Category Archives: Authors

Interview with Mario Routi Author of Rebecca Newton and the Sacred Flame

rebnewHi Mario, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview. For those readers that may not have come across you or your work before would you please introduce yourself?

I am a 40+ year-old, slightly sloppy dude who, as a child, worked hard to persuade friends and teachers that I am just a normal guy who is indeed from this world and not some dangerous alien. Years later, I escaped from the business world in order to become an author. Soon, I created my own world, which lives inside my skull. I currently flow between the Earth and the Land of the White Sun, wandering in the deepest places of both worlds, bringing my readers back tales of the adventures of my heroes.

How would you describe Rebecca Newton and the Sacred Flame to hook a potential reader?

Rebecca Newton and the Sacred Flame is a tale of epic wars, grand passions, mythical creatures and ancient Gods. It is an unconventional and emotional fantasy adventure that unites ancient and modern, combining myths with atmospheric legendary battles, romance and mystery.

Rebecca Newton and the Sacred Flame has its base in Greek mythology, how much research did you do before you started writing?

I am Greek originally, so I have studied Greek mythology for my whole life. It has always fascinated me and hopefully this is reflected in my writing.

Are the Orizons based on characters like Hercules, Perseus and other demi-gods of Greek myth?

No, the Orizons are completely from my imagination. The inspiration came from discussions with several very interesting people that I have the honour to call my friends. These are scholars, writers, conspiracy theorists, artists and researchers; they are all lovers of Greek myths, alien life and legendary fantasy epic works, such as the works of Tolkien.

Have you ever read YA books by other authors based in Greek myth (e.g. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan) and if yes can you recommend any of them for YA readers?

I have read Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, which is very good indeed. I don’t know of any other YA book that is based on or influenced by Greek mythology. There are several movies, however, that I would recommend, including The 300, Clash of the Titans, Perseus and Andromeda, The Legendary Journeys of Hercules (TV series), Troy, Immortals, The Odyssey and others.

Moving on from the previous question, can you recommend any non-fiction titles on mythology and good and evil for those inspired by your book to read more?

The work of Homer is the ultimate read for any author, scholar, and readers of all ages. Many of Steven Pressfield’s books of historical fiction are also very interesting.

Rebecca Newton and the Sacred Flame is the first book in a planned series, do you know how many books will make up the series and do you know how it is going to end yet?

The saga is meant to be at least a trilogy and that’s what it’s designed for, but with such a project, you can never know when it will end, and so, I don’t really know how it will end either.

Will Rebecca’s future stories bring her into contact with other pantheons?

The Elysian Fields is the place of the Gods in my mythology. However, within the Elysian Fields, Rebecca might meet with more Gods, other than the Ancient Greek Gods, either from the Egyptian, Roman and Scandinavian mythologies.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!

Thanks for yours!

Eight Questions With… Simon David Eden

Hi Simon, welcome to Teen Librarian! Can I ask you to introduce yourself to the audience please?

Greetings and salutations from Sussex-on-toast (as Steve Martin once called it) it’s great to be ‘virtually’ joining you. As a former singer-songwriter turned artist turned screenwriter turned playwright turned novelist, it won’t surprise anyone to learn that I’m open to embracing new frontiers, and the whole blogging universe is totally new to me, so cool, let’s do this! Eh, do I need to wear special goggles? A safety harness of some kind? I get a little woozy in confined spaces (and in deep water, and on top of very, very tall buildings with low guard rails), you know, just so’s you know, in case this becomes one of those things I have to add to the list next time. Blogs, well, I’d love to but after the Teen Librarian experience …

The Savage Kingdom is your first novel; can you describe it in one sentence to hook a potential reader?

THE BEST BOOK YOU’LL READ ALL SUMMER BY FAR! Okay, fair enough, I would say that right. You want more. In one sentence? OK, what they call in Hollywood the elevator pitch:

MANKIND VS THE ANIMAL KINGDOM, WHICH SIDE ARE YOUR PETS ON?

You were originally self-published, how did you go from being an indie author to being picked up by Simon & Schuster?

I’m a great believer in ‘be the miracle’. If you have a dream, believe in it, go after it whatever it takes. It may take years. If it’s a dream that’s worth anything it’ll probably also be a really tough road full of rejection and disappointment and setbacks. And most likely it’ll lead you to a destination you didn’t expect. But the journey will be an experience all the same. And that’s the true reward. I didn’t get paid to write my novel originally. I wrote it because l had to. I had to get it and those characters out of my head, out of my system, and I wanted to share some stuff I felt about the world with my smart, feisty, inquisitive, beautiful daughter. I don’t know what my agent (the wonderful Zoe King of The Blair Partnership) would say, or the amazing team at Simon & Schuster, but I think they picked it up because it was written from the heart, because I completely ignored ‘the market’ and just wrote a story I was burning to tell, one that surprised and thrilled me and kept me awake at night. Chances are if it does that to you as a writer, it’ll do it to someone else too.

