Today I’m very happy to welcome Chris Russell, author of the Songs About A Girl trilogy to the blog with an exclusive reading from the final book in the trilogy, Songs About A Boy.
I had the pleasure of reading Songs About A Boy recently and LOVED it, but I am sad to have to say goodbye to the wonderful characters who I’ve fallen in love with over the course of the trilogy.
It’s been a joy to read each book, and I’ve come to know and love Chris’ painful (but in a good way) cliffhangers, the friendships and complicated relationships between his characters, and the exciting world of his fictional band, Fire&Lights.
I hope you enjoy this exclusive reading of Songs About A Boy!
Music, boy bands, first love and heartbreak in the explosive finale to the Songs About A Girl trilogy – a modern love story for anyone who has ever dreamed of being ‘with the band’. From a Zoella Book Club friend.
Just as Charlie allows herself to succumb to Gabe’s charms, the explosive revelation about her mother’s death threatens to pull them apart.
Meanwhile, a media circus has exploded around the future of Fire&Lights – when they announce a US tour to show the world that they are stronger than ever, Charlie gets the opportunity to accompany them. New York City, here she comes! But it’s not all fun and games. Charlie is still feeling all kinds of awkward around Gabe and knowing that her mother’s last days were in America touring with her band, Charlie uses the opportunity to uncover some more truths about her mother’s death.
As Fire&Lights try to win over the world again, and as Charlie and Gabriel uncover the true story that links their pasts, will Charlie finally be able to follow her heart?
I’m very pleased to welcome Lindsay Galvin, author of The Secret Deep, to Queen of Contemporary today! Lindsay has long been a friend of mine and it’s been wonderful watching her writing career blossom over the years. She’s always been very open and honest about both the hardships and successes she’s had whilst writing, and is a much-needed voice in the YA community.
Over to you, Lindsay!
Boys Will Be Boys
One of my favourite characters in THE SECRET DEEP is Sam Banks. The story is dual narrative, told from the point of view of fourteen year old Aster and sixteen year old Sam, but it wasn’t always that way. Sam’s storyline was added later during edits. These two characters have different threads, which intertwine so you never see the same action from two points of view, but Sam’s quest becomes equally important to Aster’s in perilous ways.
I am a feminist and continuously aware of male and female representation in films, books and especially my books. I don’t want to see any more inequality and damaging representation, but there’s still such a long way to go especially in the movie industry. Many YA books are trailblazers in combatting this.
Creating women and girl characters as multi-faceted and complex as they are in real life felt natural. I still found myself slipping into tired stereotypes, but I was vigilant and made sure I edited them out. I wanted to include rich female friendships and family relationships, a variety of motivations, realistic flaws and struggles. Aster driving the action of her story came quite naturally and her character developed over five years. But what about adding a new boy into the mix? I certainly didn’t want him to save the day, or save her. Cue Sam.
I think it’s fair to say moody and mysterious heroes are common in YA and teen storylines. I’m a big fan of hilarious @broodingYAHero and the way it explores stereotypes – some of which I have loved reading just as much as I adore a love triangle. But I have often wondered where the ‘good lads’ are (that’s how my dad would describe Sam and the boyfriends I had he didn’t hate). These boys are out there already; I had brilliant writers such as Sarah Barnard, Patrick Ness, Rainbow Rowell, Non Pratt, and many others to inspire me.
When I wrote Sam, I needed a ‘good lad’. I decided what I didn’t want him to be and I started from there:
Sam does not have:
A mysterious past.
Emotional issues that can be solved by a girl.
A need to arrive at the last moment to save the day.
‘Bad Boy’ personality traits with a good heart.
Tendencies to brood.
Excessive bravery or a sacrificial personality.
As I wrote my way into Sam, he felt very real to me. He’s flawed, but not in a way that a girl needs to fix, he’ll learn his own lessons. He’s got a serious lack of judgment at times because he’s sixteen and I throw some very weird stuff at him. He is both indecisive and reckless, but not without noticing it and freaking out. He’s brave but not without being understandably terrified. He loves his family above everything and is in awe of the girls that he recognizes are a lot braver than him. He notices girls are attractive but that isn’t all he notices about them. He never takes the lead at the expense of a girl and that’s exactly the way he likes it. He’s got a dry sense of humor.
What I hope above all is he feels real to readers.
Can you tell from the aesthetic I also think he’s very cute?
THE SECRET DEEP is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
I am pleased to welcome Annalie Grainger to the blog today, author of Captive and newly-released In Your Light, as well as commissioning editor at Walker Books. I’m a huge fan of Annalie’s work (she also publishes some of my favourite authors, like Lauren James and Katherine Webber), so it’s fascinating to see into the mind of someone who knows both sides of the publishing industry.
As a commissioning editor and a writer, talking about tips for getting your book published is one of my favourite things to do! I think this list could have been about twenty points long, but here are my top five suggestions:
1. Start writing and then keep writing!
You can’t get published if you haven’t finished your book. That might sound really obvious, but writing a book is hard work, and it can be very easy to put it off. My creative writing tutor said to me that the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is often down to a matter of how much time they put in.
You have to be disciplined to keep writing through the easy chapters and the hard ones. Set yourself a word limit each day and stick to it, no matter what. (Mine is 300 words – which I chose because it is manageable in half an hour, even on a really bad day when I feel like throwing my computer out of the window!)
