Category Archives: Interviews

The Third Degree with YA Book Prize Judge Imogen Russell-Williams

I am extremely happy to welcome Imogen Russell-Williams to TeenLibrarian today to discuss The YA Book Prize

Would you like to introduce yourself to the audience and let us know how you got to be involved with the YA Book Prize?

Hi audience! I’ve been a massive children’s literature and YA geek enthusiast since I was a child myself, and am now lucky enough to do some reviewing and other journalism on kids’ books for the Guardian Books Blog and the Metro. The Bookseller Children’s Editor approached me because I’m very interested in YA literature, especially YA literature published in the UK, and I know quite a bit about it.

There are 10 judges in all how were you all selected and for how long will you all hold your positions as judges?

We were all selected in the same way – on the basis of being experts in YA fiction – but we all have different kinds of expertise – in book-buying, reviewing, writing, etc. The idea was to get a really diverse mixture of knowledgeable judges to weigh up the shortlist, and we’ll be judges just for this year (although the prize will continue.)

The YA Book Prize is the latest and at present only (I think) national Award for UK (& Irish) YA novels, how did the award come about?

The Bookseller ran a feature about current prizes for children’s literature, and realised that since the winding up of the Booktrust Teen prize, there was no UK award that focused specifically on books for teenagers. After that, they heard from some indie booksellers that people were keen to see an award focusing on YA books – and the rest is history!

Currently Movellas is the primary sponsor of the Award, how did that partnership come about?

The Bookseller approached Movellas to see if they’d be interested in sponsoring the award. They felt Movellas would be a good fit for this prize, since they’re at the cutting edge of how teenagers create and consume fiction (especially fanfiction!) and were delighted when they agreed.

How are YA titles selected? Is there a nomination process, or are all YA novels published in the UK eligible for the Prize?

There’s no nomination process, no – publishers were simply invited to submit up to six titles that meet the ‘published in the UK’ criteria and were definitely YA novels.

Who is involved in the short list selection?

An eight-strong Bookseller committee narrowed down the submissions (almost a hundred titles) to the current short-list of ten, which were then passed on to the judges.

Your job (along with the other judges) to select the overall winner is no easy task, what criteria are used to make the final choice?

Judging is always highly subjective (although I’d love to say we’re all totally objective and omniscient!) and it really comes down to what each judge really rates in a book. I’m on the look-out for superb writing, enthralling plotting, and engaging but nuanced characters (I don’t have to like a character, but I do want to be deeply interested in what will happen to him or her.) I also have a particular interest in diversity – putting people front and centre who aren’t just ‘the usual suspects’.

There has been a big social media push to publicise the Award and the short-listed titles, has it been successful in involving readers in the discussion of the titles?

The prize’s Twitter account @yabookprize has 1,387 followers, and the successive #Team(BookName) hashtags have encouraged readers to champion their favourites (in a really nice, positive, generous-spirited way). The YA Book Prize is also active on Tumblr and Facebook, so yes, I think it has been!

#TeamSalvage
#TeamSayHerName
#TeamEllaGrey
#TeamHalfBad
#TeamOnlyEverYours
#TeamLobsters
#TeamFindingaVoice
#TeamGoose
#TeamTrouble
#TeamGhostsofHeaven

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

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

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!

Interview with Nerine Dorman Author of the Guardian's Wyrd

nerinepicHi Nerine, welcome to Teen Librarian. As is customary in these interviews I ask all authors to introduce themselves to the audience.

Thanks for having me over, Matt. In brief, I’m an editor and author of SFF/H based in Cape Town, South Africa. I have a passion for stories and storytelling, especially when it comes to genre fiction. Apart from that, I am nominally involved in the local indie film scene, and also play guitar. I curate the annual South African HorrorFest Bloody Parchment event, short story competition and anthology. For some reason, I’ve also been named The Vampire Queen of the South. Make of that what you will. 😉

Most of your previous works would be classified as dark fantasy for adults and while TGW is still on the fringes of that genre it is aimed firmly at Young Adult readers – why did you decide to write for teens?

Why not write for YA readers? I don’t generally make distinctions, and write what I will, when the story asks for it. I have a great love for tales that follow the progress of characters when they are still in their teens. They have their whole lives ahead of them, which gives the author lots of scope to develop their adventures and grow them as characters. If I think back to my favourite stories, most of the characters were youngsters (think Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings, Garion from the Belgariad, Lessa from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books, Fitz from Robin Hobb’s books… the list goes on and on). Most of those books were in the adult section when I was a kid. I think if they’d been written in current times, they may have been reclassified as YA.

