Category Archives: Authors

Libraries a Celebration by Nerine Dorman

Libraries started it all for me. When I was little, and could barely read, I’d go help out at the Hout Bay library down the road from where I lived. At first I packed away children’s picture books but soon I had an inkling of how the Dewey system worked. I have lost myself in bookish things ever since.

Recently I have come full circle – libraries in South Africa now carry books I’ve written and edited. This, more than anything, makes me feel like I’ve “made it” – if there ever is such a thing.

Nowadays we have so much information at our fingertips, at the click of a mouse. But it is often a challenge to wade through this morass of resources. It’s not so much being able to find what we need, but how to select what we need. What is useful? What is utter rubbish? We must, in a sense, take on the skills of a librarian and become our own curators of knowledge.
I learnt those mad skills at the library. And, with all the changes and challenges facing how we access information, librarians as curators have become even more important as custodians and gatekeepers.

It’s a terrible thing to admit, but I no longer visit the library as much as I used to before the advent of tablets and smartphones. My visit to the library was the highlight of my week, and I spent hours wandering between the shelves.

The central library in Cape Town used to be housed in the historical City Hall, for goodness knows how many years. How many of us remember that rickety elevator? Or the worn steps in that narrow stairwell that twisted up and up? One room would open into another, and I never really fully explored all of them.

The library was always a place of discovery, and I suspect if I could take the time out of my busy work schedule it probably still would be.

For all the convenience of ebooks and websites, libraries are still, in my mind, valuable. Many wonderful books are simply out of reach to youngsters and students—be this a financial consideration or access to the technology that allows for a digital environment.

I feel here, in Africa especially, the role of the library as not only a repository of knowledge, but a temple dedicated to learning, is as important as ever, and we must do all that we can in our power to ensure that these doors remain open.

If I think back to what sparked my love of fiction and started me on my journey as an author, it was the fact that I had such a range of authors I could sample at whim: Anne McCaffrey, David Eddings, Poppy Z Brite, Storm Constantine, Jacqueline Carey, David Brin, Kate Elliott, Neil Gaiman, Katherine Kerr, Mary Gentle, Robin Hobb, CJ Cherryh… The list goes on and on.

That sense when pulling a book off a shelf knowing that “Yes! This book looks like one I’ll enjoy reading” enriches my often dreary day-to-day routine. For a short while I can escape to other realities and meet a cast of fantastical characters who’ll often linger in my thoughts long after I’ve reached the end.

I’d not have known many of these authors if it had not been for my local library. Even better now is that thrill of knowing that my own books are now waiting on library shelves for a new generation of authors to be inspired.

Perhaps the greatest change I’ve seen in libraries now since the old days is the spirit of inclusiveness. The library opens its doors for all South Africans, no matter their background. And, for those who hunger for learning, they have the opportunity to discover entire new worlds.

Nerine Dorman
Editor, author
WebsiteTwitterBlog

James Dawson’s Opening Speech from Taking Stock – the YLG London Unconference

Thank you very much for inviting me to speak this morning and thank you for giving up your Sunday lie-in. Caroline asked me to speak about diversity in young adult fiction, something I’m talking about more and more, and something I’m very happy to talk about. But as I had an audience of librarians I wanted to say something I thought was OVERDUE. I just hope I don’t get fined. I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist.

I am going to speak about LGBT representation, but I’d also like to speak about the role libraries played in my life as someone from the LGBT community. Now, I am aware many, many authors have spoken out against library closures, and the removal of dedicated school libraries and I’m only going to add to that ‘whining lefty’ chorus, but it’s something I feel strongly about.

Maybe my colleague Mr Muchamore has a point. In the Internet age, non-fiction books are no longer a classroom essential. I have seen the future, and it is every child with a tablet or iPad on their desk. Many classrooms also have a ‘book corner’ where pupils have access to dog-eared copies of book 2 and 3 of a trilogy, book 1 having long since failed to emerge from under a pupil’s bed. It’s this kind of logic that has seen many schools dispose of the traditional library and librarian set up.

