Monthly Archives: September 2012

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A Helpful Guide to Using the Library

You feel a moment of fear as you step through the door; you enter a place that you may never have been in before. 

The walls are covered with shelves; the shelves are filled with portals to distant worlds, galaxies of Maths, the worlds of poets and dreamers long dead or newly minted.  Gateways to History, Geography, the Arts and Sciences.

You know there is order here, but to your eye it seems like chaos, the books all look the same, you see strange numbers adorning their spines.  You have forgotten what you want, you start to panic and want to run screaming from this terrifying place!

WAIT!  Do not despair! You are not alone! For there is a master of this perplexing place; known as a Librarian he is, guardian, gatekeeper and enabler to those seeking knowledge.

The Librarian sits at his desk, typing furiously on his computer. You approach with trepidation because he looks busy, a look of abstract concentration on his face.

You cough nervously; he stops and looks up “Hello!” he says brightly “How may I help you?”

“I am looking for a book!” you say, “If you are busy I can come back later?”

“I am never too busy to help someone find a book!” he exclaims. “For I am here to help all seekers of knowledge or books for enjoyment!”

“Now what book are you looking for?”

“I am not sure, it is red and is about vampires”

“I see. Is it fiction or non-fiction?”

“What is the difference?”

“Well non-fiction books contain information about real things, people, events and places while fiction books contain stories that have been made up.”

“Oh. Ok then it is fiction.”

“Can you tell me anything else about the book?”

“Well it is based in a school…”

“Ah then you are probably looking for Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead!”

“How can I find it?”

“Well fiction books are sorted alphabetically by the author’s surname, in this case Mead, so the first three letters of her surname are used ‘MEA’ which you will find in the M section.”

“Where is that then?”

“Let me show you!”

He leads you into the shelves where books you have never seen before seem to watch you as you pass. You shake off the feeling of unease and follow the Librarian down the dark oaken shelves.

“Here it is!”

You look at the book in his hands, it is red and the title is Vampire Academy

“Oh wow it is that book and there are more by the same author; that is amazing!  I did not know it was so easy!  Is the non-fiction section the same?”

“Well non-fiction is only slightly more complicated, the books are sorted by subject using an alpha-numeric system called the Dewey Decimal Classification System.”

“What does alpha-numeric mean?”

“Well, it means that it is a system that uses letters and numbers.”

“How do I work that out?”

“Instead of just having he authors surname on the spine of the book, you can also see numbers that correspond with the subject, if you look at the poster up around the library they will tell you the 10 sections that the non-fiction section is divided into, but if you get stuck you can always ask the LIBRARIAN!”

In a blur he is gone, and you are left standing there on the floor of the Library wondering what had happened.  Only the books in your hands are proof that it was not a dream.

You walk towards the Library door, happy in the knowledge that if you get stuck or do not know where to find the answers that you need all you have to do is ask a Librarian.

Just as you are about to leave a voice from the desk says “You do know that you need to check those books out on your Library Card!”

You turn and say: “But I do not know how to get a Library Card!”


Lil Chase: My Life as an Author (and other clichés)

Cliché no 1: I have always been a writer.

I’ve always told stories; either written down or round the dinner table. At the age of 8 I bought a blank exercise book with the Muppet Babies on the front and decided I wanted to fill it from cover to cover. It was a tough challenge for an 8 year old, and I ripped a few pages out so that filling the book would be easier. But in my head, it looked like a proper novel. (See how I laminated it with selotape?) That’s where my dream to become a published author started.

Cliché no 2: Write a gangster movie

Ask any film studies teacher and they’ll tell you that most first year students want to make a gangster movie. I was no different. Aged 21 I wrote a gangster film about an Australian barman working in England who gets mixed with some East London baddies and a big fat diamond. Essentially I had seen Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and wanted to make something similar. And similar is what I made; derivative, one-dimensional characters, but with moments of originality and sparkle. Which leads me on to my next cliché…