You are also a writer of stage and screenplays, do you find yourself having to think in different ways when writing a novel as opposed to a play?

Hmmm. Great question. The obvious difference is that novels are a marathon while plays/screenplays are a sprint (to this writer anyway). But actually, I think there are more similarities than differences between books and film/TV. Both, when they work well, are very visual. In the latter the creator makes the choice about exactly what it is you are seeing, just like comics and graphic novels, whereas in novels the author seeks to create a picture in the mind’s eye of the reader, and of course that film that’s playing inside your head is different from mine and for every other person reading it. That’s why dedicated fans of novels are often disappointed by adaptations of their favourite works/characters, but it would be impossible to put something on the screen that represented everyone’s idea of what it should be. Stage plays are a different challenge altogether, as with few exceptions, they rely much more heavily on dialogue to carry story and convey character. I love working across all the disciplines – songwriting too – and find it creatively stimulating to move between them. Right now though I’m thrilled to be writing The Savage Kingdom Book II and seeing where Drue and Will-C and the other main characters lead me and whether the survivors of Book I can find a way to live together. Some very big twists and turns in store!

What inspires you to write?

Originally it was Dan Dare (The Eagle comic circa 1964). Him and Spiderman and my dad. They fired my imagination and encouraged me to make stuff up and scribble it down when I was still a kid learning joined-up writing. Because we barely had two pennies to rub together, I had to get inventive about feeding my habit for comics as I couldn’t afford to buy them. So what I did, is I drew my own. Frame by frame. Page by page. Copying others at first, before branching out and inventing my own characters and stories. Below is a snap from a pencil rendition (with apologies to Stan Lee, I was 12 and knew nothing about copyright!) of the origin of Spidey. I drew the whole comic. Spent months on it. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a great tool for learning about the economy of storytelling. That’s why I love writing for YA and younger readers. You can’t get away with anything. The story either works or it doesn’t. The Pulitzer Prize winning playwright/novelist David Mamet said an interesting thing about story: All a reader/viewer really cares about is what happens next. What’s inspiring me to write TSK Book II today is exactly that. What happens next!

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What is your favourite part in the writing process?

Typing The End! Always a moment of great satisfaction. But I also love all of the stuff that precedes the actual writing. First hand research is key to me and something I really enjoy. Not just trawling the web (though it’s a very useful tool) but hanging out in cafes listening to people, visiting far flung places, experiencing new cultures, discovering new things. What’s also magical, is that moment when you are so absorbed in the tale that the characters begin to lead you where you didn’t expect to go. You’re writing it, supposedly in charge, but they are demanding to take a different path than the one you had planned. That’s always thrilling and a sign to me that a piece is really flying.

Were you a reader as a child/teen and do you read works by other YA authors?

If I wasn’t kicking a ball or building a den in the woods, my nose was always in a comic or a book. I particularly loved stories that explored the wild and involved animals or animal/human relationships: Watership Down, The Call of the Wild and White Fang. I’m still an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction, and yes, there’s some brilliant YA on my shelves. I loved The Book Thief, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, the Dark Materials Trilogy, and though I haven’t bought a copy yet, Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park looks like a great read too.

What do you have planned next – after The Savage Kingdom?

The Savage Kingdom Book II! And I’m also thinking about revisiting that world with a third instalment, but I can’t say too much about that yet. If I promise not to drone on for too long, perhaps you’ll invite me back on Teen Librarian for an update down the line. It’s been great sharing some thoughts with you.

And remember, creative writers aren’t much use without creative readers!

With best wishes,

SDE
www.SimonDavidEden.com

www.TheSavageKingdom.com

Young Adult Literature Con 2014

Yalc news logo
Well this week the YA literary blogosphere has been afire with people raving about the Young Adult Literary Convention that took place this past weekend under the wings of the London Film & Comic Con.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with conventions – I love meeting authors & actors seeing friends in the audience and among the people displaying their wares and seeing the cosplayers BUT I really do not enjoy massive crowds of people, in the past my con of choice has been the MCM Expo in Docklands, followed closely by the LFCC but as con culture has grown in the UK so have the crowds and navigating my way through packed gang-ways makes my want to run away screaming. My past survival technique have always been to get in early, see as much as I can and get out before it gets unmanageable.

