Hello and thank you for joining me today on my Freshmen by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison, blog tour stop. I am a big fan of Tom and Lucy’s previous novel, A Totally Awkward Love Story and jumped at the chance to join this tour and interview them both. Please check out this interview with these two fun authors and don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end.
Getting in is just the beginning.
The author team of Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison are back with another laugh-out-loud and at times cringe-worthy read in FRESHMEN (Delacorte Press / On sale June 12, 2018 / Ages 14 and up), which in alternating chapters tells the story of Phoebe and Luke, whose paths may not have crossed in high school but are about to in college.
Phoebe can’t wait to get to college. On her own, discovering new things, no curfew . . . she’ll be free. And she’ll be totally different: cooler, prettier, smarter . . . the perfect potential girlfriend. Convenient: the only person from her high school also going to York is her longtime crush, Luke.
Luke didn’t set out to redefine himself, but as soon as he arrives on campus, he finds himself dumping his long-term long-distance girlfriend. And the changes don’t stop there. In fact, being on a soccer team is the only thing that stays the same.
Just when things start looking up (and Phoebe and Luke start hooking up), drama looms on the horizon. Rumors swirl about the Wall of Shame, a secret text chain run by Luke’s soccer team, filled with compromising photos of girls. As the women on campus determine to expose the team and shut down the account, Luke and Phoebe find themselves grappling with confusing feelings and wondering how they’ll ever make it through freshman year.
with Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison
1) Freshmen is a classic intro to college novel, it’s pages filled with partying, hook ups, and an occasional class. Yet, you both take it a step farther by exploring themes of loneliness, homesickness, and shameful events that can make or break the college experience. What made you decide to write a novel that chronicles the first year of university?
Our first novel, A Totally Awkward Love Story, takes place in the summer between finishing high school and starting college – so writing about the college experience seemed like the natural next step for us. The first semester, in particular, is so perfect for a novel, too, as it’s SO packed with drama – you arrive at this brand new place, full of brand new people and there’s so much pressure to fit in and make friends, as well as doing well on your course, academically. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions – both good and bad – so that seemed like a good environment for comedy, drama and romance!
2)Did you enjoy attending university and how similar were your experiences to Phoebe and Luke’s?
TOM: I think we both had quite mixed experiences at university, really, and that’s why we thought it would be an interesting period to write about. We had some really great times (we both went to the University of York, in the north of England), and made some great friends, but we also had periods of feeling quite low and homesick and a bit lost, really. So we wanted to pack the duality of that experience into Freshmen. Luke’s experience is not that similar to mine, as I never joined the football team (I was more into skateboarding, which tends to be a little more outsider-y and less ‘alpha male!’). But Luke’s experiences of dealing with sexism and homophobia in the football team were based on stories friends of mine (who were in the football team) had told me. And the storyline of Luke splitting up with his girlfriend from home while arriving at university was directly based on another friend (with his permission, of course!)
LUCY: Phoebe is ready to go to university and is excited about the possibilities to reinvent herself and have fun that it presents. I think I went with similar notions. I also felt confused and homesick at times and I remember very clearly feeling like I was in free-fall at times. I constantly worried if I was making the right decisions and berated myself if I felt I had missed an opportunity to make a friend or go out. I was constantly worried that everyone would form groups and that I would be left on the outside. My diary at the time is full of worries that people have met their ‘friends for life’ and I haven’t. I had brilliant times too, but I think insecurity and anxiety were ever present too, especially in the first year.
3)What was your most embarrassing incident that happened to you during your Freshmen year?
TOM: So many to choose from, but I’m going with a night during the first week, when my corridor-mates and I took the mattress off our friend’s bed, stuffed some skateboards underneath and rode the contraption at high speed up and down the corridor like a gigantic, bouncy skateboard. Two of the people involved were violently sick (on the mattress) within minutes.
LUCY: I can remember having to answer a question in a seminar about a book that I simply had not read. I kept repeatedly saying ‘it’s a very important novel’ until finally the professor said, ‘yes, it is, but have you actually read it?’
4) Although Freshmen is one of the funniest books I have read this year it does delve into a darker plot line, what was the decision to explore that in this novel?
We wrote an entire first draft that only had the comedy/romance themes in it – it was a pretty basic ‘love triangle’ rom-com between Luke, Phoebe and Abbey. But when we read it back, both we and our editor agreed that it needed something more to it. We had read a lot of articles over the past few years about ‘toxic masculinity’ on university campuses, and horror stories about sports teams using social media for nasty, misogynistic purposes, so that seemed like an interesting area to explore. We were a bit worried about doing it at first, because Freshmen is – hopefully! – a comedy first and foremost. But we really felt it would compelling and interesting and relatable to look at these darker themes too.
5) I am always curious about writing duo’s and their writing genesis, how did your decision to co-author come about?
Well, we met when we were 16, at high school – we were friends for about a year and then we dated for two years after that! We went to university together, and then broke up during our second year, but remained friends. And then after university, we both moved back to London and we were working quite boring jobs and we really wanted to do something more creative. We had done a lot of creative stuff together at school – writing/acting in plays etc – so we made a pact to try and write together again, just as something to do, really, as a fun way to hang out. That lead to us writing the first draft our first novel, which we submitted to The Times/Chicken House writing competition in the UK. It got shortlisted and Chicken House told us they wanted to publish it, and we went from there!
6) How does being joint male and female author’s impact your stories?
Hopefully it makes them more appealing to all readers! One of the reasons we first decided to write together in separate boy/girl voices was that Lucy was working as a teacher, teaching lots of teenage girls, and they would always complain that they “wished they knew what boys were REALLY thinking”. So, drafting in Tom – a genuine, REAL-LIFE boy – to provide a genuine boy’s voice seemed like a good idea!
7) Can you tell us what you both are working on now?
We are both working on solo projects at the moment – just starting out – and realizing that writing is much tougher when you’re not doing it with someone else! But we have another idea for a joint YA novel – set in the 1990s – that we would love to do, so hopefully we’ll get going on that pretty soon…
TOM ELLEN and LUCY IVISON met at the end of high school and quickly became sweethearts. Though they broke up in college, they remain best friends. Lucy is a librarian at a girls’ school in central London, where she gets most of her inspiration. Tom is a journalist and has written for Time Out, Vice, ESPN, Glamour, and many other publications.
Their first book, A Totally Awkward Love Story, was partially inspired by their own high school relationship, with Tom writing Sam’s chapters and Lucy writing Hannah’s. Freshmen is their second novel together. Follow them on Twitter at @lucyivison.
Don’t forget to a check out these other BLOG and INSTAGRAM tour stops
6/19: Here’s to Happy Endings
6/21: The Desert Bibliophile
6/24: Undeniably Book Nerdy
Win a copy of FRESHMEN by Lucy Ivison and Tom Ellen
- Contest open to US entrants only
- Must be over 13 years of age
- Good luck!!