Monday, May 21, 2018

Infinite Sky court case at University of West England this week!

Was it self-defence or murder?

Those of you who have read Infinite Sky will know that the book starts and ends with the death of a teenage boy close to Iris Dancy. The big question, as the story unfolds, is which of Iris's beloved boys dies: Trick, the Irish Traveller whose family have set up camp in the Dancy's paddock, and with whom she recently shared her first kiss, or Sam, her adored but troubled older brother, who hasn't been the same since their mum, Anna, left to go travelling in Tunisia.

This week, at the University of the West of England (UWE) the story of Infinite Sky will be brought to life, as Law students and tutors, professional actors and a judge, create a mock murder trial, for educational purposes, built around this scenario at the climax of Infinite Sky.

In the story, set one hot summer in the Midlands, Iris Dancy was witness to a fight that caused the death of one of the two boys that she loves most in the world. (I'm trying hard not to give spoilers here for those who haven't yet read the novel.) This week, at UWE, the surviving boy will be tried for the murder of the deceased, giving students a chance to cut their teeth in Criminal Law.

UWE students preparing the defendant's case.
Poor Iris! She will be called to give evidence, as will her father, Thomas, though they don't see events in the same light. Dean, Punky and Leanne, who all witnessed the fight, will be called to give evidence too. I wonder if they'll tell the truth?

If the accused is found guilty of murder, then he will face a life sentence in prison. If he is found to have been acting in self-defence, then he could be acquitted. So it's pretty high stakes in the courtroom.

The trial takes place this Thursday and Friday at UWE, presided over by a professional judge, and the students have been preparing for weeks, under the excellent tutelage of my dear friend James Lloyd, and Liz Cunningham, both ex-criminal law Barristers, now Senior Lecturers in Law at UWE.

The jury will come back with their verdict on Friday, and I can't wait. Between you and me, I hope the accused walks.

I will be in the public gallery channelling Anna - Iris's and Sam's Mum - and furiously making notes for a new story. More on that later...

I will also be tweeting about it (though my inner author insists on maintaining high spoiler alert, which might make those tweets a little mysterious) and for those who have already read the novel, and are interested to follow the trial, you can also follow @liz_cunningham3, @DelythAJames and @WhiteZoey on Twitter.

The mock trial is open for all to attend. Venue: 2X112, Bristol Business School, Frenchay Campus, UWE Bristol. 24 May 10am - 5pm and 25 May 9:30am - 2:30pm

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Patron of Reading at St Bede's Catholic College

My third visit to St Bede's as Patron of Reading was a very fruitful visit, with lots of excellent group poems created by Year Nine students.

Using themselves as a resource, they spent time remembering, and built poems about violence and love and family together.

I also met the whole of the new Year Sevens, and had a lovely time talking to them about my reading challenge, and the books that they love. It's always such a pleasure to meet enthusiastic readers, and these were some of the sweetest.

My next visit will be in March 2017 for World Book Day, when we will be celebrating everyone who achieved one of my reading targets, and giving out prizes. I can't wait!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Interview with Sara Barnard about Beautiful Broken Things

Beautiful Broken Things is a sad, funny and real story about friendship, overcoming trauma and the damage it can do to self esteem. I read it as fast as I could get away with, since I was visiting family at the time, and I fell in love with Caddy, Rosie and Suzanne, and was intrigued by their often problematic dynamic of three.

I finished BBT the week before Nightwanderers came out, and was really eager to talk to Sara about the process of writing the book, and the decisions she made along the way, and also about her young friendships, as she seemed to be interested in some of the same themes as me: the intensity and magnificence of female friendships, and friendship as a sort of romance, as well as notions of self-esteem and the good/bad influence we can be on each other. 