GW_Cover_09_author c i (2)How would you describe The Guardian’s Wyrd in a sentence that would hook a potential reader?

Teen rebel becomes besties with a prince from a magical realm and discovers that he can wield magic.

The protagonist Jay is mixed-race which makes a nice change from the usual white protagonists in fantasy fiction. What are your thoughts on the under-representation of people of colour as protagonists in fantasy fiction?

I cannot even begin to tell you how bored I am with the standard Caucasian tropes in fantasy, so anything I can do to buck the trend, I will. I’ll mix it up, and even in my secondary world fantasy, I bring in non-standard ethnicities. I love fantasy where the template for a particular culture is recognisably non-European. For instance, I loved GRRM’s Dothraki, and I’m currently reading and loving Karen Miller’s Empress, where the people are most definitely *not* blond-haired and pale.

Good fantasy transcends traditional boundaries, and I’d like to see more authors doing that. The current climate that favours indie and small press authors is great for diversity, and I’d like to see more breaking with traditional roles. This is a difficult stance to take, because there is incredible reader resistance to non-standard settings. But I encourage other authors to be brave. The more of us that write what we want, the better it is for diversity in the long run.

Are there any books or authors that inspired you in the writing of TGW?

Definitely to a degree CS Lewis for the Narnia books. Yes, it’s an old trope to have an Earthling immersed in a foreign, magical realm, but it’s a good one. I recently reread The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, which was a slightly poignant experience, because I didn’t quite see the book the same way as I did when I was little. However that sense of wonder still had me in its grip. But I do pay my respects to JRR Tolkien, George RR Martin and Storm Constantine for their epic fantasy, and especially for the sense of the reader stumbling into the tail-end of a story. Mystery, magic and wonder – not to forget the danger and adventure.

One thing I noticed – more by its absence than anything else was the lack of anything remotely love triangle-y (apart from the unrequited yearnings he had for his music teacher and the snog with the bird girl). Why do you think so many authors throw tangled love-lives into their stories?

Plainly put, love triangles bore the bantha pudu out of me. How many of us actually experience them for real? My teenage years were an interminable agony of unrequited love until I had my first proper boyfriend at the age of 17. I’m sure many of us can relate. Sure, I had a pile of unsuitable boys pine after me, but I didn’t return their feelings. Real life doesn’t follow a set script, and I suspect that many writers feel that the love triangle seems to be a convenient narrative device.

That being said, sometimes a love triangle is called for – just not in this story. It’s not something I’ll put in for the sake of having the trope there, and it’s very much *what* an author does with the trope that counts. It’s reached the point that when I read YA fiction with an obvious love triangle, I start rolling my eyes. In real life, there will be people you like. Sometimes they’ll like you back. Sometimes you’ll get involved with them even if you’re not totally in love with them. Maybe you’ll meet someone else you do *really* like. They might not like you back the same way, yet they’ll dance with you and hold your hand for a bit. Then they won’t ever call you back.

When you’re young, it’s difficult to hold onto that whole “one true love” concept. Yes, sometimes there will be that one person who’ll gut you emotionally, and you’ll walk around for years with the rusty knife in your back, but life goes on. You’ll meet someone new, develop feelings for them. Hey, maybe you’ll even get married.

To be honest, I’d like to see more authors write about characters who consciously work on a relationship with someone they choose to love instead of just falling in love. Where it’s a gradual, growing fascination rather than a *Zzzzzt! instalove! Across the room!* thing. And love isn’t always simple, easy or kind.

We had a taste of Sunthyst on Rowan’s world which is shown to be an extremely prejudicial society showed pretty blatantly with the use of slaves stolen from our world and a suspicion of magic users, do you have plans to show other nations or parts of the world that may not be as unpleasant?

I’m a sucker for a “warts and all” approach to my world-building. In real life, each nation is built on the subjugation of another, and they in turn are conquered or overrun. I don’t apologise for my outlook, and believe that as an author, it’s my duty to show the imperfections in society. Or at least in a story where there are heavy fantasy elements, I strive for a degree of realism. Anything less would be writing twee, cute and fluffy stories, and I’m sorry, that’s not what I’m about. My unicorns have fangs. They bite.

Conversely Jay and Rowan make a bit of an odd couple in the real (our) world do you have any plans to show their friendship developing with school and the demands and prejudices of this side of the portal?

Book two has been plotted, and yes, our two friends do test the boundaries of their relationship. Which one of your closest friends hasn’t at some point made you want to slap them? But you stick with them because you know they’ll do the same to you when you’re acting up. You friend can say stuff to you that you’d never tolerate from a stranger. In some ways, friends can be better than family, because you get to choose your friends – not so much with family, who can be unashamedly underhanded and nasty. Especially when it comes to inheritance, or favouritism with parents.