But, in my mind, this is WRONG. Wrong-diddly-wrong-wrong-wrong. First the basics. Number one: the Internet is a swamp of contradictory shit, advertising, and ‘ask anything’ forums with spectacularly misleading information. Much fiction is dressed up as fact. Teachers (remember I was one for eight years) spend half their time teaching pupils how to find reliable sources online (which, to be fair, is a vital life skill), but providing them with quality non-fiction books would have probably taught them more about the subject they were researching.

Number two: librarians are experts. I also know I was a freak in that I was a busy teacher who ALSO had a bang-up-to-date knowledge of YA fiction. This is rare – I think it would be fair to say most teachers aren’t. You ensure that your libraries have the latest, most important, most attractive and most relevant new books. You’re ahead of the game. You can also spend time ensuring books aren’t lost or damaged – something teachers do NOT have time for in their ‘book corners’. Librarians are also responsible for budgeting and ordering new books, another job teachers don’t need.

Perhaps more importantly, teachers will always push To Kill A Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men (because they HAVE to) and kids tend to stick to what they know (Wimpy Kid on repeat). Librarians are sooooooo vital to newish authors like me because you’re responsible for enticing pupils to new series or new authors. Thanks you guys! You are taste-makers and oh-so-important for gaining the holy grail of ‘word-of-mouth’. What’s more, regional and national awards, the biggest obviously being the Carnegie Medal can establish an author and bring them further success.

But there’s an even more important reason for schools to have a library, something that’s clear to me both as a former pupil, a former teacher and an author. Libraries are SANCTUARIES. Bear with me. As has been widely recorded elsewhere, I had a shitty time at school. Even in the late *mumble*, schools were waking up to how widespread bullying was, but my school did little to protect students at, what I call, ‘vulnerable times’: the shift change between lessons; break time; lunchtime and home time. As a teacher, I now know that this is because the poor frazzled staff needed to eat their ham sandwich or dash to their next lesson via the photocopier queue. At the time though, I dreaded these transition periods.

That was where my school library came in. We had a lovely librarian called Mrs Lythe and she provided a safe space – an island of calm. For a start, a school library is ALWAYS monitored by the librarian, meaning potential bullying is quashed. Nothing too awful could happen in that building under her watchful eye. Unlike the rest of the school, we were encouraged to sit on bean bags and lay around on the carpets. It was a veritable misfits’ paradise. Those who weren’t fast enough, cool enough, tough enough all had somewhere to call home. Although we weren’t strictly allowed to, Mrs Lythe turned a blind eye to us eating our sandwiches as long as we didn’t make a mess. We were safe. It was in that library that I made my friends for life – the people who went on to inspire the gang in Hollow Pike. The scene where Lis escapes from the school bully and heads for the safe haven of the library cushions was my tribute to that time.

Touring the books around dozens of schools and libraries has shown me that nothing much has changed. The outsider kids – the least confident, most vulnerable pupils STILL seek refuge in libraries. They often take on the role of ‘Student Librarian’, giving them a purpose and a reason to be away from the rest of the school. I have met dozens of nurturing librarians who are actively protecting such pupils. A quiet, safe place where nothing bad can happen. You don’t get that in a ‘book corner’.

This is especially concerns vulnerable pupils, and in this group I would include young LGBT pupils. By the time they have reached secondary school, some pupils, gay or straight will have been singled out as targets of homophobic bullying. It’s inevitable, I fear, even in schools with rigorous anti-bullying procedures. This is another way in which libraries can nurture young people. Representation of minority groups, as Malorie Blackman has spoken about many times, is vital. Every pupil deserves to recognise themselves in fiction. What’s difficult is that where young people of colour are often supported by their family and/or community, young LGBT people are often isolated, feeling their family or community are the LAST people they would speak to about their identity. That’s why I feel libraries have, perhaps, an even bigger responsibility to stock books with LGBT characters: young people may well be carrying this sense of ‘difference’ around like a shroud. I believe finding characters who also identify as gay – especially those who are happy and well-adjusted will do wonders for making young LGBT people feel safe, normal and secure.

