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Blog Tour UKYA Uncategorized

UKYA BLOG TOUR: Holly Bourne – Why I wanted Soulmates to be British


I’m so pleased to be welcoming Holly Bourne, author of Soulmates, to the blog today! The post below is a real masterpiece and I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did when I first read it.

I’m half American and, sometimes, I really do feel that way- like I’m culturally split right down the middle.On my USA side, I tend to tell everyone, genuinely, to ‘have a nice day‘ before I hang up the phone, and I really really enjoy eating artificial cheese. Yet, on my British side, I think sarcasm is the best thing ever invented, I self-medicate with cups of tea, and I’m so obsessed with the weather I wrote a whole love story based around it.

Generally I’m happy with my hybrid identity. However, there are times when you have to pick a side and, when I sat down to write my debut novel, I wanted Soulmates to be British…why?

Because I wanted readers to be able to relate to the every-day life…

I love so many American YA novels and yet I can’t always get lost in them. Why? Because I grew up in England so I never took SATs, I never had a ‘Prom’, there were no cheerleaders or jocks or Taco Bells. It’s these little everyday moments in stories that make them believable – and when you read a book, you bring all your own experiences to the page and story. So, with Soulmates, I wanted these to match. I wanted British teenagers (and adult readers) to recognise things like A Level coursework, Cafe Nero, rugby players, cups of tea, beer gardens and the word ‘wanker’. That way, they could more easily imagine falling crazy in love and get lost in the story.

Because British people take the piss out of each other…

We bond by being horrid, and I bloody love that about being British. Since I got my book deal, my friends have sort-of congratulated me – but more used it as ample opportunity to take the piss. One introduced me at a party, saying, “This is my friend Holly, she’s a published author and she’s written a kids version of 50 Shades Of Grey.” I had to spend the rest of the evening swearing that wasn’t true! Or my boyfriend saying: “I’ve come up with a better idea than your book. ‘Trollmates – two trolls fall in love online whilst sending death threats to celebrities.'”

I honestly don’t think you get this I-take-the-piss-because-I-love-you anywhere else other than the UK.  And it was really important to me it was in Soulmates. In fact, it turned out writing all the piss-taking scenes, where Poppy and Noah are ripping it out of each other, was actually more fun than writing all their smoochy stuff.

Because Brits really know how to tell a love story…

Soulmates is a self-referential romance book. It’s a homage to the genre, as well as a twist on romantic generic conventions. And, undeniably, the greatest love stories are British. Romeo and Juliet – written by a British bloke. Jane Eyre – British chick. Pride &Prejudice – British chick. Wuthering Heights – British. Even, One Day – British!

I think it’s our repressed stiff-upper-lip tendencies that lend themselves so well to romance. There is nothing more riveting than a love that takes a long time to be. The stolen glances, the repressed feelings, the missed opportunities, the unspoken declarations of affection… MY HEART IS THUMPING JUST THINKING ABOUT IT.

Then there’s the fact that the English language is so well-equipped to deal with the sumptuous topic of love. Italian may be beautiful to speak, German may have more logic to it, but English has such an abundance of words! Verbs, nouns, adjectives – our language is so crammed with options that making sense of love and romance has such variety .

Because I’d be in really great company…

This is such an exciting time for YA books by British authors. From the no-topic-is-barred Cat Clarke, the quick and hilarious quips of Holly Smale, to the uncomprehendingly-brilliant Patrick Ness – there is a literary feast of writing talent on the go. And I feel very blessed to be a part of that.

Thank you, Holly! 

