Category Archives: Eight Questions With…

All the Things We Never Said

16-year-old Mehreen Miah’s anxiety and depression, or ‘Chaos’, as she calls it, has taken over her life, to the point where she can’t bear it any more. So she joins MementoMori, a website that matches people with partners and allocates them a date and method of death, ‘the pact’. Mehreen is paired with Cara Saunders and Olivia Castleton, two strangers dealing with their own serious issues.
As they secretly meet over the coming days, Mehreen develops a strong bond with Cara and Olivia, the only people who seem to understand what she’s going through. But ironically, the thing that brought them together to commit suicide has also created a mutually supportive friendship that makes them realise that, with the right help, life is worth living. It’s not long before all three want out of the pact. But in a terrifying twist of fate, the website won’t let them stop, and an increasingly sinister game begins, with MementoMori playing the girls off against each other.
A pact is a pact, after all.
In this powerful debut written in three points of view, Yasmin Rahman has created a moving, poignant novel celebrating life. ALL THE THINGS WE NEVER SAID is about friendship, strength and survival.

Hot Key Books

I read this book in one big gulp all the way back in April when the proof was sent to me, and it has stayed with me because of the strength of the voices, the originality of the plot, and the honesty of the writing. One of my favourite things about it is that one of the three protagonists is a devout Muslim that isn’t doubting her faith, and in fact her depression and anxiety just is, for no “reason” (not abused, not grieving, no family drama), it just exists. The other two have more obvious issues, but again their POVs are so nuanced and not simply “I’m sad because of what happened to me”.

It treads some very dark ground, definitely for a YA+ audience, but (slight spoiler) it is ultimately hopeful. Helpful resources for support regarding the issues included are listed in the back of the book.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to ask Yasmin some questions…

Hi Yasmin, welcome to TeenLibrarian and thank you for giving up your time to undergo the third degree!

Thank you so much for having me!

Your debut published work was a short story in the Stripes ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ anthology, had you already started writing ‘All the Things We Never Said’ at that point, or was it still just a simmering idea?

‘Fortune Favours the Bold’, my short story in ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ was actually a ridiculously early version of what eventually became ‘All The Things We Never Said’. I was trying to write a book about mental health with a Muslim protagonist, but was finding my way into HOW to tell the story at the time. I’d written about 5000 words of this original idea when I realised it wasn’t working and moved on. When I saw the call out for Changebook, I realised that beginning fit so well that I just turned it into a short story.

What has been the best thing so far about being published?

There have been so so many amazing things that have happened during this journey – from seeing an 8ft poster of my cover at London Book Fair to being able to record the author note for the audiobook. The best thing for me though is how it’s touching readers, particularly teenagers. I’ve had some lovely reviews where people have connected with my characters so much and that’s always lovely. I remember this one encounter I had with two young Muslim girls who said to me “you’re an inspiration”…and then I burst into tears of course. When I was a teen, there weren’t many people who were so visibly Muslim writing books, or on TV or whatever, so to be able to provide that to young people in a tiny way now is truly the best thing.

You’ve been so honest, in the publicity for the book, about your own mental health in your teen years. How has that been?

It was something I was really scared of at the beginning, baring myself to strangers. But it seems to be somehow a lot easier to talk about it to strangers than people you know! I think being open about it is important to me personally as it echoes the mentality of the book. Also, the fact that so many people can relate makes it a lot more manageable. It wasn’t too long ago that I felt scared of telling people “I struggle with anxiety and depression”, but now I feel less wary of talking about it as I’ve met so many people who have had the same or similar experiences, and if me talking about it openly can maybe help someone else understand their own mental health, then I feel it’s completely worth it.

Of the three girls, which story was hardest to write?

I had trouble at some point or another with each girl, but I think Olivia and Mehreen nudged ahead of Cara in terms of difficulty. I was drawing on a lot of my own emotions when writing Mehreen, which is always tough, and Olivia’s story just had some really really hard scenes to write. Her voice also took a long time to figure out.

Have you talked to many teenagers about the book? What kind of reaction have you had?

I haven’t yet had many readers of the book, since it’s not officially out as I’m writing this, but the brief conversations I’ve had with teens where I’ve spoken about it in vague terms have been very positive! I spoke to a few teenagers when doing research for the book, and received such lovely feedback about how exciting the story sounded, and what an important topic it was – I got very emotional!

What kind of event would you like to do if invited into schools?