This is also why I hope libraries will stock my non-fiction titles. I don’t know if many young questioning people will buy This Book Is Gay, but I like to think they might leaf through it in the corner of a library! For the illustrations or sexy bits if nothing else!

Lambeth Academy, where I am writer-in-residence even use their library for student counselling and intervention groups – recognising the dual role of that space. I know I’m singing to the choir but would urge all schools to ensure that libraries remain. It isn’t about a book budget or the English budget – it’s as much about pupil welfare. No student is going to willingly go to a ‘Nurture Room’, but they need a library… y’know – for books – *wink*.

Marcus Alexander: Keeper of the Realms

Books and imagination has always been my thing. I was a nerd and a bookworm from a young age and I know this is going to sound outrageously dumb but the books that inspired me the most were ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and anything by Dr. Seuss. Sure, it sounds crazy and a little juvenile but I started reading aged 3 and it was these books in particular that lit that flame inside my chest and kindled my imagination. So I read like a beast and by the time I was an early teen I was devouring up to a book a day and getting all kinds of grumpy with the local bookstore when there was nothing new on the shelves.
Teen Librarian Get Your Read On
Books inspired me to travel the world and to seek adventures of my own and imagination gave me the ability to think outside the box and overcome obstacles that came my way. So when I write and when I create my realms of fantasy I do my best to spin imagination and create worlds that surpass everything that I have experienced in my own travels. And in turn, when I’m on tour and get to hang out with young writers or chat to students I always encourage the act of reading as a great source for building imagination but more than that I urge teens to get out and do more. Yes, imagination is born from books and built in libraries but it’s honed through experience. So after school don’t just jump on the xbox, don’t just switch on MTVBase, things like that are imagination killers. Instead go out and do something new. Go and learn capoeira, try parkour, go to dance class, fight class or learn calligraphy but the more you do and the more you live the faster your imagination will blossom.

Get your read on.

Teen Librarian Keeper of the Realm Images BIG THANKS

http://whoischarliekeeper.com/

Malorie Blackman and The Black Tentacle

This is not the title of a new penny dreadful featuring our Children’s Laureate versus a fearsome octopoid from the depths; rather it is news that this year The Kitschies Black Tentacle, the judges’ discretionary award for special achievements, was this year, awarded to Dame Malorie Blackman OBE.

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The Kitschies, presented by The Kraken Rum, reward the year’s most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic.

The prize is now entering its fifth year.

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The Kitschies Tentacle Awards are some of the most amazing looking awards available for writers.

The Tentacle Awards are:

THE RED TENTACLE
The Red Tentacle is awarded annually to the novel containing speculative or fantastic elements that best fulfills the criteria of intelligent, progressive and entertaining.

The winner receives a £1,000 prize, a hand-crafted tentacular trophy and a bottle of the Kraken’s finest black rum.

THE GOLDEN TENTACLE
The Golden Tentacle is awarded annually to the debut novel that best fits the criteria of progressive, intelligent and entertaining. The book must be the author’s first published work of novel-length fiction in any genre.

The winner receives a £500 prize, a hand-crafted trophy and a bottle of The Kraken’s black spiced rum.

THE INKY TENTACLE
The Inky Tentacle is named in honour of The Kraken itself and is awarded to the year’s finest cover art, as selected by a panel of visual arts experts.

The winning artist or designer will receive a £500 prize, a hand-crafted Tentacle trophy and an appropriately inky bottle of The Kraken’s finest dark rum.

THE BLACK TENTACLE
The Black Tentacle is a special achievement award. It is handed out at the discretion of The Kitschies’ board, which is comprised of editors, authors, marketers and social entrepreneurs.