Find Holly: Website | Twitter 

Blog Tour UKYA Uncategorized

UKYA BLOG TOUR: Interview with Kendra Leighton, Author of Glimpse

I’m very lucky to have Kendra Leighton on the blog tour! Kendra’s debut novel, Glimpse, will be out next year, and I am so excited about it. It sounds so good! Over to you, Kendra…
Hi Kendra! Welcome to Queen of Contemporary! To start, can you introduce yourself?
Hi, Lucy! I’m so happy to be here. I’m Kendra Leighton: YA writer by night, chocolatier by day (writing always goes better with chocolate!). My debut novel’s being published next summer.
I loved ‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Noyes. What made you set your novel, Glimpse, on it?
‘The Highwayman’ is wonderful, isn’t it? I’m not a huge poetry fan, but ’The Highwayman’ has stuck with me ever since I first read it in school. For anyone who hasn’t read it, it’s a fabulous dark romance and ghost story — I adore everything about it.
I rediscovered ‘The Highwayman’ poem at the same time as I discovered YA. I had a brief career as an English teacher, and was teaching the poem to year 8 as well as reading YA books from the school library. Paranormal romance was huge at the time, and since I’ve always adored gothic fiction, I fell so much in love with it that I decided to write my own. I thought about basing a novel on a real-life ghost story, then I had a brainwave — ’The Highwayman’ is already the perfect romantic ghost story, why not start with that?
I originally planned to write a re-telling, but when my imagination cranked into gear I ended up with a very different story, set in the present day and using ‘The Highwayman’ as a springboard. Glimpse was born!
What would you say to people who don’t read, and don’t want to read?
This is a tough one. I know from my teaching days that when people say they don’t like reading, there are no magic words that can force them to! Not everyone likes the kind of books taught in schools, and sadly that’s enough to put some people off. But I really believe there are stories out there for everyone. If you like films or TV or song lyrics then you already like stories; you just have to find the right books for you.
What was your writing process like when writing Glimpse?
Glimpse was the first novel I’d written. I spent three years writing and re-writing before submitting to agents, so it was a long process! It took me six months to write the first draft, and only then did I start studying the writing craft. Every time I learned something new I would go back and apply what I’d learned to the book, over and over, until it was as good as I could make it. I’m reaching the end of the editing process with my publisher now, and it feels bizarre that there’ll soon be a point where Glimpse can’t be rewritten!
Can you name a few of your favourite UKYA novels?Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, Rachel Ward’s Numbers trilogy, Sharon Jones’s Dead Jealous. There are lots of others I’ve enjoyed too, and I’m on a mission to read more!

What do you think makes UKYA so special?

It’s hard to pin down, but there’s definitely a different ‘feel’ to most UKYA. Having read so much USYA, it’s refreshing to read a book with settings I’ve visited or know about, and to read descriptions of school and being a teen that I can relate to (i.e. no cheerleaders or bleachers or high school cafeterias). There are some really great UKYA books that deserve to be just as big as their US counterparts.
And finally, what’s next for you?
More writing! I have lots of ideas up my sleeve…
Blog Tour Guest Post UKYA Uncategorized

UKYA BLOG TOUR: Guest post from Alexia Casale, author of The Bone Dragon


I’m very pleased to welcome the lovely Alexia Casale to the blog today. Alexia wrote The Bone Dragon which I adored and she has written a guest post for me to share today. Enjoy!

Picking which book to write

Most people have hundreds if not thousands of daydreams every day. Some you enjoy once and never return to. Some keep coming back again and again. I suspect that this is how most books start: with a daydream that just won’t let go. One that you return to so often that it gradually expands and develops into a whole world.

I’ve got lots of recurring daydreams. Some are single-scenes, while other have long and complicated storylines. Some are no more than individual incidents or images. Some are to do with more abstract ideas and still others are about relationships.

Often when a daydream recurs to the point that it becomes a potential book idea, I’ll find that the characters have shifted a little, the nature of what they’re after has become more defined and the story has grown far more convincing. These are the daydreams that I spend the most time on, trying to work out what core element or elements make the daydream worth all that time and effort. As I start to understand why I love the daydream, I start discarding minor elements that don’t support the core of the story.

When one of these daydreams finally feels complete, it’s either time to reject it as a potential book… or to start working to get it down on paper. In terms of which to do, the first thing I consider is whether the story and the people in it will appeal to anyone but me. Some daydreams are ways of working out things in our own lives, and not all of those are going to be meaningful or interesting to any other person on the planet.

If an idea isn’t too much about my own life and my own needs, then I start to ask myself if the story is big enough, exciting enough… not just for readers to like it but for me to spend hundreds if not thousands of hours on it.16116963

And finally I ask myself ‘is it ready’? I often get lost when I start writing too early: when I haven’t given the idea long enough to ‘marinate’ in my head. Can I really explain in a few sentences what the heart of the book is? Can I clearly and succinctly describe how the plot works? Do I understand why all the things in the book happen? Is some of it all a bit foggy and vague or do I know how every part connects to every other part? Am I attached to scenes without knowing why? If I can’t answer any of those questions in a satisfactory way, the idea probably needs longer in my head before I start putting words down on paper because otherwise I may end up with a lot of material I care about but shouldn’t use if I want to write the best book possible.

