Monthly Archives: August 2012

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Arabesque by Colin Mulhern

ar·a·besque [ar-uh-besk]


2. a pose in ballet in which the dancer stands on one leg with one arm extended in front and the other leg and arm extended behind.

Be the best.

Gymnast. Friend. Thief?

Amy May is the best at everything she does.

But how do you know you’re really the best until you’re tested? Until you are pushed to the limit?

A botched kidnapping drags Amy and her best friend into the depths of a criminal underworld, a world where the players think with bulelts and blackmail. Where they will stop at nothing to get what they want.

And what they want only Amy May can provide.


So anyway I was at the Lighting the Future YLG/SLG/SLA Conference in June and on the Sunday I popped along to the Catnip/Bounce exhibitor table to say hello to the lovely Non from Catnip who I see far less than I ought as she is great fun to chat to and is a lovely human being ™.

When I got there we aid hello and she said:”I have a book for you!” Now I like it when people say that because it generally means I am going to get a book. Then she said “It is Colin Mulhern’s new title, Arabesque!”

At that point a thrill went through me, because a) Colin is a nice guy and the one time I met him he was super-awesome and b) Clash was a mind-blowingly brilliant book.

Non told me she loved Arabesque, she thought it was excellent and that everyone that had read it had gotten really excited about it and that it is the kind of novel that needs a film to be made of it as it is cinematic in scope.

Well Non was WRONG! No – not about its excellence, but about the fact that it should be made into a film. Arabesque would make a good television mini-series – of the HBO variety even though the novel contains no swearing – seriously I did not even notice the lack of profanity until Non mentioned it when w were chatting and it is not even missed. Although set over a relatively short time-span Arabesque contains more action, terror, thrills and twists than a novel twice its’ size!

I will just say


Abductions, Murder, Cat burglary, Crime, Twists, Shocks, Thrills and more!

Amy May and Mia are two brilliant characters – Amy has been raised to be an alpha-extrovert and the best in everything that she does, Mia her best friend is content to be in her shadow, as sparring partner and confidant. It is when they are in the grips of the criminals that the story shines, Amy is introduced to the glam side of crime – the bits we see in the movies the high life, wealth, champagne in an attempt to woo her to join the criminal enterprise. Mia gets the stick – she is used to pressure Amy and sees the true face of crime – the poverty and abuse that enables the gang leaders to profit.

Seriously – read this book it is good! It is better than good, my eyes were glued to the page and the ending… I will say nothing about the ending except:

What the hell? Dude that was unexpected!

Arabesque is a powerful thriller, gripping and intense it did not disappoint me it could not have ended any other way (but i can’t believe you left me hanging like that!)

Like all excellent stories it left me wanting more!

Thank you!

Arabesque is published in September by Catnip Publishing

Teen Librarian Monthly: August 2012

The August edition of Teen Librarian Monthly is now available to download: tlmaugust2012

Featuring Library Olympics, The Skipton Songwriters, the return of the ReCon and an interview with S.A. Partridge.

Get it now!

YA in SA: the Author Interviews: Jayne Bauling

1. Hi Jayne, as has been customary in my YAinSA author interviews to date, I ask all the authors I have spoken to to introduce themselves to the audience and I am hoping that you will do the same!

Thanks, Matt, and thanks to Louis Greenberg for suggesting me for your YA in SA series. I’m a full-time writer and have been living in White River in the Mpumalanga lowveld for the last few years, following a move from my home city of Johannesburg.

2. You had close to 20 adult novels published before you started writing YA fiction, why did you choose to write for a younger age range?

The type of adult novels I was writing – romance – can become repetitive. Romance was never meant to be the whole story anyway, but it became a bit of a comfort zone, difficult to get out of. The move from Johannesburg turned out to be conducive to all sorts of other changes, and I started exploring new writing directions. The YA began almost as an impulse – I wondered if it was something I could do, and decided to give it a try. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed writing about teen characters and their issues.

