Category Archives: Authors

Red House Children’s Book Award blog tour: Stuart Hill

princeoftheicemarkI enjoyed writing The Prince of the Icemark enormously; and in fact it was inspired by several readers who sent fan letters asking to know more about Redrought as a character. He was killed quite early in The Cry of the Icemark but obviously the huge bear of a man who was the King of his country, a doting father and loved cats with a passion, made quite an impression on the readers, and so the scene was set for a revisit. But this time I wanted to study Redrought as a boy just before he settled into the throne of the Icemark. And then when he was finally forced to become King after his brother was killed, I wanted to show him growing into the job.

I actually based part of Redrought’s character on every awkward, stumbling and shy teenage boy I’ve ever known – including me! As a grown-up he was a like a cross between a friendly Viking and a grizzly bear; the type of bear that would deliberately break wind loudly in quiet exam rooms or tell vicars dirty jokes and then roar with laughter, not noticing the silence that had settled around him. But as a boy he was very different. He’d blush if a girl so much as looked at him, and he’d definitely fall over his own feet if he had to do something terrifying like actually go for a walk with one of the strange creatures that he found so fascinating.

Stuart HillI also wanted to go back and tell the stories of some my other favourite characters, especially the Vampire King and Queen. I absolutely loved writing about them; I particularly enjoyed their snobbery, their refined manners and their sarcasm – and all of that, coupled with their ferocity, made me think of some of my old teachers (not all of them – I had some great teachers). I could just imagine His Vampiric Majesty as an old-style headmaster who’d sweep through the corridors in a long gown, on the hunt for prey or for any pupil who’d forgotten their homework! And Her Vampiric Majesty would just have to be a maths teacher … precise, professional, petrifying!

I think there are more stories to be told involving the young King Redrought, his fighting, farting cat Cadwalader, and his future wife Athena, the warrior princess of the mighty Hypolitan. Perhaps one day, I’ll tell them.

RHCBA2015

The British Isles Chapter of the SCBWI 7th Annual Conference

Cathy Cassidy, Nick Butterworth and Sally Gardner to deliver keynotes at the SCBWI British Isles’ Annual Conference. An exciting new PULSE professional development track specifically aimed at published authors is introduced.
The British Isles Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators
announces speakers for its 7th Annual Conference

The British Isles Chapter of the SCBWI, a professional organisation of writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people, announces a star-studded line-up for their 7th annual conference, to be held on November 1st and 2nd 2014 at the University of Winchester.

Keynote speakers this year are Cathy Cassidy, Nick Butterworth and, for the all-new PULSE strand aimed at published children’s authors, Sally Gardner. Adhering to the theme of Riding the Waves of Change, this year’s SCBWI conference will focus on the changing face of children’s book publishing, offering on the Saturday specialist industry panels with speakers from the very largest houses to representatives of vibrant indies. Additional panels for illustrators and non-fiction writers cover developments in the world of picture books and educational publishing. Published members will be able to participate in a discussion on self-promotion best practices. Saturday evening’s exclusive party will give delegates the chance to celebrate new members’ 2014 publications and network with a stellar list of industry professionals.

Sunday will open with PULSE keynote, Sally Gardner. The rest of the day is devoted to craft intensives and a new PULSE track for published authors and illustrators.

The craft intensives will feature: For writers, everything from how to plot your novel, led by Melvin Burgess, to writing for reluctant readers, led by Anthony McGowan and his Barrington Stoke editor, Mairi Kidd, to crafting a picture book, led by Erzsi Deak and Mike Brownlow, to an intensive for beginners on how to get your precious manuscript published. Illustrators can join in a hands-on craft session on pop-up books. One-to-one manuscript and portfolio reviews with agents and editors will be offered.

The PULSE track will feature a workshop on interview techniques, hosted by BBC presenter, Claire Bolderson, a Twitter Triage, hosted by social media guru, Michelle Goodall, a panel on how to reach schools, hosted by educators and librarians and finally, a workshop on building your online presence with website designer and author, Candy Gourlay.

The SCBWI Annual conference has never before offered such incredible opportunities to both published and unpublished authors to develop their craft, raise their profile and market their work!