The prize is awarded for a work or body of work that does not otherwise fit The Kitschies’ criteria. The winner receives a hand-crafted tentacle and a bottle of The Kraken’s black spiced rum.

For full details about the Kitchies and for a ful run down about the prizewinners please follow this link: http://www.thekitschies.com/

Weirdos vs Quimboids Launch Event

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I am currently heading home after attending the launch party for Weirdos vs Quimboids by Natasha Desborough (on the left in the photo) on the right is Vicky Barker – the artist that designed the cover.

It was a brilliant evening Downstairs at The Square Pig and Pen in Holborn.  Pip at Bounce Marketing had invited me and as I had not seen her or Non from Catnip for absolute ages I thought I had better attend. I did also want to meet Natasha as I thought that the original title “Weirdos and Cameltoes” was one of the best titles ever (I remain at heart a teenager with the attendant sense of humour).

Natasha is brilliant, after Non’s introduction in which she described Weirdos… as one of the funniest books she had read while editing Natasha read the opening pages which had the audience in stitches.

I saw some familiar faces in the crowd including Laura of SisterSpooky fame, Bella from Cheezyfeet Books and Rhys from ThirstforFiction. I chatted to my fellow bloggers for a while as well as Non and Liz from Catnip Books and spent a good part of the evening speaking to Vicky and her husband Gareth who it turns out is Clive Barker’s nephew.  I do not think I geeked out too badly when I found out.

I chatted to Natasha and her husband about books and music before she signed my copy of Weirdos and Quimboids and I had to dash off to catch a train home.


Natasha reading from the Understanding Levels of Shame section at the beginning of Weirdos vs Quimboids

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Weirdos vs Quimboids title page, signed by the author and the artist.

Eight Questions With… Sam Osman

chasing darkWhat influenced your decision to write for Teenagers?
I have two teenage children, a boy of fifteen and a girl of thirteen and I really wanted to write the sort of books that would keep them and other teenagers reading, despite all the distractions of phones, friends and Facebook.

How do you get into the heads of your characters?
I listen to my own children and their friends and sometimes I try to think back to my own feelings as a teenager but very often I imagine that I am the character and I talk to myself!

Do you know instinctively what will appeal to Teens or is it more a hit or miss process?
Like readers of any age, teens love gripping stories but the important thing is to have characters whose lives and emotions they can relate to. I’m writing crime fiction for teens at the moment and although the crimes in the stories may be very similar to those in an adult novel my detectives are very different. They are teenage boys and girls, not raddled old cops with alcohol problems and rocky marriages!

QUICKSILVERWhat is the most satisfying part of the writing process for you?
Sitting down at the computer and writing a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph or a page that conveys exactly what I can see or hear in my head.

Do you ever read the works of other Teen/YA authors? If yes what can you recommend?
Yes, I read lots of Teen/YA novels. One of my favourite books is Guantanamo Boy by Anna Pereira. For older Teens I would recommend Tanya Byrne’s Heart Shaped Bruise and for younger ones Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Are any of your novels based on personal experiences?
Not directly in terms of plot but I think that some of the emotional reactions of the characters come from my own experience of pain, conflict or loss.

serpentsgoldAre you working on anything new at the moment or do you have anything planned?
Yes I am writing a crime novel about an Afghan girl whose family come to London to escape the Taliban. It’s at the very early stages at the moment but when her brother is accused of a terrible crime she turns detective to expose a massive conspiracy.

Do you ever do Library visits to Teen Reading Groups? If yes, what is the best way to get into contact with you or your agent about it?
Yes, I do a lot of school, library, and reading group visits. The best way to contact me is via my www.samosmanbooks.com website

Eight Questions With… Sandra Greaves

skullwoodWhat influenced your decision to write for Teenagers?

