A Debut Author Shares Her Favourite Books & Writers
A Debut Author Shares Her Favourite Books & Writers

A Debut Author Shares Her Favourite Books & Writers

Brooklyn-born Joelle Wellington is the author of Their Vicious Games – a twist-laden thriller in which high-school students must compete against each other in a deadly popularity contest. Ahead of its release, we asked Joelle to tell us more about her favourite books, authors and literary characters.
By Sherri Andrew

Let’s start with what you’re reading right now, Joelle…

I’m reading Rouge by Mona Awad (released in September) which is described as a horror-tinted gothic fairy tale. I’m also reading Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood by Maureen Ryan. It’s a great non-fiction read that depicts the patterns of bias and harassment in Hollywood. I like to read at least one non-fiction and one fiction at the same time, because my mood changes frequently.

What book from childhood will always stay with you?

The entire A Series of Unfortunate Events series. It was one of my favourites. I appreciated the use of language, the way it refused to speak down to a child, and the macabre that was on the page. Growing up I loved weird, creepy things. I also like to revisit The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley. One of my favourite series of all time, it’s about two seeming orphans, who go off to live with their grandmother in a very dangerous town full of fairy tale creatures.

What books made you want to write?

I always knew I wanted to write. But Dare Me by Megan Abbott, Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente and Stardust by Neil Gaiman made me realise what kind of books I wanted to write. I love stories that combine fantasy and thriller.

When and where do you read?

Everywhere, but particularly on public transport when there’s nothing else to focus on. I buy most of my books from Indie bookstores. In New York, where I live, I’m a recognised customer at McNally Jackson.

Print or Kindle?

Print, but I have no more room in my house – so for now, Kindle.

Do you have a favourite author?

It’s so hard to choose just one. My favourites include Toni Morrison, Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, Gabriel García Márquez, and Elif Batuman.

What's been your favourite read of 2023 so far?

All Systems Red by Martha Wells, the first book in The Murderbot Diaries sci-fi series. It explores the ethics of sentient robotics and it’s a real page turner.

What one novel will always stay with you?

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. It’s the story of seven generations of the Buendía family and of Macondo, the town they built in Colombia. I re-read it every year and discover something new.

Favourite biography?

I don’t read many biographies, but a memoir that I recently read and loved is I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy. It was so darkly funny and so very heart-breaking.

Favourite non-fiction book? 

I’m really into music, so it has to be Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001–2011 by Lizzy Goodman. It’s an oral history of what I’d consider my second favourite era of rock and roll (my favourite being 1965-1977).

Do you read poetry?

Yes! I used to be a poet! I went to school for it, then switched to prose during my junior year. I still sometimes write poetry, but my favourite collection is Crush by Richard Siken.

What book would you give as a gift?

My Body by Emily Ratajkowski. It’s one of my faves.

What was the last book that made you cry?

I don’t really cry over books, but one that made me really emotional was Cleopatra & Frankenstein by Coco Mellors.

Any recommendations for laugh-out-loud books?

The Murderbot Diaries are actually really funny, and I just think that they’re fantastic, if you’re kind of nerdy like me.

What’s your favourite film or TV adaptation of a book?

I am an enormous horror fan, so I have to say The Silence of the Lambs. It’s a classic for a reason.

Are there any books that have helped you through difficult times?

Gillian Flynn got me through some rough patches of teenage-dom. Same with Megan Abbott – the plight of the teenage girl was always very well depicted in her works.

Favourite literary character?

Amy March from Little Women. I think everyone wants to be Jo. I used to think I was a Jo because I’m an older sister and I’m a writer. But I think I might be an Amy.

What one book should everybody read in their lifetime?

Beloved by Toni Morrison. The Pulitzer-winning book is set in the mid-1800s in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Part ghost story, part reflection on the evils of slavery, it’s incredibly moving.

If you had to take a book with you to a desert island, which one would it be?

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. I think it’s the only one of my favourite books that I’ve only read once, which means I need to read it again.

Tell us about Their Vicious Games – what was the inspiration?

I’m an unabashed fan of The Bachelor franchise. I think it’s silly and fun and probably the most produced piece of television ever. Everything, from the storylines to the character archetypes, is crafted by outside forces using these people on the screen like puppets. And that’s fascinating to me. Also, the year I conceptualised Their Vicious Games, I had seen Ready or Not for the first time.

These two ideas, combined with the fact that I’ve gone to PWIs (predominantly white institutions) my entire life, I realised there was something of a horror story there – or a thriller – about a young Black woman who is frustrated with the world and the limitations and the expectations placed on her. So, it all came together, and it was so fun to write.

And finally, what are you working on next, Joelle?

A speculative thriller/horror-comedy. I’m getting real meta this time…

Their Vicious Games by Joelle Wellington (published by Penguin Books, £8.99) is available from 27th July at Amazon.co.uk & all major bookstores.

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