I enjoyed the instances of SA slang in the book (in some cases it was the first time I have seen certain expressions written down) do you think that international audiences will benefit from a glossary?

I’m a firm believer in letting readers figure it out for themselves. After all, not all the books I read from the US or the UK have a glossary, and I had no idea what the words meant. Granted, if an editor asks nicely, I’ll put one in. [smiles] I feel an author should be able to communicate the meaning of the slang through the context of the word. [Go read A Clockwork Orange without referring to the glossary. It’s real horrorshow.] That being said, these days you don’t have an excuse. I ask Google if I don’t have the answer. Google is my friend… 😉

Lastly, South Africa is appears to be experiencing a boom in YA writing, are there any other authors whose works you enjoy that you would like to recommend?

Cat Hellisen, definitely. Though her books are more adult, in my mind, her debut novel When The Sea is Rising Red was released for the YA market. Then Suzanne van Rooyen has totally wowed me. Like Cat, she isn’t too concerned with trends and her writing is gritty and poignant in all the right ways. I can’t recommend Rachel Zadok enough, and would recommend her to YA and adult readers alike, purely because she writes like the secret lovechild of Nick Cave and Poppy Z Brite.

Then for lovers of contemporary YA, there’s SA Partridge, who really knows how to nail the issues that teens face, and with so much compassion too. As for other South African authors in genre fiction, I recommend SL Grey, Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg. Granted, SL Grey is those two writing together, but you really can’t go wrong with them as both are utterly wicked in all the delightfully wrong ways. A recent addition to the local genre fiction scene would be Dave-Brendon de Burgh, who’s writing epic fantasy that should appeal to those who enjoy the likes of Robert Jordan and Steven Erikson.

Follow Nerine on Twitter (@nerinedorman) and sign up for her newsletter (http://eepurl.com/JoPUv). Add The Guardian’s Wyrd to your Goodreads list and purchase at Amazon or Kobo.

James Dawson and the Countdown to June 5th

countdown
 
Yesterday you read 20 Random Questions with Holly Smale over at Sister Spooky’s site.

Tomorrow you can read about Jennifer Gray at Big Book Little Book.

But TODAY… today we are BLESSED for we have James Dawson here, brought to you by the wonder that is digital video:

Shift the Blame – an interview with Jeff Povey

shiftHi Jeff welcome to Teen Librarian – would you like to introduce yourself to readers that may not have come across you before

Hello Matt and firstly thank you for letting me do this. I’m usually a scriptwriter. I’ve written over 250 episodes of prime time British TV over the past 20 years. EastEnders, Casualty, Silent Witness, Grange Hill, Holby and quite a few others. I have also written original pieces, one of which I directed. I also write film screenplays, all of which never get made. I also had a couple of plays on in London many moons ago. About eight years ago I wrote a novel called The Serial Killers Club which was a black comedy about a lonely guy who inadvertently joined a Chicago based serial killers club – and found love. It was published by Warner/Hatchette in America and in quite a few other countries but the UK wasn’t at all interested. I loved writing it though and swore I would write another novel one day. Trouble is I really love writing scripts and before I knew it, quite a few years passed and I still hadn’t done it.. Til now of course.

Did you make a conscious decision to write for teens or did you write Shift and think “hey this would be perfect for YA readers”?

That’s a good question. I actually just thought it would be a much more exciting story if it was about teenagers rather than adults. I hoped there would be a naivety to teenagers who don’t know as much about themselves and the world as perhaps an adult would and thus it would be a bit more dangerous and a lot more thrilling. But I also thought they’d be a bit more daring and free and that when it came to relationships and friendships it would be more fun – and funnier. I also write adult characters every day of my life and a little bit of me didn’t want to do that. I also like teenagers, I have four kids and the house has always been full of teenage kids who you find sleeping in the hallway or you sit down to dinner and they’ve already eaten everything. They are bold and brash one minute and nervous and self doubting the next. They have their whole lives ahead of them and have so many huge decisions to make and I remember being like that – ready to rule the world one second, and then scared stiff of it the next. One of my kids friends turned up one day wearing his mum’s wedding dress and I thought now there’s a great character. I was also going to write this as a blog from the main character’s – REV – perspective. I was going to publish it online and do one chapter/blog a week. I probably have those pages somewhere but I was really interested in putting a story onto the web and seeing what happened. (Probably nothing!) But I hoped teenagers would maybe find it and maybe enjoy it. I’m droning on now but I think if you write a novel then you just write it, I didn’t know I was writing YA fiction, I was just thinking about who best served the story. I was very happy when someone said I’d written a YA novel though.

