Category Archives: Competition

Entering the School for Good & Evil: An Interview with Soman Chainani

the-school-for-good-and-evil-by-soman-chainani
1. Hi Soman thank you for taking the time to be interviewed for Teen Librarian. For the first question would you please introduce yourself for the readers?

My pleasure! I’m Soman Chainani, the author of THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD & EVIL series and the writer of the upcoming film adaptations for Universal as well. I’m thrilled to be here at Teen Librarian to give you a little peek behind the scenes of the SGE world. I’m also a massive, massive Anglophile and worked in the British film and TV industry for years before I started work on the series. I’d live in London in a heartbeat if I didn’t have to fly to Los Angeles so often for film work.

2. School for Good & Evil is your first novel, everyone I have spoken to that has read it has been raving about it (in a good way) myself included – how does it feel to have such a rapturous response?

Any temporary ego boost is tempered by how hard I’m working on the second book in the series, called A WORLD WITHOUT PRINCES. Sequels tend to be disappointing, but I’ve always told myself that each book in the SGE series has to be better than the last – and wildly different — or there’s no point writing them. So I’ve been holed up in various rooms and coffee shops, writing like a madman. Even when I was in London for the UK tour, I’d spend half the day at a tea shop in Soho banging my head against the wall on a new chapter.

That said, I’m fully aware of how special and lucky this whole run has been so far. I had a list of goals I wanted to achieve by the end of the series – and they all happened in the first week! I stumbled around for a while, feeling like I was in a dream. Good news can sometimes be as disorienting as bad news. But now I’m happily back to work, abusing myself daily as to why I can’t write faster.

3. I have heard that the movie rights for SfG&E have been purchased – will you be involved in the adaptation?

I’m writing the adaptation for Universal with Malia Scotch Marmo (the writer of Hook). The movie will be very different from the book. For one thing, there’s just too much story in the book to fit into a two-hour movie. For another, a literal adaptation of a book can be quite dreary and repetitive. I’m much more interested in finding a new way to tell the story of Sophie and Agatha, so that the film feels like a new experience, even to lovers of the book.

4. On the surface, the story looks like your typical fairy tale of good and evil but once you get past the cover it challenges ones preconceptions of good and evil – what influences did you have in the writing of the story?

We didn’t have cable when I was young, so all we had was our rickety TV set and VHS tapes of every single Disney animated movie. Until age 8 or so, that was all I pretty much watched. Everything I learned about storytelling, I learned from Disney. When I went to college, though, I became fascinated by the gap between the original tales and these Disney revisions.

As a relentless student of the Grimms’ stories, what I loved about them was how unsafe the characters were. You could very well end up with wedding bells and an Ever After – or you could lose your tongue or be baked into a pie. There was no ‘warmth’ built into the narrator, no expectations of a happy ending. The thrill came from vicariously trying to survive the gingerbread house, the hook-handed captain, or the apple-carrying crone at the door – and relief upon survival. Somewhere in that gap between the Disney stories and the retellings, THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL was born.

In recent years, fairy tale mash-ups, retellings, and revisions have become popular – and for good reason, given how enduring and inspiring the source material is. That said, I had my sights set on something more primal: a new fairy tale, just as unleashed and unhinged as the old, that found the anxieties of today’s children. To acknowledge the past – the alumni of the genre, so to speak – and move on to a new class. As soon as I started thinking in those terms, I knew I wanted to do a school-based novel. I was walking in Regents Park in London before a meeting when I had the first image… a girl in pink and a girl in black falling into the wrong schools… I got so caught up thinking that I missed my appointment entirely.

5. There are some superficial comparisons to Hogwarts Harry Potter, but the School for Good and Evil is a much darker place – has your book faced any challenges yet or is it still too new to have popped up on outraged parents radars yet?

It is a much darker place – Hogwarts you choose to go to. You’re kidnapped to The School for Good and Evil and there’s no return. But encouragingly, I haven’t heard a single complaint about the book’s content. There’s certainly been commentary about its amoral universe and the intensity of what the kids have to face – but the course of the story seems to solve any concerns.

That said, there will be rumbles about Book 2. You’ll see.

6. Have the majority of your fans identified themselves as Evers or Nevers? and how would you describe yourself?
Hmm, good question. It’s been so evenly split! It’s quite amazing, really. Even when I go to schools, by the end, it’s a very clear 50-50.

