Category Archives: Authors

Andy McNab: the Street Soldier Interview

streetsoldierGood afternoon Mr McNab, welcome to the Teen Librarian site and thank you for giving up your time to answer a few questions!

Not a problem, I’m stuck at my desk doing the final edit to my new Nick Stone thriller, so this is a nice distraction!

I have been a fan of your work since I read Brave Two Zero way back in 1995 but am really behind with the Nick Stone novels.

Get reading then, you’ve got some catching up to do!

Are any parts of Street Soldier based on your experiences prior to and after joining the army?

Yes, quite a lot of this book is autobiographical, and as a result of that it’s a book that feels very personal to me. Like Sean, the main character, I got in with the wrong crowd as a teenager in London, ended up in prison and from there got into the army. Like him, that experience changed my life.

As an addendum to the previous question, are any of the characters based on people you know or knew?

Well, Sean is based in part on me I guess, although only the good bits. I’ve used bits of people i served with in the army for some of those characters, and also a few old mates i remember from my days getting into trouble in Peckham have influenced the characters who made up Sean’s ‘family’ of gang members before he got sent to prison.

andy-mcnabWithout giving out spoilers, some of Sean’s early decisions with his Corporal made me want to smack him upside the back of his head – are you aware of any such activities happening in the army?

There’s always going to be the danger of a few dodgy characters in any large group of similar people. The army is no different, they aren’t all angels, and they don’t all come from the easiest backgrounds, Sean included obviously. There is a big difference between wanting to make a few quid on the side and being part of something much worse, and the problem is that people might think they are doing the first of those things, when in fact they are involved in something much more dangerous, both to them and to others.

Street Soldier is the first book in a new series for teen readers, will it be a finite series or is it going to be open-ended?

Depends whether people like it, and whether Sean has more stories to tell. I’m already working on a follow up to this, so he isn’t going anywhere quite yet, but beyond that, you’ll have to wait and see.

Will any characters from your other works cross paths with Sean or is his universe self-contained?

That’s a great idea, it’s interesting to introduce characters where you don’t expect them. I haven’t done it yet from my adult books to the young adult ones, but if I do, I’ll bung you a credit at the beginning.

There were some threads left dangling at the end of Street Soldier can you drop any hints as to where will Sean end up next?

It’s a secret! If I told you I’d have to kill you. No, just joking, and it might all change, but all I can tell you at the moment is that he’s continuing with his army career for the foreseeable future and that the army will take him to new and exotic locations.

While reading the book I thought there were several similarities with the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz and CHERUB by Robert Muchamore but with a more realistic protagonist and lack of slick secret agent techniques and glamour. Can you recommend other books for readers who have enjoyed Street Soldier?

Yes, I hope my writing is more fact based and authentic than unrealistic spy stories. I’ve got nothing against those, they are all fantastic entertainment, but I guess that because of my background it wouldn’t work for me. I have done the gritty stuff, but not so much of the James Bond cocktails and fast cars. My highlight was a Peugeot 205 turbo when I was serving in Northern Ireland. Not quite the same as an Aston is it.

I am aware of your work with literacy charities, specifically Quick Reads and the Six Book Challenge, if you had one piece of advice on getting young people reading what would it be?

It doesn’t matter what you read, just get reading. If you don’t like it, bin it and pick something else up. Reading really can change your life, it did for me. It gives you knowledge and knowledge gives you power to make decisions and do what you want with your life.

I have heard that you sometimes visit schools and reading groups, if this is something you still do what is the best way to go about organising a visit?

Yes, I feel really passionate about getting out there and encouraging young people, and less young people, to make the most of education and opportunities being offered to them. Best way to organise something is through my publicist Laura. Her email is laura@laurasherlockpr.co.uk. Bet she’ll thank me for shouting her email address in an interview, ha!

Lastly can you describe Street Soldier in six word or less to grab a potential reader’s interest?

Offender turned soldier, Sean Harker, must protect the streets of London from a terrorist threat. Ok, bit more than 6 words, sorry.

Thank you again and all the best

No problem, thank you for the questions!

STREET SOLDIER, PUBLISHED BY DOUBLEDAY, IS AVAILABLE NOW!

#ChildrenofIcarus Blog Tour: If I could have a super power it would be…

Today I am fortunate to welcome author Caighlan Smith to Teen Librarian for today’s stop on the global blog tour for hew new novel Children of Icarus

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If I could have a super power, it would probably be something boring and generic to everyone who hears the answer—that is, flight. But there are a bunch of reasons why this would backfire on me. First, is being able to fly really that practical in this day and age? Someone would see you, probably immediately, and before you know it you’d be snatched by a secret government organization dedicated to solving the super-charged mutations plaguing our DNA. Or the world would brand you a super hero and expectations would be at an all-time high. Either way, stressful. Plus, I have asthma. I get winded running uphill. Imagine what would happen when the air is literally being ripped from my lungs in a vicious current hundreds of feet above the ground. Taking all of that into account, maybe my power could be clean-bill-of-health, incognito flying?
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My new novel, Children of Icarus, features some flying characters, but I wouldn’t exactly call their flying a super power in this context. The novel’s protagonist is a sixteen year-old girl who is made to enter a labyrinth that will supposedly lead her to the land of the angels; to paradise. What she finds in the labyrinth is a far-sight from paradise, and soon the protagonist and a group of other youths find themselves struggling to survive. They don’t get any super powers—unless you count luck—but at least they aren’t asthmatic.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge: Not Living the Dream

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About five years ago, I’d just graduated university with a shiny new degree and a heart brimming with hope for the future. Unfortunately, I’d gotten my degree in creative writing. And more unfortunately, I’d done so right when a recession smashed every hope my generation had of an economically prosperous future. So like many great writers before me, I went into food service.

I spent my early twenties slinging lattes for the one percent, and doing a number of other odd jobs besides. Slowly, through careful saving and a lot of luck, I turned my joke of a wage into a living. I found a good apartment, settled in with friends that felt like family, and slowly came into my own as an adult. I was a twentysomething creative in New York City, AKA the plot of at least one sitcom a year for the past three decades.