There’s so many things covered in the book that would be great for discussion with students – mental health and the benefits of talking about it/seeking help, internet danger, grief, etc. But I think what I’d personally love to do is to talk about craft. When I was young I could never imagine that being an author was attainable, so would love to let teenagers know that it’s a viable career! Having studied two Masters degrees on Creative Writing, it would be great to be able to put those skills into a workshop format and teach students how to go about writing a novel.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I am in such a reading slump! And have been for a REALLY long time! The last thing I remember reading was an extract of Sarah Juckes’ WIP. Sarah wrote the YA novel ‘Outside’ which was published by Penguin in January 2019, and I just know her next book is going to be just as amazing. We have very similar brains, and a love for dark YA, so I think anyone who enjoys All The Things We Never Said would probably like her writing!

Any hints of what we can expect from you next?

I don’t want to mention anything specific about book 2, because anything can change at this point! But one thing I’m sure about is that there will be a Muslim protagonist – that’s something I’d like to carry on in everything I write.

Yasmin Rahman, author of All the Things We Never Said

All the Things We Never Said is OUT NOW! Thanks to Hot Key Books for sending me a proof copy all those months ago.

Eight Questions With… Anthony McGowan

Hi Tony, and welcome (finally) to Eight Questions With… an interview for Teen Librarian. I was just trying to work out why considering how long we have known each other I have never interviewed you before – do you have any idea why?

I seem to remember that you did interview me for Teen Librarian, back in the Henry Tumour period … In fact, YES! Found it.

Editor’s note: yes, I did interview Tony, it appeared way back in 2007, you can read it here: TLM May 2007 Now let us never mention this embarrassing incident again and get on with the interview…

You currently have three books published by Barrington StokeThe Fall, Brock & Pike, would you be able to give a short introduction to each for readers that may not have already discovered these?

9781781122082
It might be easiest if I discuss Brock and Pike first. They both feature brothers Nicky and Kenny. At the beginning of Brock their family is in a bit of a mess. Their mum has left them, and their father can’t really cope – he’s lost his job, and generally fallen apart. Nicky is the narrator, and acts as a sort of carer for Kenny, who has special needs. Nicky thinks the best word to describe his brother is ‘simple’ –

People say he’s simple, and he is. I know you’re not meant to say ‘simple-minded’ anymore, but it seems to me that it’s the exact right word for Kenny. He hasn’t got all the stuff going on that mess up other people’s heads. He isn’t always trying to work out the angles, or how to stitch you up. He thinks other people are as kind as he is, and he only has one idea at a time. His brain was starved of oxygen when he was getting born, so now he has what they 9781781124666call learning difficulties. But, like I say, I think ‘simple’ is better and kinder and truer than talking about ‘difficulties’ or ‘disabilities’.

The Nicky-Kenny relationship is the key to the two novels. In Brock, they save a badger from a terrible fate, and Pike is a sort of treasure hunt/adventure story about a body in a lake, and a gold watch, but the relationship between the brothers remains central. They’re stories about love and friendship and redemption. The boys love helps to save the family. Unusually, for me (!) the books have upbeat endings.

The Fall is a rather darker book, telling two traumatic linked tales, about a kid called Mog. The book is about betrayal, and bullying, but doesn’t end well … But I think it has a certain bleak power.

I recall reading a while ago that Brock & Pike are the first two parts of a trilogy – is this true or is my brain making up things as I have not been able to find anything about it?
fall mcg
I decided that The Fall was just too depressing – especially as the main character is partly based on me, so I bring Mog back in Pike, giving him a kind of redemption, too. So The Fall, Brock and Pike do finally form a sort of loose trilogy.

You are one of the most entertaining authors I follow on twitter and facebook, will you ever be producing a book or e-book of your online musings & conversations?

Hah! Well, a few people have suggested it. I’m not much good at Twitter – my speciality is a sort of rambling surrealist anecdote, and I can’t squeeze that into a tweet. My whimsy really needs the greater length of Facebook. But I do think that some of the best things I’ve ever written have been ‘wasted’ on Facebook, so it would be quite nice to give them a second life.

Are you currently working on anything you can share with the audience? (I am hoping for a follow-up to Hello Darkness as it was one of my favourite reads last year)

I’ve just finished a book I’ve been writing on with another author – the brilliant Jo Nadin. It’s called Everybody Hurts, and it’s a twisted little love story, written from male and female perspectives. The first draft is done, and we’re about to give it a final polish. It probably won’t come out until 2017, as these things always seem to take forever. I’m also well into a huge blockbuster horror project – a sort of Stephen King for teens. The working title is The Wrath. There’s a lot of blood.