Cliché no 3: Write what you know

I know nothing of East London gangsters, but those mean girls in high school, I do know about. Weirdly, there’s a lot in common with gangster mobs and high school cliques – head bosses/queen bees, all-important reputations, codes of Omerta (I wrote about this subject last year for A Dream of Books ). My latest book – Secrets, Lies & Locker 62 – is about a locked locker where every pupil posts their deep dark secrets, and the girl – Maya – who gets to read them. Okay, so I’ve never found a locker stuffed full of a million pieces of paper with a million secrets and lies written on them. But Maya uses the secrets to get in with the cool people, and she loses sight of herself. The desperate desire to be in the popular crowd was something I experienced myself.
Cliché no 4: Come back to your first love

My first book – Boys For Beginners – was based on another one of my first efforts into writing. Gwynnie Goes Girlie was a story I wrote when I was 10 or 11, about a tomboy who tries to become a girlie girl to impress the new boy at school. Twenty years later I told my agent about the idea and she liked it. I dug out that original manuscript from my parents’ attic and rewrote it… but only a little. So many of the story elements – the Belly Button Club, Gwynnie’s best friend Paul, her widower father – all came from the pencil written first draft. I came back to what I loved, and the childhood wish I had to be a published author was finally fulfilled.

My writing life story is pretty ordinary one: with a little skill, a lot of hard work, and keeping adaptable enough to seize opportunities when they arise, my dream came true. Does that make my tale boring? I hope not. I hope it’s inspiring.

So, my final cliché: Never give up

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum!

If you do nothing for TLAP Day you should get a group together and sing a shanty! Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum is a perfect one, it even has literary links as it is based on the song from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and sung by Long John Silver.

Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

The mate was fixed by the bosun’s pike
The bosun brained with a marlinspike
And cookey’s throat was marked belike
It had been gripped by fingers ten;
And there they lay, all good dead men
Like break o’day in a boozing ken
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Fifteen men of the whole ship’s list
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

Dead and be damned and the rest gone whist!
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

The skipper lay with his nob in gore
Where the scullion’s axe his cheek had shore
And the scullion he was stabbed times four
And there they lay, and the soggy skies
Dripped down in up-staring eyes
In murk sunset and foul sunrise
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Fifteen men of ’em stiff and stark
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

Ten of the crew had the murder mark!
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

‘Twas a cutlass swipe or an ounce of lead
Or a yawing hole in a battered head
And the scuppers’ glut with a rotting red
And there they lay, aye, damn my eyes
Looking up at paradise
All souls bound just contrawise
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Fifteen men of ’em good and true
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!
Ev’ry man jack could ha’ sailed with Old Pew,
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

There was chest on chest of Spanish gold
With a ton of plate in the middle hold
And the cabins riot of stuff untold,
And they lay there that took the plum
With sightless glare and their lips struck dumb
While we shared all by the rule of thumb,
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

More was seen through a sternlight screen…
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Chartings undoubt where a woman had been
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

‘Twas a flimsy shift on a bunker cot
With a dirk slit sheer through the bosom spot
And the lace stiff dry in a purplish blot
Oh was she wench or some shudderin’ maid
That dared the knife and took the blade
By God! she had stuff for a plucky jade
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.
We wrapped ’em all in a mains’l tight
With twice ten turns of a hawser’s bight
And we heaved ’em over and out of sight,
With a Yo-Heave-Ho! and a fare-you-well
And a sudden plunge in the sullen swell
Ten fathoms deep on the road to hell,
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

YA in SA: YA Library Services in Cape Town, South Africa – a guest post by Rudi Wicomb

Bless Matthew’s soul. The dude (an allowable word if you live near the sea – I do.) totally came out of left field when he mailed me and asked me to contribute to his blog. (Which I hope my superiors never ever read or else I might be subjected to the Managerial Finger Twinge. See my blog for what that means. Plug)

He asked me to list what we’re doing in teen services in our libraries in Cape Town, South Africa. Also, to discuss the services in our libraries and to mention anything in particular I have done in my library (in Cape Town, South Africa).

I think my initial response to curl up into a foetal position and stay there until he went back home was probably the best and least painful response. But then, I wouldn’t be a Public Librarian in Cape Town, South Africa, if a little pain was going to be the issue. And although he doesn’t know it, he’s the one who set me on the path to Comic Books and YA ‘stuff’ evangelism. (Stuff here being a technical term that I use interchangeably to make me seem more intelligent. So far, I don’t think it has worked, but it’ll do in pinch). So I, in the total dude sense of the word, owe him. (I still use his method of preparing Graphic Novels for circulation).

