Category Archives: Interviews

YA in SA: the Author Interviews: Lily Herne

Daughter & mother writing team Savannah and Sarah Lotz make up the authorial entity known as Lily Herne – author of Mall Rats a zombie apocalypse YA series set in Cape Town.

1. Would you like to introduce yourselves and the Mall Rats series for those that have not been fortunate enough to discover the excellent Deadlands or Death of a Saint. (I have not yet read DoaS yet but will hunt it down this week)

We’re going to be lazy and steal ace book reviewer and blogger Lauren Smith’s (aka Violin in a Void) summation of the series, as we love it!: Mall Rats is a post-apocalyptic YA zombie series set a decade after the infection hit South Africa during the 2010 World Cup. It follows a group of kick-ass teen rebels who fight against both the zombies and the corrupt government that worships the undead in a twisted theology of resurrection. Deadlands is set in Cape Town, while Death of a Saint explores the rest of SA.

Sarah: I live in Cape Town with a motley crew of rescue animals and as I write full-time from home, I spend the majority of my days dressed in pyjamas and drinking way too much coffee. Even though I’m forty-one, I love anything zombie-related (I haven’t grown up).

Savannah:
I’m about to start my third year of my screenwriting course at the University of East Anglia. In my spare time I’m a closet gamer.

2. Lily Herne is an excellent name, what inspired you to use a pen name for the series?

The general consensus is that unless you’re super-famous, readers can be put off by dual-author names on novels. Plus, we both write other, vastly different work under our own names.

3. Did the two of you have any problems when it came to writing together?

Sarah: Not really. We’re too laidback to bicker, although there was a little spat when Savannah insisted on including a baby hyena in Death of a Saint. Animals can be tricky to write. She got her own way in the end (she usually does). Sav tends to come back to SA during her university holidays in order to write with me, but if we need to write or plan anything when she’s in the UK then we work via Skype or email, which is easier than it sounds.

Savannah: The hardest part for me is not so much the writing but having to share a desk with my mum. She likes to mime out actions while writing so I’ve had my fair share of kicked shins and cold coffee spilt over me.

4. According to rumour, Deadlands is the first zombie novel set in South Africa, is this true?

As far as we know it is. (It’s up to readers to decide if this is a good thing or not though!)

5. I read in the Bookseller that the first two books in the series will be published in the UK in 2013, has the series been picked up anywhere else as yet?

Deadlands will also be coming out as an audio book in the UK and we have had other interest, but nothing signed and sealed yet. When we received the news that Corsair had made an offer for the books we almost exploded with excitement. It’s a huge honour to be picked up by such a respected publisher.

6. Sarah you have written as yourself (Pompidou Posse, Exhibit A & Tooth and Nailed), as half of the horror writing team S.L. Grey (The Mall & The Ward) and now you are also part of Lily Herne, have you ever been confused as to who you are writing as when you set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) or are you able to keep the writing personalities separate?

Haha – no, I’ve never been confused (at least not in that way!) as the solo novels, the S.L Grey books and the Lily Herne collaboration are all so different. I’m fortunate enough to be able to write full-time and I prefer to work on two projects at once. I’m not sure why, I think I must be slightly schizophrenic.

7. What is your favourite part of the writing process?

Sarah: I love the planning and plotting stage of a new book. Starting a new work is simultaneously scary and exhilarating as I really get a kick out of discussing character motivations, plot ideas, settings etc. I can blather on for hours about the tiniest detail, which drives Savannah and my co-writer on the S.L. Grey novels, Louis Greenberg, crazy. After that, I enjoy the actual writing. My stories and novels never turn out as I initially think they will, so the process is always surprising and never dull.

Savannah: I really enjoy the first few weeks after the plotting process. Just before the panic of meeting our deadlines sets in, our plots always take surprising turns and we can end up staying up most of the night trying to work out new twists. There is a certain amount of adrenaline involved during the week before a deadline, which I get a weird kick out of.


