the YA scene. Did I mention it was funny? It’s VERY funny. Highly recommend to any fans of YA murder mysteries like Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder or just anyone who fancies a good giggle.

About Caroline Fielding

Chartered School Librarian, CILIP YLG London Chair, Bea-keeper

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