…and then I turned twenty-four and left behind everything I’d built for myself by moving to Los Angeles. And as I started to rebuild my life from scratch—learning new streets, or remembering how the hell I’d made friends in the first place—I did it while taking stock of what I’d done with my time in New York. And as I thought and remembered, I started to write. And after twenty-two days of writing when I should’ve been looking for a new job, I had a book: the very first draft of what would become Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge.

My heroine, Bailey Chen, is essentially my thoughts and feelings on my early twenties, as filtered through the lens of my mid-twenties. Like me, she was a good student who spent her whole life being told great things were waiting for her after graduation day. Like me, she found her life being pulled in a different direction—in her case, bartending—which she didn’t particularly want. And like me, her biggest challenge was learning to see the worth in what she did, even if others didn’t.

Unlike me, though, her other biggest challenge was using alcohol magic to kick demons in the face until they exploded.

Last Call drew from my lifelong love of fantasy, but it also drew from my attempts to reconcile my dreams of adulthood with the reality I graduated into. When I page through it, I can still see past-me’s frustration lurking underneath Bailey’s. When she grumbles about the unreasonable qualifications needed for an entry level job (“five years experience, two Olympic gold medals, and a phoenix egg in your personal possession”), that comes directly from my hours spent filling in digital job applications. And when the world challenges Bailey to see the value in a job she hates, it’s because once upon a time I was challenged to do the same thing.

Paul Krueger is the debut author of Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, published by Quirk Books, and is available from all good books stores in paperback, priced $14.99 (US) and £11.99 (UK). For more information, please visit www.quirkbooks.com, or follow Paul on Twitter @notlikeFreddy.

BLOG TOUR: The Private Blog of Joe Cowley: Welcome to Cringefest by Ben Davis

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Well, hello there! I’m Ben Davis – author of the Joe Cowley book series. The latest title, The Private Blog of Joe Cowley: Welcome to Cringefest sees Joe in a bad way. The love of his life, Natalie still won’t talk to him and nothing he can do will change her mind. He is about to give up hope when he happens on an inspired idea – The Grand Gesture.

You know what I mean by that, right? The standing outside her window playing her favourite song, the rain-soaked declaration of love, the last minute airport dash? Well, Joe thinks that something like that could be the key to winning back Natalie and that there would be no better place to attempt it than Buzzfest – the greatest music festival of all time.

Now, you’re reading this fine Teen Librarian book blog so you must be an intelligent person, and thus will know that Grand Gestures don’t work in real life. Joe isn’t that clever, though, so of course his every attempt ends in disaster, humiliation, and consequently – cringe.

As the book is largely set at a music festival, I have been asked to come up with Joe’s Ultimate Playlist – a list of songs that relate to Joe’s desperate situation. Anyone who knows me will understand that this is literally a dream come true for me. I compile playlists at every opportunity – parties, barbeques, bare knuckle fights in my shed, everything.

Now, the first song on Joe’s Ultimate Playlist is Frontier Psychiatrist by the Avalanches. Partly because there are many elements in it that crop up in the books – therapists, ghosts, parrots, and partly because the song, and accompanying video, are what I imagine the inside of Joe’s brain to look and sound like.

When people ask me what Welcome to Cringefest is about, I’ve found that it’s quicker to point them in the direction of this song by your granny’s favourite soul band, the Drifters.

Because all the kids love the Drifters, right?

Alternatively, if you prefer your music a bit more twenty-first century, If You Wanna by the Vaccines sums Joe’s predicament up pretty well.

A major element of the book is Joe examining who he is and what it means to become a man. The song Man Up from the Book of Mormon does that, too, and unlike most songs in that show, is pretty family friendly. Well, except the very last line.

Also, this version is performed by Josh Gad, who went on to voice Olaf in Frozen, so you can imagine it’s being sung by a jolly snowman.

On a similar theme, Are You Man Enough by the Four Tops takes a look at masculinity, emphasising the importance of being there for your mates. Plus, listening to it makes you feel dead cool like Shaft or someone like that.

As we have already established, Joe Cowley is thoroughly fed up in Welcome to Cringefest. Two songs that sum up that state of mind are Why Bother by Weezer (the band of my adolescence)

and Zombie by Jamie T.

The latter’s title is particularly relevant to Cringefest.

Now, there is one question that everyone asks themselves in times of strife. One question that helps us decide how best to live our lives – What Would Captain Picard Do?

This song sums up Joes life philosophy, even if he does forget it sometimes. I mean, could you imagine Picard doing something as vulgar as a Grand Gesture? This song is by Hank Green, brother of John.

When I’m writing Joe Cowley, I often listen to songs that remind me of when I was an awkward teenager (before I became an awkward adult) and two of the best are When the Girls Get Here by the Young Fresh Fellows

and Am I Normal by Art Brut.

Nerd rock par excellence.

Similarly, Billy Bragg (ask your dad) absolutely nails the classic but slightly pathetic unrequited teenage love story in The Saturday Boy.

Seriously, it’s so good, it makes me sick.

Punk Rock Girl by the Dead Milkmen

was a big influence on Joe Cowley, particularly the line, ‘She took me to her parents’ for a Sunday meal, her father took one look at me and he began to squeal.’ Also, is it just me, or does the lead singer look slightly Cowley-like?

Moving onto something a bit more modern, (2013 is as modern as I get) Everything is Embarrassing by Sky Ferreira is a great song.

And let’s face it, it may turn out to be the title of Joe Cowley’s autobiography.

Last but not least, it wouldn’t be a Joe Cowley playlist without some Pink Floyd, with a song that is, according to Joe, the best of all time – Brain Damage. This song actually appears in the book. I didn’t quote the lyrics though, because what am I, a millionaire?

And that’s it. To be honest, I think I’ve been neglecting a lot of important duties in the hours I’ve spent honing and refining this list, but the lawn isn’t going anywhere, is it? And I’m sure reports of a previously undiscovered Amazonian tribe living in it are exaggerated.

I’ve also compiled Joe’s Ultimate Playlist on Spotify,




because despite what my taste in music may suggest, I’m not a total granddad.

