The Supreme Lie is an emotional, twisting and intense book- worthy of a dozen prizes! Well thought, well written and brilliantly thrilling, this is one to savour! We were thrilled to be given the opportunity to ask author Geraldine McCaughrean a few questions!
A crisis in a book with a supreme ruler running away- an ingenious plot with some resonance with today’s world- where did the inspiration for such a story come from?
It began life in America, inspired by the events of 1928 when the Mississippi Basin suffered its worst recorded natural disaster. I changed my setting to a fictional country – which was fun – but which changed the course of my initial plot. Mind you, I find that characters almost always take over a plot pretty early in a story, and it is they who set the course of events.
The newspaper articles punctuating the story act as a secondary narrative and change over the course of the book. Was including Fake News an important part of what you wanted to include or was it to show just how easy it could be for a society to believe what they read?
Do newspapers simply tell us the truth? Or do they offer people news that will interest, entertain, titillate or outrage them?
Do some papers write what the State wants people to believe…? while others write what people want to believe?
It probably depends on what newspaper you read. But in a situation where people have no other access to information, it becomes easy to tell them almost anything. During the last war, the papers served to keep up morale. In politics they serve to win votes for one party or another. Now, what if one individual were to take total control of the news? Wouldn’t it be as easy to swing people’s opinions as rocking a baby in a cot?
You used plenty of similes and metaphors in the book- did you have a favourite that was included- something you use often perhaps?
Oh dear! I hope I never use a simile or a metaphor more than once – or too many of them! I probably do, but I shouldn’t. “Never boil your cabbages twice, dear,” my mother used to say, meaning “Don’t repeat yourself.” It holds good with similes and metaphors: if they’re not surprising or unusual, they contribute nothing.
I once heard a marvellous Schools TV programme on the subject, in which Michael Rosen advised: “Take the first one you think of – now throw it away. Think of another. Throw that away, too. Use the third.”
Madame Suprema is a fascinating character- what is she hiding behind the veil? Where did the idea of the veil come from as it is central to the story?
I liked the notion that she wants no one to know that her eyes never smile … but in fact the veil was an absolute necessity to the plot if Gloria was going to convince people that she was The Suprema!
This multi-layered story is incredibly well thought out and planned- how long did it take you to write? Were there parts that had to be edited out?
You’re quite right! It was very complicated having lots of characters strewn all over Afalia, and most of them on the move. Who can be trusted and who can’t? Who knows what about whom? How shall I get my characters out of such-and-such a predicament? … But that’s part of the fun. I rather like painting myself into a corner and having to find a way out of it.
I am slowing down: it took me over a year to write The Supreme Lie, whereas I once wrote nine commissions within a year. But so long as I’ve got a book on the go, I’m happy. After all, my imagination spent a year in a country that doesn’t exist!
The narratives as told by the dogs was an interesting dimension and the sense of loyalty was unwavering. Why did you want to include this in the story?
My idea was to have the dogs mirroring how the people in Praesto City are behaving – cruel, obedient, cunning, greedy, loyal …
In the end, Heinz’s journey was interrupting Gloria’s plot too often and holding up the flow of the main story, so I had to shrink it, but I hope Daisy’s devoted affection and Heinz’s intelligence and determination hints at the fact that sometimes human beings aren’t the superior species they imagine themselves to be, especially in times of crisis.
Geraldine McCaughrean is one of today’s most successful and highly regarded children’s authors. She has won the Carnegie Medal twice, in 1988 and 2018, the Whitbread Children’s Book Award (three times), the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Smarties Bronze Award (four times) and the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award. In 2005 she was chosen from over 100 other authors to write the official sequel to J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Peter Pan in Scarlet was published in 2006 to wide critical acclaim.
Visit www.geraldinemccaughrean.co.uk to find out more about Geraldine’s work.
The Supreme Lie is available now from Usborne Publishing for readers age 12+ £8.99
A few discussion notes can be found here…