Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Teen TV Shows

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

1. Dance Academy - Could it be anything else? As everyone knows, this absolutely destroyed me when I discovered it earlier this year, with season 2 being perhaps the saddest thing I've ever seen. Heartbreakingly beautiful. Also, Abi's character arc over the entire 3 seasons is utter perfection - almost certainly my favourite ever character.

2. Gilmore Girls - I love the Lorelei/Rory, Rory/Paris, and Lorelei/Emily relationships so, so much. And Stars Hollow is my all-time favourite setting.

3. The OC - Just rewatching this now, and it's so good, even third time around! I think the adult characters here are better than in perhaps any other teen drama. And woot, Jim Robinson!

4. Buffy The Vampire Slayer - I loved Buffy but found it ever so slightly hit and miss at times. At its best, though, it was AMAZING.

5. Byker Grove - I think I started watching BG when most other people stopped - after Ant, Dec and Donna Air. In the late 90s, though, this was compelling viewing, with brilliant characters and some great plots.

6. Beverly Hills, 90210 - I've only ever seen the first 4 seasons or so but still live in hope of completing it one day. Luke Perry, Jason Priestley, Shannon Doherty - all fab. And as it was being filmed when I was a teen, instant nostalgia for my own teen years, even if I did have less wild parties and rich friends!

7. My So-Called Life - Claire Danes is amazing. Jared Leto as Jordan and Wilson Cruz as Ricky are breathtaking. It also dealt with some really hard-hitting issues with great tact.   

8. See How They Run - Little-remembered, this witness protection thriller on the BBC was awesome. Great performances, particularly Australian actor Peter O'Brien as the father, and a fantastic script with some excellent twists.

9. Head Over Heels - This Carlton show, set in a Fifties boarding school, is one of the first things I ever remember watching by myself - at the time there was a TV in my mum and dad's room but not in mine, and I'd go and lie on their bed and watch while they were downstairs watching LA Law or Cheers. I would have been 11 at the time, I think. I've never seen it repeated, although owned the fabulous rock 'n' roll soundtrack on cassette. Book link here, with show creator Jane Prowse going on to write the excellent Hattori Hachi books.

10. Saved By The Bell - I haven't seen SBTB for years and doubt it holds up particularly well, but I was hooked at the time. Partly because Screech was perhaps the only person I'd ever seen LESS cool than me as a teen.

11. Neighbours - Sneaking it in here as it's not really a teen show, but they play an important part in the life of Ramsay Street. I still quite like Neighbours when I catch it today - although I haven't for a while because Paul's constant flipping between evil and nice annoys me due to making everyone else look like idiots for giving him so many chances! - but the golden era for me will always be the late 90s. With great teen characters like Amy, Anne, Billy, Lance, and Toadie, this was a must watch.

Honourable mentions:

Children's Ward - from what I remember, it was staggeringly good, but my memory's not quite good enough for it to get in the top 10.
Dawson's Creek - hit and miss at times but very entertaining on its best days.

Grange Hill - went downhill badly towards in the last series or two, but a real British institution with some memorable storylines and characters.
Press Gang - all about Spike and Linda, but what a fabulous pairing!
Roswell - great 1st season, good 3rd season, hated the middle one.


Monday, 7 July 2014

Author interview with Morgan Matson

As most readers of the blog/my Twitter feed will know, not only is YA contemporary my favourite genre, but Morgan Matson is one of my very favourite authors in the genre. I've loved all three of her books - Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, Second Chance Summer and the new one, Since You've Been Gone - so I was completely thrilled when I got the chance to interview her!

1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, what do you see?

I’ve actually been lucky enough to meet a lot of my readers – on tour, at conferences, and book events.  They’re the most awesome people ever, and I’m unbelievably lucky to have such amazing readers.  But when I’m writing, especially my first drafts, I can’t think about the fact that this will someday be in a bookshop, which anyone may read.  I think if I did, I’d never get past the first page.  I think I have to trick myself into pretending I don’t have any readers, and nobody will ever see it. 

2. I love the list of tasks that Sloane leaves for Emily – especially the ones that take her out of her comfort zone! When you were a teen, if someone had written you a similar list, what would have been on it?

