Sue H. Cunningham on Totally Deceased and thrillers for early teens

Totally Deceased by Sue H. Cunningham. Book cover and author photo.
We are excited to be sharing Totally Deceased by Sue H. Cunningham with our Macaw subscribers this month. It's a funny, heart-warming thriller that had us on the edge of our seats! Hilarious and moving in equal measure, this murder mystery kept us guessing, and rooting for the brilliant characters who we think young readers will really relate to, all the way through. We are delighted that Sue was able to answer our questions and tell us which other thrillers for tweens and early teens she recommends you read next.

What inspired you to write Totally Deceased?

I’ve always loved those movies where two polar opposite characters have to work as a team to solve a problem and this led me to the idea of Jess and Tilly. I needed something to tie them together and Tilly’s heart was the answer. The idea of heart transplant surgery fills me with awe – it’s almost like magic!

Are any of the characters or elements of the story based on real people or events?

When I was at uni, I shared a house with a group of girls – we had a real north/south split and a mix of rich versus ‘normal’ (or poor as Tilly might call someone who lives in a house with only one bathroom!). There was lots of bickering before we finally bonded but, despite our differences, those guys are still among my best friends.

We love both Jess and Tilly. Did you find yourself sympathising more with one character than the other when you were writing the book?

Probably Jess as she’s a bit like me – northern and down to earth. My parents even argue just like hers (despite this, they’re still happily married)! We see Tilly only through Jess’s eyes and I hope readers can see that she has more depth to her than Jess first thinks. I’d secretly love to be a bit more Tilly – she has a good heart but she’s self-confident and she doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. Plus, she has loads of great clothes!

What do you hope young readers will take away from the story and how it unfolds?

Not to be too judgy when you first meet someone – friendship can take you by surprise. And that we should embrace our differences, not allow them to divide us.

Can you tell us anything about what the future holds for Jess?

Not without spoilers!

What was your favourite part to write?

I really enjoyed writing the banter between the two girls. Early on, I had an idea for Tilly to modify a famous Oscar Wilde quote to suit her own argument. I liked how this bit turned out and had a lot of fun thinking up other famous people for her to misquote!

Why did you choose to write books for this age group?

I love writing for this audience – young people are so accepting and inclusive. Anyway, I enjoy reading YA myself – it’s for everyone, not just for teens!

Do you have a favourite place to write?

Curled up on the sofa with the dog snoozing on my feet.

Which other thrillers for tweens and teens would you recommend our subscribers read next?

Mirror Me by Jan Dunning – a Snow White inspired thriller with magic, mystery and a fascinating peek behind the scenes of the fashion world. It also has a timely message about embracing your true self, flaws and all.

Copies of our Totally Deceased pack, including a copy of the book and loads of fun activities to go with it, are now available for individual purchase. Grab a copy while stocks last!

This post includes affiliate links to our page, meaning we receive a small percentage of the sale should you purchase through them. Additionally, a percentage from all sales on the platform goes directly to local UK bookshops which is an initiative we're delighted to support!


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