8. The SA YA writing pool seems to be incredibly small, can you recommend other SA authors that you enjoy reading? (I currently have you, S.A. Partridge, Cat Hellisen and Michael Williams as well as Liz Davis from Namibia)

The excellent Sally (Partridge) nailed this one in her interview with you – and we second all her recommendations: Lauri Kubitsile is incredibly talented, versatile and prolific; Cat Hellisen’s When the Sea is Rising Red is a phenomenal novel, we adore Edyth Bulbring’s hilarious Melly novels and we couldn’t put Adeline Radloff’s Sidekick or Alex Smith’s Agency Blue down. One to look out for next year is Charlie Human’s soon-to-be internationally published Apocalypse Now Now, a stunning, scathingly witty debut (it’s not strictly YA although it does have a teen protagonist).

9. What can we expect from Lily Herne after The Mall Rats series comes to an end?

We are currently discussing which of our ideas we want to write next – it will probably be a creepy spec novel called The Way Station, but we can’t say too much about it in case we change our minds!

You can find Lily Herne on Twitter: https://twitter.com/herne13

and on facebook: www.facebook.com/lily.herne

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!

YA in SA: Interview with Cat Hellisen

Credit Nerine and Thomas Dorman

1. Hi Cat, until Joe at Something Wicked suggested you I must admit that you had not popped up on my radar, would you care to introduce yourself to readers that may know your book but not you and for those that are meeting you (virtually) for the first time?

Hi Matt, thanks for getting hold of me (and thanks Joe for the props). I live in Muizenberg, which is a village-by-the-sea inside a bigger village by the sea, basically. I grew up in Cape Town and Johannesburg, so while I write secondary world fantasy, being South African definitely influences my writing. I’m a huge music fan, and occasionally I like to torture my family and animals by playing the ukulele at them.

2. When the Sea is Rising Red your first novel is a fantasy laced with magic, vampires, young love, rebellion and a steep divide between the rich and poor. Have you always been a fan of fantasy literature?

Very much so. My earliest reading memories are of being engrossed in my Story Tellers, which were a series of tapes and magazines with stories that ranged from traditional fairy tales to poetry and various other weird and wonderful things. I think a lot of children’s literature is perfectly okay with the fantastical, and it’s only when we venture into the adult section that the battle lines are more clearly drawn. These days I’m very easily bored by a lot of fantasy. I like stuff that plays with tropes, or language, or brings new ideas to the genre.

3. Do you think that inserting social issues into novels (addressing social issues and the divides between rich and poor) helps readers identify more closely with the characters?

I have no idea. I think that in paranormal and fantasy YA there’s been a trend to make the main characters as one-dimensional and non-threatening as possible, perhaps to make it easier for readers to slip themselves into the story – the character is nothing more than a place holder. I find that insulting to most readers and I don’t enjoy books like that. I prefer stories that give me characters with meat and bones and flaws and failures – something that contemporary YA currently seems to do better. Social issues are perhaps a part of filling out the dimensions of character, but not if they feel tacked on or extraneous to the story.

Some of my favourite recent YA has done interesting things with character and society: Chime – Franny Billingsley; Slice of Cherry – Dia Reeves; Shadows Cast By Stars – Catherine Knutsson, and Above – Leah Bobet.

I can’t speak for how anyone else writes, but for myself I like to write characters who feel real, and that sometimes means not entirely likeable.

4. Who were your favourite writers when you were a YA reader (and were you a reader as a teen)?

I read voraciously as a teen, but mostly from the adult section. It’s only now as an adult I find myself reading more YA. Probably because a lot of what used to get shelved as fantasy or urban fantasy is being marketed towards teens now, and possibly because there’s simply more variety in teen-lit these days. My favourite authors as a teen were David Gemmel, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Diana Wynne Jones and Gene Wolfe.

5. When the Sea is Rising Red was published in New York by Farrar Straus Giroux (a Macmillan imprint) – how did you bypass local publishers and end up with an international deal?

When I first began querying my (unpublished) novels, there were no publishers in South Africa (and I think it’s still the case) who dealt with fantasy. It wasn’t so much that I bypassed them as I had to look overseas to find an agent and a publisher. I spent a lot of time hanging around on the Absolute Write forums, where I learned a great deal from publishing people who are way smarter and more experienced than me, and then I began querying. And carried on. And carried on. And kept writing. (A good thing because those early books are too awful to contemplate.)

6. Do you ever visit schools or libraries in South Africa and have you considered Skype visits for international virtual visits and if you answer yes to either of those questions what is the best way to get into contact with you to arrange visits?