If you have any comments or questions (besides ‘your playlist needs more 1D’) you can reach me at my Facebook page www.facebook.com/bendavisauthor on Twitter @bendavis_86 or at my website www.bendavisauthor.com

The Private Blog of Joe Cowley: Welcome to Cringefest is out now.

An Interview with Dr Dominic Walliman & Ben Newman, Creators of Professor Astro Cat

To celebrate Science Week I am extremely pleased to welcome Dr Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman to Teen Librarian to talk about Professor Astro Cat.

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I will break up my first question into two parts, the first being how long have the two of you worked together and how did you come to be co-creators of Professor Astro Cat?

BEN: We’ve been friends since secondary school. I got to know Dominic better when he and a friend of ours put on a comedy night. A few of my close friends and I were involved in the evening. We always stayed in touch despite going off on very different paths.
Back in 2010, I designed and printed a solar system poster which sold really well from my website and I approached my publisher, Nobrow about publishing a book about Space for children. They agreed and asked if I knew anyone who could write it. I immediately thought of Dominic and when we were back in our home town for Christmas I asked him and he said ‘no’…. kidding! He said ‘yes’, really.

DOM: I got really into astrophysics when I was in 6th form after reading a book that tied in with a BBC documentary series called Universe. I wasn’t studying physics at the time, but I remember all the facts blowing my mind, and I used to come into school and tell everyone all the crazy stuff I had learned. I think that is probably why Ben thought of me when he wanted to make the book; and I jumped at the chance!

I love the Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System app and would like to know if there are plans for more apps and if they will be available for other operating systems?

BEN: Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System is in the digital mechanics being fine tuned as we speak. I believe MiniLab will be announcing some really cool stuff very soon in regards to the app and other operating systems.

In terms of new Professor Astro Cat apps, I have had numerous conversations with MiniLab about a couple of ideas that we are throwing around. Nothing in the works yet but I’m not sure I could tell you even if there were… Or could I?

What is your working dynamic like? Did you meet up to discuss the layout of Frontiers of Space and Atomic Adventure or did you write the text and work on the illustrations separately?

BEN: At the start of ‘Frontiers of Space’, we did physically sit down and work out the running order and how we thought the book should work. After the text was finished and while I was about half way through drawing that book, Dominic moved to Vancouver in Canada to work on Quantum computers.

We stay in touch via email but we found that while making the ‘Atomic Adventure’, we needed to talk more often face to face over skype. This was a huge help to both of us and made us feel like a team again. We work together very closely despite the distance.

The text is never concrete so it means that Dominic and I can revisit it while I am drawing and designing the layouts. This was a big help for ‘Atomic Adventure’ because the text informs the image and then the text can be integrated and adapted to work with the images. This fluidity was a real breakthrough for us.

DOM: Our work mostly involves me getting down a first draft of each spread and then running it past Ben. Then we do several iterations of back and forth, cutting things out and adding things in. Then when Ben is illustrating we do a few more tweaks on the text, and I sometimes help out on the images if Ben gets stuck on thinks like the technical details. I think it helps that I’m a very visual person and have some art and graphic design skills.

Ben how long did it take you to illustrate each book and do you work digitally or with traditional paper & paint/ink?

BEN: More than a year but less than two years. It’s difficult to judge the time it takes because I try to fit in other projects at the same time. In both books, there has been a lot of trial and error which at the time is incredibly frustrating but ultimately it is a detrimental part of the process.

My work is a mixture of both traditional and digital. Much more of Atomic Adventure was sketched out on the computer this time. Mainly because I wanted to illustrate with the text laid out in front of me. Frontiers of Space was illustrated in areas that I measured on the computer and then drew by hand.

Dom, there is so much information collected in so little space how long did it take you to put the text together? How many sources did you use to collate the information?

DOM: The first book took about 2 years, but now I have got the a book down to about a year. This might seem like a long time but as I’m working full time at D-Wave I use my evenings and weekends to write. Getting the word count down has definitely been something I have got better at though – it is almost like a crossword puzzle! How do I get what I want to say in as few words as possible, and it be very clear at the same time. It is super fun though.
For Atomic Adventure, most of the material came straight out of my head as Physics is a subject I have been studying for a very long time. Then I did a lot of fact checking to make sure I got it all right.

What scientific exploration will we experience next with Professor Astro Cat?

BEN: Well, there is a Professor Astro Cat space project out this summer and maybe even another project later in the year. Dominic and I are already working on his next adventure into science but it’s top secret.

DOM: I can say that the first draft of the next book is done, and I can’t wait to be able to talk about it. It is going to be a lot of fun!

Frontiers of Space was my favourite scientific picture book of 2015 and with Atomic Adventure you have given me my favourite for 2016 (it is a combination of engaging art and really interesting snippets of information) and since discovering your work I have seen more picture books dealing with scientific themes and information. Do you think we are at the beginning of a revolution in scientific picture books?

BEN: I hope so. It would be great to be a part of a movement towards engaging minds young and old in science. Children’s non-fiction has been an area well in need of some TLC for a long while now so finger’s crossed there is a resurgence.

DOM: I hope so too! I would love for science to become a bit more mainstream. When I talk to people, I find a lot of adults who think science is some mixture of intimidating, difficult or dull, and I think it is such a shame. When explained well, science is none of these things. In fact there are few things as enjoyable as understanding something new about the fundamental nature of the Universe. So if we can give the young people of today a more positive experience of science, that is fantastic, and I heartily encourage others to do the same.

For readers who fall in love with your work can both of you give a suggestion for further reading (both your own works and any other authors/illustrators that you think we may enjoy)?

BEN: I love Jim Stoten’s Mr Tweed’s Good Deeds as it is mind bogglingly illustrated and fun. Jim and I used to share a studio together when we were working on our books so he was a big inspiration. Also, Andrew Rae’s Moonhead is a brilliant illustrated story. It’s really funny.

DOM: If you haven’t read the Calvin and Hobbes books yet, I would highly recommend them. They aren’t about science, but are philosophical in the most fun way.

Thank you so much for giving up your time to answer these questions!