I think they mostly would have been about telling people how I felt about them.  Skinny-dipping as a teenager didn’t scare me as much as breaking up with someone in person J

3. Another question about you as a teen – I adore the playlists in this book and Amy & Roger. What six songs would have been top of your ultimate playlist when you were growing up?

I went through a bunch of different music phases in high school. I was a big musical theater fan, so definitely something from that genre – probably “Stars and the Moon” from Songs for a New World and “Moments in the Woods” from Into the Woods.  Then I went through a big girls-with-guitars phase, so let’s add “Untouchable Face” by Ani Difranco.  And then I got very into Barenaked Ladies and Dave Matthews Band (I’m dating myself here) so let’s say “If I Had a Million Dollars” and “Ants Marching”.  I also got very into oldies when I was in high school, so let’s finish out with the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t it be Nice?”

I hope you're not dating yourself TOO much; I was a big Barenaked Ladies fan for a while! And I love Songs From A New World; Jason Robert Brown is amazing!

4. Since You’ve Been Gone is about friendship – not just between Emily and Sloane, but also between Emily and the new friends she meets. Who are your favourite pair, or group, of fictional friends?

I think it would have to be the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron from the Harry Potter books.  And I loved when the group would expand and Neville and Luna and Ginny would be hanging out too. 

Fab choices! I love Harry Potter, although I think I actually prefer Ginny/Luna/Neville to the 'main' trio.

5. After so many big film adaptations of speculative MG/YA fiction in recent years, there’s been a rush on contemporary adaptations recently. Perks of Being A Wallflower, The Spectacular Now, and The Fault In Our Stars have all received great reviews while the upcoming If I Stay looks amazing.  Is there any chance of a screen version of Since You’ve Been Gone or of your earlier books?

No chance yet – none of my books have ever been optioned for film. Maybe someday!

6. Your books frequently feature whenever people are talking about perfect summer reads! If you were going down to the beach for a day, which other author’s books would you want to take down with you to read?

Definitely Sarah Dessen – I adore her books, and think they’re perfect summer reading.  I also love Jenny Han’s Summer series – just the perfect summer books!

7. I know you’ve talked on your website about previous road trips, including the one you did to research Amy and Roger. If you had the chance to go on another, where would you go from and to, what one place would you absolutely have to detour to, and which other YA authors would you take along for the ride?

Such a hard question! I’m actually dying to do a road trip across Australia.  I can say this because I’ve done absolutely no research about what this might involve.  But I met a couple a few years ago who told me about how they did that for their honeymoon, and it sounded like the coolest thing ever.

I would absolutely have to detour to Perth – I’ve heard such amazing things about it!

And if I could take any YA author with me, I’d pick Rachel Cohn. She’s lovely, practical, knows Australia, and would be wonderful company!

Sounds amazing!

8. In addition to the three books you’ve released under your own name, you’ve written four as Katie Finn. Why do you use the two names?

Well spotted! You found my (not-so) secret identity! I started writing the Katie Finn books when I was working at the publishing house Scholastic.  I was working as an editor, and we started talking about a book about social networking.  I got the opportunity to write it, and so I wrote Top 8, which I always describe as a “Facebook mystery”.  But at that point I was already working on Amy & Roger, and knew these would be very different books with different feelings to them.  And I wanted to do something to separate the two.  And Katie Finn is my middle name, so it doesn’t feel like it’s totally made up!

9. I love all three of your covers – so utterly gorgeous, and perfect for the books! Do you get any say in them, or do you just wait and get pleasantly surprised?

Thank you – I’ve been thrilled with every one of them! I do get some say.  For the American version of Amy & Roger, the finished cover was shown to me and I loved it.  For Second Chance Summer (US) I spoke to the cover designer about the setting and what was in my mind – a girl on a dock, by a lake with mountains.  And what she did with that blew me away!

I love love LOVE the UK covers of my first two books. The attention to detail, the small touches – they feel like my books, come to life.  I even commissioned the cover artist to make me an original of the A&R cover, which I have framed in my office – it always looked like a piece of art to me.