I’ve always loved children’s literature and YA. I didn’t make a conscious decision to try and write for teenagers, but when I started plotting ‘The Skull in the Wood’, my characters Matt and Tilda just emerged as aged 12 and 13. I feel very happy writing that for age group, and I’m interested in writing for an older YA readership too.

How do you get into the heads of your characters?

It’s a cliché that your characters take over, but they genuinely do. I try and imagine how they behave in all sorts of situations, not just the ones on the pages of the book. I even wrote a few scenes that I never intended to appear in the book, just so that I knew how Matt and Tilda had reacted at crucial times in their lives.

Do you know instinctively what will appeal to Teens or is it more a hit or miss process?

Mostly I write about what appeals to me – I don’t consciously gear it to a particular age group. If I get excited about it, I hope that teens will too.

What is the most satisfying part of the writing process for you?

Writing the early drafts is amazing – a story just seems to take shape out of nothing and the process is utterly magical. But I like the detailed editing too – I think you have enjoy that if you’re ever going to finish a novel, because if you get bored at any stage, your readers will too.

Do you ever read the works of other Teen/YA authors? If yes what can you recommend?

At the moment I’m reading Patrick Ness’s ‘Chaos Walking’ trilogy and really enjoing it. Meg Rosoff’s ‘How I Live Now’ blew me away, as did Sally Gardner’s ‘Maggot Moon’. And I loved Louis Sachar’s ‘The Cardturner’ – it just amazed me that you can construct a whole novel around playing bridge!

Are any of your novels based on personal experiences?

Not really – I like to make things up, and none of my characters are based on real people. But of course, things that have happened to me do have a knack of edging in where I least expect them.

Are you working on anything new at the moment or do you have anything planned?

I’m in the early stages of a new novel – but it’s way too soon to talk about it!

Do you ever do Library visits to Teen Reading Groups? If yes, what is the best way to get into contact with you or your agent about it?

I’m going to do some library and reading group visits in the autumn, and I’m always happy to do more – it’s great to meet committed readers! At the moment it’s best to email on tina(at)doublecluck.com at my publishers and requests will be passed on to me. And I’ll have a website up and running soon.

The Arclight UK Blog Tour: talking about Dystopias with Josin L. McQuein

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Hi guys!

Thanks for having me over today.

I’ve been asked to talk a bit about the idea of Dystopia, which has, of course, been a major trend in novels, movie, and television for the last few years. But why? What makes it so popular?

It’s an interesting question – one you could probably write a university thesis on, if you wanted to.
Dystopia has become a catch-all phrase that means every kind of semi-sci-fi, or post-Apocalyptic, or “bad society of the future” story out there. The Apocalypse is a great equalizer, and these stories always have some major cataclysm that starts the world on a downward spiral into darkness. It can be a war, or a global blight, or alien invasion, but something has to light the match that causes society to implode.

What’s left is a lot like what happens when fire strikes shrub forests. Everything’s razed to ash, and it looks like a wasteland, but soon, something amazing happens. You see, there’s a handful of flower species that only bloom after such a blaze. They need the destruction as their spark of life, and right there in the middle of all that monochrome rubble and devastation, they burst into full color, bringing life that never would have been seen otherwise.
The main characters in most Dystopias are like that. They only flourish after the burn; that’s when they shake off the ashes and stand up to be seen while everything else falls apart into smoking heaps around them. Everyone wants to be that kind of person. Everyone wants to be able to say: “Don’t look at the destruction, look at me. I’m still here; I’m alive and I’m perfect for this situation.”

Dystopia is society-soup. It doesn’t matter who or what they anyone was before the fire – only after counts. Money means nothing when there’s no economy. Power shifts based on who’s in charge at the moment and how much they can trust the person standing behind them. All the rules go out the window and people who had no voice are suddenly on even footing with those who used to be in charge.

Basically, everything’s high school, if high school had zombie viruses and killer robots.