Shift made me think of a cross between Stephen King and John Hughes (The Breakfast Club) in the Twilight Zone – what were your inspirations for writing it?

That’s a great description. The Breakfast Club only became an inspiration when I suddenly realised that I had been inspired by it if you know what I mean. I hadn’t watched it for years but then it suddenly sunk in. John Hughes was a brilliant film maker, one of my favourites, and although I’ve only recently read Stephen King he is incredible and I wish I’d started reading his books years ago. What a writer. The main inspiration was a simple ‘What if’ question. I always do this if I come up with a story. I’ll look at a bit of life, or a person or an event and ask myself “What if that happened, or what if they said this, or what if that didn’t happen and something else did instead. For SHIFT it was obviously What If some schoolkids stepped out of school and found the world was empty? That’s all I really had. The harder part is answering that question, but it’s also the best part. Sometimes you can’t answer the question there and then and you leave it to simmer for a year or two. I had this question for a year before I could figure out an answer. I think we are bombarded with images and music and ideas every second and sometimes you don’t even know that your brain has taken them in – and then twisted them into something else. But I always get inspired when I ask that question: What If….

Did you do any scientific research for the story or is it pure science fiction?

I did a little bit of research and there are theories on the multiverse – but that’s all they are. Just theories. No one has proof so I decided that I would be the master of my reality. My main aim was to make it logical, that even if I made this new world up, it would have to have a logical sense to how it operated etc. But also we’re dealing with 16/17 year olds and if they suddenly start spouting great swathes of theory and scientific understanding then I don’t think anyone would believe in them. The characters are not interested in WHY so much as they are in HOW the hell do we get home? I would be the same, I would have one major thought – let me get home! REV’s dad has written a paper on how and why it happens but only one character, The MOTH, can get a grasp of it. Even if he explained every last detail to the others they probably still wouldn’t quite grasp it. I don’t recall The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe stopping to explain itself. I might be completely wrong there, it’s been a long time since I read it. But sometimes if you explain too much then you take away a bit of joy a reader may have in the wonder of it all, and also in coming up with their own theories. (I hope anyway). I’m not saying don’t research though because the more grounded and believable the better. It was just a hard one to research when alternate worlds may or may not exist.

Shift is the first book in a trilogy – I am looking forward to books 2 & 3 can you let us know when they are due out?

I’m writing the Second one now and I think it will be published around 6-8 months from now (April 2014), and the Third instalment will appear 6-8 months after that.

Are you currently working on any other stories?

Only for television but as everyone knows you really need to have your second and third ideas lined up just in case someone asks you to come up with something else. I’m asking those What If questions again. But I know it will be YA fiction because it’s brilliant to write. I’m a little worried though because I really love the characters in SHIFT and I fret about making up new ones that I love just as much. I can see why JK Rowling wrote so many Harry Potter books, she loved those characters unconditionally. Also, do I go back to apocalyptic worlds? They’re my favourite type of fictitious world but would I just be copying myself? I think I’ll just wait til the right What If presents itself. There’s a few bubbling away.

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

I have a list of books by my bed now. The YA world is very new to me and as soon as someone said I had written a YA novel then I made a point of not reading any. I didn’t want to be influenced by them. I didn’t want people telling me that I had been influenced by them either. Someone mentioned Michael Grant to me and I immediately looked him up on Wikipedia and thought, ‘My God it’s almost the same idea I had!’ I e-mailed Simon & Schuster and told them what I’d found and of course they obviously knew all about Michael Grant and said don’t worry I was a very different type of writer. But I really panicked for a while. As a writer you strive for originality and think you’ve hit on the best idea in the world and lo and behold someone’s already thought of it. So I have a lot of books, some of which you recommended to me, and I am waiting until I’ve written my second book in case they get into my head. Also they might have a style I like and I’ll ape it before I even know what I’m doing. And worst of all they could be much better writers and my fragile mind doesn’t need to know that. One thing I would say is before I started this, I would go into bookshops and not look at YA. It was not drawing my attention, I’m older obviously, but I used to stick to the world I knew. I don’t think that’s a good thing because avid readers like me are probably missing out big time. Anyway my list comprises of Scott Westerfeld, Neal Shusterman, Darren Shan, Clare Furniss, Suzanne Collins to name but a few.

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 have never been asked but I would do that in a heartbeat. Just send an e-mail and I will do whatever I can.

Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by Teen Librarian!

Thank you for asking them! I know I waffle a bit so apologies for that.

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.