Guest Post: Author Siobhan Curham on Creating Authentic Teen Characters in YA Fiction…

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moonlight dreamers

We are super excited to welcome Siobhan Curham, author of new release YA novel The Moonlight Dreamers, to the Shelf, thanks to Walker Books Australia.  We reviewed The Moonlight Dreamers earlier today on the blog, and now Siobhan is with us to share some tips for all you budding YA writers on how to create authentic teen characters.

Take it away Siobhan!


HOW TO WRITE AUTHENTIC TEEN CHARACTERS

Siobhan Curham

 I guess the first thing I would say if I were advising someone on how to write authentic teens is:

don’t be patronising.

The way some adults talk about teens it’s as if they’re describing some kind of alien life form – full of suspicion and fear. Or they treat them like over-grown children. It’s like they’ve forgotten that they were ever once a young adult!

Which brings me on to my next point:

remember what it’s truly like to be a teen.

When I think back to my own teenage years I remember it being a pretty intense time; a time of so many ‘firsts’. First love, first exam stress, first job, first holiday with friends, first time living away from your family, first alcoholic drink, first hangover, first adult choices.

I also remember it being a pretty scary time. You don’t yet have the benefit of decades of experience and so, when things go wrong, it can be hard to have faith in the belief that, ‘this too shall pass’. The pain of a break-up, or a failed exam, or the death of a loved one, or your parents’ divorce can be overwhelming and it can be really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

On the other hand, young adults aren’t jaded by decades of experience, so they’re able to embrace life and new ideas with freshness and optimism. I’m reminded of this every time I give a talk in a high school or run a workshop for teens and I find it so inspiring. It’s definitely something I try to inject into my teen characters.

There’s a quote by the writer e. e. cummings that I think perfectly sums up the teenage years:

It takes courage to grow up and become the person you really are.

This idea is at the heart of my novel, The Moonlight Dreamers. Yes, the teenage years can be scary, and yes, it’s hard to become the person you really are, when society, the media and the internet might want you to be something you’re not. But if you can find the courage to be your true self and dare to dream your true dreams, then what a great life you’re creating for yourself.


We’d like to say a big thank you to Siobhan for sharing her wisdom with us and for providing such an uplifting read in The Moonlight Dreamers.

Until next time,

Bruce

Dragonfly Song Blog Tour: Guest Post by Wendy Orr…

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DragonflySongBlogTourGraphic

We are very pleased to be participating in the blog tour for YA historical fiction adventure Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr.  Following on from our review yesterday, today we have Wendy here with us to discuss what it’s like to have your book turned into a film, which is what happened to Wendy’s Nim’s Island books.  Before we get stuck in, here’s the blurb for Dragonfly Song from Allen & Unwin:

Abandoned by the priestess of the island at birth, Aissa is an outcast, surviving by her wits

Dragonfly Song

Dragonfly Song (Wendy Orr) Published by Allen & Unwin 22nd June 2016 RRP: $16.99

– until she joins the acrobatic bull dancers who are sent away to compete on the island of the Bull King. A gripping and powerful adventure by acclaimed author Wendy Orr.

There are two ways of looking at Aissa’s story. She’s the miracle girl who escaped the raiders. Or she’s the cursed child who called the Bull King’s ship to the island.

The firstborn daughter of a priestess is cast out as a baby, and after raiders kill her adopted family, she is abandoned at the gates of the Great Hall, anonymous and mute. Called No-Name, the cursed child, she is raised a slave, and not until she is twelve does she learn her name is Aissa: the dragonfly.

Now every year the Bull King takes a tribute from the island: two thirteen-year-old children to brave the bloody bull dances in his royal court. None have ever returned – but for Aissa it is the only escape.

Aissa is resilient, resourceful, and fast – but to survive the bull ring, she will have to learn the mystery of her true nature.

A riveting, mythic Bronze Age adventure from award-winning author Wendy Orr.

