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12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it

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YA

Weekly Photo Challenge – Curves

Haven’t done this for a while, but this week’s photo challenge is curves, which was simple to put a bookish twist on!

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The book in question is Hell’s Bells by John Connolly, a sequel to his YA debute The Gates.  Both are very funny and worth a look – and if you enjoy them you’ll be pleased to hear the last in the trilogy, The Creeps, is due to be published in the autumn.

Disclaimer: I’ve never read Mr Connolly’s grown up thriller type books (although I have read The Book of Lost Things, which was fun) so you can’t hold me responsible if you love Charlie Parker and don’t like these!

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Author Interview – Gemma Malley

Today I am posting an interview with YA author Gemma Malley (who you might also have come across as Chick Lit writer Gemma Townley, sister of Madeleine Wickham/Sophie Kinsella – totally irrelevant to this article but nevertheless quite interesting!)  I first came across her when I was working at the library and picked up a shiny copy of The Declaration, the first in a trilogy set in a future where drugs have eliminated old age and people are prevented from having children because there’s no room for them.  It’s well worth a read, as are the other books in the series, The Resistance and The Legacy – particularly if you like a bit of future dystopia. Continue reading “Author Interview – Gemma Malley”

I Have Questions

Further to Monday’s shout out for guest bloggers, for the rest of this week I am answering the queries of Andrew Blair, an Edinburgh-based writer of comedy and other things.  You can see some of his work on this website, or follow him on Twitter @aagb1884.

Tuesday 26/4/11, 08:00

Ali,

I have been reading your blog sporadically. I have questions.

Number 1. You are writing in 12 different genres. This is not a question. What genres of books do you predominantly read and have you enjoyed the experience in researching others? That is a question.

Andrew

Tuesday 25/4/11, 13:01

Andrew,

I don’t really have a favourite genre, although I lean towards books with a sense of humour and quite like things with a fantastical element.  I also like a lot of YA and kids books, and Scottish fiction.

To give some examples: some of the best and funniest books I’ve ever read are the Mr Gum series by Andy Stanton, which I’d recommend to anyone (even though they’re really aimed at 8 year olds).  Meanwhile in fantastical terms, I go from the very dense prose of Isabel Allende to Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman graphic novels with a bit of future dystopia from Aldous Huxley or Margaret Atwood along the way.

In terms of YA, I’ve recently enjoyed stuff by Holly Black and Gemma Malley, as well as The Gates by John Connolly who started out writing adult crime novels.  You can read the first chapter on his website, and I think it’s awesome.

Great kids books I’ve read lately include The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forrester and The Secret Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.  I’d also recommend Steve Augarde‘s ‘Touchstone Trilogy’ which is suitable for 11+.  Good Scottish novels include The Ossians by Doug Johnstone and The Incredible Adam Spark by Alan Bissett, and anything by Muriel Spark…  Essentially I like to think I’ll give anything a go, and as such my ‘to-read’ list is very, very long.

In terms of research for 12 books, so far I have probably enjoyed the romance month the most because the genre is often unintentionally very funny.  It’s quite rare to find a romance book that is genuinely romantic, I think partly because a lot of authors tend to get caught up in sex scenes – one of the reasons why I decided to go for unrequited love, actually – and these are notoriously difficult to write well.

Ali

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

A couple of people have suggested lately that one way to get more words done is to record myself telling the story rather than taking ages typing it all up.

Whilst doing the whole thing that way would undoubtedly end up as a rather mad sounding stream of consciousness for about 90% of the time, I think there’s a lot to be said for doing some audio excerpts. It means that interested parties can have a listen, and it’s helpful to me to read out what I’ve written because hearing it back will help me decide what works and what doesn’t. I also recently read an article by A L Kennedy pointing out that if you want to find your writing voice, you should probably try speaking in it.

So, here is a wee excerpt about Ingmar, a troll who looks out for our vampire heroine from afar. I think the introduction to his character works quite well in the third person, although at some point his internal thoughts are going to be put out there. But I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it in a Swedish accent without sounding like an awful caricature. At the moment I am leaning to having a different character’s voice or perspective in every chapter, to make it easier for the reader to engage with individual characters.

Incidentally I did four takes of that, so the notion that it’s quicker than typing is somewhat misleading!

Writing Teenagers

I instinctively write the ones I know – moody, foulmouthed and bored all the time.

Well, it’s cool to be bored, innit.

However, I also remember that as a teenager I had long periods where I was actually quite happy, and this presents something of a problem when writing Jennifer, the lead character in my Paranormal Romance/Dark Fantasy title.  Should I allow her any respite from the angsty world of being a lonely vampire?  Should she be allowed to have some friends who accept and even seem to be fond of her, as I did when I was growing up?  Should she occasionally have hyperactive giggling fits when she is showing off in front of a boy she likes?