So, what happens from here on can thus be firmly blamed on Matthew. What I hoped was a short little paragraph, turned into something *shudder* anecdotal and slightly personal even. I couldn’t tell you about my experiences with YA “stuff” if I didn’t give you a little bit of background first about me, the Public Library Service in Cape Town and finally, elves bearing gifts.

And it all started with comics and Graphic Novels….

Comics get old-school librarians’ backs up. (Think of every horror movie you’ve seen where the plucky heroine/hero sees the big bad in all its horrible glory, now times 10.) As a reader of Comics and lover of the Comic book medium I couldn’t let that stand.

So, with the fortitude of a young librarian who has not been broken by too much shelving and my trusty power point presentation, I decided to change some minds by presenting a fair, unbiased view of comics to librarians in Cape Town. The emphasis being that there is NO downside to stocking four colour pages of pure unadulterated joy (be they Marvel, DC, Batman, Superman or even Sandman) in their respective libraries.

It worked!

The biggest public library in Cape Town asked me for selection criteria and a list of recommended Graphic Novels for their shelves. It was a vindication for me on many levels which was only eclipsed by the findings of a Canadian educational and psychological study 3 years ago, that stated quite simply: Comics were good for you. Period.

(The YA ‘stuff’ comes in about now. Thank you for bearing with me.)

The perfect demographic for comics in public libraries are teens.

That’s what I told my librarian colleagues and that’s what I believe (and all the scientists and educators agreeing is just gravy). The plan was to get teens excited about reading and keeping them at the library week after week, to grab Comics. Then, when the opportunity presented itself, to slip in a YA novel and hope like hell I didn’t undo this well nurtured enthusiasm.

The plan played out in my library without an issue.

I convinced my boss that it was absolutely crucial, to the point of the world ending, that we needed the teen section front and centre, so it’s the first thing you see when you look towards the English fiction section. She needed little arm twisting when I asked for regular buys of YA books.

And then I did the unthinkable.

I started talking to THEM, and I asked the staff to do the same.

If you want to court controversy, ask a public librarian to hold up the queue to ask a teenager if they really want to take out that book as oppose to these three books in the same series, that might or might not be something they might like and then casually mention the Girl falls in love with a Vampire that wants to eat her.

At the time (and now still) this sort of one on one marketing helped despite no organisational mass marketing tools. Even though most times we received no visible reaction from teens at the desk, the lending stats on titles that we ‘pitched’ told a different story. Still, what we needed was a magic push to get bodies back through the door and short of teleporting a whole lot of teenagers against their will and giving them a ‘read this or die’ ultimatum, nothing could really provide that push we needed.

That all changed when a Mormon lady decided to write about a girl with a vampire and werewolf fetish.

Twilight. *sigh*

If you would ask any public librarian in Cape Town what the significance of Twilight was for our libraries, they would have said something along the lines of:

”It was just another popular fad book.” (Or, “junk”).

This is true. (Except for the junk part though).

It didn’t have the market awareness and GIGANTIC fandom that Harry Potter had but I believe it still left a lot of public librarians wrong footed because suddenly girls AND BOYS of the Teen persuasion were coming in with their parents. The unseen demographic suddenly got seen and YA sections in public libraries in Cape Town, tucked in their corners, out of sight (and out of mind), suddenly had a whole lot of bodies hanging around them looking for the this Twilight “nonsense”(or so-called “junk”).

What followed was:

Thoughtful customer orientated libraries (the good ones) bought the books in good numbers and supplied the hungry masses, while other libraries approached it from the “let’s wait and see” or “if we ignore them they’ll bugger off” approach (the bad ones). The exceptional libraries realised they had an opportunity and moved their YA sections into the light, bought similar titles, and new authors, marketed them (with home-made posters and an overabundance of glitter) and gained consistent numbers in the YA demographic.