3. Looking at the awards you have won it looks like it was a good decision – E Eights won the 2009 Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa, Stepping Solo was awarded the 2011 Maskew Miller Longman literature award for novels in English and you have had novels short-listed for the golden Baobab and the Sanlam Prizes. Does being an award-winning YA author put you under pressure to produce or can you ignore the pressure and just write?
The awards have their upside in boosting my confidence as a writer. The downside is a degree of anxiety about whether I can continue to get it right, but I try to ignore that and just get on with the next book, because once I get into the writing I forget the anxiety – at least until it’s time to submit!

4. Your short story Dineo 658 MP won the Maskew Miller Longman Silver Medal in 2009, do you think that short stories for YA readers are well-received or should they be given more exposure?

I think that with greater exposure, they’d be highly popular. Young adults’ lives are hectic, so dipping into a collection of short stories, whether in print or online, when time permits might be preferable to reading a full-length novel for some. It’s difficult to get YA short fiction placed. Another South African YA author and I have tentatively discussed an anthology featuring short stories from southern or possibly all African countries.

5. Do you still write for the adult readers or do you focus exclusively on the YA market?

At present, the only fiction I’m writing for adults is short stories, but that could change.

6. I see that you are also a poet, have you had any poetic works published as yet?

So far I’ve only had poetry published in print and online literary journals, and in three of the annual Breaking the Silence anthologies brought out by People Opposing Women Abuse.


7. What is your favourite part of the writing process?

I love it when I reach the stage of being truly immersed in the first draft of a novel – when my characters start surprising me, and things happen that I haven’t planned.

8. What do you think about the state of YA publishing in South Africa?

I think it’s increasingly exciting. There are more and more successful YA authors out there, and it’s a wonderfully supportive community.

9. Have you had much feedback from teen readers? What have their thoughts been about your writing?

Feedback has been good. The readers seem to appreciate that I keep my characters’ personal stories absolutely central even if I’m writing about the contemporary social issues affecting young people.

10. Do you ever visit schools or libraries in South Africa and have you considered Skype for international virtual visits and if you answer yes to either of those questions what is the best way to get into contact with you to arrange visits?

I enjoy the interaction I have with teens at a local school and would love to do school visits further afield. I have in fact just recently learned that I will be asked to do some, possibly early next year. People can contact me via Facebook or Twitter @JayneBauling, through my various publishers or by email to jayne_mb(at)

11. Are you currently working on anything new or do you have anything planned for the near future?

The next YA novel is at the research stage, but because I believe in writing every day, I’m also busy with a few adult short stories.

YA in SA: YA Lit as Protest, Self-Study and Civil Participation

I was a teenager less than a decade ago so I can’t really say when the shift happened. The paradigm shift that moved the ground beneath us, creating a gulf between my generation and every generation that came before it, making our social lives and our digital lives start to seem like the same thing. Facebook and Twitter only hit South African shores after I’d graduated from high school but the unprecedented penetration of mobile phones changed everything. In Africa, more people have access to mobile phones than to water – Google it.

I remember in eighth grade how my friends and I would ache for the clock to strike 8pm, signalling the start of offpeak call time. We never actually called each other, of course, but we texted as though we were possessed. A text became far cheaper to send after 8pm so on a teenager’s budget it made sense to wait it out until late to share the day’s gossip or flirt with a random boy. We rarely used our phones for anything profound or innovative. But then a new shift came: mobile technology started up an affair with Web 2.0 and some South African teenagers started doing something profound with their phones.

Thousands of them started to wait up until midnight, staring at tiny screens in crowded one-room low-cost housing and informal settlements. They weren’t waiting for cheap texts; they were waiting for cheap books.

South Africa has no shortage of great writers. For a relatively small, developing country, we have an incredible number of internationally acclaimed authors writing everything from hard-hitting investigative journalism to children’s picture books. What we unfortunately don’t have is an equally vibrant and diverse trade publishing industry. Books are prohibitively expensive for the majority of South Africans and usually cost more than a full day’s work at minimum wage. For these and other sad and well-known facts, the vast majority of our teens often don’t read anything beyond their textbooks.