Eight Questions With… Anthony McGowan

Hi Tony, and welcome (finally) to Eight Questions With… an interview for Teen Librarian. I was just trying to work out why considering how long we have known each other I have never interviewed you before – do you have any idea why?

I seem to remember that you did interview me for Teen Librarian, back in the Henry Tumour period … In fact, YES! Found it.

Editor’s note: yes, I did interview Tony, it appeared way back in 2007, you can read it here: TLM May 2007 Now let us never mention this embarrassing incident again and get on with the interview…

You currently have three books published by Barrington StokeThe Fall, Brock & Pike, would you be able to give a short introduction to each for readers that may not have already discovered these?

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It might be easiest if I discuss Brock and Pike first. They both feature brothers Nicky and Kenny. At the beginning of Brock their family is in a bit of a mess. Their mum has left them, and their father can’t really cope – he’s lost his job, and generally fallen apart. Nicky is the narrator, and acts as a sort of carer for Kenny, who has special needs. Nicky thinks the best word to describe his brother is ‘simple’ –

People say he’s simple, and he is. I know you’re not meant to say ‘simple-minded’ anymore, but it seems to me that it’s the exact right word for Kenny. He hasn’t got all the stuff going on that mess up other people’s heads. He isn’t always trying to work out the angles, or how to stitch you up. He thinks other people are as kind as he is, and he only has one idea at a time. His brain was starved of oxygen when he was getting born, so now he has what they 9781781124666call learning difficulties. But, like I say, I think ‘simple’ is better and kinder and truer than talking about ‘difficulties’ or ‘disabilities’.

The Nicky-Kenny relationship is the key to the two novels. In Brock, they save a badger from a terrible fate, and Pike is a sort of treasure hunt/adventure story about a body in a lake, and a gold watch, but the relationship between the brothers remains central. They’re stories about love and friendship and redemption. The boys love helps to save the family. Unusually, for me (!) the books have upbeat endings.

The Fall is a rather darker book, telling two traumatic linked tales, about a kid called Mog. The book is about betrayal, and bullying, but doesn’t end well … But I think it has a certain bleak power.

I recall reading a while ago that Brock & Pike are the first two parts of a trilogy – is this true or is my brain making up things as I have not been able to find anything about it?
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I decided that The Fall was just too depressing – especially as the main character is partly based on me, so I bring Mog back in Pike, giving him a kind of redemption, too. So The Fall, Brock and Pike do finally form a sort of loose trilogy.

You are one of the most entertaining authors I follow on twitter and facebook, will you ever be producing a book or e-book of your online musings & conversations?

Hah! Well, a few people have suggested it. I’m not much good at Twitter – my speciality is a sort of rambling surrealist anecdote, and I can’t squeeze that into a tweet. My whimsy really needs the greater length of Facebook. But I do think that some of the best things I’ve ever written have been ‘wasted’ on Facebook, so it would be quite nice to give them a second life.

Are you currently working on anything you can share with the audience? (I am hoping for a follow-up to Hello Darkness as it was one of my favourite reads last year)

I’ve just finished a book I’ve been writing on with another author – the brilliant Jo Nadin. It’s called Everybody Hurts, and it’s a twisted little love story, written from male and female perspectives. The first draft is done, and we’re about to give it a final polish. It probably won’t come out until 2017, as these things always seem to take forever. I’m also well into a huge blockbuster horror project – a sort of Stephen King for teens. The working title is The Wrath. There’s a lot of blood.

Apart from your books, can you recommend any other titles on the Barrington Stoke teen lists?

Barrington Stoke, although small, attract some amazing authors – Kevin Brooks, Keith Gray, Meg Rosoff, Sally Nicholls, Aidan Chambers, Eoin Colfer, Frank Cottrell Boyce, to name but some. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of their Barrington Stoke books.

Are any of your works based on personal experiences?

They all are, to some extent – even the mad, surreal ones, like Hellbent and Hello Darkness. But Brock and Pike are very much set in the small town where I was brought up – Sherburn in Elmet, in Yorkshire. Although it isn’t named, anyone from Sherburn would recognise it instantly. But, in general, most of my characters are versions of people I’ve met. Warped, twisted versions …

Lastly what are you currently reading and would you recommend it to a bunch of librarians?

I’m working my way though the My Struggle sequence by Karl Ove Knausgård – which reads a bit like a po-faced version of my facebook posts. It has a richness and depth, but can also be a bit … dull. So not sure I’d recommend it. What I would certainly recommend, however, is How To Be A Public Author, by Francis Plug (really Paul Ewen) – an hysterical novel about a drunken would be writer, who attends every possible book event to learn the job. It’s ludicrously funny and silly, but also oddly moving, and a tribute to all us bibliophiles.

Thank you so much for giving up your time to participate in this interview!

Zeroes: Favourite Characters and thoughts on Collaboration

margo author picMargo Lanagan

Favourite Character

My favourite character in Zeroes is Crash. She’s observant, thoughtful, basically good-hearted and trying really hard to be responsible. Her power is that she can sense any networked systems around her—any phones, computers, security systems, anything relying on a satellite, wifi, broadband or even a humble optical fibre cable. What’s bad about this power is that:

(a) It hurts to feel all these things—being in a big crowd is like being stung by a swarm of bees, with everyone’s phone’s attacking her, and places with big complex networks are torture for her

(b) If she doesn’t actually make an effort to keep these systems functioning, they crash—hence her code name. So she can do a lot of damage.

She’s also got a very strong moral sense. She’s caught between loving the cleansing relief of crashing things that have been bugging her, and trying to obey her Mom’s rule of Do no harm. She’s an interesting character!

On Collaboration

Compared to writing a novel by myself, I have to say, writing a three-author novel was a piece of cake. I was only technically writing a third of it, even though I still had to be fully engaged with Scott’s and Deborah’s chapters. We all read each other’s chapters, noting where things don’t chime with our own chapters, or where we feel our characters haven’t been done right. Pointing out the number of times Scott used the words “sparkling” or “sputtered”…

Generating the plot was so much easier than my usual method, where I spend months drawing plot maps that don’t work, and drafting screeds of material that never gets used. Not that we didn’t throw stuff away—sometimes our plot got superseded by something cooler. But it all happened so fast! And sitting around at Plot Camp making each other laugh with stupid plot ideas is the best fun. I can highly recommend collaboration.