Apart from your books, can you recommend any other titles on the Barrington Stoke teen lists?

Barrington Stoke, although small, attract some amazing authors – Kevin Brooks, Keith Gray, Meg Rosoff, Sally Nicholls, Aidan Chambers, Eoin Colfer, Frank Cottrell Boyce, to name but some. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of their Barrington Stoke books.

Are any of your works based on personal experiences?

They all are, to some extent – even the mad, surreal ones, like Hellbent and Hello Darkness. But Brock and Pike are very much set in the small town where I was brought up – Sherburn in Elmet, in Yorkshire. Although it isn’t named, anyone from Sherburn would recognise it instantly. But, in general, most of my characters are versions of people I’ve met. Warped, twisted versions …

Lastly what are you currently reading and would you recommend it to a bunch of librarians?

I’m working my way though the My Struggle sequence by Karl Ove Knausgård – which reads a bit like a po-faced version of my facebook posts. It has a richness and depth, but can also be a bit … dull. So not sure I’d recommend it. What I would certainly recommend, however, is How To Be A Public Author, by Francis Plug (really Paul Ewen) – an hysterical novel about a drunken would be writer, who attends every possible book event to learn the job. It’s ludicrously funny and silly, but also oddly moving, and a tribute to all us bibliophiles.

Thank you so much for giving up your time to participate in this interview!

Eight Questions With… Andy Mulligan

Hi Andy, welcome to the Teen Librarian Eight Questions With… interview! The first thing I usually ask is for interviewees to introduce themselves but I think that you are so well known that I will instead ask you to introduce LIQUIDATOR.

liquidator
LIQUIDATOR unites a number of child-heroes: the weak, the strong, the dim, the brilliant…and I send them happily off on a week of work-experience. My characters soon go way beyond their placements, however, working to expose a multi-national corporation that’s threatening the world – and this isn’t 007 land, by the way, where the villains are psychopathic criminals. My villain is real. It’s developing a so-called health drink that will addict a new generation to sugars, steroids and caffeine: a performance enhancing health-drink with a billion-dollar marketing campaign, and a history of very dubious medical trials in the developing world – the stuff of fact, in other words.

The second question is… what would you do if you found out something bad… something really bad?

I’d walk away very quickly and pretend I hadn’t seen it. Sorry, but I’m a coward and I don’t like conflict.

Did you ever participate in a work experience scheme in school?

For some reason, no – I went to a grammar school in the seventies when all we did was learn by rote and sing ‘Jerusalem’. I used to supervise such weeks, when I was a teacher – and they were all too often a predictable disappointment, as kids returned to school having experienced only the stranglehold of insurance and safety concerns. I always hoped that one day, a would-be teenage surgeon would come rushing back to class, shouting “It was great! I cut someone open!” It never happened in life, so I’ve put into fiction.

What inspired the writing of LIQUIDATOR?

– see above. The thrill of the chase, too: I do love fast-moving, action packed adventures with real jeopardy.

Apart from LIQUIDATOR, what other works for young readers can you recommend?

I’m afraid I don’t read that much, for fear I’ll either be dismayed at its brilliance, or seduced into copying. I have a few ‘touchstone’ YA books, the main one of which is John Boyne’s THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS. If I get stuck, I read a chapter of that and it always unsticks me. Other than that, I am desperately traditional. I love the Moomins, for sheer surrealism.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

First draft, for sure. It’s like playing with dolls: you get lost in the game as the dolls come to life and do things you never expected. Returning to the m/s for editing is good, too – and it’s lovely to share your work with agent and editor. But there’s nothing quite like the virgin sand of first draft.

With LIQUIDATOR only having just landed it may be a bit premature to ask this question, but I will ask it anyway. Do you have anything new planned that you can share with the audience?

I’m working on a film-script with Steve Coogan, and radio plays for Radio 4. The next children’s book is well underway, too – a bit of a departure. It’s about a dog with a crippling identity crisis.

Finally, do you ever visit schools or public libraries and if you do what is the best way to get into contact with you about organising a visit?

Yes, I try to say yes if I possibly can – and the best way to get something organised is through the excellent AUTHORS ALOUD – annemarley@authorsalouduk.co.uk

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions!
THANK YOU FOR ASKING! -ANDY

Liquidator by Andy Mulligan is published by David Fickling Books and is available on 1st October