But I think it’s great that the Since You’ve Been Gone cover is the same in the US and the UK.  I did have more input for this cover.  We did a photo shoot and I got to weigh in on the models and locations.  And both girls are wearing my clothes, jewellery and sunglasses! I sent along a box of things to the designer, expecting they would just be used for inspiration, and when she sent me the pictures from the shoot, I realized they were wearing my things, which made it all the more special.

That's really cool! I love that it's the same cover for both countries, as well.

10. What’s next for Morgan Matson?

I’m going to start writing my new book in August. It’ll be out in the States in summer 2016. I don’t want to say too much, since I haven’t written a word yet. But I’m really excited about the story, and looking forward to starting to write it later in the summer.

Fantastic - I can't wait to read it! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview, Morgan!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Louder Than Words Blog Tour: Guest Post by Laura Jarrat on How Media Events Shaped Louder Than Words

Laura Jarratt's Louder Than Words is right at the top of my TBR list as I loved her wonderful debut, Skin Deep, and her brilliant second novel, By Any Other Name! I was thrilled to get a spot on the blog tour for it and am delighted to welcome her to YA Yeah Yeah.

How media events shaped Louder Than Words

This book is the only one I’ve ever written where real time events have shaped what happens in the book. From the very first idea about the hacktivists, stuff seemed to happen to direct and change what was going on in Louder Than Words. As soon as I started to think about it, a group called LulzSec hit the headlines and a high profile court case followed. I was already aware of a hacking collective called Anonymous and that they seemed to have changed their approach from trolling of anyone they didn’t like to a more moral agenda of attack, but then Lulzsec appeared. I kept an eye on the court case and the comments from the various accused. Those certainly began to shape the character of Dillon, and especially that God-complex part of him that you see from time to time.

I did most of the writing of the book while I was on maternity leave. I’d pop the baby down next to me to sleep on a special pod and I’d write while she napped. Any new mother will tell you that you spend most of those early months sleep deprived so I needed lots of little breaks to keep my concentration up. This meant I’d stop every half hour for a break and because I couldn’t move from where I was sitting or I’d wake the baby, I spent time messing around on Pinterest and Twitter and surfing the net looking at breaking news that I wouldn’t normally have time to see.

The cyber bullying part of the book had already been decided but when I was spending more time on the net every day, the sheer amount of trolling of women and aggression towards them was startling. There was one particular incident which really disgusted me. A bunch of girls from an all-girls school in my home city had done a display of pictures for an online promotion of feminism. It was harmless and unexceptionable stuff. Cue a revolting amount of trolling and aggression towards them for daring to open their mouths. In the end their school advised them to withdraw the pictures for their own safety. The internet was also full of articles on how girls were being treated in university – social events using advertising promoting violence towards women. That kind of thing is a complete shock to my generation – we’d have ripped those posters down as soon as we saw them and we just don’t understand why girls tolerate that and tolerate boys who treat them as if that’s just all one big joke. Obviously at the time I was writing Lara as a character. Writing characters can be a bit like method acting – you have to channel them and Lara was furious about this stuff. Some of that found its way into the book.

Then of course there’s Josie and Rafi’s quote swapping and again when I was trawling around Pinterest being Josie it struck me how much time as women and girls we spend whining about hair and weight and getting boys and men to like us. So many quotes about being badly treated by guys. So why accept it? And why care so much that you let it hurt you. Josie was in that place, of course, where she wouldn’t accept any of that. There was a quote on there that I loved: a lion does not lose sleep over the opinion of sheep. My inner Lara and Josie really embraced the concept that you empower yourself against being a victim and hold yourself above that.

Thanks for sharing, Laura! A fab post, and I can't wait to read the book.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Author Interview: Jason Rohan, part 1 of 2

One of my favourite debuts of the year so far has been the brilliant MG adventure Sword of Kuromori. I got in touch with author Jason Rohan to suggest an interview and was thrilled when he suggested meeting up for a face-to-face one instead of doing one by e-mail - my first ever face-to-face interview with an author! It's rather long as we had LOADS to talk about, so I've cut it into two parts - 2nd will be up later this week.

1. When you close your eyes and picture your readers, what do you see?

[Laughs] I've not had that question before! I suppose I see me, if you turn back the clock, but I've also got children, and they're younger versions of me...so the ideal reader is, possibly, between 8 and 14; just someone who's willing to lose themselves in the story.