Scott Westerfeld face600Scott Westerfeld

Favourite Character

My favorite character is probably Scam. His power is “the voice,” which says whatever will get him what he wants. In a way, the voice reminds me of smart-talking detectives in the pulp era, who could disarm the bad guys just by saying the right thing, or convince the cops to let them go if they were found in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Alas for Scam, he’s not as cool as Sam Spade. Growing up with the voice on his side has left him not very proficient with words. He’s never had to learn! So he’s sort of like a kid who’s big brother always protected him, and has never fought his own battles.

On Collaboration

For me, collaborating is like going back in time. When I was a younger novelist, the bad days of writing were dark and horrible and full of despair. The good days were the most amazing I’ve ever had. That’s how things work when you’re new at something–the highs are very high, the lows disastrous.

But since then I’ve written twenty-something novels, and the lows aren’t really that bad anymore. I know from experience that I will get through this. Alas, this also means the highs aren’t as great. But writing with Deb and Margo has brought back those highs. There are sentences and scenes in this book that I never would have managed on my own. And the bad times? Well, let’s just say there are three times as many people to get annoyed with.

DeborahBiancottiDeborah Biancotti

Favourite Character

My favourite character is Flicker, because she’s the one I can most imagine having lunch with. She seems like she’s the sanest and most well-grounded. Maybe it’s a result of having to—literally!—see through other people’s eyes. Despite being born blind, she can see—but only when there’s someone else nearby whose eyes are open.

Of course, every power has a price. Flicker can become overwhelmed by all the different viewpoints that she’s trying to parse in her head. Imagine trying to see a dozen things at once, or a dozen viewpoints on the same thing. And sometimes, she ends up seeing something she really, really doesn’t want to see.

On Collaboration

For me, collaborations are the way of the future. They’re like supercharged writing. TV writers learned this before novelists did. Collaboration lets you air your craziest, wildest ideas. It lets you short-circuit the plotting exercise. You can throw a half-baked idea at your team and then bounce it around between you until it becomes something great. Or you can have your idea shot down in flames within a matter of minutes. That happens.

The best part of the Zeroes collaboration has been what we call Plot Camps. We leave our ordinary lives and come together for three or four days of detailed planning. We work out what will happen and which character will be most affected, and whose point of view chapter this will be. It’s only when you’re back home, alone, trying to make your chapters fit the glamorous ideas of Plot Camp that the doubt begins to creep in. “Why did I agree to this?” and “Can I even pull this off?” are constant companions.

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Prattling about Pocket Pirates… an Interview with Chris Mould

Hi Chris, welcome to TeenLibrarian for the Pocket Pirates Q&A!

captain crabsticksAs is traditional I usually ask first time visitors to the site to introduce themselves to the audience, so can you please let us know something about you?

Hi Matt, yes of course. I’m an illustrator at heart and have been for over twenty years.

I began to write to create narrative content that made sense of the worlds and characters growing out of my sketchbook and from there, I began to write ‘in real life.’ Proof that anybody can do it if they really want to.
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Without giving too many spoilers can you tell us something about the Pocket Pirates?

The home of the pocket pirates is one of miniature people in a human sized environment. So whether it’s being stuck inside an old teapot, having to climb a stack of old books just to get back home, being harassed by a swarm of huge flies or trying to retrieve a stash of biscuit crumbs, the world is a tricky place when you’re only an inch high, even for a brave buccaneer. But the biggest danger comes from the mice beyond the skirting board and the eight legged menace in the tangled web up above. Look out, the enemy are hungry. It’s dangerous out there in the Old Junk Shop.

jonesHow did you come up with the idea of daring pirates living in a bottle ship?

To be honest I was ready to have a rest from Buccaneers. They’re such a terrible lot. I was having a holiday and I spotted a ship in a bottle as I walked round an old shop. I was always a huge Borrowers and Old Mrs Pepperpot fan and I just thought to myself, ‘aha, tiny pirates would live in there.’ And the Pocket Pirates were born. It allowed me to look at pirates in a different way. They were land lubbers and they were little! What could be more fun?

LilyConsidering that they were basically muggers of the sea and worse back in the day (and still are in some parts of the world) why do you think that Pirates seem to be enduringly popular?

I don’t think it’s the habits of the pirate that people find endearing. There are endless pirate publications for children but most of them avoid any serious reference to cut throat lifestyles. I think it’s the period costume and the on board environment they live in that has timeless appeal for illustrators and authors. It’s a very well-trodden path I know. But creating character and narrative has a lot to do with visual appeal. What can be more fun than big pirate hats, striped socks, skulls and crossbones, frilly shirts, huge sleeved coats and a huge rickety old timber house that moves from place to place? And of course, your average pirate is a cheeky scallywag and we all love a mischievous rogue who can mix it up a bit.

old uncle nogginI have seen your name popping up a lot on twitter, most recently next to a map for Matt Haig’s Christmas book – where else can we find your artwork gracing other author’s words?

Ah yes, drawing pine trees and snowy landscapes in the middle of August was a good way to keep me cool this year (as well as living in the UK 😉 I’ve also been working with the hilariously funny Barry Hutchison on the Benjamin Blank fiction series for Nosy Crow. Tremendously chucklesome fun. Very funny writer.

Returning to things piratical, can you recommend books about pirates by other authors?

You mean the pirate enemy? On the other ship?? Of course not! Buy a copy of Pocket Pirates, and nothing else.

Oh go on then, if I must. Make sure you’ve seen Chris Riddell’s beautifully drawn Pirate Diary. And Shipmate Johnny Duddle is always a pirate winner. His new black and white pirate fiction is genius. And don’t miss the Jim Ladd and Benji Davies Space Pirates series from Nosy Crow. I could go on….
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Who is your favourite fictional freebooter? and do you have any favourite non-fiction pirates?

