Spring Forward! Special feature coming soon…

Oh the irony of waking up to awful wet weather on the official First Day of Spring! It doesn’t feel much like spring today, so to provide a bit of spring time inspiration, I’m pleased to announce a new special feature coming soon!

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‘Just in time for Spring  will celebrate new authors, new books and general all round inspiration in children’s books. With participation from some wonderful children’s writers and publishers, I’ll be interviewing the people who bring to life new worlds and new characters, finding out all about their new projects. It all starts in the next few weeks, so watch this space!

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29 December:Chris Priestley

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Photo by Martin Bond

Chris Priestley lives in Cambridge with his wife and son. His novels are brilliantly original additions to a long tradition of horror stories by authors such as M.R. James and Edgar Allan Poe. Chris wrote one of the World Book Day books for 2011 and has been shortlisted for a variety of prestigious children’s book awards.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! A time machine, a holiday and socks. 

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? I’m a big fan of Christmas – can’t think of any bad traditions in my little family. The best are all pretty ordinary – good company, good food, a roaring fire, a walk on Boxing Day, a few films, the odd board game.

 There are wonderful stories shared at Christmas time. What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? A Christmas Carol has a special place in my affections. But I also like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. That was a regular when my son was little. As was 51hmtth98cl-_sx258_bo1204203200_John Burningham’s Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas Present.

 If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be and why? My mum, dad and brother. Because I missed so many when they were alive. 

Your brilliant book The Last of the Spirits is a take on the classic A Christmas Carol. If you could write another take on any novel, which would it be and why? Well I’ve done my tribute to Frankenstein in Mister Creecher. That’s probably me done with other people’s novels now.

In Christmas Tales of Terror you feature lots of Christmas characters with a scary twist. If you had to choose one of them to write a full length novel about, which one would it be and why? I’m not sure any of the Tales would make a full length novel. They are very different things. I love writing and reading short stories. They are they’re own very particular pleasure. 

Reader’s question from students in Year 10 at Warden Park Secondary Academy; why do you write in this particular genre (horror)?  The fact is I don’t just write horror! I’ve written over 20 books and only a handful have been horror. I’ve written funny stories, historical adventures and non-fiction. I write what is most interesting to me at the time. I’m working on three books at the moment. One is horror, one is part of a funny series, the third is a YA story about love and loss and superheroes.

(We can’t wait to read them!)

 Quick fire round:

Turkey or goose? Turkey

Real or fake tree? Real

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Both!

Stockings – end of the bed or over the fireplace? Back of a chair

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Christmas Eve all the way. Never quite got the hang of New Year’s Eve

 Thanks for the questions and Merry Christmas one and all!

Thank you for participating and a very Happy Christmas to you!

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Find out more about Chris at www.chrispriestleybooks.com or on Facebook or Twitter @crispriestley

My first YALC!

Attending YALC for the first time, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As part of the London Film & Comic Con, YALC has been running since 2014, created with the support and encouragement of the then Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman.

It was, quite simply, FANTASTIC! A veritable feast of YA authors spoke on a variety of topics from Resistance & Protest in YA Fiction to Humour in YA.  Authors from both the UK and US were in attendance.  I particularly enjoyed the YA Book Prize Panel featuring Sarah Crossan, Jenny Downham, Catherine Johnson & Lisa Williamson who shared insights into their wonderful shortlisted novels and writing in general.  I also loved the conversation with Frances Hardinge, Philip Reeve and Tanya Landman.  The New Voices authors gave a wonderful insight into being the new kid on the block.

“Once you’ve written a book, it’s almost like the characters aren’t yours anymore – everyone is emotionally invested” Lisa Williamson

“Read everything!”   “You want to write something that’s the you-ness of you!”  Catherine Johnson

“Writing for unheard voices – you’ve got to be passionate” Deirdre Sullivan, author of  Needlework, Unheard Voices Panel

“Be prepared to let go of the things that aren’t working and learn from them”  “Stories are really organic; they grow; they’re like a collage”  New Voices Panel

“I can convey more about the real world through fantasy than with what might be considered ‘realistic'”     “I am allergic to unfairness: it brings me out in literature”   Frances Hardinge

“Everything you read, everything you see, everything you’ve done feeds into your writing”  Tanya Landman

“The job of the author is to write the story they want to write”  “I like inventing worlds”  Philip Reeve

Author panel discussions are a brilliant way to find out more about the writers behind the pages, the inspiration for their novels and a thoroughly enjoyable way to see how authors respond to questions from both the host and the audience.

The major publishers of YA fiction were out in force, with fantastic displays of current and up & coming books.  Their stalls were manned by lovely book-ish folk – one girl I met was an intern with OUP and was clearly having a ball: what a great internship to do!

There were some self published authors working hard to promote their books, who I thought were incredibly brave and I really hope they had a good response.  It’s not easy putting yourself out there amongst what might be considered the ‘big guns’.  I know exactly how that feels! For me, it was an amazing opportunity to network and meet new people, bump into new friends again, sharing my love of reading with all. I had some really great chats with people about books, my work, their work and reading in general.  It definitely gives you a boost to be amongst like minded people. I was also fortunate to have my ‘bag man’ with me, ready at a moments notice to take pics etc! Thank you Mr Book Activist. Except on the Sunday, where I had to do the selfie thing, with minimal success!! Trying to get your arm at the right length away from you body, without pulling some weird grimace is not easy – I clearly need to practice more…

Taken courtesy of Mr Book Activist!

There was something very special about seeing so many young people enthused about reading; getting excited about seeing their favourite authors; clamouring for autographs; taking full advantage of all the fantastic freebies.  And on the last day there was this wonderful moment where I looked around and there were young people sitting on the floor, just reading – totally engrossed in their new purchases. If I could bottle that enthusiasm and pour it over everyone I meet, like a love potion for books, I would.   If these wonderful YA advocates of reading are able to share this with their friends, then there is definitely hope for all those young people who haven’t discovered the magic of reading, isn’t there?