Admission to the entire conference is £210 for SCBWI members and £240 for non-members, with a charge of £120 for those members only attending the new PULSE track on the Sunday (£180 for non-members who opt for Sunday-only PULSE). More information and a registration form can be found at our website: http://britishisles.scbwi.org/conference2014/programme/

  • Author keynote by Cathy Cassidy, the bestselling author of many novels for children and young teens, including the Chocolate Box Girls series. Cathy trained as an illustrator, once worked as Fiction Editor on the legendary Jackie magazine and also spent twelve years as an agony aunt on pre-teen mag Shout.
  • Illustrator keynote by Nick Butterworth, writer and illustrator of children’s books whose popularity has ensured that, for nearly three decades, he has been featured in the UK bestsellers’ list for picture books. His books have been published in thirty languages worldwide, with international sales in the region of thirteen million. He is almost a permanent fixture on awards short lists, and has won many, including the top award from the Society of Illustrators (for One Snowy Night) and the prestigious Nestlé Gold Award for the critically acclaimed, The Whisperer. He has written and/or illustrated more than sixty titles, and is probably best known for his Percy the Park Keeper series. In 2009 he co-founded Snapper Productions with his son, Ben Butterworth, and his wife, Annette Butterworth. Their first production is based on Butterworth’s books about the friendly alien, Q Pootle 5.
  • PULSE keynote by Sally Gardner, the award winning novelist who has sold over 2 million books in the UK and her work has been translated in to more than 22 languages, Her stories range from retellings of fairy stories for emerging readers, to the Wings & Co series for younger junior age children, through to I, Coriander and Maggot Moon for teenagers, for which she won the prestigious Carnegie Medal and the Costa Children’s Book Prize. Her historical fiction novel for Young Adults, I, Coriander, won the Smarties Children’s Book Prize in 2005. Her action-packed French Revolution thriller The Silver Blade, sequel to The Red Necklace, was shortlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 2009. Actor, Dominic West (‘The Wire’) has bought the film rights to both The Red Necklace and The Silver Blade. Sally Gardner, who is dyslexic, continues to be an avid spokesperson for Dyslexia, working to change the way it is perceived by society.
  • The faculty also includes: Tricia Adams, Librarian, Sam Arthur, Director of Flying Eye Books, Juliette Clare Bell, Author, Natascha Biebow, Author & Editor, Claire Bolderson, Journalist, Commentator & Analyst, Mike Brownlow, Author/Illustrator, Melvin Burgess, Author, Amber Caraveo, Editorial Director of Orion Children’s Books, Catherine Coe, Editor, Rebecca Colby, Author, Joy Court, Librarian, Shannon Cullen, Publisher of Puffin Fiction, Erzsi Deak, Literary Agent, Jude Evans, Publisher of Little Tiger Press, Michelle Goodall, Social Media Consultant, Candy Gourlay, Author, Sara Grant, Author, Penny Holdroyd, Literary Agent, Eric Huang, Development Director of Made in Me, Louise Jackson, Art Director at Walker Books, Mairi Kidd, MD of Barrington Stoke, George Kirk, Educator, Adam Lancaster, Literary Consultant, Anthony McGowan, Author, Kate Nash, Literary Agent, Sara O’Connor, Digital & Editorial Director, Hot Key Books, Scott Pack, Publisher of The Friday Project & Authonomy, Amanda Punter, Publishing Director of Puffin Fiction, Steve Rickard, Publisher of Ransom Publishing, Paul Stickland, Illustrator, Sallyanne Sweeney, Literary Agent, Sophie Thomson, Commissioning Editor at Pearson, Jo Unwin, Literary Agent, Kersti Worsley, Commissioning Editor at OUP.
  • There is an optional critique meet on the evening of Friday 31st October, an open portfolio exhibition on Saturday 1st November and various other competitions for authors and illustrators. Delegates and invited industry guests will be celebrating our members’ 2014 publishing successes at our exclusive party and Mass Book Launch on Saturday night!

    For more information about the conference programme visit: http://britishisles.scbwi.org/conference2014/programme/
    Booking deadline is midnight, 17th October 2014.

    About SCBWI:

    SCBWI British Isles is a chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a group form in 1968 by some Los Angeles-based writers for children. It is the only international organisation to offer a variety of services to people who write, illustrate, or share a vital interest in children’s literature. It has over 22,000 members worldwide working in all areas of writing and illustrating for children, from picture books to YA. It is the only professional organisation for those specifically working in mediums of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia, and makes an annual presentation of the Golden and Crystal Kite Awards, the only award presented to children’s book authors and artists by their peers.

    SCBWI British Isles hosts a number of events during the year, from a professional development lecture series to masterclasses and a writing retreat.