Fiction: Ah I always come back to ‘Silver’. He’s THE BEST. Treasure Island is a text I can read over and over again. And I have to be staring at the Ralph Steadman version.

Non Fiction: I can’t favourite any of the real ones. They’re all bad uns and I’d lock em all up.

What is coming next for the Pocket Pirates?

In the next book the hungry Buccaneers dare to venture outside when their food supplies get low. I won’t give much away but when it rains and they are washed into a storm drain, the rain soaked fun begins.

To inject a bit of levity in to the serious subject of swashbucklers, do you have a favourite pirate joke, and can you share it?

Oh….. And my pirate joke…..

Errrrr…….

Why does it take a pirate so long to learn the alphabet?

Because he spends years at C!

Thank you so much for giving up your time to drop by and answer some questions!

Thank you Matt. Your support is hugely appreciated.

The Black Lotus Tour: Writing Books with Kids

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Kids like writing, but all too often the joy of it gets lost in the mountains of school and home work. Let a child write about something they’re interested in, something meaningful, and the difference will be huge. I discovered this recently in a letter writing lesson. My pupils were required to write an imaginary letter to someone. The results were a little dull. Soon after, however, I arranged a class pen pal swap with a school in America. Once the kids had real pen pals to write to, their writing became alive with personality and enthusiasm.

They say the early childhood years are the formative years of any person’s life, but is it really true? In my case – yes, and here’s the proof. When I was a kid, I wrote two books – one called ‘The Magic Sword’ and one called ‘The Samurai’. Thirty years later, my first novel is published and guess what it’s about? Magic swords and samurai! It’s about other things too, but the influence of my childhood writing cannot be ignored. Writing a book as a child allowed me to experience the thrill of creating new worlds and characters, as well as the thrill of seeing somebody else read about them. Perhaps if I hadn’t written those books as a child, I’d never have become an author as an adult.
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So when I became a teacher I decided to give other kids the opportunity to write a book, in the hope that it might influence their adult life. I started writing books with children in the pre-digital age, so we wrote and illustrated stories on sheets of paper and then stapled them together.

We then got involved with the ‘Write a Book’ scheme which was being run by education centres around the country. As part of this initiative, my pupils each wrote a book and then sent them off to be read and reviewed by other pupils. In return, we received a similar box of books. It was a fantastic scheme.

When computers came into the classroom, they took my book project to the next level. No longer did the child with the messy writing have to feel self-conscious about their handwriting. The printed word became the great leveller in the classroom. Sure, after reading the books, you could still tell which were better than others, but not anymore could you make this decision at first glance.
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The printed word made the books feel more like real books. But with staples and sellotape for binding, they were still a long way off being the real deal. Then along came the internet, and following closely behind it, Print-On-Demand (POD) publishers.

So here’s what my pupils do now: they spend the first term of school preparing for the biggest writing project of their lives by doing all the regular stuff kids do in classrooms across the world. But this time, with a difference. Because now the ‘pointless’ writing activities are no longer pointless, but are training for the book they will write after Christmas.

After having plenty of writing practice in different genres in both fiction and non-fiction, they decide what their book will be about. They spend their Christmas holidays thinking about it, and then return to school in January fired up and ready to start. Free software is downloaded onto the school PCs and pupils spend the next three months writing, drafting, editing and typing their stories. They then illustrate their books with their own artwork or photos. Each book is then uploaded to the POD publisher’s server in America, before being printed in the Netherlands. Once the child’s book is posted, we track the package across Europe until it arrives at the classroom door. Nothing beats the excitement of opening that parcel with your own printed book inside.
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Once all the books arrive at the school, we put away all class readers and use the pupils’ books as class reading material. Pupils read, comment on, and answer questions about each other’s books. Probably the only thing that beats writing your own book is seeing somebody else read and enjoy what you’ve written.

At the end of the year, when copies are thrown in the bin, and textbooks are discarded, these books are carefully brought home and proudly displayed on bookshelves for grandparents, uncles and aunties to see. And long after we’re all gone, some of these treasures will still survive, and hopefully will be picked up by some curious reader in the distant future.

My childhood creation led to what is now a passion in my adult life. I’m hoping it will do the same for some of my pupils.

The Black Lotus by Kieran Fanning published by Chicken House.

Follow Kieran on Twitter @kieranjfanning and find out more at www.kieranfanning.com and http://www.chickenhousebooks.com

The Secret Fire: Interview with Carina Rozenfeld and CJ Daugherty

Alchemy… the occult science devoted to matter transmutation, best known for the search for eternal life and the quest to turn lead into gold.

Now two authors, CJ Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld have combined their talents and turned mere ink and paper into literary gold with their new book The Secret Fire.

The power of two does not end there today two blogs have two interviews about the creation of the novel. Read the interviews below in French and then follow the link to the English interviews at La Voix du Livre

I interviewed Carina Rozenfeld and my blog twin Tom of La Voix du Livre interviewed CJ Daugherty.

Bonjour Carina, bienvenue à l’interview The Secret Fire pour Teen Librarian et La Voix du Livre ! Mon binôme blogueur Tom a interviewé CJ donc tu es mienne pour toute la durée de cette interview (insérer une voix menaçante). Je te présente mes excuses pour mes lacunes en français et j’espère que les poser en Anglais ne posera pas de problème.
Carina
Ma première question que je pose à tous les auteurs que j’interviewe pour le blog est de les inviter à se présenter aux lecteurs, peux-tu s’il te plaît nous dire quelques informations sur toi ?

Quelque chose à mon propos ? Alors, je suis une écrivaine française. J’ai écrit environ 20 livres en France, pour les enfants, les adolescents et les jeunes adultes. Je suis aussi la mère d’un adolescent qui étudie les arts appliqués. Je vis à Paris avec lui et mes chats, pas très loin de la Tour Eiffel…

Est-ce que The Secret Fire est ton premier roman à quatre mains ?

Oui, c’est la première fois que j’écris un roman avec quelqu’un d’autre. J’ai écrit environ 20 livres seule et c’est un beau changement et une super expérience de pouvoir explorer d’autres façons d’écrire.