You want to know something cool? – I was at YALC on the Sunday and it was utterly magnificent! I was fortunate enough to be invited to a blogger breakfast chat on Sunday morning. The brunch featured appearances by Holly Black, Matt Haig, Non Pratt and James Dawson who each gave a short introduction and promotion of their books followed by a meet & mingle with coffee, juice and croissants.

ezgif.com-resizeJames Dawson being crowned by Rosi Crawley with Non Pratt, Matt Haig & Holly Black seated from left to right next to them

My personal highlights of YALC 2014 (in no particular order) were:

Catching up with wonderful human beings Non Pratt and His Majesty James Dawson the new Queen of Teen
Meeting Matt Haig and chatting about the importance of libraries, reading and the differences between school and public libraries
Seeing (and speaking to) Jim and Darren who were (I think) the only two other male bloggers at the blogger brunch
Speaking to Nina, Rosi & Harriet in person for a change rather than being at the other end of an e-mail
Giving my Ruin & Rising tote bag to a passing teen who had a total fan-girl meltdown when she saw it (she told me she was looking forward to reading book 3 so much and loved my bag and did I know if she could get one if there were any more left)
Meeting the Chapter 5 team (who are also the amazing Hodderscape team) and having a mutual admiration chat – they recognized me because I borrowed their table sign for a Lego Han Solo pic
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Chatting to the Hot Key Books team, getting a hug from Sara O’Connor and a proof of Clariel thus earning my love and dedication for life.
wewereliarsclariel
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Finding the 2000AD stand, speaking to Lydia Gittens and discovering that they have a YA imprint called Ravenstone
Being surrounded by my people the book fans, people that geek out when meeting authors and receiving signed books
Catching up with my friends Doctor Manhattan and Zuul (aka Shaun & Jackie)
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Things that I did not do that I really wanted to:
Attend the opening on the first day
Speak to Holly Black – no idea how this did not happen, we were in the same area for ages!
Get a seat at any of the talks – I hung around the back and listened to some but I was too hot and dressed inappropriately to get comfortable
Find any number of friends, authors and associates that I knew were there but did not seem able to locate

What I will do next year:
Book early entry tickets way in advance then arrive early to make sure there is none of that hanging around for hours in a queue to buy tickets
Take at least two water bottles
Wear light and airy clothes
Arrange to go in with a group of friends for mutual defence and protection
Be aware what* is happening, where and at what times
*panels, workshops & author signings

The most important thing anyone can do is support the YALC organisers and agitate for it to become an annual occurrence, this was the first one and it was amazing, I truly believe that next year will be even more spectacular and will do what I can to make sure it happens!

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The Devil in the Details: Discussing Devilskein & Dearlove with Alex Smith

Devilskein  Dearlove cover image copyright Ed Boxall
Hi Alex, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. For those readers that may not have come across your work before would you like to introduce yourself to the audience please?

Thanks Matt. I was a teenager in the last days of Apartheid, it was a violent and oppressive society, and themes that seem to recur in my novels are alienation, escape and finding ways of dealing with injustice and trauma. I’ve spent time living in China, Taiwan and the UK, and have travelled a fair bit around Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe, and so somehow also, travel/migration, culture, religion and the experience of being a stranger in a new place seem to find their way in most of my stories.

Devilskein & Dearlove is your fifth book and second title for younger readers; did you make a conscious decision to write for Teenagers?

Yes. There seems to be more creative freedom when writing for Teenagers. Perhaps that is just my perception and I’m misguided. But also, I have a son and he loves books (he’s only on picture books at the moment), and I want to write novels that he will enjoy reading.

You have said that Devilskein & Dearlove was inspired by The Secret Garden – how did you develop the idea?

The Secret Garden is one of my formative reading experiences, and to me it’s about finding happiness and magic where you least expect it. And that story has always lingered. In the last few years, South African fiction has broken out of its overly serious ‘JM Coetzee Nobel novel’ straight-jacket, and in particular genre fiction is leading the way (with the likes of Lauren Beukes whose Zoo City won the Arthur C Clarke Award a couple of years ago). The Secret Garden has happy memories for me; and so I wanted to bring its kind of unencumbered charm to a South African contemporary context. I re-read it before I started working and then brainstormed. Travel and place are always important elements in my stories; I very particularly wanted to set the novel in a memorable part of Cape Town. Long Street is an amazing place, full of life, night and day, where past and present, and local and international influences all collide.

I have seen Devilskein & Dearlove compared to Neil Gaiman and Hayao Miyazaki’s work – are you a fan of their work?

All through writing Devilskein & Dearlove, I was imagining the characters as existing in a graphic world, animated like the inhabitants of Miyazaki’s films. I Absolutely love both Gaiman and Miyakazi – they are both geniuses, so fabulously imaginative, their stories are transporting, there is real darkness that must be overcome and but in some way it is overcome, so there is also lightness and a great deal of delight too. It was Neil Gaiman’s ‘Graveyard Book’, a kind of reworking of ‘The Jungle Book’ that first gave me the idea of going back to one of my old favourite novels for a concept idea.

arachneYour previous four novels were all published in South Africa by Tafelberg, Struik & Umuzi in South Africa? How did you come to be signed by Arachne Press in the UK?

