Category Archives: Authors

Unspooling The Red Ribbon… an Interview with Lucy Adlington


Hi Lucy, welcome to Teen Librarian and thank you for giving up your time to answer a few questions about The Red Ribbon.

Can you please introduce yourself to the audience?

Hello, I’m Lucy Adlington. I’m a writer and costume historian (which means I get to find out fantastic stories about people’s lives in the past, using clothes as clues). I live on a farm in Yorkshire and I love my work.

How would you describe The Red Ribbon to catch the attention of a potential reader?

The Red Ribbon is a story of four girls, each looking to survive in extreme circumstances. It’s also about love, courage, hope… and the power of clothes to transform our lives.

What inspired you to write the story?

The story of The Red Ribbon is based on real events in history. During World War Two, in the middle of Auschwitz – the Nazi concentration camp – there really was a dressmaking studio where prisoners could literally sew to save their lives. I was so staggered to discover this I just knew I had to share it with readers.

If readers would like to find out more information about the true story behind The Red Ribbon where would you recommend they look?

I’m working on a non-fiction book about the Auschwitz dressmakers. In the meanwhile, readers might like to read testimonies of Auschwitz survivors. I recommend Eva’s Story by Eva Schloss. She was Anne Frank’s stepsister. She survived Auschwitz as a teenager and still tours the UK speaking on behalf of refugees, and against discrimination.

Writing about historical events such as the Holocaust can be harrowing – did you find any parts of writing The Red Ribbon difficult?

The greatest challenge was daring to create fiction out of such a significant era of history, all the while remembering that while it’s history for us, it was people’s lives. I wanted to respect the truth even while weaving the fates of my own characters. I never, ever feel dulled to the horrors of warfare or genocide while reading or writing about them. They fed my anger against injustice and violent tribalism.

Can you recommend any other books based on the same time period to fans of your book?

My To Read pile is vast, and topping it are Elizabeth Wein’s books Codename Verity and Rose Under Fire. I loved Judith Kerr’s memoirs Bombs on Aunt Daisy (also When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit) And of course, Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mr Tom.

At the end of the Second World War world leaders started working towards a world where such atrocities could never take place again, now with the resurgence of the neo-Nazi movement and growth in hate crimes do you think the world is at risk at tipping towards fascism again?

There have always been extremists who seek to impose their constrictions on all levels of society. No matter how many times we say Never Again there are countries and cultures that promote right-wing doctrines. If we have the luxury of freedom we must use our voices against hate-speech. If we enjoy the luxury of living in a free society we must, in our daily lives and daily acts, promote community and connectedness.

Lastly will you be visiting libraries and schools once The Red Ribbon is published? If yes what is the best way to contact you?

I LOVE visiting libraries most of all – in schools, or in towns. As a child I would have lived in a library if I could (next best thing – being allowed to take home 12 library books a week). Librarians throughout my life have inspired me to read more, and to read more widely – I thank them all. You can see where I’ll be presenting talks about The Red Ribbon on my website www.historywardrobe.com There’s an online events diary.

‘Reading Russia’ while researching The Rasputin Dagger by Theresa Breslin

In 2012, when I was just beginning to have vague thoughts that I might write an historical novel set in Russia during the Revolution, an email appeared in my Inbox. Edinburgh International Book Festival was celebrating 50 years and, supported by the British Council, invited 50 writers to do a cultural exchange with different locations world-wide. So, while other writers ended up shopping in New York or sunning themselves in the Caribbean I was one of a group who were asked to speak at a Cultural Fair in… Siberia!

A stop-off in Moscow provided the opportunity to speak with librarians, teachers and students of English literature and see some of Russia’s literary treasures. In addition to their pre-printing press beautifully illuminated manuscripts, there were originals manuscripts of famous Russian writers, such as Dostoevsky and, thrillingly, the handwritten title page of Mikhail Bulgakov’s original manuscript for The Master and Margarita.

Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Moscow Original MS ‘The Master and Margarita’: ©Scarpa

Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Moscow Original MS ‘The Master and Margarita’: ©Scarpa

We discussed the transformative power of good fiction and in the evening attended an ‘open mike’ literature session in a night club. Seriously. In a night club. During the music breaks anyone could come up and talk about reading. And they did. Amazing! Young people spoke about the influence of Gogol and quoted favourite bits of Turgenev. And I learned so much about modern Russian writers. We were challenged to name a ‘hero for our times’ I chose Katniss Everdeen – who else?

Russia has enormously influential writers, with Alexander Pushkin rated as the funder of modern Russian literature. In Eugene Onegin Pushkin speaks on writing saying: “… weave together emotion, thought, and magic sound; I write, …”

Pushkin supported the 1825 uprising and his writings were considered so dangerous by the Tsar that he was banished from St Petersburg and barred from any government post. When he died he was buried without ceremony in case the occasion of his funeral would cause unrest. I’m intrigued by Pushkin for he used language in a new way, melding traditional tongues with the words of the common people. He proved a big inspiration for the character of Nina’s father, Ivan, the Storyteller, in The Rasputin Dagger.

Then on to Siberia. I was soooooo excited. It was late October / early November and they said “Oh, it’s not that cold, yet…” Really? I was glad I’d packed my grey-goose down-filled parka with the fur-lined hood. I have to say that Melvin Burgess looked fetching in his dark green wool overcoat and was a particular draw for our teen audiences.

As I’m a former Young People’s Services librarian the organisers were keen that I speak on the subject of Youth Library Services. Despite the remote venue the session was full and I was proud to share examples of British ‘best practice’. Like ravenous wolves the librarians fell upon the material I’d brought with me.

 Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Siberia Librarians Event: ©Scarpa

Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Siberia Librarians Event: ©Scarpa

Then Melvin and I had events with articulate and engaging young teenagers, organised and moderated by the pupils themselves.

 Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Siberia Teen Event: ©Scarpa

Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Siberia Teen Event: ©Scarpa

It was an absolute joy to talk to these young Russians. Although desperately keen for modern teen fiction from the West, their own reading included Tolstoy and Chekhov, and a wide range of classic Russian books.

And a final interesting fact – schools in Siberia only close if the temperature drops below 26 degrees centigrade!

©Theresa Breslin 2017
Twitter: @TheresaBreslin1

Eight Questions With… Ed McDonald Author of #Blackwing

Hi Ed, welcome to TeenLibrarian and thank you for giving up your time for a quick chat about Blackwing!

To begin, would you like to introduce yourself to the audience?

Hi, I’m Ed, and I write books about people waving swords around. I also like to wave swords around myself.

How would you describe Blackwing to arouse the interest of a potential reader?

Blackwing takes a lot of elements that are familiar to people – magic, monsters, war – and puts them into the structure of a thriller. It’s a lot faster in pace than most fantasy books because I wanted to write a ‘page turner’ rather than an exploration of a world as we get in a lot of fantasy. The plot/story is the main thing and a lot of people seem to burn through it in a few days.

You have taken the premise of an alcoholic antihero with a past ™, working for Crowfoot – one of a group of powerful beings who are have shed much of their humanity and not exactly the ‘good’ guys and pit he and his team against a powerful foe that are even worse. What inspired you to write this phenomenal work?

I studied ancient and medieval history and I was looking at doing a PhD about neutrality towards violence. When you look at the way people acted pre 1900 you see that behaviour in a non-policed society is frequently what we would consider sociopathic in its coldness and brutality. How exactly can a leader justify cutting off the noses and ears of fifty prisoners? I wanted to write about people who felt real to me, and that meant thinking myself into the heads of similarly monstrous characters.

One of the most memorable recurring scenes is how Crowfoot contacts Galharrow via the Crow tattoo – how did you come up with that novel concept?

I needed a way for Galharrow to get messages without meeting anyone. It’s a bit like getting a text message, in a way! But I also needed it to be something that couldn’t happen frequently, and I liked the idea that it hurt him (and he doesn’t necessarily want it) because it shows how skewed the power relationship is between Galharrow and Crowfoot. When your boss sends you angry message that tear themselves out of your flesh, well, it’s hardly a meeting of equals.