I haven’t visited any schools. I’m weirded out by the idea because I don’t really know what I could possibly say that isn’t some variation of – “the info is out there, learn, and prepare to grit your teeth and keep going in the face of failure.” I believe I’m supposed to be doing some virtual book tour thing in the near future along with some fantastic YA writers, but details are a little hazy at this point.

7. What influenced your decision to write for teen readers?

I don’t really think I write for teen readers specifically, more that I wrote a book that could be marketed towards the YA audience. I write what I like to read, and then it gets labelled to sell. Hah, that sounds horribly cynical, but really, I just write stories, I don’t usually have a particular audience in mind.

8. What is your favourite part of the writing process?

When I read something months later, and am pleasantly surprised by the bits I enjoy.

9. The SA YA writing pool seems to be incredibly small, can you recommend other SA authors that you enjoy reading? (I currently have you, S.A. Partridge, Lily Herne and Michael Williams as well as Liz Davis from Namibia)

S.A. Partridge is much better at this than I am. Heh. Most of the YA writers here concentrate on contemporary, and I’m mainly a fantasy reader. I’m sure that there are fantasy YA writers out there in SA, I just don’t think I know of any off-hand. Sadly.

10. Are you currently working on anything new or do you have anything planned for the near future?

I’ve a couple of books on sub to editors at the moment; a scary enough thing in itself. To distract me from that I’m working on a very dark little children’s book and another story.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions

It was my pleasure 😀 Thanks for inviting me to be a part of your YA in SA series.

You can find Cat online at her website www.cathellisen.com/

or on Twitter at twitter.com/hellioncat

YA in SA: Interview with S.A. Partridge

S.A. Partridge is the author of award-winning YA novels Fuse, The Goblet Club and Dark Poppy’s Demise.

1. I am ashamed to say that I have not read any of your books but I did pick up a copy of Dark Poppy’s Demise at Kalk Bay Books on Sunday, would you be able to introduce yourself for those that have not encountered you in print or online before.

I am a YA writer from Cape Town, South Africa. I have three novels out in the wild.

2. Your novels focus on problems that many teenagers face – bullying, living rough and so on as a South African writer do you feel that SA youth have a unique set of problems or do you think what they face is universal?

South Africa is unique in that it’s a first world country with a third world reputation. It’s home to a melting pot of cultures and one of the most interesting places you can live. But rather than focus on what makes us different, race is kind of the elephant in the room that is missing from all my novels. Instead I focus on the real world, modern problems that face teenagers in South Africa and across the globe, such as Internet predators, drug dealers, peer pressure, abuse, and yes, friends with murderous intentions.

3. You have won a number of awards for your books The Goblet Club winning the SABC/You Magazine I am a writer Competition and the MER Prize for Best Youth Novel, Fuse short-listed for the Percy Fitzpatrick Prize for youth literature in 2010 and will be showcased at the IBBY World Conference in August and Dark Poppy’s Demise won the MER Prize. Not only that but you have been named as one of South Africa’s best authors. Do you feel under pressure from all these accolades or are you able to ignore the expectations and just write?

I just write. As soon as I’m done with one novel, another story starts nudging for my attention and I move on to that. I don’t write with things like awards and being prescribed at school in mind. I tend to focus on the story and the characters and doing my best to translate them down onto to paper. I’m weird in the way that I believe stories exist out there in the universe and that the writer is just the medium.


 
4. Have any of your novels been picked up by overseas publishers?

I’m working on it. Watch this space. You can pick them up through some online vendors.
>http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dark-poppys-demise-s-a-partridge
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Goblet-Club-The-S-A-Partridge
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fuse-S-Partridge

5. Are any of your novels based on personal experiences

Not really. Sometimes I overhear bits of conversation or see something that makes an impression and then add it in, but for the most part the story is complete when it finds me. For Dark Poppy’s Demise, which is about a girl that meets a psychopath online, I drew on my own experience of online dating, but only for research. It didn’t play a part of the story.
 

 
 
6. I read in a review that you “deliver a dystopian view of South African youth culture” why do you think that young people have such a rough time (not just in SA but globally)?

There is an urgency to being a teenager that we tend to forget about the older we get. High school is where we learn to interact with people socially, so if you think about it, it’s a little bit like the island in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. It’s about being the alpha dog, fitting in, finding your social status, impressing the girl, impressing the rest. It’s such an insular environment that isn’t really affected by the outside world and every problem seems more end of the world than it really is.