I can be comically high maintenance (my friends joke Sophie is the real me), so I’d surely be an overachieving Ever and the most regular user of the Groom Room (the medieval spa, which only the top ranked students are allowed to use). That said, Evil’s classes have no boundaries – for sheer entertainment value alone, I can see the allure.
That’s if I had a choice. In the process of writing the book, I realized I wasn’t quite sure which school I would actually end up in– so I created an online assessment to answer that question. At www.schoolforgoodandevil.com, every reader can take a 10-question SGE Entrance Exam to determine whether they’re an Ever or a Never. I wrote all the questions myself and there’s a bank of over 100, so the questions change every time.
I’ve taken it a number of times, trying to be as honest as I can, and I always end up 75% Evil and 25% Good. Those who read the novel will agree that this isn’t a surprising result in the least.

7. Fairy tales were originally dark and bloody tales before they were tamed by the Grimm brothers and Charles Perrault (and later Walt Disney) and had most of the blood and death removed, your story returns to the roots of the tales were bad things happen to the deserving (those deserving of having bad things happen to them) – was this intentional returning to the roots of the stories and removing most of the sugar?

Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, I just don’t quite understand why children of two hundred years ago could handle these frank and brutal stories of survival and cleverness – while children today must endure the sanitized versions. Frankly, I find the latter far more offensive and damaging. So in the School for Good and Evil, I point out this disparity. Once upon a time, Good and Evil were in pure balance. But now Good wins all the time, is obsessed with beauty, clothes, and superficial romance. The School itself has become Disneyfied and is trying to find its way back.

8. Finally do you have any plans for a sequel either involving Sophie and Agatha or staying with students at the School?

It’s a three-book series, so you’ll see what’s next. As for who’s in it… well that’s the question isn’t it!
Thanks for having me on your wonderful blog. SGE fans can join the jam-packed Facebook page, message me on Twitter at @somanchainani, and keep up with all things Good and Evil on www.schoolforgoodandevil.com.

COMPETITION TIME:

Win One of Five Copies of The School For Good & Evil!

Follow this link:
http://schoolforgoodandevil.com/exam/
Take the exam and then comment on this post with your name and if you were determined to be Good or Evil. Winners will be chosen at random at the end of the month!

Soul Shadows Photo Competition

Reading Groups For Everyone are excited to be running a fun photo competition with Curious Fox to celebrate the publication of their new horror book Soul Shadows by Alex Woolf. One lucky young people’s reading group will win 10 tickets to the cinema and a reading group set of Soul Shadows.

The competition:
To be in with a chance of winning 10 cinema tickets and 10 copies of Soul Shadows for your reading group, all you have to do is take a photograph of your shadow. Scare us or make us laugh, just be creative with your shadow snaps! The winning group will be chosen by the author Alex Woolf.

For full details on how to enter go here: Soul Shadows Photo Competition

Totally Random Tour Competition (Random House)

Random House is offering one lucky teen the chance to interview 3 of their YA authors as part of the Totally Random Tour in May. The tour will take place across several websites and blogs. The lucky winner would also receive a package of books worth £100!

For full details and to enter follow this link: http://totallyrandombooks.co.uk/totally-random-tour/

PrinterInks Short Story Competition

Are you a budding writer?

Fancy putting your skills to the test in the PrinterInks Short Story Competition?

By entering the competition you have the chance to get your book printed in hard copy. This prize is perfect for any author who would like to get their work published. The winner will receive 10 copies so they can share their winning story with family and friends.

To celebrate the beginning of the autumn season we are asking you to write your story on the theme ‘autumn’.

For a chance of winning this amazing prize, email your story in a Word document to competitions@printerinks.com .

The competition is free to enter.

For further details please visit:
http://www.printerinks.com/blog/2012/10/02/short-story-competition

Rules

  • The story can be no longer than 3000 words.
  • We will only accept one entry per person.
  • The competition deadline is 1st December 2012.
  • Competition is open to residents of the U.K, Europe and North America
  • Prize

  • The winner will have their book published and receive 10 copies of their story.
  • The story will be published in a 14.8 x 10.5cm book, with a 350gsm card cover.
  • The winner can either choose to design their own cover or our in house team can help.
  • The runner up will receive £50 worth of amazon vouchers.
  • Bad Tuesdays: The Benjamin J. Myers Interview

    1. When I started reading Twisted Symmetry my first thought in the opening pages was that it was similar to The Borribles by Michael de Larrabeiti, then I carried on reading and discovered that it actually wasn’t (apart from a tribe of feral street children that is) – what influenced you in the writing of The Bad Tuesdays epic?

    I love reading and I love reading imaginative fiction, but without doubt, the greatest influence upon the writing of The Bad Tuesdays has been film. I wanted to capture the thrill, the mystery and the menace of some of my favourite films; films which made me see the imaginative genre differently after I’d watched them: films like Alien, Blade Runner and The Matrix. Other influences include comic book art – rendering the impact of that into words is a challenge but it’s a challenge I’ve enjoyed trying to meet. And then there’s music. I don’t just hear the music, I see pictures. These pictures, whole scenes in fact, from Bach to Motörhead, the Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers have found their way into the books.