I know most people reading this interview have still got the joy of experiencing reading Blackwing for the first time but for those (like me) who have already done so – what can we expect in book 2 – or is that still top secret?

Book 2 is written and I’m editing it at the moment. Avoiding spoilers as much as I can, the idea that’s put forward in the final chapter of Blackwing is the launching point for the next book. We see a return of pretty much every (surviving!) character in one form or another. The war goes on, there’s a new threat rising and again there’s a race against time to save the day. Obviously!

There has been an upsurge in the GrimDark Fantasy subgenre in recent years but I think that Blackwing is near the top of the pile being eminently readable and well great fun without sacrificing any of the dark notes – can you recommend any titles by other authors for readers interested in exploring dark fantasy?

I definitely like my GrimDark to be on the lighter side – I love the grit but I’ve no interest in excessive gore, torture-porn or sexual violence. To me, a fantasy book should be fun, not a trauma. For that reason I’d recommend The Straight Razor Cure by Daniel Polansky (the third book in the series is the real gem), and Joe Abercrombie’s series that begins with Half a King is a great introduction for a YA audience. Joe manages to start out fairly light but by the end, boy are we in the grit, and I like that (and again, no excess).

What was your favourite part of writing Blackwing?

The most fun part of writing a book, for me, is when I just hit on some random idea in the middle of a sentence and think “Oh! Yeah! That would be good. Let’s do that.” And then making it happen, even if it changes the direction of the book.

Most people seem to talk about the Misery, or the Darlings and gillings in Blackwing, but for me the scenes with Ezabeth are the most important. Galharrow’s relationship with her is, for me, the crux of the book and there’s a lot of raw emotion written into them.

Finally, if Blackwing is fortunate enough to make its way to the big screen, who would you cast as the main characters?

Can I have a young Arnie? Just because I love Arnie? No? Ok then:

Galharrow – Rory McCann (The Hound in GoT – he’s big enough)
Nenn – Charlize Theron (she has some Furiosa vibes)
Tnota – Idris Elba (great actor)
Ezabeth – Emma Watson (great actress & feminist)
Crowfoot – an evil raven

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

Thanks it was fun!

Rook, and the sense of place by Anthony McGowan

I like to think that if the world were destroyed in some apocalypse, and a future race – perhaps descended from ants or koala bears or mung beans – tried to rebuild our world from literary sources, my books Brock, Pike, and Rook would enable a pretty accurate recreation of the Yorkshire village of Sherburn in Elmet.

Although, in writing for young adults, I’ve invested most of my energies into characterisation and narrative, I’ve always known exactly where my books were set. It’s almost always been a version of my old school – Corpus Christi, in Leeds. The stained concrete and glass of the building, the polluted beck running past it, the tussocky field beyond where travellers would come and go in mysterious patterns, the surrounding Halton Moor council estate – these were where my characters worked through the dangers and joys of teenage life.

Although I went to school in Leeds, I was actually brought up ten miles outside, in Sherburn. It’s an odd sort of place – once split between farming and mining – with the old village centre topped and tailed by large council estates, but now swollen with private housing, serving commuters to Leeds and York. As kids, it was glorious. The countryside was a short bike-ride away, and the building sites for the new estates were the perfect playground, in those pre-health and safety days. We built elaborate dens and fought huge wars against rival gangs of urchins. We played football all Winter, and cricket all Summer.

It’s a place I can still see clearly, whenever I close my eyes. The high street with its four pubs, ranging from rough to dead rough. The Spa. The Co-op. Two fish and chip shops. There’s a joke about a Jewish man who washes up on a desert island. The first thing he does is to build two synagogues – the one he goes to and the one he wouldn’t be seen dead in. It was like that with the fish and chip shops. We went to Kirkgate, but wouldn’t dream of getting our chips from Huggan’s. The beautiful old church on the hill. The Methodist chapel down in the village. The old cinema converted into a Catholic church, where I served as an altar boy all through my childhood. Then, just out of the village, the Bacon factory – a huge meat processing plant. And next to it, the Bacon pond, where monstrous pike lurked, fattened, we were told, on rotten meat from the factory.

