The White Hare by Michael Fishwick – Interview

Hi Michael, welcome to TeenLibrarian. Thank you for giving up your time to answer a few questions about The White Hare.
Before we begin would you please introduce yourself to the audience?

I am a publishing director at Bloomsbury, where I have authors like Peter Frankopan (whose book The Silk Roads was on the bestseller lists for thirty-one weeks last year, William Dalrymple, Frank Dikotter, Adam Sisman, John Simpson, Anna Pavord and many others.  Lots of biography, history, memoir.  I live in south London, and have a family that includes three now rather tall sons.

I think that I am right in saying that The White Hare is your first novel for young readers?

It is.  I’ve written two other, adult novels; Smashing People and Sacrifices. 

What inspired you to begin writing for a teen audience?

About fourteen years ago I went with a New Zealand friend to see the film ‘Whale Rider’, where a young girl has to win the trust of her grandfather by proving herself the natural leader of their tribe; she forms a bond with a whale and is ridden out to sea, and indeed under the sea.  It made me want to write something that combined human relationships with a magicality that perhaps transcends and heals the fractures in the real world. I think Robbie’s encounter with Mags’s world helps him reconcile himself to the world he finds himself in, and ultimately to forgiveness towards his father.

What feeling did you have when you saw the first finished copy of The White Hare?

As a book comes together you see all sorts of aspects of it; cover ideas, proofs, book proofs, bits of flap copy, the look of the pages, and you know the text back to front from working on it so long.  So in a way there’s no surprise when you see the final thing; but it is just amazing anyway, especially when your publisher has taken such care and paid such attention as Zephyr has.  And detail such as the light blue silk ribbon and the way in which they have used the cover on the pages within the book, which I didn’t know about, were a source of lovely surprise and delight.  

What is the most satisfying part of the writing process for you?

To be honest, it’s simply the writing; making something up on the pages, especially when you have an idea you are confident with and are just working it through.  I write in ink in a rather lovely library, so there’s a very pleasurable feeling of seclusion and communing with one’s own thoughts and ideas; I’m always rather astonished that I have any. 

TWH is also the first novel published under the Zephyr imprint – do you feel any pressure being their headline author?

I’m very proud to be their launch title, and I so hope it works for them (and me).  They’ve done a terrific job, and I feel just the ordinary anxiety about what’s going to happen to my poor little brainchild, whom I hope many will love as I do. 

Is any part of the story based on personal experiences?

That’s tricky.  Lots of little bits and pieces along the way.  Generally, I grew up in south London, as did Robbie, and we’ve been going down to a cottage between Arthur’s Seat on the Stourhead estate and Cadbury Castly, King Arthur’s castle, as Mags tells Robbie for twenty-five years, which I always felt was a deeply magical place (the cottage overlooks the Somerset Levels, which feature in the book).   

Do you ever read the works of other Teen/MG authors? If yes what can you recommend?

Apart from Rowling and Patrick Ness, I drew upon my own favourites: Alan Garner, John Masefield and Barry Hines’s A Kestrel for a Knave (a friend of mine spotted a bit of Jez Butterworth in there, too).

How would you describe The White Hare to pique the interest of a potential reader?

That’s a hard question and something I am still working on! To any readers out there I would say that The White Hare is, at its core, a coming-of-age story. I would love the reader to join me on Robbie and Mags’ journey as they learn about what it means to love in a world where this is the bravest thing a person can do. And if you enjoy my story as I tell it, then I have succeeded in all I set out to do. 

Do you ever visit reading groups in schools and libraries? If yes what is the best way to get hold of you?

Not so far, but very happy to do so.  You can get in touch with the Publicity Director at Head of Zeus, Suzanne Sangster.

YA novel, Love Song, by Sophia Bennett, wins The Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year 2017

London, 13th March 2017: Sophia Bennett triumphed over fellow competing authors to win the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s highest accolade, The Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year, with Love Song, published by Chicken House. This is only the second time in the award’s 57 year history that the RNA’s most prestigious prize has been awarded to a Young Adult title, reflecting the increasing popularity of this sub-genre. Prue Leith presented Sophia with her trophies and a cheque for £5,000 at a star-studded event, compèred by author and broadcaster Jane Wenham-Jones.