In my novel, Arclight, the flash point was a medical disaster. I won’t go into it too much because of spoilers, but basically the world fell to someone’s good intentions gone wrong. Now, all that’s left of human society is one outpost that has to live in a state of perpetual daylight because there are monsters called the Fade outside their walls that thrive in the darkness.

Into this world steps a girl who is the only person known to have ever faced these creatures and survived, unfortunately, she can’t tell anyone how she did it. The trauma of losing her family and her home, on top of running from the darkness and the Fade for days caused a mental block, meaning she literally doesn’t know her own face when she sees it. She’s blank. She’s got desolation inside and out, and she’s trying to figure out how to flourish despite that.

A lot of people would crumble under that kind of pressure, but such people do not make good heroines for novels. Marina perseveres, and I honestly think the draw of Dystopian novels and movies is that simple. It’s not about the destruction or the death, and it’s not about the fear or the loss. It’s about hope and life, and finding the strength to stare death in the face and say “no more.” They aren’t depressing at all.

Great Dystopians stand up after the fire and dance in the ashes like they’re playing in the snow, and who doesn’t love that?

The New Children’s Laureate is… Malorie Blackman

Catching up with UK news while in the USA and I find out that one of my favourite YA authors is the new Children’s Laureate

Congratulations Malorie!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/childrens-books-site/2013/jun/04/malorie-blackman-childrens-laureate

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-22751783

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10094586/Malorie-Blackman-is-a-great-choice-to-inspire-children.html

Talking about Half Lives: an Interview with Sara Grant

sara_grant_author_photoHI Sara, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed! For my first question would you be able to summarise Half Lives in 10 words? (if you can- more words can be used if necessary)

That’s a difficult challenge, but here goes…

Two stories of survival; separated by time but bound by a deadly secret.

Half Lives is two stories – one set at the end of our world as we know it and the second on the cusp of a new civilisation arising – how long did it take you to write the story?

The spark for the story came in November 2009 when my editor at Little, Brown sent me a link to an article on Slate.com’s Culture Gabfest. The article was titled “Atomic Priesthoods, Thorn Landscapes, and Munchian Pictograms: How to communicate the dangers of nuclear waste to future civilizations.” It discussed how a US Department of Energy panel planned to label the site of an underground nuclear waste repository.

The topic may sound dull, but the more I thought about it, the more it fascinated me. Some types of nuclear waste are deadly for more than 10,000 years – that’s longer than the world’s oldest civilization. Who knows what the world will be like even a thousand years from now? What language will we speak? What symbols will have meaning? The article sparked something in my brain and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I developed the novel on and off from the moment I read that article in 2009. The more I wrote and researched, the more I found that I wanted to explore.

(If you want to read more about the article that started it all and the issues behind the story, you can visit my web site at: http://www.sara-grant.com/half-lives/half-live-discussions/)
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Was it difficult keeping the protagonists voices separate?

The voices, settings and time periods were so different that keeping the stories separate in my head wasn’t difficult. Also I initially wrote the two stories in Half Lives as separate novels. Once I was sure the stories were satisfying on their own then I knitted them together, endeavouring to show the reader the complete story by withholding and revealing information in each narrative.

The idea of a culture and religion based around modern day youth slang and culture is brilliant – what inspired you to come up with that concept?

It’s an idea I’ve been kicking around for a long time, maybe even since the 1995 Joan Osborne song One of Us with the chorus, “What if God was one of us. Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home.”

Until Half Lives, I hadn’t found the story that would allow me to explore these ideas. What’s more fascinating than religion? Not only organized religion but also the systems of belief, faith and superstition that everyone creates to make it through the day.

Half Lives as a title works on a number of levels – the stories of Icie and Beckett, their lives being trapped by fate and circumstance and the time it takes radioactive materials to decay. Did the title come first or did you have the story planned and written before you named it?

Half Lives was the title from the very first proposal and outline. That happens sometimes; the title comes as part of the initial spark.
halflives us
The covers of the British & American editions are very different – which one do you prefer?