I wrote a short story (Icossi Bladed Scissors) that was selected for a Liar’s League reading in London and then later that year Cherry Potts from Arachne Press created an anthology of stories called ‘Weird Lies’. She included that story in the anthology and during the editing process, she sent out an email requesting submissions of novels. I happened to be working on one, so I sent it to her and she like it.

Devilskein & Dearlove is also the first YA novel to be published by Arachne Press – how does it feel to be the YA standard bearer for the publisher?

That sounds a bit daunting. I like making up stories, that’s my job. Cherry has taken a big risk and I hope that Devilskein & Dearlove doesnn’t fail her. But to be honest, I don’t like to think too much about all the other stuff, although I know it’s very important.

You won Silver in the Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature for Agency Blue in 2009, the Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award for Four Drunk Beauties in 2011 and you were short-listed for the Rolex Mentor & Protege Arts Initiative, the SA PEN Literary Award and 2010 Caine Prize. Do you feel under pressure from all these accolades or are you able to ignore the expectations and just write?

In terms of being a person who likes to make things, in this case stories, I’m only as good as my last story. (Maybe a bit like cooking – you can make a really delicious meal, and everyone enjoys it and you all remember the good feeling, but every day is a new day, a new meal and the fun is in cooking, then the reading… I mean, eating, not so much in remembering last month’s dinner). So once something is edited and published, it’s over, there’s nothing more I can do to it, so the fun and the challenge are over. I’m always working on new things and that’s all I want – is to be in a position to keep making up stories that people enjoy (and getting paid a bit to do it).

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

The first chapter, the last chapter and editing the final draft.

The South African YA writing scene seems to be exploding at the moment, can you recommend any works by SA YA writers that you enjoy reading?

I’m a great fan of anything by S.A.Patridge, Andrew Salomon and also S.L.Grey.

What is coming next for you after Devilskein & Dearlove?

I’ve got a short story long-listed for a competition associated with the National Arts Festival – that anthology (ironically called Adults Only) is due out around July too. And the novel I’m working on at the moment is called My Little Demon but it’s getting to be too dark for my present state of mind, which, in spite of toddler-driven sleep deprivation, is surprisingly positive.

You can find Alex online at alexsmith.bookslive.co.za

Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant Cover Reveal

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Yes! That is the cover for the new book by Michael Grant and it is a thing of beauty!

I was also given the opportunity to ask him a question:

Is the Messenger of Fear based on a creature from mythology – if yes which one and if no what inspired you to create such a being?

Oh, yes, the Messenger in MESSENGER OF FEAR is inspired by grim reaper myths. An old band called Blue Öyster Cult had a song, Don’t Fear The Reaper, but I’d have to say that in the case of Messenger, you should definitely fear the reaper.

Messenger of Fear will be knocking on your door on the 28th August! Make sure you are ready!

Some Interviews are Louder than Words! Eight Questions With… Laura Jarratt

Hi Laura, welcome to Eight Questions with… for Teen Librarian.

louder-than-words-laura-jarrattFor those readers that may not have encountered you or your books before can you please introduce yourself?
Sure – I’m a YA writer who writes books about characters I find interesting. Those books happen to include aspects of romance/thriller/mystery because that’s where the characters take me. I live in the North West of England and I’m of Irish heritage, which is pretty obvious if you stand me in the sun for more than five minutes on a summer’s day. I’ve got a daughter and a stepson, both of whom are way too young to read my books, and a husband who doesn’t read them either, although he does say he’ll read Louder Than Words on the beach this year as his friend gave me the technical support for the book. I am a lover of large skinny lattes and irreverent humour.

Louder than Words is your latest novel for readers of YA, how would you describe it to hook a potential reader?
It’s a thriller about hacktivism seen through the eyes of an elective mute girl whose brother gets embroiled with an anarchist collective when he falls in love for the first time. There’s some modern feminism in there that the characters are getting to grips with but mostly this book is about love in all its different forms.

Are any of your works based on personal experiences?
Only in that I slip in little things that have happened or have some significance in helping me form a plot. The riot scenes in Louder Than Words are based on events I saw happening on the ground and in the news afterwards when I was on a protest march in London a couple of years ago about public sector cuts. It was all very well-behaved where I was but you could see things beginning to kick off in the distance and later after we left it got bad. But none of my characters are ever based on people I know and I don’t have any personal experience of the issues in the books such as Rafi’s mutism or Jenna’s facial disfigurement.

Did you do any research into elective mutism when writing Louder than Words?
Some. I work in education and have done for nearly twenty years so I’ve some across kids with Rafi’s condition before. This meant I already knew a fair amount and also that I knew where to look to get more in depth information about treatment of the condition. What I found really useful was reading blogs by people who are or have been mute and they describe exactly how it feels when they want to speak – that really did help me to get Rafi’s experience right.