Sophia Bennett was the winner of the Young Adult Novel of the Year category. Her book then went forward, along with those of the six other category winners – Contemporary, Epic, Historical Romantic Novel, Paranormal or Speculative Romantic Novel, Romantic Comedy and RoNA Rose – to contest the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) most coveted award, the Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year. For the first time in the awards’ history the shortlist included both traditionally and independently published authors.

It was a double first for novelist Kate Johnson, who was named winner of the first Paranormal or Speculative Romantic Novel Award for Max Seventeen, and was also the first self-published author in the award’s 57 year history to win one of the prestigious RoNAs.

A panel of independent judges read the seven category winners’ novels before meeting to debate the finer points of each book. The panel included Matt Bates, Fiction Buyer for WHSmith Travel; journalist and novelist Fanny Blake; Ron Johns, bookseller and publisher; and Caroline Sanderson, Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Worcester and Associate Editor for The Bookseller.

Romantic Novel of the Year Category Winners

Prior to announcing the overall award winner, Prue Leith revealed the winners of the individual categories and presented them with star-shaped crystal trophies.

The winners were:

Debbie Johnson, Summer at the Comfort Food Café, HarperImpulse
Winner Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year
(for mainstream romantic novels set post-1960)

Janet Gover, Little Girl Lost, Choc Lit
Winner Epic Romantic Novel of the Year
(for novels containing serious issues or themes, including gritty, multi-generational stories)

Kate Kerrigan, It Was Only Ever You, Head of Zeus
Winner Historical Romantic Novel of the Year
(for novels set in a period before 1960)

Kate Johnson, Max Seventeen, independently published
Winner Paranormal or Speculative Romantic Novel
(for novels that include elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, whether paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, time slip or worlds that include ghosts, vampires or creatures of legend.)

Penny Parkes, Out of Practice, Simon & Schuster
Winner Romantic Comedy Romantic Novel of the Year
(for consistently humorous or amusing novels)

Scarlet Wilson, Christmas in the Boss’s Castle, Mills & Boon Cherish
Winner RoNA Rose Award
(for category/series and shorter romance)

Sophia Bennett, Love Song, Chicken House
Winner Young Adult Romantic Novel of the Year
(featuring protagonists who are teenagers or young adults)

Sophia Bennett’s Love Song was a unanimous choice among the judges, who were impressed by the strength and authenticity of the main character’s voice. They felt the book was well-written with plenty of detail, and great sensitivity in some of the scenes. The judges commented “Love Song is an intelligent and thoughtful read which handles the all-consuming emotion of a first crush rather beautifully.”

Eileen Ramsay, Chairman of the RNA, said, “”This is the second year that a Young Adult novel has won the overall award, demonstrating the growing appeal of YA fiction. This wonderful story celebrates the sensitive treatment of first love. Huge congratulations to a very deserving winner!”

David Headley, Managing Director of Goldsboro Books, commented, “The diversity of this year’s winners, including for the first time, a self-published author, confirms romantic fiction as an exciting and still innovative genre, which continues to delight readers.”

Outstanding Achievement Awards

Barbara Erskine is the author of thirteen bestselling novels and three collections of short stories that demonstrate her interest in both history and the supernatural. It is thirty years since the publication of her first novel, Lady of Hay, which has been in continuous publication since 1986 and sold over three million copies worldwide.

Adele Parks has sold over three million UK edition copies of her novels and her books have been translated into over 26 languages. Every one of her 15 novels has been a bestseller in the UK. Both Barbara and Adele were presented with outstanding achievement awards for their continued championing of the RNA and romantic fiction.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


Every now and then a book will come out of nowhere and hit you so hard that you don’t know whether you are coming or going!

For me The Hate U Give is that book!

It had me openly weeping on a train by page 26.