And now I’m going to hand over to Wendy Orr – her novel Nim’s Island was the inspiration and basis for the 2008 film of the same name starring Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler and Abigail Breslin.  Welcome to the Shelf, Wendy!
Orr Wendy, preferred author photo, credit Roger Gould

Wendy Orr         (Photo credit: Roger Gould)

What is it like having your book turned into a movie?

An emotional roller coaster – and just like any roller coaster ride, I can now only remember the thrills.

It all started when an independent Hollywood producer, Paula Mazur, got Nim’s Island out of the library for her eight-year old son. She emailed me a few days later, painting me a beautiful picture of the family listening to the story – and asking for the rights.

I was lucky enough to know nothing about how hard it is to get a movie made. She was so passionate that I always believed it would happen, even when things looked bleak – and of course, there were some bleak times in the five years between that first email and the red carpet. And because we quickly became friends, and once it was optioned I became a consultant on the script, I knew what was happening, every step of the way. It was a very intense time, intellectually (there was a lot to learn!) and emotionally.

Probably the luckiest thing of all is that Paula contacted me before three other queries came in. None of them seemed to have any particular feeling or insight into the book, but I could easily have signed anyway – and the film would probably never have been made. A film like this, that doesn’t fit the mold – one article claimed it was the first adventure feature film with a young girl hero – needs a passionate advocate.

Actually there was lots of luck. Like Jodie Foster wanting to play Alex Rover. Jodie Foster is a reader, and Nim’s Island was the book that got her oldest son into reading. She fought hard for the part – and changed what I’d imagined as a quiet little movie, into something big. The amazing thing for me was that she looked so like my concept of Alex. The brilliant Abigail Breslin signed on as Nim, and Gerard Butler as her dad Jack and Alex Rover’s fictitious hero. Gerry Butler is better looking than my Jack, but I coped with that.

The first time I arrived on set, Abbie/Nim was running through the rainforest with Fred on her shoulder. It was exactly as I’d written the scene in the book; there was something surreal about seeing it happen in flesh and blood (and TV monitors). I met one of the two sea lions who played Selkie, which tipped my emotion right over the edge – I cried so much that Gerry Butler interrupted some publicity shoots to ask if I was all right.

Then we had the premieres. One at Sea World in Queensland, with Jodie Foster and Leah the pelican who played Galileo, and one at Graumann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, with all the cast and crew (minus the animals), blue ‘island’ ticker tape blown down the road, and thousands of screaming fans. But the biggest thrill was simply seeing the film, to see the characters from my head come to life on the screen.  I had the same reaction watching Return to Nim’s Island, which was much more loosely based on Nim at Sea – but Bindi Irwin was still so definitely my Nim, and the plot line was so true to Nim’s spirit, that I forgot it wasn’t the story I’d written.

It’s the ultimate expression of letting your story fly free to make its own way into the world.

 Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $16.99, available now

Thank you Wendy for sharing your experiences with us here on the shelf.  Dragonfly Song is available now and the perfect way to escape on an adventure if you aren’t lucky enough to be travelling somewhere exotic yourself these school holidays!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post of Awesomosity: Rosie Best, Author of Skulk…

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skulkAhoy me hearties! You’ve made a canny choice jumping aboard the good ship Bookshelf today, because as a result you get to read a post by Rosie Best, author of Skulk – foxy, new-release, young adult, urban fantasy novel that I reviewed very recently indeed….in case you missed it, you can find that review here.

So who is this Rosie Best character? Here’s the lowdown, thanks to her publisher, Strange Chemistry

Rosie Best lives in London and loves all things nerdy. She is an editor at Working Partners Ltd, working on a huge variety of projects from first chapter books about unicorns to dark YA journeys through the land of the dead.

She’s also written for Working Partners on a freelance basis, on series published by Usborne and Hot Key Books.

The opening of Skulk won a place in the 2012 Undiscovered Voices anthology. When not writing or indulging a passion for video games, she sings with the Crouch End Festival Chorus.