Have you had any brushes with Anonymous or hacktivism in general and what is your opinion of cybervigilantism?
I first heard of Anonymous a few years ago on a writer’s forum that was being trolled and the level of fear that seemed to be associated with getting attention from Anonymous seemed bizarre to someone who knew nothing about them. I have absolutely no time for trolling at all. The concept of spending your time trying to upset people on the internet is completely alien to me – I just do not get it. And yes, get a proper life is what springs to mind. However I began to see Anonymous on the news doing things I couldn’t be so condemnatory about like standing up to the Westboro Baptist Church in their abuse of homosexuals and the way they were picketing dead soldiers’ funerals and I realised something about Anonymous was changing. I watched a documentary on how this change came about and there were some people speaking in that documentary I found I had some time for. Spiteful trolling had shifted to hacktivism. This really interested me. I grew up in a time when environmental activism was relatively big so I do have a connection with that mindset.

What do I think of cybervigilantism? I have some cautious sympathy when it’s done to assist a worthwhile cause but like all vigilantism, it risks stepping over the line into the unacceptable. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards themselves? Or in other words, how do you know when you have gone too far? Once you break the law and descend into vigilantism then you walk a tightrope. I think you can see my opinion of it by watching what happens to ActionX and especially Dillon in the book. But on the other hand there is a lot of Lara that I love.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?
Editing! I detest first drafts. It’s like finding your way through a pea-souper fog. I never have any idea where I’m going and it’s just stressful with the odd moment of pleasure when you hit a sweet spot. Editing though is lovely because you really get to craft the raw material into something worth reading. However writing for me is all about making the characters and that’s the part I love – creating people. That’s why I keep doing it.

Were you a reader as a teen and do you read the works of other YA writers and can you recommend any authors or titles that you think may appeal to fans of your work?
As a teen I was a prolific and sadly pretentious reader. I spent far too much time reading books I thought I should enjoy. Then I grew up and now I only read books I will enjoy. I read a lot of YA, both the type of thing I write myself and lots of other sub-genres too. I highly recommend Jenny Downham’s Before I Die, Kevin Brooks’s Lucas and in a very different way James Dawson’s Hollow Pike to any of my fans. For historical YA, I love Marie Louise Jenson.

Have you had any feedback from teen readers? If yes what did they think of your work?
I probably get more teen feedback than the average writer because I work in a school so they’ll stop me in the corridors to tell me. I also get some lovely fan mail and fans tweet to me when they’ve read a new book. My favourite feedback is when someone tells me that something I’ve written helps them in some way. There is really no feeling like that. I also get told a lot that my teen characters feel real, which is very important to me as a writer. I was at the Portsmouth Book Award last week and By Any Other Name won, voted for by teen readers. Kids had done pieces of artwork and made fan videos about the book – to generate that level of enthusiasm feels amazing and not in the sense of bigging yourself up about how great you are (which isn’t my thing) but that you gave kids pleasure. I love getting so much into a book myself so it’s the moat awesome thing if I’ve managed to create that for someone else.

Thank you so much for participating in this interview!

The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Award Livestream

For the first time a live stream of the 2014 CILIP Carneige & Kate Greenaway Award ceremony will be available to view commencing at 12.00 on Monday 23 June for approximately one hour.

You can watch it here, or at http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/stream/

I Predict a Riot Blog Tour: Why teaching makes me a better writer by Catherine Bruton

iparWhen I was thirteen and subsisting on a literary diet of ballet books, pony stories and Jackie Collins, my English teacher, Mr Scott, handed me a copy of The Outsiders by S E Hinton.

I felt as if a lightbulb had been turned on in my head: the world suddenly looked brighter, bolder, brasher, more complicated – more brilliant than before.

Now, it’s probably time to confess that I live a secret double life! I’m actually an undercover Hannah Montana (or my hubby might say Jekyll and Hyde!) Some days I’m Mrs Bruton, teaching English to teenagers in a local secondary school; others I’m an author writing hilarious but heartbreaking contemporary crossover fiction! Some days I get to be both at once – which can get a little complicated!

As a teacher, I have the great privilege to introduce young people to some of those ‘lightbulb’ books – the stories that open their eyes, enlarge their sympathies, expand their horizons, enrich their lives, rock their world and leave a fossil print on their souls.

And as an author those are the books I aspire to write: the lightbulb books. Which is why I don’t shy away from controversial topics. My first book, We Can be Heroes explores 9/11, suicide bombers, and Islamophobisa in my 21st Century take on To Kill a Mockingbird (via Alex Rider, Manga and Strawberry Laces!). It was nominated for the Carnegie and described by The Sunday Times as ‘witty, wise and compelling’ (which I may have engraved on my tombstone!.