It stoked anger within me – against the systems that keep people down, that normalise the murder of children at the same time as denying them fair and equal choices, freedoms and education.

I am a child (and adult) of privilege; growing up white and male insulated me from what most of the world experiences. Having a conscience and sense of social justice I naturally gravitate left and believe that the inequalities of the world have to be fought and the systemic racism and patriarchialism of the world as it is need to be challenged and dismantled. What I do not have are the experiences of those that are not white and male.

The Hate U Give has been my first experience of seeing the world through the eyes of a person that lives in a world that judges her and her friends and family by the colour of her skin and gender.

It has been said that writing is a political act, and it cannot be more true with The Hate U Give, reading this novel is activism. But it is more than that, to merely describe it as a political novel or an ‘issues book’ would be to diminish it. This is a story about life, love, family, community and loss. For people who daily experience the acts contained within its pages, this book is a mirror showing themselves and their lives; for communities disconnected from these experiences it can act as bridge to understanding and building empathy.

To Angie Thomas I say want to say thank you! With this book you have strengthened my resolve to fight for and with my friends and colleagues for a better world.

To everyone else I say – read this book!

If you know people that say things like “All lives matter!” in the face of the Black Lives Matter movement and the institutionalised oppression and murder of those whose skin colour does not resemble their own, or they believe that we live, love, work and play on a level playing field then buy then a copy. While you are doing that, buy yourself a copy, The Hate U Give is a book for everyone.

Thug Life: TuPac Shakur:

CILIP announces independently chaired review of Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals as part of its wider Equality and Diversity Plan

CILIP, the library and information association, has announced plans to include an independently chaired review of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals as part of the organisation’s wider Equality and Diversity Action Plan.

CILIP is due to publish its Equality and Diversity Action Plan, led by the CILIP Ethics Committee and the Board of Trustees, in the summer of 2017. The Plan is as a result of on-going work, following previously published research commissioned in 2015 by CILIP and the Archives and Records Association, which outlined diversity issues in the library, archives, records, information management and knowledge management sector, including a gender split in the workforce of 78.1% female to 21.9% male (UK workforce 50.1% female and 49.9% male) and 96.7% of the workforce identify as ‘white’ (UK workforce 87.5% identify as ‘white’).

CILIP’s Action Plan will identify steps in both the short and long-term to improve and champion equality and diversity within CILIP, its governance, membership and the wider library and information sector. It will now include details of the review process for the Medals.

Nick Poole, CILIP Chief Executive, said:

We are committed to championing diversity, equality and inclusion through all of CILIP’s activities, from the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals to the wider library and information sector, while also confronting and challenging structures of inequality. We know there are long-standing and embedded challenges and we see this as a tremendous opportunity to promote positive change for ourselves and the sector. For this reason, we are announcing the publication of our Equality and Diversity Action Plan and an independently chaired review into the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals.

The decision to hold an independently chaired review of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals was taken by CILIP and the Working Party who plan and develop the Medals, following concerns raised about the lack of BAME representation on the 2017 Carnegie Medal longlist announced in February. The review will inform the annual evaluation process and long-term planning around the Medals and accompanying shadowing scheme. The review process – which will provide recommendations about how diversity, equality and inclusion can best be championed and embedded into its work – will be open, transparent and accountable and will proactively seek views and contributions from the widest possible range of stakeholders. The review will begin following the announcement of the 2017 winners in June and follow the 2018 prize cycle.

Tricia Adams, Chair of the Youth Libraries Group National Committee and Chair of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards judging panel, commented: We are completely committed, as Medals judges and librarians, to championing diversity, equality and inclusion and challenging issues of structural inequality in a positive and constructive way.

The shortlist for the 2017 CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals will be announced on Thursday 16 March 2017. The winners of the Medals, and the Amnesty CILIP Honour (which commends human rights in children’s literature), will be announced on 19 June 2017.

International Women’s Day Display Materials

March is Women’s History Month and Wednesday 8th March is International Women’s Day.