Comment c’était de travailler avec CJ ? Quels ont été les plus grands challenges auxquels tu as dû faire face dans ce travail collaboratif ?

Travailler avec CJ, c’est génial, drôle et facile. Ça aurait pu être vraiment difficile, mais à la fin, on a trouvé une façon d’écrire ensemble qui a parfaitement fonctionné. La partie la plus difficile a été la langue, sans aucun doute. C’est déjà difficile de trouver sa propre voix, sa propre façon décrire dans sa langue natale, alors vous pouvez imaginer comment ça a été difficile en Anglais ! Mais CJ m’a beaucoup aidé. Merci à elle !

Quelle a été la meilleure partie de cette expérience d’écriture pour toi ?

J’adore (j’utilise le présent car on est en train d’écrire le tome 2 en ce moment même) qu’on puisse échanger nos idées. Et j’adore attendre les chapitres qu’elle m’envoie, car je suis alors à la place du lecteur, puis prendre celle de l’écrivain pour lui permettre d’être la lectrice. C’est très motivant.

Est-ce que vous avez établi un plan scénaristique, une frise chronologie, pour être sûr que vos personnages restaient sur la bonne voie tout au long de l’histoire ?

Pas vraiment. Dans le premier livre j’ai écrit les chapitres sur Sacha, et CJ ceux sur Taylor, alors on savait toujours où les personnages en étaient dans l’histoire. Mais de temps en temps on décidait ensemble ce qui allait se passer dans les chapitres suivants.

Comment avez-vous séparé les scènes d’écriture ? Je suppose que tu as écrit celles sur Sacha et CJ a travaillé sur Taylor (ou je me trompe ?) Mais quand ils se rencontrent, comment avez-vous fonctionné ?

Oui, j’ai écrit les parties sur Sacha et CJ celles sur Taylor. Quand ils sont ensemble ou discutent ensemble, alors, quand c’était mon chapitre par exemple, CJ était libre de changer des choses, pour aller plus dans la profondeur de la pensée de Taylor, pour être plus proche de son personnage, et inversement.
J’ai un peu honte de dire que j’ai une connaissance très limitée des livres non-anglophones en YA ; peux-tu nous recommander quelques auteurs européens de YA que tu aimes ?
Je ne suis pas surprise. La plupart des écrivains français ne sont pas traduits en anglais, alors n’ayez pas honte. C’est vraiment dommage parce qu’il y a beaucoup d’écrivains européens particulièrement bons. Je pense à Charlotte Bousquet, Samantha Bailly, Yves Grevet, Christophe Lambert, Victor Dixen qui sont français et Cindy Van Wilder qui est belge. Je pourrais encore en mentionner beaucoup. La littérature française est pleine de trésors.

Qu’est-ce que ce travail t’a apporté dans ta vie personnelle et dans ta vie professionnelle ?

C’est une expérience incroyable. Dans ma vie personne, j’ai une nouvelle amitié avec CJ et j’ai réalisé un rêve, celui de publier un livre en anglais, parce que mon frère vit en Amérique et ma belle-sœur et toute sa famille sont américains. Je suis ravie de savoir qu’ils vont finalement pouvoir lire un de mes livres. Dans ma vie professionnelle, je peux maintenant savoir ce que c’est d’être un auteur « anglais ». Les choses ne sont pas les mêmes : sa façon de travailler avec son editor/publisher (Ndt : en anglais, le mot n’est pas le même. L’editor est celui qui s’occupe du travail éditorial tandis que le publisher est celui qui publie le livre – c’est un poste plus logistique et directorial), la façon dont son livre voyage dans le monde parce qu’il est en anglais.

Est-ce que The Secret Fire est ton premier livre disponible en anglais ?

Oui, et j’ai beaucoup d’optimisme sur la suite, quelques éditeurs anglais seront peut-être intéressés de traduire mes autres livres après celui-ci !

Quelques uns de mes éditeurs français sont en relation avec mon éditeur anglais Atom Books. Peut-être que quelque chose se passera un jour ?

J’ai eu une longue période d’intérêt en l’alchimie durant mes penchants gothiques adolescents, alors j’aurais aimé savoir si vous avez fait des recherches sur l’alchimie pour cette histoire ?

La plupart des recherches ont été faites par CJ, parce que son personnage est plus concerné par l’alchimie. Mais j’ai lu quelques choses sur ce sujet.

Vous avez décidé d’écrire une histoire fantastique. Pourquoi cela était-il important pour vous ?

La plupart de mes romans ont une trame fantastique. Alors j’était familière de ce genre. CJ, elle, voulait faire une histoire plus fantastique et paranormale que Night School donc ce genre nous est venu assez naturellement.

Crois-tu que les alchimistes peuvent vraiment transformer des matières en une autre forme ?

En fait, en un sens, ne sommes-nous pas des alchimistes quand nous allumons la lumière dans nos maisons ? On transforme quelque chose, de l’énergie, de l’électricité, en lumière…

Que penses-tu de la magie ?

J’adore les bonnes histoires avec quelque chose de magique dans celles-ci. Et quand je vois un magicien, je suis toujours étonnée par ce qu’ils sont capables de faire, et je veux croire que c’est possible ! Peut-être que c’est pour ça que j’écris des histoires avec tant de fantastique : j’aimerais que tout cela comme la magie, les extraterrestres, avoir des ailes, être le Phénix puisse vraiment exister…

Si tu étais alchimiste, que ferais-tu de tes capacités ?

M’aider à travailler plus vite ? Trouver un moyen de voyager super vite, comme la téléportation ? Sentir le monde autour de moi de façon plus forte ?

Penses-tu que le réalisme magique de votre histoire peut aider le lecteur à considérer les vrais problèmes auquel un jeune adulte est confronté dans notre monde ?

Je lis beaucoup de YA et je pense que dans tous les livres, peu importe le genre (fantasy, paranormal, SF, réalisme…), on a toujours une certaine résonnance avec les problèmes des jeunes adultes : devenir un adulte avec des responsabilités, choisir quel genre d’adulte on aimerait devenir. La relation au monde, aux autres, aux parents, les capacités qu’on a pour construire la personne qu’on va devenir, comment faire face aux changements auxquels on va être confrontés, la réalité de la vie et de la mort…

Peux-tu nous donner quelques informations sur le tome 2 ?