To turn to the heavyweight of this genre; Bella out of that Twilight book has friends – not that she appreciates them in any way.  All she’s interested in is bedding her sparkly vampire Adonis, and she seems blissfully unaware of the fact that the kids of Forks go completely against stereotyping etiquette by accepting her into their group without question.  She never laughs, or does anything much other than pine after a man a hundred years her senior, who has questionable dietary habits and a sense of humour bypass.

Is this something I ought to be entering in to?  Up to a point I suppose I am trying to write for a YA audience, but I struggle with the concept that teenagers have no sense of fun.  Granted, their concept of fun may be slightly skewed towards setting stuff on fire, picking on the weaker members of the friendship group, or hanging around street corners and shopping centres getting in people’s way… but it isn’t all time spent on the verge of tears over a member of the opposite sex.

Still, some of it is, and that may well be what people want to read about.

Based on the habits of my friends in school and of kids that came into the library where I used to work, part of my trouble is that a lot of teenagers seem to stop reading around the age of 13 and never pick it up again until they’re 19 or 20.  In doing this, they manage to miss out on a lot of brilliant fiction because they go straight from kids books to adult ones.  I tended to read books ‘aimed at teenagers’ between the ages of about 11 and 13, then I went on to more grown up ones.  I only came back to teenage stuff a couple of years ago, as an adult.

All of which makes me wonder who the ‘YA’ audience actually is.  And should my  book encourage people in their mid-teens to keep going, or is it aimed at people in their late teens and early twenties?  Or is it both?  And if so, how do I appeal to the broad range of emotions and experiences that constantly change and evolve over the period of adolescence?

There’s a lot to consider, essentially.  Although ultimately I think I’ll do the same thing I do every time – write as it comes to me and worry about it later.

The editorial process is going to be an interesting one.

April’s Genre…

… is romance.

Originally I had planned to write some kind of beautiful unrequited love story, but then I thought no, that’s altogether too literary – I’m going to get my paranormal romance on and sell 100 000 e-books like Amanda Hocking

I’m still going to include an element of unrequited love, though.  What better narrative reason is there to keep people apart than having one of them a vampire who cannot reveal his or her true feelings because he or she loves the other person too much to compromise their safety?  And what better way of gearing this towards a Twilight loving audience than have the vampire a fifteen or sixteen year old girl, loving a boy she can never have from afar?  That’s an experience everyone has at some point or another.  Well, except for the being a vampire part.

The only suggestion I’ve had for this month was that the girl should be called Jennifer and that she should work in a dog grooming salon.  I think I will change this slightly so that she has a job walking dogs, ostensibly to earn a bit of extra pocket money but in actual fact to help her blend in and feel more human.  This girl has teen angst to the max.

This decided, all I need to do is conduct a little bit of research into the genre.  An initial Google search in my lunch break led me to the Harlequin website (that’s Mills and Boon), and the rather brilliant first chapter of ‘Demon Seduction’ by Pat White.

Stand-out lines of exposition include:

“back then she was just a girl, terrified by Marcus’s demon cousin who’d wanted to slake his need with a human virgin.”

I hate it when that happens.

“Having been created from human ash of the Great Fire of Rome, Ash could assume human form better than any other creature of the dark realm.”

As documented by Pliny and Tacitus, no less.  This author is quite the classicist!  Well, that or she read the Wikipedia entry, like I did.

“His mission was to fill her with his demon seed against her will, the very act he’d defended her from when she was but sixteen.”

Is this a good time to mention that whilst I love romance, I can’t take it seriously?  I feel this will add to the challenge.

Some excellent dialogue in the tale included:

“Mickey, you wanker, what’d you do that for?”

Which I think was to reemphasise that the story is set in Engerland, and:

“Go find yourself a husband to take care of you.”

This places our heroine as a frustrated feminist trying to make it in a man’s world – we later find out she also wears baggy jeans and army boots.  FYI, that means it’s OK for her to become a sort of sex doormat later on.  So what if she allows herself to be seduced by a poorly characterized Ash Demon?  That doesn’t mean she’s conforming to a stereotype, if anything she’s breaking it by defying the expected spinster/dyke path.

 And so what if she flunked out of uni because she was busy lurking around in thickets searching for demons to kill in order to win her father’s grudging respect/love?  She doesn’t need all men to validate her, just her disinterested, misogynistic old pa.  Is that so wrong?  Of course not.

I don’t think this is quite the type of tale I’m aiming for, though.  The nearly having sex but not quite scene is right there in chapter two; all inappropriate nudey fairy statue stroking and nipples akimbo. Stephanie Meyer doesn’t reach that point till three books in!  I have severe doubts about my ability to write a non-comedy sex scene, so I think I’ll probably follow her example.

This will involve looking out a few of the more popular paranormal romance / dark fantasy (is there a difference?) authors, I suppose.  Popular authors at the library where I used to work included P.C.Cast, Charlaine Harris, Christine Feehan and Sherrilyn Kenyon.  Anybody know any more?  I’d be particularly interested in short stories and flash fiction, just because of time constraints…

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