I like both covers for different reasons. They both represent similar aspects of the novel. Both covers show the connected dark and light sides of the story. The US cover was designed to match the re-designed cover of my first teen novel Dark Parties. I must admit that my favourite detail appears on the UK cover; it’s a black cat sauntering across the ISBN bar code. (A black cat plays a significant role in the novel.) Details like this make me appreciate how much my publishers invest in and understand my work.

Did you have any involvement in the design?

I have two amazing publishers with fantastic art departments. They showed me initial designs, and I gave feedback, but they are responsible for the cover concept and design. I leave the visual art to the professionals.

The breakdown between Icie, Chaske, Tate and Marissa was as heart-breaking as it was inevitable – is it difficult to write scenes like this in your novels? I am aware that some authors have very public near breakdowns when talking about bad things happening to their characters.

Many scenes in Half Lives were difficult to write. If I’m heart broken when writing or upset or scared then that emotion often translates onto the page. Many scenes had to be written in layers. It’s easier to deepen difficult scenes over time rather than in one initial rush. I’m a planner so I know most of what will happen from the initial outline. But surprises happen along the way, and it can be devastating when you realize that something horrible must happen to one of your characters. Chaske surprised me the most in Half Lives. He was a mysterious character that revealed himself to me over the course of several drafts.

Was Half Lives written as a warning against the dangers of nuclear waste and weapons of mass destruction or was that just an added extra?

The novel sprang from an article about these issues so they were fundamental to the story from the very beginning. The more I researched about these topics the more unbelievable it became. Creating a substance that will be deadly for tens of thousands of years definitely seems like science fiction, something right out of a superhero comic book.

While reading the book I had no idea how you were going to bring the two strands of the story together separated as they were by time and culture. Did you start with the idea of how they would converge or did they converge together as you wrote?

I created a grid that outlined the plot points in the two novels and noted how and where they would intersect. The difficult aspect of this novel was that if I changed something in one story, I had to consider the ripple effect it would have in the other.

The Just Sayings that prefaced each chapter of Beckett’s story are brilliant – are there any plans to put them together and make them all available to the reading public?

That’s an interesting idea. I do have a bigger list of Just Sayings. I’m a bit obsessive about details like that so I have a grid that notes the origin of the Just Saying and where it appeared in the book. But my reference documents are sometimes only understandable to me. Maybe I’ll get that organized and post it on my web site. Thanks for the suggestion, Matt!

Finally – what are atomic priesthoods?

The phrase ‘atomic priesthoods’ comes from the article I mentioned that served as the spark for Half Lives. The article discussed how the US planned to mark the site of a nuclear waste repository and the conundrum of how you communicate with future generations that most likely won’t speak the same language we do nor understand the same symbols. Here’s the extract from the Slate.com article:

“In the early 1980s, the semiotician and linguist Thomas Sebeok wrote a paper for the U.S. Office of Nuclear Waste Management titled “Communication Measures To Bridge Ten Millennia,” which proposes a folkloric relay system to pass along information: “The legend-and-ritual, as now envisaged, would be tantamount to laying a ‘false trail,’ meaning that the uninitiated will be steered away from the hazardous site for reasons other than the scientific knowledge of the possibility of radiation and its implications; essentially, the reason would be accumulated superstition to shun a certain area permanently.” Sebeok further suggested a Dan Brown-like “atomic priesthood” of physicists, anthropologists, semioticians and the like who would preserve the “truth.”
” (http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/green_room/2009/11/atomic_priesthoods_thorn_landscapes_and_munchian_pictograms.html)

This was one idea for how to warn away future generations from these deadly burial grounds with only a select few – so called atomic priests – who know the truth. Thankfully this wasn’t the final recommendation. Atomic Priesthoods sounds like a great name for a rock band though.

Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed!

You are very welcome, Matt! Thanks for reading Half Lives and being my first official interview on the book.