This isn’t to say that they don’t want to though. Which is why FunDza Literary Trust, a non-profit reading promotion agency, is giving them what they want: cheap, easy accessible, quality YA lit. Through its mobi-site and its presence on South African mobile social networking platform MXit, FunDza has brought multilingual YA contemporary fiction, autobiographies, poetry, and even science fiction to local readers. Even better, they’re working with our abundant pool of writing talent to do it – serialising the works of award-winning writers like Tracey Farren, Cynthia Jele, Sarah Lotz and Lauri Kubuitsile so that it’s available on any mobile device, at any time.

Of course, the concept of mobile novels is nothing new – especially if you follow the literary scene in Japan and China. The difference is that in South Africa, reading YA is not just a fun pastime. In the proud tradition of all of our literature, it is also social activism, civil participation, education and, for many, it could be a ticket out of the vicious cycle of poverty. It is just as Dr Seuss said: “The more you read; the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.

South Africa is a big, messy, cultural hotpot; youthful and full of big dreams. Couple that with technological innovation and the immense talent and generosity of our local authors and you get a body of work capable of drawing in young readers from all over Africa and the world.

About Me
Bontle Senne is the Managing Director of the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation (@pukubooks): an organisation trying to bridge the literary and digital divide for Southern African children and young adults. She is 24 and lives in Johannesburg.

YA in SA: the Author Interviews: Lily Herne

Daughter & mother writing team Savannah and Sarah Lotz make up the authorial entity known as Lily Herne – author of Mall Rats a zombie apocalypse YA series set in Cape Town.

1. Would you like to introduce yourselves and the Mall Rats series for those that have not been fortunate enough to discover the excellent Deadlands or Death of a Saint. (I have not yet read DoaS yet but will hunt it down this week)

We’re going to be lazy and steal ace book reviewer and blogger Lauren Smith’s (aka Violin in a Void) summation of the series, as we love it!: Mall Rats is a post-apocalyptic YA zombie series set a decade after the infection hit South Africa during the 2010 World Cup. It follows a group of kick-ass teen rebels who fight against both the zombies and the corrupt government that worships the undead in a twisted theology of resurrection. Deadlands is set in Cape Town, while Death of a Saint explores the rest of SA.

Sarah: I live in Cape Town with a motley crew of rescue animals and as I write full-time from home, I spend the majority of my days dressed in pyjamas and drinking way too much coffee. Even though I’m forty-one, I love anything zombie-related (I haven’t grown up).

I’m about to start my third year of my screenwriting course at the University of East Anglia. In my spare time I’m a closet gamer.

2. Lily Herne is an excellent name, what inspired you to use a pen name for the series?

The general consensus is that unless you’re super-famous, readers can be put off by dual-author names on novels. Plus, we both write other, vastly different work under our own names.

3. Did the two of you have any problems when it came to writing together?

Sarah: Not really. We’re too laidback to bicker, although there was a little spat when Savannah insisted on including a baby hyena in Death of a Saint. Animals can be tricky to write. She got her own way in the end (she usually does). Sav tends to come back to SA during her university holidays in order to write with me, but if we need to write or plan anything when she’s in the UK then we work via Skype or email, which is easier than it sounds.

Savannah: The hardest part for me is not so much the writing but having to share a desk with my mum. She likes to mime out actions while writing so I’ve had my fair share of kicked shins and cold coffee spilt over me.

4. According to rumour, Deadlands is the first zombie novel set in South Africa, is this true?

As far as we know it is. (It’s up to readers to decide if this is a good thing or not though!)

5. I read in the Bookseller that the first two books in the series will be published in the UK in 2013, has the series been picked up anywhere else as yet?

Deadlands will also be coming out as an audio book in the UK and we have had other interest, but nothing signed and sealed yet. When we received the news that Corsair had made an offer for the books we almost exploded with excitement. It’s a huge honour to be picked up by such a respected publisher.

6. Sarah you have written as yourself (Pompidou Posse, Exhibit A & Tooth and Nailed), as half of the horror writing team S.L. Grey (The Mall & The Ward) and now you are also part of Lily Herne, have you ever been confused as to who you are writing as when you set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) or are you able to keep the writing personalities separate?