The book has recently been selected as one of Zoella's Book Club reads, as well as receiving many other plaudits, and so if you haven't picked it up already, then make sure you do. Visit Sara's website for more news about her work or talk to her on Twitter (she has a new book coming out too). Seeing as Sara lives a little far away, in Brighton, we couldn't meet for coffee, so I was very happy when she agreed to this interview. : )

Caddy, Rosie and Suzanne are really well drawn characters, and I recognised them from my teen years. The dynamic between the three of them was so interesting, and their varying levels of self-esteem seemed to be a key factor in the ways that they interacted. Was this something you set out wanting to write about? How people can fit together in terms of need? 

I don’t think anyone gets through their teen years unscathed; we all have our low moments, especially when it comes to self-esteem. But often this isn’t something you realise until you’re an adult – you think it’s just you! So though I didn’t set out to write directly about that, it seeped in as quite a natural part of writing teenage girls. I think the friendships we have at that time have a huge effect – they either lift you or sink you, and sometimes it’s both. In this case, I was interested in the friends that lift you. : )

This is a subtle and complex element of relationships, and something I can now see played a large part in my friendships as an adolescent. Could you tell me a bit about your early friendships in this respect? Who do you most relate to out of the three girls? 

I went to a girls’ school, and I was part of a group of friends. We were awful to each other for years – there were so many shifting allegiances and loyalties that seemed so important at the time. My best friend, who sort of flitted in and out of the group and had other friends, was the exception – we never fought (still have never fought, 17 years on!) and our friendship was very different. And of course, hers is the friendship that has really lasted. She likes to say now that she’s a mix of Rosie and Suzanne, which is probably true! Caddy is a lot like how I was when I was a teenager; shy, quiet and self-conscious, always worrying I wasn’t interesting or cool enough for my friends. 

Suzanne is a fascinating character, beautiful and broken, like the ornaments her stepfather broke (and then glued back together – this detail made me cry), did you have to do a lot of research to get her behaviour right? 

Suzanne has been hanging around in my head for a number of years now (as a fellow author, I’m sure you understand this and won’t think I’m a bit mad?!) and her character grew very organically for me. Though I did do research, it wasn’t to find out how she’d behave – it was more to understand her behaviour, if that makes sense. I would think, how would a person in these specific circumstances react to this specific incident? And that’s how I approach all of my characters and research, really. So with Suzanne, it was how would a girl who’d been internalising abuse for years react when she’s taken away from her family and expected to make a fresh start in a new city? 

In the acknowledgements to BBT you thank Tom for saving Suzanne when you had almost given up. Could you let us know a bit more about this? Did you write an alternate version (I won’t publish this if it contains spoilers/will edit accordingly.) 

I did… anyone who’s read BBT through to the end can probably guess what this alternative is. Trying to get the ending right took a lot of time and a lot of drafts. My boyfriend, Tom, gets the credit for finding the solution. It was right at the eleventh hour, but we got there in the end! I’m very happy BBT has the ending that it has; it’s definitely the right ending for the girls and the book. 

You create tension within the dynamic of three girls very believably, and I thought the power play between Suzanne and Rosie was especially well done. There is an understanding that flows between them that Caddy is outside of, which seems to be because of their recognition of the part she plays to both of them. Did you find yourself in this sort of dynamic as a teenager? What would your advice to Caddy be about Suzanne, if you were her older sister? 

I was never in a trio like the girls, so I’ve never had to deal with quite that kind of dynamic, thankfully! There was a lot of power-play between my friends when I was at secondary school, but it was more superficial. I would give basically the same advice to Caddy as Tarin does, which is the whole idea of how important it is to sometimes say no as much as it is to say yes, that enabling someone’s behaviour isn’t helping them. I’d tell her to take care of her, because Caddy never really quite understands how much pain Suzanne is in, or just how vulnerable she is.    

Low self-esteem is a real obstacle, particularly for females, and even more so for young females, what are your ideas about why this is? And how do you think we can teach/show the younger generation to have stronger/better self-esteem? 

I think we live in a society that doesn’t properly value women or girls, so it’s inevitable they grow up internalising that message. We tell them that things they love are petty and frivolous (boybands, YouTubers, for example), we tell them they need to be pretty then chastise them for being obsessed with make-up. I think it’s not enough to tell them once they’re teenagers that they should value themselves and have higher self-esteem because it’s too late, we should be working to change the patterns of society and the stereotypes that young girls are faced with every day. And the answer to that, I firmly believe, is feminism!