To mark the day I have been working on a display and creating rosettes with the colours of the Women’s Sufferage Movement and utilising classic and contemporary slogans.
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I have created a blank .pdf rosette that students can use to create their own, downloadable here:

Download (PDF, 164KB)

To go with the display I have been adapting classic photos of Suffragettes but with modern slogans on their banners.

These are downloadable here:

for-women-equal-pay for-women-attacked-by-feminism

INAUGURAL SCOTTISH TEENAGE BOOK PRIZE WINNER REVEALED #ScotTeenBookPrize

Borders-based author Claire McFall has been named the winner of the very first Scottish Teenage Book Prize.

Claire’s third novel, Black Cairn Point, garnered votes from young people (aged 12 – 16) across the country to beat off stiff competition from Keith Gray’s The Last Soldier and Joan Lennon’s Silver Skin.

Claire will receive £3,000 whilst Keith and Joan will receive £500 each. The prize, has been set up to celebrate the most popular teen books by Scottish authors, and is run by Scottish Book Trust with support from Creative Scotland. Call Scotland produced free accessible versions of the three shortlisted books on their Books for All website.

Black Cairn Point, published by Hot Key Books, is a chilling and atmospheric thriller which explores what happens when an ancient malevolent spirit is reawakened and is set in Dumfries and Galloway.

Claire’s win comes hot on the heels of her signing a film contract for her first novel Ferryman in China, where her debut novel has sold almost a million copies. Claire received news of her Scottish Teenage Book Prize win from vlogger Claire Forrester aka The Book Fox at The Edinburgh Book Shop in Bruntsfield and the announcement video is available on the Scottish Book Trust’s website.

She said; “I’m over the moon that Black Cairn Point has been voted the winner of the first Scottish Teenage Book Prize. It’s a brilliant award that encourages young people around Scotland to read books about and from their country and their culture. But it also encourages them to get involved by taking part in the competitions for readers that run alongside. Silver Skin and The Last Soldier are both terrific books, so to know that readers chose my novel is an enormous compliment. This is why I write.”

Claire is a writer and English teacher who lives in Clovenfords in the Scottish Borders. Her first book, Ferryman is a love story which retells the ancient Greek myth of Charon, the ferryman of Hades who transported souls to the underworld. The novel won the Older Readers Category of the Scottish Children’s Book Awards 2013; was long-listed for the UKLA (UK Literary Association) Book Awards and long-listed for the Branford Boase Award; and nominated for the Carnegie Medal. The sequel to the Ferryman is due to be released in September. Her second novel, Bombmaker, was released in 2014 and considers ideas of identity in a dystopian devolved United Kingdom. Black Cairn Point was released in August 2015.

Heather Collins, Schools Programme Manager at Scottish Book Trust, said;

“Congratulations to Claire McFall on winning the inaugural Scottish Teenage Book prize which encourages teens themselves to actively celebrate the books they love and attracted votes from secondary school pupils across Scotland.

“The prize also creates a platform for Scottish writing talent to be recognized and promoted. Claire’s novel is a great example of Scotland’s vibrant teenage book industry where there are lots of great publishers working with very talented authors like Claire, Keith and Joan and this new prize has allowed us to shine a light on this fantastic offering.

“The benefits of encouraging young people to read, from transporting readers to other worlds to better understanding the one we’re in, are limitless. Scottish Book Trust is proud to be working with Creative Scotland to champion that cause.”

Sasha de Buyl, Literature Officer at Creative Scotland, said;

“Congratulations to Claire McFall on winning the first ever Scottish Teenage Book Prize. There can only be one first winner, but Claire’s accomplishment will see the celebration of a new standard of excellence in young adult fiction. The first book that moves you as a teenager can completely shape your world view, helping you develop into the person you will become. Ensuring that Scottish writing has a place in this stage of young people’s reading lives is fantastic and Creative Scotland is delighted to support it.”

Aspiring young film makers were also asked to get involved with The Scottish Teenage Book Prize 2017 by creating their own book trailer for one of the shortlisted titles or entering a graphic novel to create a comic strip adaption of a scene from one of the books. Scottish Book Trust provides extensive learning resources for teachers and librarians on how to create book trailers and how to make the most of using comics in the classroom.