2. I know that part of your background is as a staff writer for Marvel Comics. What made you decide to make the move from comics to fiction - anything in particular?

I'm not sure if I'll get into trouble for saying this! I was at Marvel for a couple of summers doing an internship in 1984 and 1987 and the industry changed at that time. Jim Shooter was the Editor-in-Chief and he gave Frank Miller the freedom to do Daredevil, and John Byrne a lot of freedom [on Fantastic Four], but in the process he also annoyed a lot of people, so towards the latter end of that time he got the sack and Tom DeFalco came in. Tom DeFalco was very much old-school and was saying, "When I was reading comics they were like this in the Sixties, and that's how we're going to make them now," so he was going to turn the clock back. All the stuff like the Elektra: Assassin series and all that - he didn't like that, it was too edgy for him. So, that was one reason why I didn't want to have to basically suppress all those creative instincts and that freedom. I think once you've started to do more grown-up material within the comics realm, and you've let the creative demons out of the bag, it's very hard to put them back. A lot of people turned around and left at that point. The other thing that really put me off was that a lot of people who'd been there a long time in the business were either somewhat burned-out hacks just taking the money or they were overgrown kids playing with toys, and I didn't want to turn into either of those. So I thought comics had been interesting to do, but it was time to move on, and that was the end for me.

3. I might know what your answer's going to be to this after the last question! Is there any particular character who might tempt you to go back to comics, and would you like to see Sword of Kuromori adapted, either for comics or screen?

The answer is, "Yes, easily!" to both of those. I didn't fall out of love with comics - it was more of an amicable separation. So if Marvel were to come to me and say, "Would you like to come back and write?" I'd jump at the chance. I walked away in 1987, almost 30 years ago. The industry has changed radically in that time. As for which character? I don't know. Part of me would like to take any character and reinvent it. You've got a lot more creative freedom now - look at what they've done with Ms. Marvel, for example. Marvel aren't afraid to take risks, which I think is almost the polar opposite of where they were when I was walking away, when they were very afraid to take risks, so I'd go back. Any book they gave me, I'd love to do. I've always had a soft spot for Iron Man, but they've changed that character so much now that he's almost unrecognisable from where I left him. As for Sword of Kuromori being made into a movie, I recognise that if there were any interest, I'd probably lose a lot of creative control along the way and would need to trust them to do the best job, but certainly, I'm a control freak - I think every author has to be, because you're God in your own world. You play in that world you create, so I'd like to have creative input and control, but I wouldn't count on it.

4. I know that you did a well-received event at the Discover Story Centre a couple of weeks ago, and have done lots of others. What's the best thing about doing events with kids, and are there any drawbacks to doing them?
I come from a teaching background, which I think benefits a lot of authors. You look at a lot of them like Rowling and Colfer; they've all been teachers, which helps a lot, so I don't have any bad experiences. I'm not shy standing up in front of a crowd of children - the biggest audience I had was 260 for my very first event - part of the Hay Festival, for the Scribblers tour - but what I do like is that you get to meet the people for whom you're writing, and you get to put faces to names. You also get an idea of what works, and often children will like things which you didn't really think of as being particularly notable. They'll say "I really liked that bit," and I'll think, "Oh, that surprises me," so you can pick up little hints and tips along the way as well, but, as I think I said before, the enthusiasm and lack of cynicism are great. When you get older kids, they can be a bit too cool to show any interest - they'll sit there and slouch and they won't answer questions - but the little ones really get into it, because what I do is monsters and action and they really get behind that.

5. I met you for the first time at #DrinkYA a couple of months ago and I notice that you've also been taking part in the #ukmgchat - before you started writing were you aware of the UK MG/YA community, and if not, what do you think of it?