I populated this remembered microverse with kids I knew or half knew. Nicky and Kenny live up on the Highfields council estate. At the beginning of the series, their world was falling apart, their family split, money short, hope all but gone. What saves them is love: the love of Nicky for his older but simpler brother, Kenny. Kenny’s own wide-beam love, which encompasses not only his family, but anything helpless and vulnerable they encounter. And so, over the first two books, things get better. Their dad begins to sort out his life. They move on.

In Rook, the last (I think …) in the series, their problems change. Rather than survival, the issues are more typical teenage ones. Kenny has made new friends – one of who appears to be Doctor Who – and Nicky no longer feels quite so needed, quite so central to his brother’s being. And he’s fallen for a pretty girl at school, with the horrible complication that her brother is a vicious bully. There are twists, which follow, I trust, the organic patterns of life, rather than the artificial needs of plot. In the end things work out … OK.

But I hope that I’ve been true both to my characters, and to that place – that particular small town in North Yorkshire, typical, and yet unique, seemingly ordinary, and yet overflowing with stories, with eccentrics, with danger and joy, with life.

BrockPike and Rook are published by Barrington-Stoke and are available now

Get Ahead as an Author – Get a Dog

Dogs make the very best muses. I know because I wrote a book about a boy and a dog, with two of my own fur babies constantly by my side. Goodnight, Boy is written to and about a dog, and it explores how, even in the very worst circumstances, a dog will keep you going. Any authors reading this will know that I’m only exaggerating slightly when I say that the badlands of 20,000 words into a first draft is a pretty bad place to find yourself. As is sitting down to the smell of freshly-sent editorial notes.

So here is a rundown of why, if you want to get ahead in publishing, you should most definitely get a dog.

  1. Basics

The only indispensable rule I know for writing is that you must have your bum on a seat, and your fingers on the keyboard to produce anything. So, if, as a dog owner, you’re forced to spend more time at home, this is a good start. If you also have a dog keeping your toes warm (as Edith Wharton put it, ‘a heartbeat at my feet’), it really does discourage you from wandering off and doing housework.

  1. Distractions

Talking of housework, once you’re a dog owner, I can guarantee you’ll spend less time on housework, redecorating and the general maintenance of what is normally seen as an acceptable standard of hygiene because keeping up with the mess dogs create is pretty much futile. One of my dogs sheds like a dandelion clock mid blow, 24 hours a day. This may sound like a negative, but actually time spent not hoovering can be diverted into words, paragraphs, chapters, and head stroking.

 

  1. Hobbies

Forget hobbies. Writing takes time; for thinking, drafting, editing, and Twitter stalking writers more successful than yourself. So the last thing you need is an interesting pastime, such as badminton or medieval battle enactment. It won’t matter though, because, as a writer you get to experience any number of strange locations and events in your head. And, if you’re ever asked at a publishing party what else you do, just say you have a dog because a dog is a hobby, and I’ll fight anyone who disagrees.

 

  1. Health and fitness

There’s a syndrome, coined by the incomparable author Pip Jones, known as SAAD: Spreading Author Arse Disorder. Sedentary hours make SAAD pretty much inevitable, so you’re going to have to get some exercise in somehow. Dogs like walks even though they don’t have Fitbit buddies to impress. The longer and more frequent the better, and in absolutely any weather (unless they’re like one of mine, who is half cat, and won’t go out if showers are forecast). On walkies your dog will meet up with their mates and you’ll make friends with their owners too (think, park scene in 101 Dalmations, but, in my experience, less romantic). If you’re lucky, these humans will be the sort who don’t mind you bouncing book ideas off them or moaning about writing. Even if they do, they’re a lot more polite about it than your family are. And when you’re not exploiting the personal generosity of strangers, you get to spend time walking alone listening to music and audio books (consuming other people’s books is part of the job) or just walking in silence, which sometimes allows you hear those really shy, difficult voices that lurk at the back of your brain.

