Category Archives: Authors

An (incomplete) List of British BAME Authors for Children & Young People

When the list of books for the 20th anniversary of World Book Day in 2017 was released last week it was notable for being lily-white. I was surprised that a day purporting to celebrate books across the world was limited to authors that are from a small part of it and decided to take a look at British authors for children and young people in the UK that have a BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) heritage. While putting the list together I was helped in this endeavour by a number of brilliant friends and colleagues on twitter and facebook.

This list is not complete so if you have suggestions for more authors or if you are an author with a BAME heritage then please do let me know in the comments beneath this post.

Sophia Acheampong
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John Agard
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Sufiya Ahmed
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Atinuke
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Malorie Blackman
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Sita Bramichari
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Tanya Byrne
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Sarwat Chadda
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Joseph Coelho
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Narinder Dhami
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Jamila Gavin
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Rohan Gavin
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Candy Gourlay
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Swapna Haddow
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Yasmeen Ismail
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Catherine Johnson
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Savita Kalhan
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Peter Kalu
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Patrice Lawrence
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Sangu Mandanna
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Irfan Master
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Taran Matharu
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Stefan Mohamed
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Wilf Morgan
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Millie Murray
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Grace Nichols
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Sam Osman
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Anna Perera
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Smriti Prasadam-Halls
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Bali Rai
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Leila Rasheed
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Jasmine Richards
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Na’ima B Robert
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SF Said
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Nadia Shireen
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Nikesh Shukla
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Chitra Soundar
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Tabitha Suzuma
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Meera Syal
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Alex Wheatle
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Verna Wilkins
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Ken Wilson-Max
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Benjamin Zephaniah
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Tamarind Press
Tamarind Books was founded by Verna Wilkins in 1987 with the mission of redressing the balance of diversity in children’s publishing. Over twenty years later, the world has changed but the problem is still very relevant today. And so, Tamarind still exists to put diversity ‘in the picture’.

Hope Road Publishing
HopeRoad Publishing is an exciting, independent publisher, vigorously supporting voices too often neglected by the mainstream. We are promoters of literature with a special focus on Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. At the heart of our publishing is the love of outstanding writing from writers you, the reader, would have otherwise missed.

Cassava Pepublic Press
Our mission is to change the way we all think about African writing. We think that contemporary African prose should be rooted in African experience in all its diversity, whether set in filthy-yet-sexy megacities such as Lagos or Kinshasa, in little-known rural communities, in the recent past or indeed the near future. We also think the time has come to build a new body of African writing that links writers across different times and spaces.

Fire Tree Books
Building on the powerful legacy of Verna Wilkins’ 30 years in the industry, Firetree books is expanding, updating and refreshing important messages for a new audience in today’s diverse classrooms and homes.
Firetree presents unselfconscious representations of all children. Our books aim to inspire and entertain readers by depicting the diversity and lives of children in our shrinking, inter-dependent world.

The Jhalak Prize
The prize is unique in that it will be accepting entries published in the UK in 2016 by a writer of colour. This will include (and not be limited to) fiction, non-fiction, short story, graphic novel, poetry, children’s books, YA, teen and all genres. The prize will also be open to self-published writers. The aim is the find the best writers of colour in the country.

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

cringecest
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