7. What is your favourite part of the writing process?

I enjoy flat out bouts of writing where I produce a massive amount of content in a matter of hours. I’m addicted to seeing a story start to take shape. It gives me a greater sense of achievement than actually publishing the book.

 
8. How do you think that YA writing perceived in South Africa?

YA is incredibly popular in South Africa. Walk into any bookstore and you’ll see the floating displays of latest releases. There are also a lot of dedicated YA book blogs that build excitement for upcoming releases. For example, when Veronica Roth’s Insurgent came out, there was a huge buzz among local book bloggers on Twitter. They are also hugely supportive of local writers, which is awesome. There’s an incredible atmosphere of support and encouragement here.

9. Have you had much feedback from teen readers? What have their thoughts been about your writing?

I’ve been very lucky. My first novel was adapted into a school play and on opening night I was bowled over by the kids wanting to talk to me about the book. I also get quite a few messages on Facebook from readers, and most recently Twitter as well.

10. The SA YA writing pool seems to be incredibly small, can you recommend other SA authors that you enjoy reading? (I currently have you, Lily Herne, Cat Hellisen and Michael Williams as well as Liz Davis from Namibia)

Edyth Bulbring is very prolific. Adeline Radloff wrote an excellent YA about a super hero and his teenage apprentice set in Cape Town that won the Sanlam Youth Prize. Lauri Kubuitsile is a YA writer from Botswana whose novel Signed, Hopelessly in Love, was also up for the MER prize. There’s also Alex Smith, Jenny Robson, Gillian D’achada, Jayne Bauling, Francois Bloemhof, Robin Malan, Fanie Viljoen. It’s a small community, but the content coming out is fantastic.

11. What is coming next after Dark Poppy’s Demise?

My next novel is called Sharp Edges, which tackles the mystery surrounding the death of a seventeen year old girl at a trance party, seen through the perspective of the five other people there. It will hit shelves in April 2013.

You can follow S.A. Partridge via her blog: http://sapartridge.bookslive.co.za/

on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Sapartridgewriter

or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sapartridge

Start the Story Interview with Barry Hutchison (co-creator with Tommy Donbavand of Start the Story)

What prompted you to start an independent magazine to aid literacy?

We both do a lot of work in schools running writing workshops and we have a lot of fun doing it. Sometimes the kids get stuck right into it from the start, and sometimes you have to work a bit harder and think creatively to get them engaged, so we’ve both developed lots of tricks over the past few years to get even the most reluctant pupils writing creatively.
Often teachers approach us at the end of our workshops asking if they can “borrow” some of the ideas we used, and we’re always happy for them to do so. It got us thinking, though – is there a way to share the exercises we’ve developed and techniques we’ve learned with a wider audience? Can we make it easier for teachers, librarians – even parents – on a much wider scale to get kids excited about literacy? Start the Story is what we came up with.

 

Start the Story is an excellent idea – how long have you been developing it (and what took you so long)?

We’ve been developing the content for years without actually realising it. We’ve been running school events since about 2007, and everything we’ve come up with during those visits has been filed away in our heads to be pulled out when needed.
The idea for the magazine itself only really came about in the past few months, and as soon as we hit on the idea we swung into action. I think from initial idea to the first issue coming out was about three weeks. We were so excited about the potential it had to help gets kids reading and writing that we put aside all our other work (sorry, publishers) and focused 100% on getting issue one done.

 

Why do you think that literacy in the UK is suffering?

There’s no one single reason, and that’s what makes it so hard to combat. From the point of view of reading for pleasure, there are so many other demands on kids’ time these days, from video games to 24 hour cartoon channels, plus Facebook, YouTube and a million and one other things.
Parents are more pushed for time, so they’re reading less with their children, and that has a massive knock-on effect in terms of the literacy skills of those kids. We’re looking at ways to combat that with “Parent Sheets” schools can send home with kids encouraging them to read and talk about reading at home.
If the input isn’t coming from home, it’s very difficult for teachers and librarians to turn the tide. Librarians are great at keeping up to date with new books, but a lot of teachers find it more difficult, which is why we recommend a wide range of books for all interests and abilities in every issue of the magazine.
I also think teachers themselves have so much more put on them now than they ever used to. What’s expected of them seems to change every few weeks, and from speaking to hundreds of them over the past few years the general consensus is they have less and less time to actually teach.
That’s where we thought we could make the biggest difference, by supplying ready-made lesson plans, plus lots of exercises which can be easily adapted to any age group. We also provide five pupil worksheets with every issue, ready to print off and use in lessons.