This bore fruit when South African novel Spud by John van de Ruit crossed over from adult to teen reading. In libraries it rivalled Twilights’ circulation numbers. This was due to the word of mouth generated by YA readers, who were now all talking about the books they were reading. The YA demo was staying with intent to loiter and read.

What Twilight wrought, was a clear indication that YA readers and the Teen demographic, when mobilised by whatever they craved so intensely, could have wonderful positive effects on circulation as well as shape market trends. (The impact on literacy levels and comprehension levels was something no one tried to find out, but, I’d like to believe it was positive.) It also helped that they were vocal about what they wanted to read next, which in my library’s case was a clear call to meet demands to get the YA horde to stay.

Some libraries took that momentum and used it to cultivate a readership, but others let the tide ebb. YA readers not seeing the books they wanted, left. Or that’s what my colleagues believed. But they were in for a shock when the tide came back in with The Hunger Games. A handful of libraries stocked the book before a movie was even announced, promoted it and used it as carrot for keeping YA readers in the library. So when the wave hit (again), a demand could be met because the exceptional libraries have staff members dedicated to ensuring the YA section is stocked with appetising titles. Unfortunately, in even the exceptional libraries, this staff member usually has to shout very loudly to be given a fair hearing.
Sometimes, in public libraries popular can be a four letter word.

At present I believe we are at a tipping point in our public libraries.

The YA ‘stuff’ is not going away despite some of my colleagues’ best efforts to not care. The short sighted need to still believe in the “preservation of the library” against so called unworthy material is censorship, plain and simple.

Nothing exists in a vacuum. The deeper significance is ultimately not so deep: we keep pushing away a customer base in a time and place where we can’t afford to. Doing so, when all available data indicates that people are reading less, opting for alternative methods to get their bibliographic fix and buying fewer books due to high prices, is tantamount to negligence.

You see, the stuff of YA ‘stuff’ in Public Libraries in Cape Town, South Africa is one of potential that is for now unfulfilled. The why of it is particularly complex and terribly involved and would in effect require a full time study, 3 bags of ice, a best of Barry Manilow compilation and red bouncy ball. Since the budget is simply just not there at all, I have taken a stab at explaining the whole thing and have decided that the reasoning for the (non)state of YA services is in fact:

Reasoning, the First.
What the Public Libraries lack in Cape Town is an effective marketing tool/methodology/magic wand to market the material that sits on our shelves. The drive gets channelled to other pursuits that are equally worthy: reading, comprehension and basic literacy but effective marketing would have a positive effect on those initiatives as well. (And the City’s Public Libraries footprint on social media is about the size of an ant’s indentations across a block of butter. But I can’t say more: Managerial finger twinge.)
The skill (be it technological, biological or mineral) to take a book, track its market potential, communicate to users about its merits and allow users to comment and interact just isn’t there.
The thing is, we are good enablers of reading but what we are crappy sustainers.
What that means in not so indistinct terms, is that we’re reacting to what our patrons want and not being proactive.

The difference being: that 15 people will have to ask for 50 Shades as oppose to having it waiting when person number 1 walks in the door.

Reasoning the Second:

Imagine this sort of reactive behaviour applied to YA books/services and a demographic that at the best of times is tolerated in a Public Library/ies.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that NO YA books are bought for and by libraries.

Not at all.

What I am saying is that YA books in public libraries in Cape Town end up in libraries because;

  • a quota of the money for books needs to be spent.
  • not all the monies can go to study materials.
  • it made a bajilliion dollars and some pimply faced ‘person’ wants to read it.
  • a staff member recommended the book because it was good, well reviewed and would circulate knowing the demographic, circulate well.
  • If you wondering, the last reason is the one that public libraries in Cape Town should use to buy YA books.
    The hard realisation which I am trying to soften with all these snarky asides and failed attempt at humour is that YA services in Public Libraries in Cape Town, don’t exist.

    It’s a hard pill to swallow. The Library and Information Services Department’s specialised groups have been established along lines of Children’s and Adult Interest groups amongst our librarians. YA has a small representation in the children’s groups but not in any meaningful sense. These groups generate a lot of genre based content ranging from reading lists, all the way to developing basic marketing strategies but none seem to touch on the specifics issues or needs of the YA demographic.