Haha – no, I’ve never been confused (at least not in that way!) as the solo novels, the S.L Grey books and the Lily Herne collaboration are all so different. I’m fortunate enough to be able to write full-time and I prefer to work on two projects at once. I’m not sure why, I think I must be slightly schizophrenic.

7. What is your favourite part of the writing process?

Sarah: I love the planning and plotting stage of a new book. Starting a new work is simultaneously scary and exhilarating as I really get a kick out of discussing character motivations, plot ideas, settings etc. I can blather on for hours about the tiniest detail, which drives Savannah and my co-writer on the S.L. Grey novels, Louis Greenberg, crazy. After that, I enjoy the actual writing. My stories and novels never turn out as I initially think they will, so the process is always surprising and never dull.

Savannah: I really enjoy the first few weeks after the plotting process. Just before the panic of meeting our deadlines sets in, our plots always take surprising turns and we can end up staying up most of the night trying to work out new twists. There is a certain amount of adrenaline involved during the week before a deadline, which I get a weird kick out of.

8. The SA YA writing pool seems to be incredibly small, can you recommend other SA authors that you enjoy reading? (I currently have you, S.A. Partridge, Cat Hellisen and Michael Williams as well as Liz Davis from Namibia)

The excellent Sally (Partridge) nailed this one in her interview with you – and we second all her recommendations: Lauri Kubitsile is incredibly talented, versatile and prolific; Cat Hellisen’s When the Sea is Rising Red is a phenomenal novel, we adore Edyth Bulbring’s hilarious Melly novels and we couldn’t put Adeline Radloff’s Sidekick or Alex Smith’s Agency Blue down. One to look out for next year is Charlie Human’s soon-to-be internationally published Apocalypse Now Now, a stunning, scathingly witty debut (it’s not strictly YA although it does have a teen protagonist).

9. What can we expect from Lily Herne after The Mall Rats series comes to an end?

We are currently discussing which of our ideas we want to write next – it will probably be a creepy spec novel called The Way Station, but we can’t say too much about it in case we change our minds!

You can find Lily Herne on Twitter:

and on facebook:

After by Morris Gleitzman

Once, Then, Now and finally After…

the Nazis took my parents I was scared

they killed my best friend I was angry

they ruined my thirteenth birthday I was determined

To get to the forest

To join forces with Gabriek and Yuli

To be a family

To defeat the Nazis after all

After is the fourth book about Felix, but chronologically it is the third in his story falling between Then and Now. Set in the dying months of the Second World War it continues Felix’s story as a refugee and a partisan but always a survivor…

This book has affected me emotionally more than any book I have read in recently, sure there have been books that made me well up a bit here and there but After is different. It is a work of fiction but one that addresses real events, things that happened that are still within living memory. I have met and spoken to Survivors from the Holocaust and I think that this my be part of the reason that After moved me so much.

After finishing the book I did not think that I would be able to write a review, but here it is. Morris Gleitzman has captured the voice of a 13 year old living through the most horrific of times and by rights this book should be grim, sad and depressing.

Sad it is, grim – in laces definitely but it is leavened by Felix’s youthful exuberance and desires for a normal life, a family, wondering if Gabriek wants a son or Yuli a family. The characters are real, from partisans who hate Jews but hate Nazis just a little bit more to children who are forced into lievs their parents choose for them and moving beyond bigotry and trying to be more humane.

After made me sad and happy, after I finished reading it I walked around with a heavy feeling in my chest, it did more than mess with my emotions – it moved me and I hope that I never lose this feeling!

After is a book about life, loss, acceptance and finally hope.

WIN One of three copies of After by Morris Gleitzman, name the four books in order in the comments field, the competition will run until the 15th August.

Bad Tuesdays: The Benjamin J. Myers Interview

1. When I started reading Twisted Symmetry my first thought in the opening pages was that it was similar to The Borribles by Michael de Larrabeiti, then I carried on reading and discovered that it actually wasn’t (apart from a tribe of feral street children that is) – what influenced you in the writing of The Bad Tuesdays epic?