    For more information:
    SCBWI: www.scbwi.org
    SCBWI British Isles: www.britishisles.scbwi.org
    2014 Conference: http://britishisles.scbwi.org/conference2014/programme/

    Splintered Light Blog Tour: Young Adults in Prison by Cate Sampson

    splinteredli_paperback_1471115836_300Imagine for a moment that you were in trouble with the police. Perhaps you fell in with the wrong friends, friends who manipulated you into doing things you didn’t really want to do. Or perhaps you got greedy, and found that the quickest way to getting whatever it was you wanted was to nick it. Or perhaps no one had ever taught you that doing some things was just plain wrong. Or perhaps you knew it was wrong, but you wanted to do it anyway, because you thought it would be a laugh. So perhaps it was a surprise when you got arrested, and when they put you on trial in front of a judge. Imagine all that, and then try and imagine what might turn your life around.

    My new book, Splintered Light, is about three teenagers, Leah, Linden and Charlie, who don’t know each other, but whose lives collide dramatically twelve years after Leah’s mother was murdered in a local park. One of these three is a young man called Linden. At 17, he’s about to be released from Feltham Young Offenders’ Institution, where he’s been incarcerated for three years. Linden is scared of what’s waiting for him outside, because the things that turned him into a criminal aged 13 are still waiting for him outside the prison gate. Like many young offenders, Linden is afraid that he has no alternative but to re-offend, and to return to jail. He wants a way out, for good, but he doesn’t know how to find it. To write about Linden, I had to read and think not only about what would happen when he stepped outside those gates, but also what had happened to him inside.

    Last year, inspectors at one prison for young adults found that young inmates often went hungry because their meals were too small. They ate their meals on their own in their cells, often at ridiculous times of day, so that their evening meal was served as early as 4.45. Cells were dirty, mattresses covered in gang-related graffiti, and on average these young people spent 18 hours a day in their cells.

    In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the age of criminal responsibility is 10, which is much lower than many other countries. In Scotland it is 12. In most of the UK, then, a child convicted of a crime between the ages of 10 and 14 will be held in a Secure Children’s Home. Those aged fifteen to 20 will be held in Young Offenders’ Institutions, first as juvenile offenders and then, above the age of 18, as young offenders. At the age of 21, a person convicted of a crime becomes an adult offender and will be held in a regular prison. Everyone seems to know that the system is a catastrophe. Politicians have referred to children being consigned ‘to the scrapheap’, re-offending rates are above 50%, the institutions offer little in the way of education and retraining, and when young people are released their futures are bleak, with little possibility of employment and often no safe home to go to. You’d have thought that there would be hope for children and teenagers, but when people – even children – are shut away, out of sight, then it’s too easy for all of us to turn a blind eye.

    Last month, inspectors reported that one of these prisons for young adults, Glen Parva, was simply ‘not safe’. Three young men had killed themselves there in 15 months, and inspectors reported the prison was rife with bullying and violence. The cells were dirty and ‘poorly ventilated’, for which read smelly, often with no toilet seats on the toilets. Nearly a third of inmates were locked up all day in their cells. One young man, aged 18, killed himself after just two days inside.

    It sounded shocking, but the awful conditions are not new. In 2012, an inspection report on HMYOI Wetherby reported, ‘One boy in the segregation unit with a lifelong medical condition that would have been hard for any teenager to manage, and who had exhibited very disruptive behaviour, asked me tearfully if I could take him home to his mum… A boy in health care, described to me as ‘low’, lay on his bed not speaking. All these boys were receiving good attention and care, but you feared for them all…’

    ‘You feared for them all…’

    It’s not the kind of language you expect from hardened prison inspectors.

    So imagine yourself in the dock, imagine you’ve messed up badly, and then imagine what happens next. Then, since we are free and many are not, perhaps we should raise our voices louder to say this isn’t good enough.

    Cate Sampson

    THE ELUSIVE #2: Knightley & Son K9

    Rohan GavinFor the sequel to Knightley & Son, the theme was simple: dogs. I’ve often loved the second instalment in a series because the main characters are already established and the story has freedom to go in new directions. There’s an unwritten law in Hollywood that the second in a series is often the best. From The Empire Strikes Back in the original Star Wars trilogy to The Dark Knight in the Batman series. Good sequels deepen the relationships between the characters and heighten the conflicts–and often leave you hanging at the end, waiting for episode three to resolve matters. In Knightley & Son: K-9 I tried to turn everything up to eleven: the suspense, the comedy, and the horror. At the beginning of the second book, thirteen-year-old detective hero Darkus Knightley finds himself alone again, but not because his private eye dad is in a coma as he began the first book. This time Knightley Senior is alive and well, but has gone off the radar on a bizarre investigation of his own, leaving Darkus at the mercy of school, unobtainable female classmates and playground bullies. Little does Darkus realise his dad will soon be needing his help again, and on a more sinister case than ever. The problem this time is of the four-legged kind. Strangely aggressive dogs are attacking senior police officers, a werewolf is rumoured to be stalking one of London’s largest parks, and curiously alert hounds are watching Darkus’s house.

