The rising Ya star tells us why she’s mesmerised by glamorous people
One of the shooting stars of YA on escaping into literature.
From a geek perspective, surfers are scum. Cool, athletic and comfortable in their own skins, they hang out on beaches, which everyone knows are just an invitation to get sand in your iPad. And yet, as Laure Eve reflects as she looks back on her teenage years growing up in Cornwall, there’s something curiously alluring about them too. “Everyone feels like an outsider, but I was a rock and metal gothy kid who dressed weird and was very abrasive,” she says. “I always secretly wanted to be as chilled and cool as the surfers but I just couldn’t be that way, I was far too emotional and weird. I went out with a couple of surfers. I tried to be that girl who hangs out on the beach in shorts and looks really great doing it, but I was not that kind of girl, in fact.”
Relax, Eve is laughing as she finishes this sentence, so the experience can’t have been too traumatic. Indeed, you could even say it’s been positive in that her new novel, The Graces, riffs off our collective fascination with the kinds of glamorous people, like certain surfers, who “everybody loves and hates in equal measure”. The elevator pitch, she says, is The Craft meets The Virgin Suicides.
“Everyone can remember that girl or that small group in school who everybody worshipped,” she says. “I find that’s fascinating because it’s a very human thing to do, to put people on a pedestal, and idolise and worship them. That’s very much part of our celebrity culture nowadays as well.”
But this sets up a tension. The closer we get to those we find alluring, the more their flaws become evident. This idea is central to the narrative of The Graces, which focuses on three “very popular, very mysterious” and, rumour has it, eldritch siblings, and why our (unreliable) narrator, River, is so drawn to the trio.
Eve’s third novel, The Graces, aimed at a YA audience, caused a bidding war last year. As to why, one reason lies in that elevator pitch. When it went out on submission, says Eve, a recurring reaction among editors was, “Oh my god, I remember The Craft, I love that film so much.” If you’re still confused (shame on you), we’re talking the 1996 supernatural horror about outsider teenagers with magical powers they don’t exactly use wisely.
“It’s one of those weird little cult films that seeped into every girl’s consciousness because it’s not really about witchcraft, although it is, it’s more about empowerment and toxic friendships and the darkness of teenagers, which is very attractive to other teenagers,” says Eve.
Particularly, you’d guess, a teen such as Eve growing up on the Cornish coast, close to St Ives, in the 1980s and 1990s. Half French and half English, she was “a child of two cultures” who never quite fitted in. “In England I was always the French girl and in France I was always the English cousin,” she says. “It’s a very strange outsider mentality that you tend to get.” Then there were the complications of the English class system. Her parents didn’t have much cash but she went to a school where people certainly had money, “bags of the stuff, lying about the place, and they lived in giant houses with horses’ paddocks round the back”.
the great escape
Confronted at every turn by surfers, nascent Brexit voters and the well-to-do, Eve did the only sensible thing. While she loves Cornwall, her Cornish friends and the wild landscapes when you get close to Land’s End that are “heavy and strange” to walk in, she left. “I was of a very bohemian, arty persuasion and decided I would either be a writer or an actor or an artist or something, but I would be something like that, whatever it took,” she says. More specifically, she headed for university in Manchester and a contemporary arts degree that involved creative writing and drama.
“You’d just walk through campus and people would be playing the ukulele half naked or covered in chocolate sauce rolling around on the grass, covering themselves in blood or something and screaming at the sky, because that’s contemporary arts, man,” she says. “It was that kind of campus and it was amazing, full of slightly crazy people.”
She did her fair share of crazy things herself, like a performance of The Vagina Monologues that involved her being “completely naked for 45 minutes straight on stage”. That sounds terrifying… “Let me clarify, my back was to the audience.” Did that make a difference? “Yes it did, cos it meant I couldn’t see them.” On another occasion, she appeared in a play where, solo in a flashback scene, she had to recreate the experience of being raped. Her mother, sister and boyfriend of the time were in the audience.
After graduation, she eventually headed for London, where she works in publishing. Taking her friend, American editor and bestselling writer David Levithan, as a “role model”, she has no plans to go full-time as a novelist. “If he can do it, I figure I can do it,” she says. A sequel to The Graces is currently with Eve’s editor.