I love reading and I love reading imaginative fiction, but without doubt, the greatest influence upon the writing of The Bad Tuesdays has been film. I wanted to capture the thrill, the mystery and the menace of some of my favourite films; films which made me see the imaginative genre differently after I’d watched them: films like Alien, Blade Runner and The Matrix. Other influences include comic book art – rendering the impact of that into words is a challenge but it’s a challenge I’ve enjoyed trying to meet. And then there’s music. I don’t just hear the music, I see pictures. These pictures, whole scenes in fact, from Bach to Motörhead, the Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers have found their way into the books.

2. Science fiction scenes aside, is there any part of the story that is based on your personal experiences?

I work as a barrister, specializing in serious crime. Before that I was an army officer. I suppose it’s no surprise that there is some military activity in the books, and a fair number of criminals. Personal experiences must leak through into the writing, although I didn’t set out to base any particular part of the story on specific experience. ‘Write from experience’ is what budding writers are always told and that must be true, although the experience doesn’t have to be dramatic for the writing to be good. It’s the sense of reality behind the fiction, even the most imaginatively outlandish fiction, which makes the writing shine. That is particularly important when it comes to characters. Chess and her brothers, Box and Splinter owe a lot to my experience of young people who have lived through horrendous personal experiences of their own.

3. In my minds eye I pictured London as the city in the story, then I realised that it was not explicitly named – did you have a specific city in mind when you wrote the story or is it left to the reader to decide?

The city isn’t meant to be London, although in places it feels like London. But it also includes elements of Manchester, Rome, Bolton, Stoke-on-Trent and Delhi – and a huge dose of imagination. Ultimately, the reader can decide where they want it to be, if they want it to be anywhere in particular at all.

4. One of the passages that stuck in my mind was that “children are not liked and only sometimes by their parents” that is not an exact phrasing as I do not have the book to hand but did you make the main characters street children to make readers more aware of their plight as feral kids do not get a lot of positive press or empathy and are often figures of hate and fear.

This is a great question. Thank you for asking it! I made Chess, Box and Splinter street children for various reasons. First, I wanted the chief characters to start from a position that was disadvantaged in every way – which makes the threats and challenges they face the more overwhelming (these are young people who start with nothing and have to take on everything). Next, I wanted to show that people who some might dismiss as human rubbish are capable of terrific feats. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Finally, as you suggest, I wanted to give the leading roles to the sort of children who don’t usually get them. One of the surprising consequences for me has been the mixed reactions to these characters. Some readers and reviewers have had a real issue with the type of young people that Chess, Box and Splinter are. I suppose that in some quarters there is a set idea of what fictional young people’s characters should be. If that is so, Chess, Box and Splinter do not make cosy reading.

5. Why do you think that young people are generally viewed in a negative light?

I don’t think young people are viewed inevitably in a negative light. Right now, look at how we admire our Olympic athletes, many of whom are fairly young and were even younger when they committed to their goals. And work that young people do for charity has a particular attraction to the media. The energy and openness of young people is highly attractive. But young people can be frightening to older people, because they don’t always follow the rules that adult society depends upon. Also, because their social groupings tend to be broader and less discriminating than adult groupings, en masse they may appear threatening. However, it’s difficult to identify bad things that young people do that adults don’t – the offence seems to be in being young and doing it. I think there’s a belief that young people should be as malleable and well behaved as small children because we haven’t yet made them adults. When they fail to conform to this, the reaction is highly critical. But that’s our fault for inventing an ever-broadening middle ground between childhood and adulthood. How can someone be expected to be child and an adult at the same time?

6. Do you ever read the works of other YA authors? If yes, who can you recommend?

When I was a YA I read loads of YA authors. I read less YA fiction now, although my (teenage) children read lots, so I keep up to date. In particular, I like Cliff McNish and Philip Reeve and I’d recommend them both.

7. With The Spiral Horizon being the last book in the Bad Tuesdays series do you have any further tales in mind for the Tuesday siblings?