After my second book, Pop! I was described by the The Guardian as ‘One of the finest teen writers of recent years.’ (Can we fit that on the headstone too?) It is Billy Elliot meets The X Factor via Shameless and it explores strikes, recession and the X Factor phenomenon – broken home and parental neglect via Simon Cowell and David Walliams.

caronfireAnd in I Predict a Riot I focus on the UK riots of 2011 with the story of three kids from very different backgrounds who set out to make a movie and end up involved in a riot in a summer that will change their lives forever.

And the thing is that I am constantly inspired by the many amazing kids I’ve had the privilege to work with over the years: teenage gang members from South London; street kids in South Africa; as well as the children of politicians and pop stars. Their stories, their voices inspire what I write, but also remind me of the responsibility I have when I write.

I first conceived the idea for I Predict a Riot when I was living in Peckham, teaching in a top independent girls’ school and helping out in a youth group with kids from some of the most deprived estates in London. That was where I conceived my the three main characters – Maggie, the white middle class politician’s daughter dealing with her parents’ divorce by hiding behind the lens of a video camera; Tokes the son of a notorious gang member who is running from trouble; and Little Pea, the kid who everyone has given up on – abused by his mum, neglected by society and pushed around by the ruthless Starfish Gang, he is devious, immoral, funny, clever, lawless, brave, maddening, tragic and ultimately heroic.

caronfire2Little Pea is my Artful Dodger. Inspired by many kids but particularly a boy called C, the naughtiest boy in my first ever class in Africa when I was just 21. Looking back, I suspect he had ADHD; he used to boast that his mum had sent him to the witchdoctor to have the devil driven out of him (something I also encountered years later in South London, incidentally). He couldn’t sit still and he drove me insane. One day, at my wits end, I sent him to the headmaster, not realizing he would be caned. Of all the mistakes I have made as a teacher, that is the one I am most ashamed of.

So, Maggie is me, I suppose. The white middle class outsider. Naïve and flawed, ultimately compromised by her role in the death of her friend. She’s every ‘poor little rich kid’ I’ve ever taught – materially rich but emotionally neglected – and believe me there are far too many of those.

policeenfieldFor Tokes I drew on the very best of every young person I have ever taught. He is a symbol of my belief in the potential for good in every kid; my belief that all children – no matter what their background – with the right support, the right help – one teacher who says, ‘I believe in you,’ or a parent who fights for them – can come good, have a second chance – be a hero.

So I had my three characters, but I didn’t really have a story until a few years later when I turned on the TV and saw Peckham on fire: kids as young as ten running wild and lawless, gleefully looting, smashing, destroying their own neighbourhood. I knew right away that I had found my story and it wouldn’t let me have any peace until I’d told it.

policeenfield1Ultimately it was my current pupils who determined the story I wrote. We were studying Lord of the Flies and, struck by the parallels with the recent riots, I asked them whether there were any circumstances under which they could have seen themselves getting drawn into the rioting. The discussion that followed was formative in shaping the book I wrote.

And so I Predict a Riot became my Lord of the Flies – but mixed with Made in Chelsea and Meg Rosoff; Top Boy and The Tempest; Pigeon English and Charles Dickens; The Knife that Killed Me and Son of Rambow; The Outsiders and The Only Way is Essex.

In the end I set out to write a book to make my students ask questions, challenge stereotypes, to flip assumptions about class and race on their heads … make them laugh, make them cry … break their hearts … make them angry … make them think! Switch lightbulbs on in their heads.

But I guess it’s not just for them. The Evening Standard observed that my books are ‘aimed at young people but beautifully written and sophisticated enough to appeal to grey haired cynics too.’ The thing is that I firmly believe young readers are more sophisticated, more open-minded and more receptive than their wrinkly older counterparts.

So, yes, I Predict a Riot is aimed at teens but I hope everyone parents, grandparents even, will enjoy it too!
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I took the photographs in Enfield Town on Sunday 7th August after the police came out in force to break up the riots, a number of rioters escaped the police blockade into the side and back streets where several cars were torched. – Matt

Beyond the Door by Maureen McQuerry Blog Tour

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What have I learned about the world from myth as a writer and a reader? Since writing Beyond the Door and The Peculiars I’ve been thinking about why myth matters. Over the next week I’ll be blogging in the U.S and U.K. about six things I’ve learned from mythic stories that have inspired me. Plus there will be fun giveaways and a post by cover artist Victo Ngai! Follow the thread…

What I’ve Learned from Myth Part 1 (with a little help from Mr. Tolkien)

The World is not a Safe Place
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Fellowship of the Ring
Go down any road in myth and you are likely to encounter…dark woods with no way out, labyrinths with monsters at the center, fairy mounds thick with enchantment, shapeshifters and on wind torn nights, the Wild Hunt. The mythic world is not a tame place. Don’t we know this already? And yet our culture tells us logic will prevail. If we do x, then y will follow. Myth reminds us that the world can be as wild and unpredictable as “an old wives’ tale,” at one moment full of heartbreaking joy and the next as dark as dragon’s lair. Myth never denies the existence of evil. Evil is real, horrific and evil is never good. To dismiss evil easily, is to diminish goodness. The unpredictable and fantastic are just around the corner. We are separated from the impossible by the thinnest of veils.

