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 Stoke – The Fall, Brock & Pike, would you be able to give a short introduction to each for readers that may not have already discovered these?
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 call 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?
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!