 

  1. Mental health

Being a writer can be wonderful but, contrary to popular belief, it’s probably not the way to

everlasting happiness. Granted, writing can be cathartic at times, but once you’ve catharted you have to live with the fact that other people, thousands of them, will be reading, judging, maybe even hurling across the room in disgust, the product of said catharsis. Fortunately, dogs probably can’t read – though, as the first draft of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was eaten by his dog, Max, you have to wonder. Generally speaking, however, your dog will not mind how bad your first draft is. They equally won’t care about reviews, prizes, foreign rights sales, or if you’re even any good or hopelessly derivative and commercially out of kilter. Dogs are all about here and now. And, as writers, if we can try to be more dog, and concentrate on the process rather than the product, I have a feeling that we’d not only be a lot happier, but better writers too.

 

  1. Love

People worry about being lonely if they work from home, but I never feel alone. I work with fantastic colleagues who can’t talk to me. This means they can’t discuss the project they’re working on, ask what’s for dinner, or chat about school. They never disagree with me, or storm off to their bedroom, and they don’t judge me when I get in a strop because Scrivener is stupid. (It is – fact). Dogs take tolerance and unconditional love to saintly levels, and like nothing better than to soothe the furrowed brow of the needy writer with a lick, a well-placed head on the lap, or a paw in the hand. They’re philosophers, therapists, personal trainers, and friends. And that’s why authors need dogs.

 

One last historical note; George Eliot’s publisher sent her a pug as part payment for one of her novels. A practice that, I hope my publisher will agree, should definitely be revived for 2017.

 

 

Mother and daughter Labradoodles, Tinker (left) and Coco

 

Nikki and Tinker


Coco and Tinker playing with their friend, Snowy, at Brighton Beach

Fever: the Deon Meyer Interview


Hi Deon, welcome to the TeenLibrarian interview and thank you for giving up your time to answer a few questions!

Before we begin I would just like to say as a SA expat I am a major fan of your work and love seeing South African authors making waves in the international book world!

Hi Matt

Thank you very much for the kind comments. Much appreciated!

Even though it has a laaitie with a gun, Fever is not a novel aimed at the teen or YA market (but the best books are for all ages) and I know that it will appeal to a number of the older kids I work with! Have you ever considered writing a book aimed specifically at a teen audience?

My basic philosophy is to write the story I am most passionate about ( I usually have a few brewing), and I write for the only reader I know – me. So if such a story comes around and the reader within gets excited, I would certainly try …

You are a superstar in the crime fiction world – what inspired you to write a post-apocalyptic novel?

I’m not quite sure about the ‘superstar’ status, and I must admit that I don’t believe in inspiration, but perspiration. You have to work at finding and developing story ideas. FEVER’s origins are in multiple places; non-fiction books on what would really happen in a world without us, all the great post-apocalyptic novels (and a few short stories) I’ve read in my life, my concern for our planet, and my hope that we can transform our South African society into a country of liberty and equality.

Fever, like your earlier works was originally written in Afrikaans, when your works are translated do you work with the translator or do you just let them get on with the work?

I work closely with my exceptional translator Laura Seegers. We’ve been working together for almost 15 years, and have a great understanding.

I am aware that several of your books have been optioned for film and television over the years, if you had the choice what format you prefer for Fever?

I think FEVER is best suited for a TV series.

I am about two thirds of the way through Fever (and may have finished it by the time you answer these questions) – it is so outstandingly good! How long did it take for the Fever to burn through you from initial infection to completion?

Thank you! It took four years from initial concept to final chapter.

Most authors I know hate the question “what are you working at the moment?” so instead I will ask what are you currently reading?

I don’t mind telling you that I’m writing a new Bennie Griessel crime thriller. And I’m reading the superlative Ken Follet’s FALL OF GIANTS.

Can you recommend the works of other South African authors for an international audience?