Chess, Box and Splinter have been on an enormous journey and with The Spiral Horizon, they reach its end in their own ways. But possibilities for further tales exist for some of the other characters. One day I’d like to write the back story, which exists already in detail. Elements of it surface during The Bad Tuesdays sequence. However, in my mind, this might not be suited to a YA format.

8. Do you have any new stories coming out in the near future?

I’m planning a new story now (when I’m not lawyering). I’d like to think it would come out in the near future.

9. What more do you think can be done to help children that live rough in the UK (and even abroad)?

This is a massive question and not one I could answer swiftly, if I could answer it at all. It touches on issues of social justice, exclusion, parenting and economics. The problems of children living rough in the UK are not always the same as those for street children in other countries. So far as the UK is concerned, I think that as a starting point, it is important to understand that children living rough would not chose to live that way if they believed they had a secure and safe alternative, and they knew how to reach it. Since most of them are not in a position to get to help themselves, help has to get to them, and does so via many of the outreach organizations and projects that already exist. Understanding that street children would prefer not to be living on the streets, and being ready to support those organizations that try to help them is something that most of us can do. If more people did that, the benefit to children living rough in the UK would be enormous.


all six books in the Bad Tuesdays series! To enter the draw just name all six books in order from 1 to 6 in the comments field. The competition will run until the 15th August!

YA in SA: Interview with Cat Hellisen

Credit Nerine and Thomas Dorman

1. Hi Cat, until Joe at Something Wicked suggested you I must admit that you had not popped up on my radar, would you care to introduce yourself to readers that may know your book but not you and for those that are meeting you (virtually) for the first time?

Hi Matt, thanks for getting hold of me (and thanks Joe for the props). I live in Muizenberg, which is a village-by-the-sea inside a bigger village by the sea, basically. I grew up in Cape Town and Johannesburg, so while I write secondary world fantasy, being South African definitely influences my writing. I’m a huge music fan, and occasionally I like to torture my family and animals by playing the ukulele at them.

2. When the Sea is Rising Red your first novel is a fantasy laced with magic, vampires, young love, rebellion and a steep divide between the rich and poor. Have you always been a fan of fantasy literature?

Very much so. My earliest reading memories are of being engrossed in my Story Tellers, which were a series of tapes and magazines with stories that ranged from traditional fairy tales to poetry and various other weird and wonderful things. I think a lot of children’s literature is perfectly okay with the fantastical, and it’s only when we venture into the adult section that the battle lines are more clearly drawn. These days I’m very easily bored by a lot of fantasy. I like stuff that plays with tropes, or language, or brings new ideas to the genre.

3. Do you think that inserting social issues into novels (addressing social issues and the divides between rich and poor) helps readers identify more closely with the characters?

I have no idea. I think that in paranormal and fantasy YA there’s been a trend to make the main characters as one-dimensional and non-threatening as possible, perhaps to make it easier for readers to slip themselves into the story – the character is nothing more than a place holder. I find that insulting to most readers and I don’t enjoy books like that. I prefer stories that give me characters with meat and bones and flaws and failures – something that contemporary YA currently seems to do better. Social issues are perhaps a part of filling out the dimensions of character, but not if they feel tacked on or extraneous to the story.

Some of my favourite recent YA has done interesting things with character and society: Chime – Franny Billingsley; Slice of Cherry – Dia Reeves; Shadows Cast By Stars – Catherine Knutsson, and Above – Leah Bobet.

I can’t speak for how anyone else writes, but for myself I like to write characters who feel real, and that sometimes means not entirely likeable.

4. Who were your favourite writers when you were a YA reader (and were you a reader as a teen)?

I read voraciously as a teen, but mostly from the adult section. It’s only now as an adult I find myself reading more YA. Probably because a lot of what used to get shelved as fantasy or urban fantasy is being marketed towards teens now, and possibly because there’s simply more variety in teen-lit these days. My favourite authors as a teen were David Gemmel, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Diana Wynne Jones and Gene Wolfe.

5. When the Sea is Rising Red was published in New York by Farrar Straus Giroux (a Macmillan imprint) – how did you bypass local publishers and end up with an international deal?