    Instead, what we have is more like a movement that exists despite the uninterested that seems organisationally hardwired into the existing work structure. (Any more explanation about that and I’d be shot.) There’s a movement of public librarians within the Public Libraries in Cape Town, who not only keep in touch and recommend and talk about (lament) books, but also try to persuade, cajole, wheedle and just plain nag the Powers That Be to give a little ground about starting a YA interest group, developing better marketing tools and branding for libraries and its services, making eBooks available for cell phones and getting the Public Library “Institution” seen on Facebook, Twitter and Mxit. (Something the Local Authority wants to prevent with all their might).

    It’s not ideal, but grassroots movements have been known to foment great change, and we wouldn’t be public librarians, Cape Town – South Africa, if we didn’t think we could try.

    …and Elves bearing gifts: Just say no* .


    *Thank you Terry Pratchett. Just because.

    Rudi Wicomb is a South African Librarian based in Cape Town. You can find him blogging at or follow him on Twitter:

    19th September: International Talk Like a Pirate Day

    Ahoy mateys! Hoist the colours, splice the main-brace and raise the mizzen!

    Yes! International talk Like a Pirate Day is almost upon us again!

    Rather than rehash the suggestions I have made in previous years I thought why not take the musical route in your libraries in 2012. Piratical types have always enjoyed a bit of a sing-song as I discovered last year when I ran an impromptu shanty session in my library – teaching a group of year 7s,8s, 9s and two 6th formers how to sing Yo-ho-ho and a Bottle of Rum was brilliant! If I manage to do it again this year I will get a video and audio recording.

    If you are interested in the music and words you can see (and hear them) here:


    Then there is the Disney version (made famous by the ride in Disneyland and the movie Pirates of the Caribbean)


    There is also a version by amazing Steampunk band Abney Park


    Staying with Abney Park (and Pirates) they also have a track called Airship Pirates


    Steampunk has been growing in popularity over the past few years – I have been a fan before I knew there was Steampunk, it started when I was in my teens and started reading the works of James Blaylock and Tim Powers, then years (and years) later I came to the UK and was given a copy of Airborn by Kenneth Oppel – and it brought back my love of airships, pirates and sky-high action.

    I also love the Victorian era and the whole neoVictorian world that the Steampunk genre inhabits is something wonderful!

    Anyway this is supposed to be a post about International Talk like a Pirate Day – I will get back to Steampunk in another post.

    So Pirates!

    Did you know that there are only three real Pirate jokes?

    According to Cap’n Slappy that is…

    The biggest one is the one that ends with someone usin’ “Arrr” in the punchline. Oh, sure, thar be plenty o’ these, but they’re all the same damn joke.

  • “What’s the pirate movie rated? – Arrr!”
  • “What kind o’ socks does a pirate wear? – Arrrrgyle!”
  • “What’s the problem with the way a pirate speaks? – Arrrrticulation!”
  • …and so forth. Those jokes only work if people know their arrrrrs from their elbows!

  • The second joke is the one wear the pirate walks into the bar with a ships wheel attached to the front o’ his trousers. The bartender asks, “What the hell is that ships wheel for?” The pirate says, “I don’t know, but it’s drivin’ me nuts!”
  • And finally, a little boy is trick or treatin’ on Halloween by himself. He is dressed as a pirate. At one house, a friendly man asks him, “Where are your buccaneers?” The little boy responds, “On either side o’ me ‘buccan’ head!”

    Potential activities include

  • Creating a piratical joke-book;
  • Discussing movies featuring pirates;
  • Book discussions;
  • and on a serious note comparing the romanticised view of pirates versus their reality and the re-emergence of pirates of Somalia and other places.

    YA Piratical Novels:

  • Vampirates Justin Somper
  • Pirates Celia Rees
  • Blackbeard’s Pirates versus the Evil Mummies James Black
  • Treasure Island Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Curse of Captain LaFoote Eddie Jones
  • Airborn Kenneth Oppel

    Pirate Movies:

  • Cut Throat Island
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Treasure Island
  • Master and Commander: far Side of the World (not really pirates but amazing scenes of ship-based battle)
  • For more ideas and information of this most illustrious of holidays you can look here:

    International Talk Like a Pirate Day

    C.J. Redwine – the Defiance Interview

    Hi C.J. Welcome to the Teen Librarian Interview! Thank you for agreeing to participate.