 

Did you consider working in conjunction with existing literacy groups (for example The National Literacy Trust or the UK Literacy Association)?

At the moment, the whole thing is very much a work in progress, and we haven’t ruled anything out. Our big rush was to get issue one out before schools broke up for the summer, and now our focus is on making issue two even bigger and better than the first one. Once that’s out of the way we’re going to step back and catch our breath a bit, and see what connections can be made with other groups and organisations.
Part of the appeal for me, though, is being able to come at the problem from a unique angle – we’re not teachers, we’re not part of a government body or a literacy charity or whatever. We’re just two authors who love reading and writing, and who want to help other people learn to love it, too.

 

At the moment it is a two author publication – are you considering taking on partners (including authors, teachers or librarians)?

We had a couple of teachers helping advise us on the first issue, and lots of others have pledged their support. We’ve also had authors and illustrators offering to help us out, and the response overall has been great (particularly from librarians, who seem to “get it” best of all).
By and large, though, it’s just the two of us, but we’re definitely looking to grow and we’re probably going to need all the help we can get! So if you’re interested in helping out in any way, we’d love to hear from you.

 

Will you accept article submissions or ideas from outside professionals?

This is definitely something we’re planning to do down the line, but we want to be in a position to be able to pay people what they deserve. At the moment we’re both doing this off our own backs and taking care of costs ourselves, so by necessity we’re writing all the articles. If we start getting a reasonable number of subscribers, though, then we can start accepting – and paying for – submissions from other people.

 

Why should librarians, teachers and parents subscribe to Start the Story?

We’re not very good at the hard sell, so all I’ll say is this: We can make it easier for you to get the children in your care excited about reading and writing. The magazine can save you huge amounts of time and effort, and can make literacy lessons fun for teachers and pupils alike.
Schools are also free to distribute it to all staff and classes, and we even supply a print-friendly version of every issue ready to print off on desktop printers.
Oh, and if you’re one of the first 100 subscribers you’ll be entered into a competition to win £100 of free books plus a virtual author visit from one of us!

 

How can we go about subscribing?

It couldn’t be simpler – head along to www.startthestory.co.uk and click the big yellow “SUBSCRIBE NOW!” button at the top.

 

Thank you for an amazing resource!

Aimée Carter Interview

Hi Aimée! For those of us who have not met you would you be willing to give us a short introduction?

Hi! I’m Aimée, and I wrote the Goddess Test series.

The Goddess Test is not quite a retelling of Greek myth but rather extending the cycle in a new story that has echoes of the original (which I particularly enjoyed) was it tough to update the gods & goddesses

Thank you! One of my favourite things to do while writing The Goddess Test was updating the gods and goddesses. While in some ways it was difficult to fit them into our current culture, at the same time I believe they’re universal, which made it easier. I kept their original personalities from the myths as much as I could, and then I thought about how they would need to adapt to modern times.

Is the world you are building home to other classical pantheons or are your deities the same but reflected differently in other cultures?

I love this question. In my head, it’s the latter – they have different names throughout history and different cultures, but they’re more or less the same beings. Some of the minor gods in Greek mythology are considered almighty in others, and they’re reflected differently between, say, Roman and Norse mythology. But they’re more or less the same. This is just in the Goddess Test world, of course, but it’s interesting to study the different kinds of mythology in the world and see where they intersect.

I had a thought that the river that Kate & Ava crossed to get onto Henry’s property was the Styx – am I right and if yes are there any other mythological easter eggs scattered in your story that I may have missed?

You’re totally right! I believe Chapter 16 is called The River Styx, and while it’s not explicitly stated in the text, that was definitely my intention. There are several mythology Easter eggs scattered throughout the trilogy, little throwaway things that might not mean much to the casual reader, but someone more familiar with mythology might get a grin or a little piece of insight into the story.

Henry is described as dark, tortured and mesmerising (considering that he is Hades he has good reason to be) – do you think that emo boys are the new objects of attraction in YA lit?