    2. Science fiction scenes aside, is there any part of the story that is based on your personal experiences?

    I work as a barrister, specializing in serious crime. Before that I was an army officer. I suppose it’s no surprise that there is some military activity in the books, and a fair number of criminals. Personal experiences must leak through into the writing, although I didn’t set out to base any particular part of the story on specific experience. ‘Write from experience’ is what budding writers are always told and that must be true, although the experience doesn’t have to be dramatic for the writing to be good. It’s the sense of reality behind the fiction, even the most imaginatively outlandish fiction, which makes the writing shine. That is particularly important when it comes to characters. Chess and her brothers, Box and Splinter owe a lot to my experience of young people who have lived through horrendous personal experiences of their own.

    3. In my minds eye I pictured London as the city in the story, then I realised that it was not explicitly named – did you have a specific city in mind when you wrote the story or is it left to the reader to decide?

    The city isn’t meant to be London, although in places it feels like London. But it also includes elements of Manchester, Rome, Bolton, Stoke-on-Trent and Delhi – and a huge dose of imagination. Ultimately, the reader can decide where they want it to be, if they want it to be anywhere in particular at all.

    4. One of the passages that stuck in my mind was that “children are not liked and only sometimes by their parents” that is not an exact phrasing as I do not have the book to hand but did you make the main characters street children to make readers more aware of their plight as feral kids do not get a lot of positive press or empathy and are often figures of hate and fear.

    This is a great question. Thank you for asking it! I made Chess, Box and Splinter street children for various reasons. First, I wanted the chief characters to start from a position that was disadvantaged in every way – which makes the threats and challenges they face the more overwhelming (these are young people who start with nothing and have to take on everything). Next, I wanted to show that people who some might dismiss as human rubbish are capable of terrific feats. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Finally, as you suggest, I wanted to give the leading roles to the sort of children who don’t usually get them. One of the surprising consequences for me has been the mixed reactions to these characters. Some readers and reviewers have had a real issue with the type of young people that Chess, Box and Splinter are. I suppose that in some quarters there is a set idea of what fictional young people’s characters should be. If that is so, Chess, Box and Splinter do not make cosy reading.

    5. Why do you think that young people are generally viewed in a negative light?

    I don’t think young people are viewed inevitably in a negative light. Right now, look at how we admire our Olympic athletes, many of whom are fairly young and were even younger when they committed to their goals. And work that young people do for charity has a particular attraction to the media. The energy and openness of young people is highly attractive. But young people can be frightening to older people, because they don’t always follow the rules that adult society depends upon. Also, because their social groupings tend to be broader and less discriminating than adult groupings, en masse they may appear threatening. However, it’s difficult to identify bad things that young people do that adults don’t – the offence seems to be in being young and doing it. I think there’s a belief that young people should be as malleable and well behaved as small children because we haven’t yet made them adults. When they fail to conform to this, the reaction is highly critical. But that’s our fault for inventing an ever-broadening middle ground between childhood and adulthood. How can someone be expected to be child and an adult at the same time?

    6. Do you ever read the works of other YA authors? If yes, who can you recommend?

    When I was a YA I read loads of YA authors. I read less YA fiction now, although my (teenage) children read lots, so I keep up to date. In particular, I like Cliff McNish and Philip Reeve and I’d recommend them both.

    7. With The Spiral Horizon being the last book in the Bad Tuesdays series do you have any further tales in mind for the Tuesday siblings?

    Chess, Box and Splinter have been on an enormous journey and with The Spiral Horizon, they reach its end in their own ways. But possibilities for further tales exist for some of the other characters. One day I’d like to write the back story, which exists already in detail. Elements of it surface during The Bad Tuesdays sequence. However, in my mind, this might not be suited to a YA format.

    8. Do you have any new stories coming out in the near future?

    I’m planning a new story now (when I’m not lawyering). I’d like to think it would come out in the near future.

    9. What more do you think can be done to help children that live rough in the UK (and even abroad)?

    This is a massive question and not one I could answer swiftly, if I could answer it at all. It touches on issues of social justice, exclusion, parenting and economics. The problems of children living rough in the UK are not always the same as those for street children in other countries. So far as the UK is concerned, I think that as a starting point, it is important to understand that children living rough would not chose to live that way if they believed they had a secure and safe alternative, and they knew how to reach it. Since most of them are not in a position to get to help themselves, help has to get to them, and does so via many of the outreach organizations and projects that already exist. Understanding that street children would prefer not to be living on the streets, and being ready to support those organizations that try to help them is something that most of us can do. If more people did that, the benefit to children living rough in the UK would be enormous.