St Joseph’s Academy in Kilmarnock is the winner of the Book Trailer Competition. Their trailer will be featured on Scottish Book Trust website and they will receive a £250 Waterstones voucher to help top up their school library.

The winners of the Graphic Novel Competition, who will each receive Waterstones vouchers, are:
• 1st place – Nicole Watt, Elgin Academy
• 2nd place – Jaden Green, Forfar Academy
• 3rd place – Morven Ross, Elgin Academy

The winning entries will be featured on Scottish Book Trust website, with interviews with the pupils and teachers involved with the competition to follow on the website’s blog in the coming weeks.

Discussing The Roanoke Girls with Amy Engels

roanoke-girls-jkt-image
Hi Amy, welcome to Teen Librarian, now at the moment you are best-known for the YA Book of Ivy series but (strangely for a Teen Library blog) we are not going to be discussing those today, rather we are going to focus on your first novel for adults: The Roanoke Girls.

The proof of which I must say was the darkest and one of the most twistedly brilliant books that I read last year.
 
But before we get into the book would you like to introduce yourself to the audience?

Well, as you said, I’m the author of The Book of Ivy YA series and The Roanoke Girls is my first novel for adults. I am a former criminal defense attorney and now work as a full-time writer. I live in Missouri with my husband and two teenage children.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but to my mind at its heart The Roanoke Girls is about being a woman and what women face now and throughout history – objectification, having to pander to the needs and desires of others, hatred, abandonment, being replaced and murder!

Yes to all of that! I’ve always been interested in the ways in which women are viewed by society and also by the sometimes fraught relationships women have with one another. I’m fascinated by how women often turn on one another, rather than on the person who has wronged them. And on the flip side of that, the ways in which women are valued, or devalued, by society is of tremendous interest to me as a writer. Women are so often viewed as a commodity, valued for their beauty and their ability to act a certain way. The blaming of female victims, both blatantly and subtly, for their own abuse is also something I wanted to tackle.

The Roanoke Girls made me think of two quintessential American art-works American Gothic by Grant Wood and Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth in my mind I identified Allegra quite strongly with both the women portrayed in the paintings. Similarly Roanoke reminded me of Manderley from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and the themes made me recall the discovery of Flowers in the Attic in the Library by a group of students when I was in school – it caused a rush of students reading together and discussing it in hushed tones in the corridor which stopped whenever someone walked past. What were your inspirations for writing The Roanoke Girls?

You are spot on with the Rebecca reference. The first line of The Roanoke Girls is actually my own homage to Rebecca. Growing up, I was fascinated by gothic novels and so those have a huge influence on the book. I also took inspiration from Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell. That book evoked such a strong sense of place and I knew I wanted to try and do the same with The Roanoke Girls. My hope was to transport the readers to the world of Roanoke as they were reading. I was also somewhat inspired by my own work as a criminal defense attorney. I think people have a tendency to judge victims by the characteristics of the perpetrator of the crime. So if you have someone who looks like a monster and acts like a monster, then the victim is more likely to be believed. But what about someone who seduces rather than forces? Who charms rather than assaults? Then people are much more likely to blame or disbelieve the victim, I’ve found. And I definitely wanted to explore those feelings and ideas in the book.
amy-engel-trish-brown-photography

The interactions between Lane and Allegra seemed very real to me do you have any close cousins or siblings that you based their relationship on?

Interestingly enough, I have no siblings and my cousins are much younger than I am and live far away. But because of that void, I always had very strong female friendships growing up. My best friends and I were inseparable and they took the place of siblings for me. I think female friendships, especially as teenagers, can sometimes take on slightly obsessive undertones, so I drew on that for the relationship between Lane and Allegra.

At times The Roanoke Girls made uncomfortable reading – which I suppose is the point, without giving away too many spoilers were there any parts of the story that you found difficult to write?

The interludes from the points of view of the past Roanoke girls were probably the most difficult to write from a purely emotional standpoint.