Anyway, this is the point where an idea becomes a serious prospect as a book. Before I know for sure, I have to polish the idea up, shape the corners, work out what happens in the gaps between bits of the story… As I work on these things, it starts to become clear if the idea will actually work on paper.

At the moment I’m having fun with idea development and considering all sorts of projects – many of which I will probably end up writing eventually as they’ve already stood the test of time floating around my imagination. But the question right now is ‘What is Book 3 going to be?’ And I sort of know, though I haven’t made a final, firm decision.

It’s the idea that’s felt ready for a while: the one I’m confident about because I can spell out why I’m writing it, how it works, what the high points are, where the fun is… There are still gaps and issues but I already *know* that none of them are insurmountable: there is enough already in place to write a book I believe will be worth reading. Above all, it’s the book that’s been waiting to be written: the one that has had its hand in the air for a while.

The feeling that this idea has been ‘waiting’ is something I can actually put my finger on because it’s measurable in the way I daydream: this daydream is the one that’s there before all the others whenever I let my mind roam. The rest are ‘on and off’ dreams: I keep abandoning them when I get to a tricky point I haven’t worked out yet. And that tells me they’re not ready, partly because they’re not developed enough but mostly because I’m not committed enough to figuring out those tricky bits… yet. When that starts to change – when I stick at a new idea long enough to work out the problems – I’ll know that idea is inching to the front of the queue.

So if you’re not sure which idea you should turn into a book, start looking at your daydreams. If there isn’t one dream that features more than all the others, one you get being pulled back to, maybe the ideas you have aren’t ready yet. That said, sometimes you have to *make* ideas ready by sitting down and hammering out the tricky bits of your plot, fixing up the plot-holes and working out how to make it all believable. This means sticking with an idea, pursuing it, hounding it until you corner it and can force it to make itself clear… or you realise that, instead of gaining on it, it’s escaping from you. But you won’t know if it’s one you need to let get away until you’ve chased it with a reasonable degree of commitment.

At the end of the day, you have to passionate about a book to have a good shot at writing it well. You’ll hate it so violently and so often before you’re done that unless there’s a lot of love underneath you won’t end up finishing. So never write a book purely because you think it will hit a trend or because you think ‘it’s the right book for X stage in my career’: write the book you care about.

Think about it like a romantic relationship. You can have great chemistry but if you never bother to get to know each other, the relationship will fizzle out… So it is with a great idea that stays vague and formless: good for the odd date/daydream but not for a marriage/book. Alternatively, you might feel that an idea is a good prospect, if boring: if you press ahead, you may end up with part of a book or even a whole book, but the chances that it’ll be really good aren’t great. OR… chemistry can be accompanied by an interest in getting to know each other, little by little, more and more until you know enough to take a leap… provided the chemistry is still there of course.

There is always a leap and it’s important to feel a real drive to take it, otherwise you’re unlikely to make it to the other side of the hundreds, if not thousands, of hours needed to write a novel. So check your chemistry and your understanding of your book idea before you commit to it, but remember that both need work to develop in the first place.

In other words, go forth and daydream. A lot.

About The Bone Dragon:  Evie’s shattered ribs have been a secret for the last four years. Now she has found the strength to tell her adoptive parents, and the physical traces of her past are fixed – the only remaining signs a scar on her side and a fragment of bone taken home from the hospital, which her uncle Ben helps her to carve into a dragon as a sign of her strength.
Soon this ivory talisman begins to come to life at night, offering wisdom and encouragement in roaming dreams of smoke and moonlight that come to feel ever more real.
As Evie grows stronger there remains one problem her new parents can’t fix for her: a revenge that must be taken. And it seems that the Dragon is the one to take it.
This subtly unsettling novel is told from the viewpoint of a fourteen-year-old girl damaged by a past she can’t talk about, in a hypnotic narrative that, while giving increasing insight, also becomes increasingly unreliable.
A blend of psychological thriller and fairytale, The Bone Dragon explores the fragile boundaries between real life and fantasy, and the darkest corners of the human mind.