Absolutely. In no particular order, and to name but a few, there’s Karin Brynard, Mike Nicol, Margie Orford, Michael Stanley, Angela Makholwa, Andrew Brown, Chris Marnewick, Paul Mendelson, MD de Villiers

#YATakeover Neil Gaiman Interview

Early last week I received a cryptic e- mail from Jake Hope asking if I was free on Saturday from 4 – 5pm. I said of course and he revealed that Neil Gaiman had agreed to participate Anthe FAFictionado’s #YATakeover and they wanted me to host the chat.

Once I had managed to stop dancing round the library I agreed and then started fretting that something terrible would happen (spoiler: it didn’t)

The interview took place yesterday on twitter and the storify is below:

INAUGURAL SCOTTISH TEENAGE BOOK PRIZE WINNER REVEALED #ScotTeenBookPrize

Borders-based author Claire McFall has been named the winner of the very first Scottish Teenage Book Prize.

Claire’s third novel, Black Cairn Point, garnered votes from young people (aged 12 – 16) across the country to beat off stiff competition from Keith Gray’s The Last Soldier and Joan Lennon’s Silver Skin.

Claire will receive £3,000 whilst Keith and Joan will receive £500 each. The prize, has been set up to celebrate the most popular teen books by Scottish authors, and is run by Scottish Book Trust with support from Creative Scotland. Call Scotland produced free accessible versions of the three shortlisted books on their Books for All website.

Black Cairn Point, published by Hot Key Books, is a chilling and atmospheric thriller which explores what happens when an ancient malevolent spirit is reawakened and is set in Dumfries and Galloway.

Claire’s win comes hot on the heels of her signing a film contract for her first novel Ferryman in China, where her debut novel has sold almost a million copies. Claire received news of her Scottish Teenage Book Prize win from vlogger Claire Forrester aka The Book Fox at The Edinburgh Book Shop in Bruntsfield and the announcement video is available on the Scottish Book Trust’s website.

She said; “I’m over the moon that Black Cairn Point has been voted the winner of the first Scottish Teenage Book Prize. It’s a brilliant award that encourages young people around Scotland to read books about and from their country and their culture. But it also encourages them to get involved by taking part in the competitions for readers that run alongside. Silver Skin and The Last Soldier are both terrific books, so to know that readers chose my novel is an enormous compliment. This is why I write.”

Claire is a writer and English teacher who lives in Clovenfords in the Scottish Borders. Her first book, Ferryman is a love story which retells the ancient Greek myth of Charon, the ferryman of Hades who transported souls to the underworld. The novel won the Older Readers Category of the Scottish Children’s Book Awards 2013; was long-listed for the UKLA (UK Literary Association) Book Awards and long-listed for the Branford Boase Award; and nominated for the Carnegie Medal. The sequel to the Ferryman is due to be released in September. Her second novel, Bombmaker, was released in 2014 and considers ideas of identity in a dystopian devolved United Kingdom. Black Cairn Point was released in August 2015.

Heather Collins, Schools Programme Manager at Scottish Book Trust, said;

“Congratulations to Claire McFall on winning the inaugural Scottish Teenage Book prize which encourages teens themselves to actively celebrate the books they love and attracted votes from secondary school pupils across Scotland.

“The prize also creates a platform for Scottish writing talent to be recognized and promoted. Claire’s novel is a great example of Scotland’s vibrant teenage book industry where there are lots of great publishers working with very talented authors like Claire, Keith and Joan and this new prize has allowed us to shine a light on this fantastic offering.

“The benefits of encouraging young people to read, from transporting readers to other worlds to better understanding the one we’re in, are limitless. Scottish Book Trust is proud to be working with Creative Scotland to champion that cause.”

Sasha de Buyl, Literature Officer at Creative Scotland, said;

“Congratulations to Claire McFall on winning the first ever Scottish Teenage Book Prize. There can only be one first winner, but Claire’s accomplishment will see the celebration of a new standard of excellence in young adult fiction. The first book that moves you as a teenager can completely shape your world view, helping you develop into the person you will become. Ensuring that Scottish writing has a place in this stage of young people’s reading lives is fantastic and Creative Scotland is delighted to support it.”