    Knightley and SonAnd who better to become Darkus’s new partner, than a four-legged friend. My inspiration for Wilbur the former bomb disposal dog, was the long tradition of “war dogs” who fight side by side with soldiers and use their exceptional sense of smell to detect the enemy. War dogs are trained to pick up the scent of explosives and even the gun oil of a sniper rifle. And they’re known to breed a sense of loyalty and friendship that soldiers repeatedly said was stronger than any other relationship in their lives. I won’t deny there was also some inspiration from my favourite fictional dogs: Lassie, Zeus and Apollo from Magnum P.I., and the robot K-9 from Doctor Who. (Incredibly, my dad, who worked at the BBC in the late 1970’s, once took me to the set of Doctor Who and I met K-9. This was in the days when I wore a handmade (by my mum) Tom Baker-style multi-coloured twelve-foot scarf.)

    The villain is a vital part of any crime story, and being a big fan of Sherlock Holmes I wanted to reference The Hound of the Baskervilles. But I also knew that in order to feel modern, the villain had to be more than simply a hound. And instead of this creature lurking on a desolate moor in Devon, perhaps a wild, untamed park near the centre of London was even scarier. And so Alan and Darkus Knightley’s paths converge on London’s Hampstead Heath, and along with Wilbur, they must solve a canine conspiracy that appears to be spreading across the capital. Dogs can be your best friend, but what if they’re also your worst enemy? You’ll have to read Knightley & Son: K-9 to find out.
    Knightley and Son K-9
    Knightley & Son: K-9 is published 14th August 2014

    Rohan Gavin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!

    Thanks for yours!

    Eight Questions With… Simon David Eden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What inspires you to write?

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

    spidermannn

    What is your favourite part in the writing process?

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

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

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

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

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

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

    With best wishes,

    SDE
    www.SimonDavidEden.com

    www.TheSavageKingdom.com

    Young Adult Literature Con 2014

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

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

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

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

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

    Catching up with wonderful human beings Non Pratt and His Majesty James Dawson the new Queen of Teen
    Meeting Matt Haig and chatting about the importance of libraries, reading and the differences between school and public libraries
    Seeing (and speaking to) Jim and Darren who were (I think) the only two other male bloggers at the blogger brunch
    Speaking to Nina, Rosi & Harriet in person for a change rather than being at the other end of an e-mail
    Giving my Ruin & Rising tote bag to a passing teen who had a total fan-girl meltdown when she saw it (she told me she was looking forward to reading book 3 so much and loved my bag and did I know if she could get one if there were any more left)
    Meeting the Chapter 5 team (who are also the amazing Hodderscape team) and having a mutual admiration chat – they recognized me because I borrowed their table sign for a Lego Han Solo pic
    legohasyalc
    white barrier

    Chatting to the Hot Key Books team, getting a hug from Sara O’Connor and a proof of Clariel thus earning my love and dedication for life.
    wewereliarsclariel
    white barrier

    Finding the 2000AD stand, speaking to Lydia Gittens and discovering that they have a YA imprint called Ravenstone
    Being surrounded by my people the book fans, people that geek out when meeting authors and receiving signed books
    Catching up with my friends Doctor Manhattan and Zuul (aka Shaun & Jackie)
    20140713_113938zuul
    white barrier
    Things that I did not do that I really wanted to:
    Attend the opening on the first day
    Speak to Holly Black – no idea how this did not happen, we were in the same area for ages!
    Get a seat at any of the talks – I hung around the back and listened to some but I was too hot and dressed inappropriately to get comfortable
    Find any number of friends, authors and associates that I knew were there but did not seem able to locate

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

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

    ezgif.com-resize (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What is your favourite part of the writing process?

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

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

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

    What is coming next for you after Devilskein & Dearlove?

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

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

    Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant Cover Reveal

    MG_MOF_3Dx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you so much for participating in this interview!