Author Q&A:
Juno Dawson 

Stay Another Day
(Hachette) 

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The McAllister siblings are heading home for Christmas. Fern is bringing her gorgeous boyfriend home and wants everything to be perfect but her twin brother Rowan would rather go on the pull than pull crackers with the family. Their younger sister Willow is terrified of Christmas Day. With four sleeps till Christmas, three secretive siblings, two hot house guests, and one juicy secret there are set to be some big surprises under the tree this year. Stay Another Day is the latest young adult novel from Bingley-born transgender activist and writer Juno Dawson, whose previous books include This Book Is Gay, Mind Your Head and Margot & Me.

Though you live in Brighton now, you grew up in the North. How did your own relationship with “home” inform the story? 
Stay Another Day was conceived as soon as my mum declared that Christmas 2020 was cancelled due to Covid. She decided early it was going to be too difficult for my husband and I to travel up or get somewhere to stay. It’s times like that one really craves home and that very much influenced the sense of place in the novel. I have such a complicated relationship with Yorkshire. I was desperately unhappy growing up there and felt an urgency to escape and yet now I yearn to visit three or four times a year. I find being in Yorkshire very grounding now. I will always have Yorkshire in my heart.

Rowan, Fern and Willow’s surname being McAllister is a clear homage to Home Alone. A showing of It’s A Wonderful Life also plays an important role. How else did Christmas movies inform the story and did watching them help you keep in the Christmassy mood while writing Stay Another Day?
Knowing I wasn’t going to get a Christmas, I retreated into films and music to try to kickstart Christmas in my soul. There’s dozens of nods to my favourite Christmas movies in Stay Another Day: Thom’s surname (Simpkins) is an ode to Kate Winslet’s character in The Holiday; Grandma McClane is a reference to Die Hard, which is definitely a Christmas movie. I always imagined Stay Another Day to be a YA version of The Family Stone, which I think is rather overlooked.

Rowan thinks about how he would’ve been happy having Christmas with his “found family”, while Syd expresses that it’s a “queer thing” to make peace with not going home for Christmas. Could you tell us about the relationship between queer people and Christmas, and how that informed the story?
I’m always listening to what my readers are saying at events or online and, the reality is, a lot of people find the holiday season difficult for a lot of reasons. We’re bombarded with images of friends and families at Christmas. What if you don’t have that network around you? I think this time of year can really magnify loneliness for a lot of people and LGBTQ people sometimes experience familial rejection. I had Christmas 2016 with my found family in Brighton and it was one of the very best I’ve ever, ever had.

Why was it was important for you to write about biphobia and what did you keep in mind while depicting it?
I remember my biology teacher telling an entire class to be “mindful” of bi people because they’re promiscuous. I mean! I think there are so many harmful stereotypes about bi or pan people and they don’t always have the backing of the gay or lesbian communities. MP Rosie Duffield’s recent disparaging remarks about people identifying as queer were very telling too. Bi people often face disbelief, regardless of the gender of their partners: if they have a same sex partner they’re told they’re gay, and if they don’t they’re “really straight”. It’s lose-lose.

Was it challenging to manage multiple narrators, and did you ever re-write scenes from different points of view? 
I had such clear vision for Rowan, Fern and Willow. They came to me fully formed. It was only later I realised they essentially make up the trinity that is my personality: Willow is my id, Rowan my ego and Fern my superego.

Through an exceptionally nuanced portrayal of infidelity, you explore topics such as forgiveness, disclosure and societal pressure to conform. What motivated this?
A question I always ask as a writing prompt is “what did you learn from your parents, and what did they learn from you?” I think that process is a two way street, and was keen to explore what the adult McAllisters could learn from their children. This was especially true of Rowan who, as a queer person, brings his life experience back to Edinburgh after some years away. Queer people have always made our own rules because the established norms rejected us for centuries. On a personal level, I transitioned away from 15 years on the gay scene to a very heteronormative marriage but still brought all my queer wisdom with me. I think a great many straight couples could learn a lot from queer people!

In the epilogue, we see a glimpse into the McAllister family’s next Christmas together that wraps up many unanswered questions. Were you ever tempted to write a sequel instead? 
No! This Christmas was dramatic enough! Let the poor McAllisters have a year off! Forevermore they just watch Strictly and fall asleep after dinner!

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