Je n’en suis pas sûre… Mais peut-être que je peux vous dire que vous allez en apprendre plus sur les alchimistes, et que vous allez rencontrer des créatures encore plus terrifiantes.

Merci beaucoup d’avoir répondu à cette interview !

Some People Are Dangerous

Bonjour CJ, bienvenue sur La Voix du Livre pour l’interview sur The Secret Fire ! Mon binôme blogueur Matt a interviewé Carina (nous échangeons nos auteurs locaux) !

www.darrenbrade.comEst-ce que tu peux nous dévoiler quelque chose à propos de toi ?

Je suis une ancienne journaliste qui travaillait sur des meurtres et aujourd’hui j’écris des romans !

Est-ce que The Secret Fire est le premier roman que tu as écrit à quatre mains ?

Oui, j’ai écrit seule tous mes autres romans.

Comment c’était de travailler avec Carina ? Quels étaient les plus gros challenges ? Et quel a été le meilleur moment de cette expérience littéraire ?

C’était vraiment génial ! On se motivait mutuellement. Quand on a commencé à travailler sur The Secret Fire, on l’appelait « Le livre aux deux cerveaux ». On a décidé qu’il serait deux fois mieux que n’importe quel livre qu’on a écrits chacune de notre côté.
Ce qui a été le plus compliqué a été de décider comment nous allions procéder. Est-ce que nous devrions Skyper tous les jours ? Est-ce que nous devrions partager toutes nos idées avant de les écrire ? Mais finalement nous avons mis en place un système de chapitres alternés, et ça s’est bien mis en place.

Est-ce que vous aviez prévu ensemble la chronologie de l’histoire pour être sures que vos personnages restent sur la bonne voie durant tout le roman ?

Non, pas au début. On écrivait simplement les chapitres comme ils venaient. Mais quand l’intrigue s’est vraiment développée, c’est devenu nécessaire d’organiser la suite. Nous avons donc décidé ensemble de ce qui allait arriver et nous avons ensuite écrit le reste de nos chapitres. Et pour le second tome, nous avons un synopsis détaillé et nous essayons plus ou moins d’y rester fidèles.

Qu’est-ce que ce travail vous a apporté, dans votre vie professionnelle mais aussi personnelle ?

Ca a supprimé la solitude du travail d’écriture. J’avais un retour immédiat sur mon travail. J’envoyais un chapitre à Carina dans la matinée et elle me répondait le plus souvent dans les heures qui suivaient. Et j’adorais lire ses chapitres, c’était comme avoir un petit cadeau chaque jour.

Est-ce que vous avez dû effectuer beaucoup de recherche sur l’alchimie ?

ENORMEMENT. J’ai lu des traductions de livres d’alchimie du XVe siècle et j’ai étudié les inventions et l’imaginaire de l’alchimie. Et le titre de notre roman est emprunté à un célèbre texte du XVIe siècle sur l’alchimie.

Pourquoi est-ce que c’était important pour vous de créer une intrigue fantastique ?

Je n’avais jamais écrit de fantasy avant et j’avais envie de voir tout ce qu’on peut faire quand les lois de la physique ne s’appliquent plus à vos personnages et que vous pouvez aller au-delà des limites. Lorsque nous écrivons de la fantasy, nous ne somment pas limités.

Est-ce que vous croyez que les alchimistes pouvaient transformer une substance en une autre ?

C’est ce que nous faisons toute le temps à notre époque. Nous transformons le fer ou le minerai en acier, le plastique en tissus.
Et le plastic vient du pétrole. Quand on assemble deux molécules, on peut créer quelque chose de complètement différent. Associe le sodium et le chlorure, tu crées du sel de table. Notre monde est plein de transformations et les alchimistes étaient juste en avance sur leur temps. Après tout, l’alchimie c’est 90% de la science et seulement 10% de magie. Et est-ce que tu ne crois pas aux 10% de magie ?

Quel est ton point de vue sur la magie ?

J’aimerais être une sorcière, est-ce que c’est trop demander ?

Si tu avais des compétences en alchimie, qu’est-ce que tu aimerais faire ?

J’aimerais faire de belles choses, rendre les gens heureux, donner à mes amis tout ce qu’ils veulent. Et aussi, agrandir ma maison.

Est-ce que tu penses que le mélange de magie et de réalisme de votre roman peut aider les lecteurs à voir les problèmes réels auxquels les jeunes adultes sont confrontés dans le monde ?

Dans le roman, Sacha meurt alors qu’il vient juste d’avoir 18 ans. Je pense qu’il est juste de dire que quand on est jeunes, les 18 ans peuvent symboliser la fin de la jeunesse et le début intimidant d’une vie d’adulte. Ce livre parle du désir de survire à 18 ans et montre les incroyables possibilités qu’apporte le futur. Ce livre montre également à quel point la science peut être géniale. Donc, je contribue à ma manière pour éduquer les jeunes ?
Est-ce que vous avez le droit de nous donner quelques indices sur le deuxième tome ?

Le tome 2 commence trois semaines avant les 18 ans de Sacha. Ils sont sur le point de découvrir qui est le Dark practitioner et pourquoi il est passé de l’alchimie à la démonologie. Le temps file mais Taylor devient plus fort.

Est-ce que tu peux nous dire quels autres auteurs français et anglais de YA tu apprécies ?

Evidemment, je recommande tous les livres de Carina Rozenfeld, en particulier Phaenix, elle est une auteure formidable !
J’adore également Cindy Van Wilder, qui est belge mais qui écrit en français. Elle a par exemple écrit Les Héritiers et La reine des neiges.

Et dans les auteurs anglais ou américains, j’adore Holly Bourne (Am I Normal Yet ?), Mel Salisbury (The Sin Eater’s Daughter) et Cassandre Clare (The Mortal Instruments) et plein d’autres encore !

All my thanks go to Tom & his girlfriend for the rapid translation of these interviews from English into French!