Aspiring young film makers were also asked to get involved with The Scottish Teenage Book Prize 2017 by creating their own book trailer for one of the shortlisted titles or entering a graphic novel to create a comic strip adaption of a scene from one of the books. Scottish Book Trust provides extensive learning resources for teachers and librarians on how to create book trailers and how to make the most of using comics in the classroom.

St Joseph’s Academy in Kilmarnock is the winner of the Book Trailer Competition. Their trailer will be featured on Scottish Book Trust website and they will receive a £250 Waterstones voucher to help top up their school library.

The winners of the Graphic Novel Competition, who will each receive Waterstones vouchers, are:
• 1st place – Nicole Watt, Elgin Academy
• 2nd place – Jaden Green, Forfar Academy
• 3rd place – Morven Ross, Elgin Academy

The winning entries will be featured on Scottish Book Trust website, with interviews with the pupils and teachers involved with the competition to follow on the website’s blog in the coming weeks.

This Beats Perfect blog tour

Working as a Music TV Producer for Rockfeedback was easily the most fun, exciting and exhausting job I ever had in television. What could be better than traipsing the world filming your heroes and being occasionally paid for it?

I spent countless hours backstage at festivals running around arranging interviews and live filming for bands and one of the things that never ceases to surprise is how dreary backstage areas can be.

The image of wild, all night parties is not generally the reality (although these do definitely exist!) Firstly, bands are often on gruelling tour schedules and they are often tired and jet-lagged. They’re also wary of strangers and especially film crews, so you have to be respectful of their space and grateful for their time.

And a lot of artists don’t drink at all these days –since touring became the bread and butter for a lot of artists, they simply can’t afford to put on a bad show. It’s not unusual to see them hunched round their tablets and phones, updating social media and catching a bit of shuteye before the show.

And you might not see the bigger artists AT ALL, as they stay with their dressing rooms firmly shut and only come out to perform, but there is always some group who are on the up and super excited to be there and to play and party.

The best ‘backstage’ area I ever went to was at Fuij Rock Festival in Japan. You can see the hotel we stayed in overlooking the campsite (perks of the job). It was partially shut since the resort is mostly used for skiing, and at night we ran round all the cordoned off areas –sneaking into ballrooms and huge empty restaurant areas. It was super creepy.

Backstage, the atmosphere was really friendly and upbeat – and just look at that 2007 line up!

Red Hot Chili Peppers , The Strokes , Franz Ferdinand , Jet , The Raconteurs , Sonic Youth , Wolfmother , Snow Patrol , The Hives , Dirty Pretty Things , KT Tunstall , Jason Mraz , The Cooper Temple Clause , Madness , Mogwai , Scissor Sisters , Yeah Yeah Yeahs , Super Furry Animals , Gnarls Barkley , The Zutons , Ore ska band- and many others.

~ Rebecca Denton

Babette Cole: in Memoriam

I noticed the news starting to filter through social media yesterday around midday.

At first a number of her friends and colleagues were optimistically hopeful that the news was a practical joke that Babette had pulled as she was that kind of person.

Sadly it wasn’t and last night it was confirmed that the first person to make me fall of a chair laughing (at work) had indeed passed away.

I first encountered her work shortly after I left Library School and my Librarian qualification still had the scent of newness to it. It was a Friday – the day I spent the afternoon on duty in the Junior Library of the Fish Hoek Public Library. It was a quiet afternoon, I had shelved all the returned books, tidied up the shelves and as I recall could not quite face ordering the picture books, so I took a quick breather and grabbed a picture book at random. This book was Mummy Laid an Egg

Had I been drinking a cup of tea at the time there would have been a spit take of note but instead I laughed so much I was unable to stay seated and did indeed fall off my chair, fortunately the library was empty at this point and my dignity remained intact.

I reread it three times that afternoon and laughed each time, to this day at times when I am tired or on the verge of falling asleep I often remember the book and giggle to myself.

Mummy Laid an Egg was my first Babette Cole and after that I looked out for her books and made sure I got my hands on them as soon as possible as (and many, many people will attest) she was a phenomenal and hilarious talent!

I never knew her personally but will miss her wonderful stories and illustrations!