What do you think? Is the answer feminism or something else? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Upcoming Nightwanderers events...

Only two days until Nightwanderers is officially out in the world! To celebrate its release I'm embarking on a blog tour. The first stop was an interview yesterday at Fiction Fascination and today I reveal seven secrets about me and the book at Serendipity Reviews. See the rest of the dates on the itinerary here...

This weekend Nightwanderers was in the Guardian! It called the book "emotionally powerful" in a round up of YA and children's books coming out this month.

Friday 3rd June at 2:15 I'm talking to Andy Potter at BBC Radio Derby, and on Saturday 4th June I'm signing books in Derby Waterstones as part of the Derby Book Festival. Please come and see me if you can!

On Wednesday 8th June, next week, I'm talking to Claire Cavanagh at BBC Radio Bristol at 2:15, and later having a book launch at Stanfords Book Shop in Bristol too, so do listen/come along if you're in this neck of the woods.

RSVP in the comments : )

Monday, May 2, 2016

Upcoming Nightwanderers events and prize draw winner...

So the winner of my signed advanced copy of Nightwanderers is...

Arjun Randhawa! I will send the book a.s.a.p. and I really hope that you enjoy it. Please reply in the comments so we can arrange for me to post this.

In other news, there are a few book events coming up. The first is a book signing at Derby Waterstones on 4th June, between 11am and 1pm. This is part of the Derby Book festival, which has an amazing line up this year, including Matt Haig and Carol Ann Duffy. Check it out.

I will also be talking to Andy Potter on Radio Derby on Friday 3rd June from 2pm, so tune in if you want to hear me doing my plummiest accent or strongest Derby accent (I'm never sure which will come out.)

Let me know if you can make it in the comments!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Nightwanderers cover

Maximum Pop officially revealed it this morning, so here it is on my blog! The cover for Nightwanderers. What do you think?

To celebrate, I'm giving away one signed advance copy. Follow me on Twitter, retweet the giveaway or leave a comment here, and next week I'll choose a winner. (One entry for follow, retweet and comment, i.e. three entries possible per person.)


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

First peek at Nightwanderers...

It's almost nine weeks until Nightwanderers comes into the world (2.6.16) and I am so excited to share it with you. Yesterday, I arrived home to find two advanced copies of the book, and it was so dream-smashing (in a positive way) to hold this work of my imagination in my three dimensional hands. Can you even believe that I spent a year making every single detail up? Strange, isn't it?

Tomorrow (6.4.14) the lovely people at Maximum Pop! will reveal the cover at 11am, so check their website or twitter to see the design, and then please tell us what you think!

Because I can't reveal the cover yet (without being tortured by Maximum Pop journalists and their horribly judgemental cats), I have taken a photo of the inside of the book. 

"If it's this pretty inside, what will the cover be like??" - You, in your mind, right now.

And in case you haven't read the blurb for Nightwanderers yet, here it is: 

A stunning, sad and darkly funny story from the award-winning author of Infinite Sky.

It all started with a poo in a flowerbed.
Rosie and Titania are as close as sisters – closer, in fact. While Rosie is shy, red-faced and passive, Ti is big, tough and daring. They shouldn't be friends, but they are.
We weren’t identical twins, we weren’t even blood sisters, but what we were was better, because we had chosen it.
But when Rosie betrays Ti, the two girls run in different directions – making decisions that could do irreparable damage to both of their lives. As Rosie confronts harsh truths, she must find a way back to Ti, and to herself.

What do you think? Would you like to read this book? 
Get out of here! 
Phew! Hold me. 

Finally, to celebrate books and being alive, I will be giving away one signed advance copy, so check back in the next few days for more details. And don't forget to let me know what you think of the design once it is revealed. 

Okay? Okay! Love you! Bye!