“Friendships are the most important relationships of my life. I have a lot of found family. I know that my friendships sustain me and I learn the most from my friends, our relationships and the dynamics that we have. They matter so much that I can't imagine writing a book that was solely about a relationship or work or a place. I think it's always going to be the people, because I know how much my people make me,” Candice Carty-Williams, the bestselling author of Queenie tells me on the phone, explaining why female friendships are at the very core of her books. (Her latest, a YA novella called Empress & Aniya about two teenage girls whose lives collide, continues the theme).
Candice’s passion for friendship is evident not just in her characters and how they interact (who doesn’t love Queenie and her Corgis?) but how she emphasises the importance of friends - just as much as family or romantic partners - in her own life. It’s something I find incredibly refreshing, even more so to hear it first-hand.
“I've always loved having a lot of friends and conversations, and the person I am, I always go in very deep. I have lots of shared jokes with people because I just love remembering the things that made us laugh or made us tick. I'm so big on having very specific shared things with lots of people,” Candice tells me, adding that whatever’s going in life, her inner circle of friends remain super close through a constant stream of voice notes.
“I have a [top] tier of best friends, five people, (I'm not going to name them because there are some people who think they're in that tier when they’re not). Those five people don’t really have to ask how I am because they will already know the answer,” she says.
But this got me wondering, has Candice’s success – and subsequent fame – as an author changed her friendship dynamics in other ways? It seems, in some ways, yes. While Candice’s closest friends know the ins and outs of her day no matter how hectic it is, her packed schedule means she can’t always communicate as much as she might like with her wider circle.
“Before lockdown, I wasn’t able to use my phone as much because I was working full-time, and then some evenings and weekends I’d be doing events with my publicist. Life was just really, really busy in a way that meant that having those daily conversations, checking in and hanging out with friends was a lot harder,” the writer explains.
“None of my friendships fell by the wayside, but I just didn't have the energy to talk to my friends. And I guess that's kind of stayed [with me] a little bit now, because if I love you, I will send you a very specific meme that relates to something that we liked five years ago, but then if you ask me how I am, it's unlikely that I will reply,” she says.
When our friends land an amazing new work achievement, our overriding emotions are usually pride and happiness, but it’s not unusual for a pang of envy to sometimes sneak into the mix. It’s something Candice is aware of, and she’s cautious about who she shares news about things like big pay cheques with.
“I'm very careful about who I talk to about money or successes, there are only one or two people,” Candice tells me. “One of my very best friends, who works in HR, has no interest in celebrity and she’s really separate from this world of the arts that I have found myself in. She's the person that I could be like: ‘This is what I got paid for this’ and she's so objective because she doesn't care,” the author explains.
Because of Candice’s approach to sharing this sort of life update, it means that when she posts about a work win on social media, she’ll have friends messaging her saying: ‘You didn’t tell me that!’ and it all plays into why she uses her platforms to highlight her lows as well as the highs.
“I know that social media makes it seem like everyone is having a really amazing time. I also make it very clear on social media that I suffer from depression and can be having a really bad time and even though it looks like everything is the best. It's also sometimes a struggle,” she says.
“With success also comes a lot of responsibility, and the scrutiny that comes with what you're doing being a bit more visible. It’s very much ups and downs. And I want to make that clear.”
With friendships such a priority and consideration in her life, you’d be forgiven for thinking Candice never loses a single friend along the way. But of course, she’s only human, and it’s a process she finds heartbreaking.
“There are some people in the acknowledgments of Queenie that will not be in the acknowledgments of my next novel just because we aren't friends anymore and they haven't been around and that's really heartbreaking,” she says. “But [I believe] some people are in your life to teach you things and then you have to let them go when you know neither of you are very happy in the friendship.
“That's happened a lot, so as much as I have an amazing set of people who have been present over the last few years, there are some people who have come and gone. That’s life. People being constant in my life is very comforting for me, and I'm very grateful for it.”
With Empress & Aniya on bookshelves, a TV adaptation of Queenie coming to our screens and Candice’s next novel in the works, it’s clear we’re going to be enjoying much more of the author’s interpretation of the power of friendships going forward.
“I can’t imagine a life without friends from different backgrounds who bring different perspectives and worlds your way. Anything that opens my eyes up and my world up, I’m always going to focus on.”
Empress & Aniya by Candice Carty-Williams is out now, published in paperback by Knights Of and available on Audible.
You Might Also Like