I wasn't aware at all - I was a total Twitter virgin! It was only at the start of the year that my publishers, and my editor, said I should probably look at Twitter. I've had a Facebook presence for years but mainly family and friends, and I was always wary of Twitter because there have been so many news stories about people making fools of themselves so I was a bit suspicious of Twitter. My teenage daughter was on it all of the time, and I thought it might be a bit of a time sink, but then when I started using it and realised how accessible it is, and the fact that someone can buy your book and drop you a note almost within five minutes saying, ''I've started reading it; here's a picture of me holding it,'' I realised it's a very powerful communications tool. So, I've slowly been working my way through and feeling how things work. I started off in the background watching people, and took my first steps when I was a bit more confident, but certainly the community is amazing! The fact that so many people reach out and support each other. I was expecting Twitter to be more trolls and anonymous attacks, but what I've seen of it has been not at all that way. It's very supportive and very nurturing, so when the #ukmgchat started, I was almost the first person in there. It's so great to meet other authors! I hadn't really met other authors or bloggers or anything in the previous seven years of writing - I hadn't really realised they were out there in the sense that you could meet up and have a drink without joining a book group. I think it's great, because five years ago you wouldn't have had anything like it - I'm a big fan.

6. You've got one of the most spectacular covers I've seen all year, and I've seen posters of your book in cinemas, which is really impressive and not something you see that often for MG books! Have you been surprised by how hard Egmont have pushed the marketing of your book?

I've been very, very lucky with Egmont! But to be honest, I don't have any real point of comparison. I don't know what 'normal' would be, but I know that when we were putting the book out there, we had about five or six publishers with no interest whatsoever, but then Egmont came out of nowhere, and said, "We want this book now, take it off the table!" Stella Paskins, my editor, has been brilliant. I think it's one of those books where either you get it or you don't, and Stella very much knows her anime and manga. When she came on board, she really put a lot of faith in the book; I think she persuaded a lot of people at Egmont that this was worth getting behind. I think, in hindsight, it's been the best thing, because at a large publisher it might have got swallowed up in the schedules, but a small publisher might not have had enough clout, so Egmont, being a medium-sized publisher looking to flex their weight a bit, really put a lot of work into it and I can only praise the whole team. Benjamin Hughes did the cover - in terms of commissioning it as Art Editor - and he also designed the chapter headings and all the Japanese writing. Stella's editing has made it a smooth, painless process and I'm really happy with the whole team behind it. The cover artist comes from Singapore, which again fits the whole international theme of the book.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Recommendation: The Unknown Unknown: Bookshops and the Delight of Not Getting What You Wanted by Mark Forsyth

Title: The Unknown Unknown: Bookshops and the Delight of Not Getting What You Wanted
Author: Mark Forsyth
Obtained: From publisher
Very Highly Recommended

It’s clearly a trying time for bookshops at the moment and things took what many people have seen as a turn for the worse last week with the announcement of Amazon’s Fire phone with its Firefly feature, allowing users to get prices for items simply by scanning them with the phone. This has led to worrying about showrooming (which I can’t help feel is exaggerated – being completely honest, if I look at a book in a shop then I can almost always get it cheaper on Amazon if I choose to, but I DON’T choose to because I want to support the shop.)

Some bookshops are, according to Twitter, responding by banning phones, while others are posting signs discouraging you from buying elsewhere. I can’t help thinking both are problematic – banning phones stops those of us who like to alert our friends to what’s in stock/on offer from using pictures to do so; while the suggestion that you should be buying a book in the first place you saw it doesn’t really work for me. Personally, I love browsing in bookshops I haven’t visited before, and generally try to buy something, but the majority of my purchases and pre-orders are made in my favourite few shops.

Bearing in mind the general climate at the moment, I was intrigued to see what tack Mark Forsyth would take in this essay, specially commissioned for Independent Bookseller Week, and was delighted to read it. Rather than being an anti-Amazon rant, it’s a persuasive and well-judged tribute to the big advantages that your local bookshop will always have over Amazon. Forsyth borrows Donald Rumsfeld’s concept of the ‘unknown unknown’ to discuss just how pleasurable it is to discover something you didn't know you were looking for, using examples including Romeo & Juliet, and Elizabeth Bennet & Mr Darcy, to back up his points.

I don't want to go into too many details here as it's a short, quick read, and I'd rather you found out for yourselves just what Mark Forsyth says, but please do go out and get it! I think his arguments are strong enough that you'll be visiting your local bookseller at least twice - once to buy this one (a steal at a mere £1.99), and again to pick up some more books.

This is available this week ONLY from indie bookshops - I believe it will be available elsewhere from September, but you definitely don't want to wait that long to read it!