When I first began querying my (unpublished) novels, there were no publishers in South Africa (and I think it’s still the case) who dealt with fantasy. It wasn’t so much that I bypassed them as I had to look overseas to find an agent and a publisher. I spent a lot of time hanging around on the Absolute Write forums, where I learned a great deal from publishing people who are way smarter and more experienced than me, and then I began querying. And carried on. And carried on. And kept writing. (A good thing because those early books are too awful to contemplate.)

6. Do you ever visit schools or libraries in South Africa and have you considered Skype visits for international virtual visits and if you answer yes to either of those questions what is the best way to get into contact with you to arrange visits?

I haven’t visited any schools. I’m weirded out by the idea because I don’t really know what I could possibly say that isn’t some variation of – “the info is out there, learn, and prepare to grit your teeth and keep going in the face of failure.” I believe I’m supposed to be doing some virtual book tour thing in the near future along with some fantastic YA writers, but details are a little hazy at this point.

7. What influenced your decision to write for teen readers?

I don’t really think I write for teen readers specifically, more that I wrote a book that could be marketed towards the YA audience. I write what I like to read, and then it gets labelled to sell. Hah, that sounds horribly cynical, but really, I just write stories, I don’t usually have a particular audience in mind.

8. What is your favourite part of the writing process?

When I read something months later, and am pleasantly surprised by the bits I enjoy.

9. The SA YA writing pool seems to be incredibly small, can you recommend other SA authors that you enjoy reading? (I currently have you, S.A. Partridge, Lily Herne and Michael Williams as well as Liz Davis from Namibia)

S.A. Partridge is much better at this than I am. Heh. Most of the YA writers here concentrate on contemporary, and I’m mainly a fantasy reader. I’m sure that there are fantasy YA writers out there in SA, I just don’t think I know of any off-hand. Sadly.

10. Are you currently working on anything new or do you have anything planned for the near future?

I’ve a couple of books on sub to editors at the moment; a scary enough thing in itself. To distract me from that I’m working on a very dark little children’s book and another story.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions

It was my pleasure 😀 Thanks for inviting me to be a part of your YA in SA series.

You can find Cat online at her website

or on Twitter at

School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari

Madeleine Masterton is deathly afraid of bugs.

Theodore Bartholomew is petrified of dying.

Lulu Punchalower is scared of confined spaces.

Garrison Feldman is terrified of deep water.

Which is why this will be the scariest summer of their lives.

The foursome must face their phobias head-on at the exclusive and elusive School of Fear.

There’s no homework and no exams. But if they don’t conquer their fears by the end of the course, they’ll find out just how frightening failing can be.

The first rule of The School of Fear is that you don’t talk about the School of Fear, the second rule is that once you are in you are in! No calling home, no contact with the outside world and the only way out is if you conquer your phobias or break the rules and then you have to confront the dreaded Munchauser & Son Law Firm.

Part of me wishes the School of Fear actually existed as there are several kids I work with who are very similar to the main characters, although only one has a severe enough phobia to be admitted to the school (antidaephobia).

Phobias aside the protagonists would not be out of place in a John Hughes movie, there is the nerd, the jock, the beauty queen and the annoying one. Instead of being stuck in detention they have been sent to an isolated school in the middle of nowhere to be cured of their phobias, no joyful summer for them, they are stuck with Mrs Wellington the possibly insane headmistress with an obsession with beauty pageants, Mr Schmidtey the decrepit handyman and Macaroni the dog, still in mourning for his companion Cheese. Then there is Mr Munchauser the fearsome lawyer and a mysterious figure who lurks in the woods.

The introduction to the main characters was hilarious, never have phobias been quite so funny, dealing with phobias is a serious issue but Gitty Daneshvari imbues it with humour that made me laugh, even as I sympathised with the protagonists. The teens are all portrayed relatively realistically with all the quirks and foibles that one can expect from teens.

Broken up into 23 chapters each one starting with a different phobia I was educated as I read, I had no idea where the story was leading up until the final few chapters when everything meshed together.

School of Fear is a solid, entertaining read for tween and middle grade readers!