Thursday 10 August 2023

Q&A with Xena Knox

Welcome to our wee Q&A with author Xena Knox.

You can find Xena on Twitter Instagram or Tiktok.

You can find my non spoiler review of Sh!t Bag HERE and it is out to buy from Amazon now.

Now, enjoy our author interview:

Q1. Tell us a bit about yourself, Xena

Just a wee bit - I’m Scottish. I’m straight talking, passionate, fair (I like to champion the underdog) and sometimes a bit scary if you get on the wrong side of me. I don’t just write. I’m good at getting my hands dirty (my nails are awful) digging in the mud growing flowers or mucking around with my horses. I love writing with humour and about gritty reality.

Q2. What made you decide to write your debut

SH!T BAG - my debut YA novel - is an up-close and very personal story about life with ostomies (poo bags in this instance). It’s based on my own life experiences and so the story is a reaction to public negativity or misunderstandings around what it’s like living with an ostomy. I wanted to educate, yes, but in the main, I wanted to change attitudes towards ostomies and people with them (ostomates) by placing the reader in the body of the main character looking outwards. So that they could really feel what it’s like to be judged, degraded, mocked … for something that’s quite literally life or death, or living.
And this includes medical professionals - just because someone technically knows what an ostomy is, works with ostomates or even creates them. This doesn’t mean they have an automatic comprehension or empathy (from a personal and human pov) of what it’s like to live with one day-in-day-out, every waking and sleeping moment.

Q3. The protagonist is 16, why did you choose to write it from the view point of a teenager?

A couple of reasons.
Based on my own interactions, I feel teens don’t have the squeamish preconceptions about ostomies that older parents and grandparents do. So, it felt important to educate and inform (readers) at an early age before misinformation and negativity can creep in.
And, I first became ill at eighteen, so, although I was a little older than Freya, 16 feels an incredibly pivotal age, stepping across the threshold of life from child to adult. It felt ‘right’ to have Freya that age. And I have a tendency to be quite edgy in my language so I really think any younger than 16 and I wouldn’t have been able to have Freya speak in her ‘unique’ voice.

Q4. The book deals with so many important issues, not just ostomies but body image and relationships – was that important for you?

Writing is a funny thing, though. My characters are alive in my head. They’re incredibly complex and nuanced. I know exactly what they ‘would’ and ‘wouldn’t’ do. And so, it can sometimes take until after multiple redrafts before I’m aware of the themes and ‘issues’ (for want of a better term) I’ve addressed or included in my story. They bubble to the surface after placing those ‘real’ characters in certain situations/environments etc.
But to label a couple of those ‘messages’ -
No matter how I repackage them in different characters and stories, I appear to consistently champion respecting other people for being their unique selves. And empowering individuals to define their boundaries and voice them.

Q5. Did you have to do a lot of research for your book and if so, are you are happy to discuss some of it?

Research was minimal and mostly checking for new treatments etc. Like most IBD sufferers (whether you’ve had a bowel resection/ostomy or pouch…) I’m an ‘expert’ on this through sheer crappy luck of having lived it as my life since I was 18, and being educated by surgeons or reading or sharing experiences with others going through similar or worse. I’ve had many, many surgeries, things go wrong, or malfunction, or had to develop my own coping strategies…
You’ve heard it here first – a SH!T BAG exclusive – both Freya’s experiences AND Mel’s, are my lived experiences.

Q6. If readers only take one thing away from reading your book what would you like it to be?

You know yourself and your own body.

Q7. What is next for you?

I’m working on book two. It’s a standalone - so not a sequel to SH!T BAG. It does follow my core values - respecting other people for being their unique selves. And empowering individuals to define their boundaries and voice them.

Q8. Anything else you would like to add?

Ummm, yes!
I have a question for you, Lainy:
Your review of SH!T BAG was bang-on what I was trying, and hoping, to convey. So, I think you get me quite well, so far. What sort of material would you like to see me address in a future novel?

I would keep the same format style, important issues - especially health issues where you are giving the condition(s) a face, a chance for people to humanise and see how careless remarks/behaviours can have such a huge impact. I think it also gives a chance for people to empathise and really relate to something/someone that they maybe otherwise wouldn't. For example the "nickname" and the huge impact/knock on affect it had and things like that, a cheeky remark or "it was just a joke" can really impact someone.

Thanks so much for reading SH!T BAG, championing it and inviting me to this Q&A!
Much love!
Xena Xx

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