You tell the story of Lane, Allegra and the other inhabitants of Roanoke and Osage Flats through Lane unpicking the contemporary mystery of Allegra’s disappearance and flashbacks to the summer that Lane lived at Roanoke – how much planning went into the writing as it all flows so seamlessly?

First of all, thank you. You never really know if a past/present narrative is going to work until people begin reading it, so I’m gratified to know it’s being well-received. In answer to your question, not much planning at all. I don’t outline when I write, not even with a dual timeline narrative such as this one. And I didn’t write all of the present day portion and then go back and insert the past. I wrote the book as it’s meant to be read: a “then” section and then a “now” section, etc. I did go back and add in the interludes from the other Roanoke girls after the first draft was finished. For some reason, it wasn’t difficult for me to keep it all straight in my head as I was unspooling it. More proof, I think, that sometimes writing is a kind of magic.

The online response to The Roanoke Girls has been phenomenal – did you expect this when you first started writing it?

Ummm…no? I mean, at the time I was writing it, the first Ivy book had been published, but I knew I’d need a new publisher for this book because it was adult. So I didn’t even know if it would ever see the light of day. I hoped, of course, that it would be published and people would like it, but I knew it was dark and would be too disturbing for some readers. So the reaction thus far has been amazing and I’m so, so grateful.

If you had to describe the novel in six words or less to entice a potential reader what would you say?

Oh, I’m such crap at this sort of thing, but I’ll give it at try! How about:

Dark, disturbing, character-driven psychological suspense.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!

Give up Ignorance for Lent: Poster

Twitter helps me creatively fairly regularly. Coming up with (half) witty statements in a limited character set really helps to focus the mind! On Tuesday I posted this:

This morning I started building a display around it and created a poster.

You can download a pdf of the poster by clicking on the image below

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia Butler, John Jennings and Damian Duffy

I’m black, I’m solitary, I’ve always been an outsider!
~ Octavia E. Butler

Octavia Butler has been described as the greatest science fiction writer of her generation, not the greatest female science fiction writer or the greatest African-American science fiction writer, she is simply put, one of the greatest! Her words cut across class, race and gender and have found a home in the collections of millions of readers the world over!

She was awarded two Hugo Awards, two Nebula Awards and the PEN Lifetime Achievement Award. She was also the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur “Genius” fellowship.

Kindred is one of her best-known novels; the tale of Dana, a modern young woman swept back in time to an earlier period in history, in this case the antebellum South, a time of cotillions, southern gallantry and all very romantic unless, like Dana, you happen to be black…

Kindred is a story of contrasts, of kindness, humanity and cruelty, of a modern world (in this case 1970’s California) where people are free to live their life and marry whomever they please and a time where people are treated as chattel, bought, sold an abused as they are considered less than human.

This graphic novel version of Kindred, adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings with the agreement of the estate of Octavia E. Butler is a beautiful hardcover, with an eye-catching dust jacket that looks as perfect on a shelf with novels as it does with other works of graphic art.

Damian Duffy has pared back Octavia’s text, preserving the essential story but making it flow perfectly for this graphic adaptation; John Jennings brings the text to life with his amazing artwork, imbuing the characters with movement on the page without glossing over the bloody and brutal mistreatment of humans by their fellow man. He has captured the cold cruelty of the slave owners in contrast with the pain and damaged humanity of the slaves. This is not a pretty story, no matter the beautiful artwork that adorns the pages; indeed it is shocking to modern liberal sensibilities and makes uncomfortable reading to be confronted by callous indifference to human suffering, but is necessary to remind ourselves how easy it is for us to dehumanise others and although we have come far, there is still a distance to go before we treat each other equally.

Kindred is rightly considered a classic of the science fiction & literary genres. Duffy & Jennings’ version is a perfect gateway for readers to encounter Octavia’s work.

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia Butler, illustrated by John Jennings and adapted by Damian Duffy. Published by Abrams ComicArts (£15.99)

#TeenLibrarian Monthly: February

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