    1. The first question I always ask of an author is to please introduce themselves for the audience (for those that may not know who you are)

    I’m C.J. Redwine, and I write fantasy adventure books for teens. I love lemon bars, my kids, going to the movies, and llamas. You can bribe me to do just about anything simply by promising me Johnny Depp.

    2. When I started reading I thought that Defiance was going to be a quest-based fantasy novel, but then it morphed into a post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure with anti-patriarchal/feminist overtones. How would you describe your novel?

    It morphed on me while I was writing it! I describe it as a post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure. But yes, it has a pinch of everything you mentioned.

    3. Some of the best science-fiction has had a strong feminist slant (The Handmaids Tale being one of the best known) was your work influenced by any other stories or authors?

    I’m very drawn to fantasy stories where the heroine is a) strong and capable, b) respected as an equal by the hero and c) isn’t dressed in a bra and high-heeled boots because let’s be honest—I love high-heeled boots as much as the next girl, but I’d break my neck in them if I tried to fight off an army. I wanted to write a story where I pushed the idea of keeping women in their place to an extreme and then provided an example of how protecting a girl by giving her the tools to protect herself and by respecting her intelligence and inner strength could up-end the entire system. My writing was inspired in bits and pieces by MANY other works I’ve read (shout out to Collins, Pierce, Carson, and Cashore to name a few).

    4. Another novel that I was reminded of although only tangentially was Lord of the Rings when the party entered Moria and it was mentioned that the Dwarves had delved too deeply and woken an ancient Terror – the Balrog, but your Cursed One is more dragon than demon. Is the Cursed One a thing of science or something other?

    The Cursed One is a Leviathon-like lizard, so he’s science instead of magic, but I am a LOTR girl from way back and I couldn’t resist the “they delved too deep” reference.

    5. Another of the themes I noticed in the book was that decisions led to consequences that were often quite unpleasant for the protagonists and their friends and loved ones. Often in stories I have read, authors shy away from explicitly showing the things that can result from the best of intentions, but not you -was this intentional?

    Very intentional. All actions have consequences, and sometimes the hardest part of doing the right thing is living with those consequences afterward. I believe in a truly epic story, the victory should cost almost as much as failure would. And I wanted to be realistic. Sometimes we make stupid choices for excellent reasons, and we can’t let that break us down forever. One of the journeys in this trilogy is understanding how to heal from the things that shatter us.

    6. I am hoping that Defiance will be followed by more tales in the world that you have created, with explorations of other city-states, the wasteland and enlarging on the history of the discovery of the Cursed One. Do you have an epic planned?

    This is a trilogy, so there will be two more books. We’ll get to explore a few of the other city-states, more of the secondary characters, and more of
    the history of the world.

    7. Were you a reader as a teen, and if you were what authors caught and fed your imagination?

    I’ve been a voracious reader since the second grade. As a teen, I read C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Terry Brooks, and every classic I could get my hands on.

    8. Do you ever visit schools and libraries either in person or via Skype? If yes what is the best way to get in touch with you about organising a visit?

    I do school visits locally, and am happy to work to set up a Skype visit. You can contact my publicist Caroline Sun at

    9. Apart from works based in the Defiance world do you have any other stories that you are working on?

    I do! I have a few things on the back burner of my brain right now. More speculative fiction (fantasy/post-apoc), a paranormal, and a fairy-tale retelling.

    Thank you for your time in answering these questions!

    YA in SA: Author Interview with Nic Bennett

    1. Hi Nic, welcome to the YA in SA interviews would you like to introduce yourself for the audience?
    Hi Matt. Yeah. Sure. I’m an Englishman abroad, living in South Africa. I spent most of my chlldhood in Africa, in Ghana, Nigeria, Botswana and Zimbabwe, and seven years ago I moved to Cape Town with my family. It was supposed to be for three years, but we’ve stayed. You meet a lot of people who came to South Africa twenty or thirty years ago for three years. It does that to you.