There is No Easy Way Out of the Maze
When Theseus finds his way to the heart of the maze, he must battle the Minotaur. When Hansel & Gretel get lost in the woods, the birds eat their breadcrumbs. Struggle and conflict will always be part of the journey. We shouldn’t be surprised when the dragons sweep in. In fact, dragons are essential because struggle and conflict, change us, create our arc. Every story is propelled by conflict. Readers want conflict and tension. Myth reminds us that conflict and tension are part of a full life and help make us who we are.
“Do we really have to go through [Mirkwod]?” groaned the hobbit. “Yes, you do!” said the wizard, “if you want to get to the other side. You must either go through or give up your quest. There are no safe paths in this part of the world.” The Hobbit

We Fear the Wrong Things
When King Arthur created the round table, with his brilliant vision of right over might, he was prepared for the enemy without. He was undone by Mordred. Time and again we find the hero’s fatal flaw bringing about his downfall. Think of Achilles and his vulnerable heel. Our heel may be pride or greed or even the dailiness of life that consumes us. We fall in love with Selkies, who will always return to the sea. We fear risk and adventures and looking like fools when the greatest battles rage in our own hearts.
It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait. The Hobbit

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That’s it for today. Tomorrow 3 more lessons from myth for writers, for readers, for living at Making it Up Follow the thread…

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Time-out-of-time-blog-tour

Interview with Nerine Dorman Author of the Guardian's Wyrd

nerinepicHi Nerine, welcome to Teen Librarian. As is customary in these interviews I ask all authors to introduce themselves to the audience.

Thanks for having me over, Matt. In brief, I’m an editor and author of SFF/H based in Cape Town, South Africa. I have a passion for stories and storytelling, especially when it comes to genre fiction. Apart from that, I am nominally involved in the local indie film scene, and also play guitar. I curate the annual South African HorrorFest Bloody Parchment event, short story competition and anthology. For some reason, I’ve also been named The Vampire Queen of the South. Make of that what you will. ;-)

Most of your previous works would be classified as dark fantasy for adults and while TGW is still on the fringes of that genre it is aimed firmly at Young Adult readers – why did you decide to write for teens?

Why not write for YA readers? I don’t generally make distinctions, and write what I will, when the story asks for it. I have a great love for tales that follow the progress of characters when they are still in their teens. They have their whole lives ahead of them, which gives the author lots of scope to develop their adventures and grow them as characters. If I think back to my favourite stories, most of the characters were youngsters (think Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings, Garion from the Belgariad, Lessa from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books, Fitz from Robin Hobb’s books… the list goes on and on). Most of those books were in the adult section when I was a kid. I think if they’d been written in current times, they may have been reclassified as YA.

GW_Cover_09_author c i (2)How would you describe The Guardian’s Wyrd in a sentence that would hook a potential reader?

Teen rebel becomes besties with a prince from a magical realm and discovers that he can wield magic.

The protagonist Jay is mixed-race which makes a nice change from the usual white protagonists in fantasy fiction. What are your thoughts on the under-representation of people of colour as protagonists in fantasy fiction?

I cannot even begin to tell you how bored I am with the standard Caucasian tropes in fantasy, so anything I can do to buck the trend, I will. I’ll mix it up, and even in my secondary world fantasy, I bring in non-standard ethnicities. I love fantasy where the template for a particular culture is recognisably non-European. For instance, I loved GRRM’s Dothraki, and I’m currently reading and loving Karen Miller’s Empress, where the people are most definitely *not* blond-haired and pale.

Good fantasy transcends traditional boundaries, and I’d like to see more authors doing that. The current climate that favours indie and small press authors is great for diversity, and I’d like to see more breaking with traditional roles. This is a difficult stance to take, because there is incredible reader resistance to non-standard settings. But I encourage other authors to be brave. The more of us that write what we want, the better it is for diversity in the long run.

Are there any books or authors that inspired you in the writing of TGW?

Definitely to a degree CS Lewis for the Narnia books. Yes, it’s an old trope to have an Earthling immersed in a foreign, magical realm, but it’s a good one. I recently reread The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, which was a slightly poignant experience, because I didn’t quite see the book the same way as I did when I was little. However that sense of wonder still had me in its grip. But I do pay my respects to JRR Tolkien, George RR Martin and Storm Constantine for their epic fantasy, and especially for the sense of the reader stumbling into the tail-end of a story. Mystery, magic and wonder – not to forget the danger and adventure.

