Monday, 12 October 2015
Last Saturday, Nottingham Waterstones was taken over by an event devoted to the wide range of books that fall under the banner 'young adult'. Masterminded by local authors Emma Pass and Kerry Drewery, it brought together 28 authors from all over the country - 'locals' from the East Midlands, several up from London, Helen Grant from Perthshire, Scotland, Sheena Wilkinson from Northern Ireland, and Liz de Jager and Teri Terry originally from South Africa and Canada respectively but now settled here and very firmly part of the British YA scene.
The afternoon was split into a series of panels - groups of four or five authors were given two minutes each to introduce themselves and 'pitch' their novels, overseen by Paula Rawsthorne who made sure no one talked for too long! After that, the audience had 5 minutes to ask questions, and in the breaks between panels chat individually to the authors and get their books signed.
Mention 'Young Adult' and most people probably think of Twilight and other similar vampire-romance fiction, but I don't think there was a single vampire mentioned at all! Instead the authors showed that fiction for young adults is as wide-ranging as for grown-up adults! There are stories dealing with gritty social issues (Bali Rai, Sheena Wilkinson), or emotional ones (David Owen, Sara Benwell, RJ Morgan) the 'glittery urban realism' of Sophia Bennett casting a light on the darker side of glamorous-sounding occupations, 'straight' historical fiction (Lydia Syson), modern adventure (David Massey), sci fi (Nick Cook), fantasy (Liz de Jager describes her Blackhart Legacy trilogy as having "loads of kissing and stabbing with swords") and, yes, paranormal (vampire-free) from Lee Weatherly and SC Ransom.
Among the questions posed to the various panels were - which books/writers had inspired them? - for Rhian Ivory it was Roald Dahl; for C J Skuse, Melvin Burgess; Helen Grant still finds Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World influencing her; Dave Owen cited the Goosebumps books and the novels of Patrick Ness; SC Ransom loved John Wyndham's The Chrysalids but wished she could have written The Time Traveller's Wife for the brilliance of its plotting;
Were they 'plotters' or 'panters'? - did they plot everything meticulously, or fly by the seat of their pants? Some plotted everything in detail, some started with character development and the characters drive the story, some went for a bit of both.
What were the good, and bad, things about being an author - the good included being able to do something they love, the feedback from readers who have loved a book perhaps even been influenced by it, and the boost in self esteem when someone refers to them as 'doing what JK Rowling does'. The bad? not much - deadlines, perhaps, oh, and Goodreads and the bizarre criticism found there.
The weirdest tale of the day came from Rhian Ivory - not from a story but real life. She set her book The Boy Who Drew the Future in the village of Sible Hedingham in Essex but only discovered, after she'd written spooky things about the setting, that in the 1860s it was the last place in the country to swim, or duck, a witch - now THAT's spooky.
It was a great day for meeting up with authors that I "knew" through social media but had never met, and for discovering more about other authors and their great books.I'm hoping they're be another such event soon, meanwhile next weekend a similar extravaganza is planned, this time for mid-grade readers, at Nottingham Library.
Reviews of some of these authors and their books can be found on the blog;
Lucy Coats Cleo
SC Ransom - Small Blue Thing, Perfectly Reflected, The Beneath
Lee Weatherly - Angel Fire, Angel
Teri Terry -Slated, Fractured, Shattered, Mind Games
Paula Rawsthorne - Blood Tracks, The Truth About Celia Frost, These Seven (short story)
David Massey - Taken, Torn