    2. Dead Cat Bounce is your first novel, what inspired you to write for the YA market?
    The idea came from the financial and economic crisis that kicked off in 2008 and is reverberating around the world at present. When I started the book, banks were failing, investors were bailing and financial markets were on a roller coaster ride to oblivion. Sad to say, I was enthralled and took a year off work to see if I could translate my grim excitement into the words of a novel. I knew that many others would be doing the same, so I decided to choose a different route and write my story for the generation who will pay the costs of this ‘Great Recession.’ Unemployment amongst 18-25 year olds is at record levels around the world, and the last time things were as bad as this, the Great Depression of the 1930s, it only ended with the Second World War. It’s a big one.

    3. Why did you decide on setting a YA thriller in the world of international high finance?
    Partly because nobody has tried to do it before. It’s a new world in which to set a YA thriller. On the face of it finance is arcane and dull. But once you get into the people and the emotions that drive it, you find a high-octane mix of the seven deadly sins, and more. A bank’s trading floor is a lot like school. There are the bullies and the nerds; the heroes and the hipsters; the jokers and idiots. It’s full of nicknames and pranks; arguments and fights; success and failure. The difference is that on a trading floor, only one thing matters: MONEY. Who can make the most MONEY. And where there’s money there is fear and greed; deceit and vanity; lust and envy; power and corruption. Wrap that up in a good conspiracy, throw in a bit of Africa, and I’m hoping that it will be something that people will enjoy.

    4. How high can a dead cat bounce, and what does the phrase mean?
    First, I must be clear that no cats were hurt in the writing of this book! Dead Cat Bounce is a financial market term. It refers to a situation where markets are falling. One day they might go up, but then quickly start falling further again. That upturn is called a Dead Cat Bounce, because ‘even a dead cat bounces when you drop it on the ground.’

    5. How would you describe Dead Cat Bounce in one sentence?
    It’s a ripsnorter.

    6. DCB is being published by Penguin Razorbill, most SA authors I have spoken to recently were published locally before reaching an international audience. How did you break through to an international publishing imprint?
    Luck, luck and more luck. I sent it out to a number of literary agents in the UK, because of the subject matter, one of whom took me on. Penguin in London liked the look of it, passed it on to their colleagues in New York who said ‘Mine!’ They see it as an extension for people who enjoyed the Alex Rider books.

    7. What authors grabbed your attention when you were a teen reader, and were you a reader in your teen years?
    I was a huge reader as a teen, but there wasn’t a clearly defined teen genre as such. I remember my Mum giving me a copy of Force 10 to Navarone by Alastair Maclean when I was about 13. I remember being surprised that I could enjoy an adult book and from thereon I was into thrillers – Ian Fleming’s James Bond, Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne and Wilbur Smith’s Sean Courtney being my heroes. At the same time I had an English teacher at school who forsook the Victorian English classics and pushed us into Steinbeck, Hemingway, Orwell, Graham Greene et al. And finally there was PG Wodehouse, the greatest comic writer of them all (IMO).

    8. How would you describe the South African YA market?
    Vibrant. I’m new to it, but the very nature of South Africa means that there are a different set of perceptions that influence the storytelling and subject matter.

    9. You are currently working on a sequel called Black Swan Down, is that another phrase from the trading floor?It is. A Black Swan event is something that’s not supposed to happen. For a thousand years or more, people had only ever seen white swans. There was no such thing as a black swan. There couldn’t be. And then Australia was discovered. When a black swan event occurs in the financial markets, things go crazy. An example would be 9/11.

    10. How far will Jonah Lightbody’s journey take him? Is his tale going to be told over an on-going series or do you have other protagonists in mind for future books?
    I guess we’ll have to see how people take to the first two books. It they like those, then I have the material to take it further.

    11. Will you be visiting schools and libraries in SA and abroad (via Skype) to publicise Dead Cat Bounce and if yes what is the best way to contact you to organise a visit?
    Definitely. Find me on the Dead Cat Bounce Facebook page or Twitter as nictheauthor.