One thing I noticed – more by its absence than anything else was the lack of anything remotely love triangle-y (apart from the unrequited yearnings he had for his music teacher and the snog with the bird girl). Why do you think so many authors throw tangled love-lives into their stories?

Plainly put, love triangles bore the bantha pudu out of me. How many of us actually experience them for real? My teenage years were an interminable agony of unrequited love until I had my first proper boyfriend at the age of 17. I’m sure many of us can relate. Sure, I had a pile of unsuitable boys pine after me, but I didn’t return their feelings. Real life doesn’t follow a set script, and I suspect that many writers feel that the love triangle seems to be a convenient narrative device.

That being said, sometimes a love triangle is called for – just not in this story. It’s not something I’ll put in for the sake of having the trope there, and it’s very much *what* an author does with the trope that counts. It’s reached the point that when I read YA fiction with an obvious love triangle, I start rolling my eyes. In real life, there will be people you like. Sometimes they’ll like you back. Sometimes you’ll get involved with them even if you’re not totally in love with them. Maybe you’ll meet someone else you do *really* like. They might not like you back the same way, yet they’ll dance with you and hold your hand for a bit. Then they won’t ever call you back.

When you’re young, it’s difficult to hold onto that whole “one true love” concept. Yes, sometimes there will be that one person who’ll gut you emotionally, and you’ll walk around for years with the rusty knife in your back, but life goes on. You’ll meet someone new, develop feelings for them. Hey, maybe you’ll even get married.

To be honest, I’d like to see more authors write about characters who consciously work on a relationship with someone they choose to love instead of just falling in love. Where it’s a gradual, growing fascination rather than a *Zzzzzt! instalove! Across the room!* thing. And love isn’t always simple, easy or kind.

We had a taste of Sunthyst on Rowan’s world which is shown to be an extremely prejudicial society showed pretty blatantly with the use of slaves stolen from our world and a suspicion of magic users, do you have plans to show other nations or parts of the world that may not be as unpleasant?

I’m a sucker for a “warts and all” approach to my world-building. In real life, each nation is built on the subjugation of another, and they in turn are conquered or overrun. I don’t apologise for my outlook, and believe that as an author, it’s my duty to show the imperfections in society. Or at least in a story where there are heavy fantasy elements, I strive for a degree of realism. Anything less would be writing twee, cute and fluffy stories, and I’m sorry, that’s not what I’m about. My unicorns have fangs. They bite.

Conversely Jay and Rowan make a bit of an odd couple in the real (our) world do you have any plans to show their friendship developing with school and the demands and prejudices of this side of the portal?

Book two has been plotted, and yes, our two friends do test the boundaries of their relationship. Which one of your closest friends hasn’t at some point made you want to slap them? But you stick with them because you know they’ll do the same to you when you’re acting up. You friend can say stuff to you that you’d never tolerate from a stranger. In some ways, friends can be better than family, because you get to choose your friends – not so much with family, who can be unashamedly underhanded and nasty. Especially when it comes to inheritance, or favouritism with parents.

I enjoyed the instances of SA slang in the book (in some cases it was the first time I have seen certain expressions written down) do you think that international audiences will benefit from a glossary?

I’m a firm believer in letting readers figure it out for themselves. After all, not all the books I read from the US or the UK have a glossary, and I had no idea what the words meant. Granted, if an editor asks nicely, I’ll put one in. [smiles] I feel an author should be able to communicate the meaning of the slang through the context of the word. [Go read A Clockwork Orange without referring to the glossary. It’s real horrorshow.] That being said, these days you don’t have an excuse. I ask Google if I don’t have the answer. Google is my friend… ;-)

Lastly, South Africa is appears to be experiencing a boom in YA writing, are there any other authors whose works you enjoy that you would like to recommend?

Cat Hellisen, definitely. Though her books are more adult, in my mind, her debut novel When The Sea is Rising Red was released for the YA market. Then Suzanne van Rooyen has totally wowed me. Like Cat, she isn’t too concerned with trends and her writing is gritty and poignant in all the right ways. I can’t recommend Rachel Zadok enough, and would recommend her to YA and adult readers alike, purely because she writes like the secret lovechild of Nick Cave and Poppy Z Brite.

Then for lovers of contemporary YA, there’s SA Partridge, who really knows how to nail the issues that teens face, and with so much compassion too. As for other South African authors in genre fiction, I recommend SL Grey, Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg. Granted, SL Grey is those two writing together, but you really can’t go wrong with them as both are utterly wicked in all the delightfully wrong ways. A recent addition to the local genre fiction scene would be Dave-Brendon de Burgh, who’s writing epic fantasy that should appeal to those who enjoy the likes of Robert Jordan and Steven Erikson.

Follow Nerine on Twitter (@nerinedorman) and sign up for her newsletter (http://eepurl.com/JoPUv). Add The Guardian’s Wyrd to your Goodreads list and purchase at Amazon or Kobo.