To be honest, I never really intended for him to be considered emo. He’s really the opposite of emo – very unemotional, at least outwardly. Stoic, quiet, keeps his thoughts and feelings to himself. A lot of times, Kate is the one to hurl emotions at him to try to get something to stick, but Henry has a lot of trouble acknowledging how he feels. And with good reason, for sure.

I don’t think emo is anything too new on the scene, really, but there is definitely a variety of YA love interests who exhibit classic emo traits. And that’s what I love about YA – there’s something for everyone!

Writing Children’s Books While Black and Feminist


I received an e-mail from the wonderful Kerensa at Ms.Magazine about an interview they are running on their blog with Jacqueline Woodson–one of the few queer, Black or feminist writers of bestselling contemporary children’s books.

Rather than grab the interview and post it here which would be illegal (read this to find out more) you can find links below and a video of the first part of the interview.

You can read the interview here:

Writing Children’s Books While Black and Feminist

Or watch the first part of the interview here:

You can watch the entire interview on Zetta Elliott‘s youtube channel

Eight Questions with… Chris Westwood

Chris was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to sit down with Teen Librarian and take part in the Eight Questions With… interview which follows below.

What influenced your decision to write for Teenagers?

Robert Swindells had a lot to do with it. About the time I was starting out, struggling with a first novel I never finished, I heard he was conducting a writing workshop at my local library so I went along to say hello. Robert was incredibly generous with his time, read the sample pages I’d brought and recommended a number of YA novels he thought I should read. I had a background in the music business as a journalist with a weekly paper called Record Mirror, and Robert suggested I try writing fiction for a similar young readership. My first novel (A Light In The Black) wasn’t actually planned as young adult fiction but as soon as I started the first chapter, the voice – the tone of the piece – took it that way. I guess that’s what Robert was getting at: writing in the voice that comes naturally to you.

 

How do you get into the heads of your characters?

I suppose it’s a little like acting, role-playing, putting myself in someone else’s place. There’s a lot of me in my characters anyway, and I like to think most of us have enough in common emotionally that we can relate to the same things in similar ways, whether it’s the heartbreak of being jilted or the fear of the sound of a dentist’s drill. Also, characters do have this alarming way of taking on lives of their own and beginning to speak for themselves, whether or not I agree with what they’re saying. I’m just hoping the reader will pause and go, “Wow, I didn’t know anyone else felt that way too.”

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

It’s more about finding something that appeals to me. I try not think in terms of what will grab, say, a thirteen year old reader; you can’t second-guess what others will like, I’m not sure you should even try to. First, entertain yourself. If an idea gets its hooks into me, I’m hopeful it will do the same for others. Does the story I have in mind already exist? If not, I’d better settle down and write it…

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

It’s nearly all good. There’s the first spark of inspiration that kicks off an idea… and lasts for about ten seconds. After that there’s a lot of hard work, which often feels like pushing a dead-weight uphill, but there are also times when the story seems to be writing itself – when I’m not absolutely sure where it’s going but I’m willing to go along with it to find out. If I’m lucky I’ll eventually see what my subconscious has been doing all along… and if it all makes some kind of sense, that’s the best. Oh, and finishing work is hugely satisfying too!

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

There are so many fine writers in this area – Malorie Blackman, Anne Fine, Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman – but I’d like to mention a few of the books which made the greatest impression on me as a young reader, some of the ones that made me want to write:

JD Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye; William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies; Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War. There’s also Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is simply magical no matter how old you are; and Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, the granddaddy of the zombie novel, which is booming right now.

More recently, I was really knocked out by Louis Sachar’s Holes and John Boyne’s The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, and I’ve just finished the first of ND Wilson’s 100 Cupboards trilogy, a fabulous fantasy from a writer with a lovely, surprising turn of phrase. Can’t wait to start the next in that series.

Are any of your novels based on personal experiences?

I’m not sure I could write anything without making it personal – whether it comes from family life, school days, or all the ups and downs between then and now. For Ministry of Pandemonium I drew a lot from my own experience of losing my parents; that’s what the book is really about, and writing about it was a way of coming to terms with it. When I came back to London for the first time in ages, I started discovering parts of the city I’d never seen before, made some wonderful new friends, had my sunglasses stolen from a shop in Hackney… those things found their way into the story too. Sometimes personal experience adds extra colour and believability to a scene. Sometimes it gives you so much more, entire story-lines and themes.