    YOU CAN WIN:

    all six books in the Bad Tuesdays series! To enter the draw just name all six books in order from 1 to 6 in the comments field. The competition will run until the 15th August!

    MANGA JIMAN COMPETITION 2012 – extended

    Please Note: The closing date for the submission of entries has been extended. The deadline is now Monday 19 November 2012.

    The Embassy of Japan is once again launching the major manga-writing competition, MANGA JIMAN 2012, with fantastic prizes and open to anyone fourteen (14)* years of age or over.
    The amazing First Prize is two (2) return air tickets to Japan, courtesy of All Nippon Airways!**
    The Second Prize is a fabulous TOSHIBA laptop computer.
    Third Prize is a superb digital camera from RICOH UK Ltd
    Runners-up will receive and a selection of manga publications, available in the UK from various UK manga publishers amongst others prizes.
    The winners’ works will also be displayed in a special MANGA JIMAN EXHIBITION at the Embassy of Japan.

    This competition is open to all UK residents. All creations should be original and between six (6) to eight (8) A4-sized pages in length and drawn so that it reads from left to right. The manga should in some way make reference to ‘GANBARE!’.

    The closing date for the submission of entries is Thursday, 1 November 2012.

    Should you wish to enter, please read the full MANGA JIMAN COMPETITION 2012 RULES & REGULATIONS (pdf) and then carefully fill out and submit the official 2012 APPLICATION FORM (Word doc) along with your entry by post or in person to:

    Manga Jiman 2012 Competition
    JICC
    Embassy of Japan
    101-104 Piccadilly
    London
    W1J 7JT

    Please contact manga@LD.mofa.go.jp with any queries about the competition.

    * The competition is open to all legal residents of the United Kingdom who are, or will be, over the age of fourteen (14) by 1 January 2013.

    **Terms and conditions apply.

    Prop Competition: Win a Mockingjay Pin

    To enter leave a comment about what you enjoy or have enjoyed most about working with young people in your library!

    Rules:

  • This competition is International
  • One entry per person
  • The competition is only open to librarians (in the interests of avoiding confusion: ANYONE that does paid or voluntary work in a library will be classed as a librarian, anybody saying something along the lines of “Only a person with a MA in X can be called a librarian!” will be unceremoniously shushed
  • The Mockingjay Pin will be a putterfly pin version
  • The competition will run until midnight UK time on the 6th May
  • The winner will be chosen with www.randomizer.org/
  • Author Siobhan Curham Running Poetry Competition

    To celebrate the launch of her new book Dear Dylan, Siobhan Curham will be running a poetry competition on her website

    Entrants must be age 10 – 17 and the poems should be based on one of the following themes:

    Friendship: Dear Dylan is the story of a friendship that begins online – in fact the whole novel is made up of emails between the two characters as their friendship grows. Perhaps you would like to write a poem about your own experience of friendship and how important your friends are to you.

    Family: The main character in Dear Dylan, Georgie, hasn’t had the easiest family life. Her father died when she was little and she doesn’t get on with her step-dad at all. There is no denying that families can be very complicated. But they can also be full of love and good times. Maybe you would like to write a poem about your own experience of family life – good or bad, happy or sad…

    Dreams: Georgie dreams of being an actress and the book follows her determination to pursue her dream, no matter what obstacles life – or her step-dad – throw at her. Do you have a burning dream or ambition? Would you like to write a poem about your pursuit of this dream, and the importance of never giving up?

    Please send your submissions to: contact[AT]siobhancurham[DOT]co[DOT]uk by Monday 2nd April. And please give your name and age in your covering email.

    The three winning entrants will each receive a signed copy of Dear Dylan and their poems will be published on her blog http://thefadedbookmark.blogspot.com/ in April as part of the official book launch celebrations.

    City Read London Oliver Twisted Competition

    ‘The world according to Oliver Twisted is simple. Vampyres feed on the defenceless, orphans are sacrificed to hungry gods and if a woe-begotten catches your scent it will hunt you forever.’

    City Read London is giving away two copies of Oliver Twisted, JD Sharpe’s new teen horror mash-up. Post your name on their wall, and share this link: https://www.facebook.com/cityreadlondon to be in with a chance to win. Winners announced on City Read London site tomorrow.

    Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year 2012

    Amnesty International Logo

    The Young Human Rights Reporter (YHRR) Competition is an annual competition for young people run by Amnesty, in partnership with the Guardian Teacher Network and MA Publications, publishers of SecEd, Headteacher Update and Primary Teacher Update.

    The award encourages young people to become human rights reporters, to investigate what’s going on in the world and bring human rights abuses to light.

    The 2012 competition is now open and will close on 31 January 2012.