2. Read as much as you can
I’m sure you’ve heard this a hundred times before, but reading, especially in the genre you want to write in, is essential. Joy Nicholson, who wrote one of my favourite novels (The Tribes of Palos Verdes), read books to see how authors made transitions between things. This is such a beautiful way of saying to learn from other people. See how your favourite writers create sentences, tension, plot, pace. When I first started writing, I would create plot diagrams from my favourite novels to see how they were structured – where were the high points, the low points, how was the ending foreshadowed, how did the subplots fit in etc.
3. Believe in what you are doing
Don’t try to write something because you think it will sell. Write the book you want to read and you’ll find your own voice.
4. Edit, edit, edit!
Don’t be in a rush to send your script out. Take your time to read what you’ve written. Try to be objective. If you can bear to, put it in a drawer and don’t look at it for at least three months. Then take it out again and be ruthless – what is good, what isn’t, where are the baggy bits, which character is one-dimensional etc.?
5. Get impartial advice on your script
Before sending your script out to agents, find someone you trust to give you honest (but kind!) feedback. This doesn’t need to be a professional but it should be someone who loves to read as your reader will need to instinctively understand what makes a good book. I would avoid your mum, brother, husband, beloved aunt if possible, as they might be biased or might find it hard to tell you the truth.
And a bonus piece of advice: when you’re ready to send your script to agents, do your research very carefully. Literary agents will list their other clients on their website, so check those out to make sure that your chosen agent will be a good fit for you. Also agents get a lot of submissions, so make sure you adhere to their submissions guidelines, otherwise they might not even read your work.
And of course – have fun! Yes, writing can be hard, but it should also be enjoyable. Good luck!
In Your Light by Annalie Grainger is out now (£7.99, Simon & Schuster)
Zeroes is the latest book from Scott Westerfeld, best-selling author of the Uglies trilogy, in collaboration with Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti.
To celebrate the release of the book, I thought it would be fun to ask the three authors their favourite UKYA books.
Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses is more than a decade old now but I only read it recently. It’s such a convincing dystopia because it’s not that far off our world and makes explicit how the personal is political and vice versa. Sacrifices have to be made for revolution! Add to that the compelling Romeo & Juliet couple of Callum and Sephy and you have my kind of book.
I’m also a huge fan of Philip Reeve’s Hungry Cities Chronicles. Allow me to quote the first sentence of book one, Mortal Engines: “It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.” I can’t imagine anyone reading that sentence and stopping. I just can’t.
I worked hard as a teenager. We didn’t have money; I was the only person in my immediate family to go to university. I was utterly focussed on creating a life for myself that wasn’t like the one I’d grown up in. I studied a lot. I didn’t go out much. Didn’t drink, didn’t take chances.
Looking back, I think I was a typical teenager.
Some of my friends worked hard, like me. Others didn’t have that drive. Some were naturally clever, and sailed through school to university. One of my friends dropped out of school at sixteen and went to work as a mechanic in his uncle’s garage.
All of them were typical teenagers.
Like adults, teenagers are a varied mix of the spoiled and the lazy, the tough and the smart, the brave and the fearful.
It is important to me that my books should reflect this diversity.
I find it unbelievable when teen characters in a book are ALL brave and feisty. Or when they’re all super smart with massive vocabularies. Or when they are all hard-working and noble.
I just don’t recognise that world.
In my books, I’ve tried to create characters readers will believe in. Continue Reading
First it was a conversation on Twitter about why American YA books were higher profile than British ones. A hashtag was born – #UKYA. A website followed, and then the magnificent bloggers got on board. #UKYAchat (thank you Lucy!) trended on Twitter.
There were new blogs, count downs, special projects. Last year there was YALC, which wasn’t strictly UKYA, but featured many British authors. The Bookseller has set up a new prize to celebrate UK (and Irish) YA and I am completely over-excited to be on the shortlist. There’s a YA event for schools in Scotland, organised by author Kirkland Ciccone.
And NOW there is a new thing. An exciting thing. A thing for all of us. All the inclusiveness and friendliness and, who knows, maybe one day even Patrick Ness (see what I did there) of UKYA is coming to a bookshop near you.
Of course I’m talking about the UKYA Extravaganza. The brainwave of authors Kerry Drewery and Emma Pass (you are superstars) and the wonderful events manager at Waterstones Birmingham High Street it’s an afternoon of readings and signings and much socialising on February 28th. I’m very excited to be taking part, alongside 34 other authors.
The event sold out in just a few hours – wow! – but don’t worry. I’m pretty certain this is just a beginning. I’m already hearing plans to stage UKYA Extravaganzas all over the UK.
We need events like these, because UKYA still doesn’t get the attention it needs in order to thrive. In the US, YA gets reviewed and read by adults as well as teenagers. Here, all too often, YA is labelled as ‘children’s books’ and hidden away in a dusty corner. UKYA needs to be visible and mainstream, and appeal beyond a narrow age-banded market. Events like the Extravaganza help to do that.
Best-selling adult author Robert Harris called for more coverage of books on TV, this week, attacking the BBC for its poor coverage of books. A UKYA books programme on a mainstream channel is probably too much to hope for, but I’m already excited about the book bloggers taking to YouTube, and I predict we’ll see more YouTube action this year. Maybe someone could make a film about the UKYA Extravaganza?
Today Birmingham, tomorrow….you tell me!
Will you be attending UKYA Extravaganza in Birmingham?
At the end of 2014, I read Vendetta and I loved it. I thought, as part of the blog tour running at the moment, that I’d create this review infographic because it really is amazing. Read it, read it, read it!