And guess what else? She likes Ben Aaronovitch and Neil Gaiman too…clearly she has impeccable taste in authors, just like we shelf-dwellers.

For today’s post, Rosie is sharing a bit about why London is the perfect location for Meg’s adventures in Skulk….

Skulking Around London rosie best

Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, but I bloody love London town. I consider myself deeply privileged to have done most of my growing up here, and when I realised I was going to write an urban fantasy there was no question at all in my mind where it was going to be set.

Skulk is the story of Meg Banks, a girl from an upper class London family who’s out graffitiing her posh girl’s school in the middle of the night when she witnesses the death of a fox who shapeshifts into a man. She inherits his ability to shift, and soon gets caught up in a conflict between the shapeshifters and someone who’ll do anything for power.

‘Write what you know’ is advice that can seem reductive and annoying, but I ended up following it when I was writing Skulk, almost by mistake. Even though I was actually writing a story about shapeshifters and magic, I ended up naturally filling Skulk with things that fit, that I knew could be believably found somewhere within the M25. Urban foxes, the ravens in the Tower, spiders and rats, and yes, butterflies. Pigeons and fog (even though the last great London fog happened in the 1960s). Hyde Park and Waterloo Bridge, the Tower of London and the top of the Shard.

Sometimes I worried that putting in so many of the famous locations would make the book feel like a tourist’s version of London. There’s a subtle but very important difference between using the royal family and the red double decker busses and a nice cup of tea because they’re realities of life in London, and using them to suggest some kind of strangely glossy paradise full of polite white men in bowler hats.

That’s not London – the real city is staggeringly diverse, both in terms of the landscape and the people. I hope that a little bit of grit rubs off on the bright, shiny places from the less glamorous corners of this fabulous city that also made it into the book – the traveller park under the Westway flyover, Willesden Junction tube station, the dodgy part of Hammersmith.

I’ve been wondering whether Skulk could be set somewhere else, and I think it could – I can imagine the New York version, the Delhi version, the Sydney version (that one would have the biggest spiders). I think those would be cool books, but I know I couldn’t write them.

There are a couple of books I have to acknowledge as huge influences on the way I think and write about London:

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman – for my generation this is the book (and originally the TV series) that got half of us into urban fantasy in the first place. Richard Mayhew helps a homeless girl and discovers a whole secret world just under the surface of London life. Tube station names like Earl’s Court and Blackfriars become wonderfully literal, and all sorts of real locations feature in weird, fantasy-tinged ways.

Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch – much more recent, but no less brilliant. This is the story of Peter Grant, a Metropolitan Police Officer who sees a ghost at a murder scene and finds out that magic is real and people are committing crimes with it. It’s an urban fantasy police procedural, and because the main character is an architecture nerd it comes with a healthy (and surprisingly compelling) helping of London history.

Harry Potter – this is a bit of a strange choice, because almost all of it is set in Wizarding Scotland. But JK Rowling also writes about the muggle world with an insightful truthfulness that’s just as brilliant as the wild fantastical world of Hogwarts. Plus, I love that JK created a London landmark of her very own that stuck so fiercely in people’s minds that it now really exists – at least, there’s a sign for Platform 9 3/4 and half a trolley sticking out of a wall in King’s Cross station.

If you want to read more from Rosie (and let’s face it, why wouldn’t you?), you can check out her blog at http://skulkingwriter.blogspot.com.au/    In the meantime, you should probably go and immediately get your hands on a copy of Skulk. I have made that bit easy for you – just click on the cover image at the top of the page to be taken to the Book Depository, where you can spend your hard-earned (or ill-gotten) cash*

As this post is part of a blog tour, you can multiply your Skulky pleasure exponentially by visiting other foxy bloggers over the course of the next month – just go to http://skulkingwriter.blogspot.co.uk/p/skulk-blog-tour.html and follow the trail!

Until next time,

Bruce

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