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

I’m now adding the final touches to a sequel to Ministry of Pandemonium, and looking ahead to the third book in the series, which is only very vaguely planned so far but at least I know how it will begin and end. I’m less sure about everything in between!

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, so you could either call the publicity team at Frances Lincoln or email me or my agent at the addresses on the Contact page of my website http://www.chris-westwood.com

Author Interview with Julie Kagawa

Julie Kagawa, author of the phenomenal YA fantasy series The Iron Fey recently took some time out of her busy schedule to take part in a quick Q&A with Teen Librarian.

1. In The Iron King the fey are all from the Western European tradition of faeries – as the series progresses will you spread out into the mythologies of other cultures?

In the Iron Fey series, I stuck mostly to the traditional faeries of England, Scotland, and Ireland, because they are Fey. For example, the kitsune of Japan is not a faery but more of a spirit. However, I do love oriental mythology, and though it might not appear in The Iron Fey series, its certainly something I would love to write about in the future.

2. How much research did you do before you started The Iron Fey series?

I already had a good grasp of faery lore and legend, so it was more of a “research as you go” sort of thing. Most of my research was done online, though I did watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream before starting The Iron King, just for inspiration.

3. I loved the concept of faeries of Iron, will you be delving more into the backstory of the Iron Fey themselves from the time of Ferrum and the founding of the court of Iron?

Thank you. And the origins of the Iron Fey will be touched upon as the series progresses, most notably in the third book, The Iron Queen.

4. Will Floppy ever reappear?

He does pop up one more time in a dream sequence, but other then that, no.

5. Is the Iron Fey series open ended or do you have a definite end goal in mind for the series?

Oh, there is a definite ending for Meghan, Ash, Puck, Grim, and everyone in the Iron Fey world. I don’t like leaving things open-ended; I want to know, as I close the last page, that the story is over, and that it ended the only possible way it could.
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For more information on the Iron King and to find out about forthcoming releases from Mira Ink click on the logo to be taken to their website.

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The Sunday Express is giving away 1000 ebook copies of The Iron King here
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Watch the book trailer for The Iron Fey

5 Questions with Rachel Vincent

First up for 12 Months of Halloween is an interview with Rachel Vincent author of The Shifters and Soul Screamers series.

1. For those reading this interview that have not encountered you on their bookshelves would you be able to give us a short introduction?

I am a cat owner, former English teacher, and the author of the young adult Soul Screamers series as well as the Shifters series (adult). I live in San Antonio, Texas, where we’re currently experiencing our first cold day of the year, and my central heat doesn’t seem quite up to the challenge. (Picture me bundled and hunched over my keyboard. ;))

2. Faythe your heroine is a werecat – did you consider other werebeasts before settling on cats as the main weres of this series?

Nope. I’ve always been a cat person.

3. The term paranormal romance seems to have become a catch-all within the supernatural genre, how would you describe your writing?

I actually write urban fantasy. The difference between paranormal romance and urban fantasy (as I see it) is that if you take the romance out of a PNR novel, the story falls apart. But if you take the romance out of urban fantasy, you lose an element of characterization and sexual tension, but the plot still holds up. In other words, in UF, the fantasy/plot is the focus, whereas in PNR, the character relationships and romance are the focus.

But that’s not to say that my novels don’t have intricate character development, because they do. But plot and world-building, for me, come first. Which is why it always surprised me how vehement the readers are that Faythe’s romantic life should end a certain way (and they don’t agree on what that way is). 😉

4. Which authors can you recommend as inspirations

As writing inspirations? Um…in the sense that after reading their writing I want to become a better writer myself, there’s Stephen King (I’m a huge fan), Kelley Armstrong, Courtney Summers, Holly Black, etc… An eclectic list, huh?

5. Can we expect more tales of adventure featuring Faythe and her Pride or is Alpha her last outing? If it is can you let us know what else we can expect book-wise from you in the future?

Alpha is Faythe’s last book. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of a spin-off series, but it’s not currently in the works. Early in 2011, my Soul Screamers series will debut in the UK, and in January, My Soul To Steal (Soul Screamers 4) will be released in the US. That fall, both If I Die (Soul Screamers 5) and the first in my new adult series will be released.

A Review of Alpha will follow soon.