Thursday, 26 January 2012

Edgy Fiction - not all contemporary realism by Bryony Pearce

Edgy fiction – the term immediately leads the reader to think about books such as Melvin Burgess Junk, or Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English.   
Contemporary Realism is a natural breeding ground for edgy fiction because contemporary realism, especially in YA is so often issue driven and boundary pushing.

Think a bit harder about edgy fiction and a reader might bring up some older works, Judy Blume’s Forever (which us thirty year olds all remember passing around the classroom) or JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.  The Color Purple by Alice Walker is a personal favourite. 

Again, they could all be described as ‘contemporary realism’.  They were contemporary when they were written and certainly push boundaries, even now.  The opening of The Color Purple still gives me shivers ‘You better not never tell nobody but God.  It’d kill your mammy.  Dear God, I am fourteen years old. I have always been a good girl. Maybe you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me.’  
Go back further. Go back to the very first novel ever written, generally accepted to be Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), that was, by definition, edgy being the first of its kind and Defoe is often credited with being the first writer of ‘realistic fiction’.
But can other genres of fiction be ‘edgy’?
I’d say yes.  I’d consider a lot of science fiction ‘edgy’ – not only does it push the boundaries of imagination, but the earliest science fiction was often written as a form of political commentary during a time when, particularly in America, hints of communist sympathies in ‘contemporary realism’ would have had the author dragged away.  I was a big fan of science fiction as a teenager and I still vividly remember dozens of stories that ended with the end of all things: edgy, gripping stuff that has now been consigned to history.
But what about fantasy, that can’t be edgy … can it?
Have you read Kathleen Duey’s Skin Hunger and Sacred Scars?  Gillian Philip’s Bloodstone?  These books are as issue driven as any other on the list. 
Maybe that is the key – if a book is issue driven, if it stays with you, if it’s fresh and new then there’s no boundary to what can be described as edgy, from the very first novel ever written, to the most recent, authors use edgy fiction to raise questions, to make people think, to teach lessons. 
Take a look at our list of our favourite edgy fiction titles … suggest some of your own. We’re always willing to add to our reading lists!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Taking a Stand, by guest blogger Caroline Green

The main character in my YA novel Dark Ride, Bel, is a feisty lass. She isn’t afraid to speak out against things she believes to be wrong or unfair, and she’s appalled when she comes across casual racism in the small town she has moved to with her mum, the fictional seaside resort of Slumpton. Bel also discovers that people trafficking has been taking place there on a big scale and is prepared to take on dangerous local criminals to get to the truth.

I’ve been asked many times whether Bel is like me. I have to admit that she is much, much braver than I have ever been. But this has got me thinking about the way I used to react to injustice as a young adult and how I am now, all these years later.

I used to be someone who could argue for hours over topics I believed passionately in. I would take on people who I thought had misguided or unpleasant views, whether they were taxi drivers, random strangers in a pub, or even family members.

It’s just possible that I was a tiny bit of a pain in the neck at times because of this. (Hmm...)

Anyway,  these days I would be much more likely to let a comment I disagreed with pass to keep the peace . And that’s not a good thing.

One of the things I love about young people is that emotions burn brightly and with real passion when you’re this age. These emotions can turn into actions that literally change the world. For example, the average age of the people who protested in the countries involved in the Arab Spring, when various dictatorships were overthrown in the Middle East ,was between 18-32. 

When I was at university I had a postcard on my wall that featured words by Martin Niemöller, prominent German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor.
"In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."

These words made a tremendous impression on me at the time. Reading them again now they help remind me that even small acts of rebellion against injustice can have meaning and worth.

I don’t tend to roll up my sleeves and get verbally scrapping so much these days. But I wonder if I let my characters do it for me?

Caroline Green is a journalist and writer of fiction for young adults. Her first novel, Dark Ride, was published in May 2011 and her next book, Cracks, will be out in May 2012.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Different But Similar - Savita Kalhan

Different But Similar
Sara’s post last week, The Same But Different, really made me think. I’ve written guest posts for bloggers where I’ve been asked for my top ten favourite films, but I’ve never actively linked them with what I write in terms of themes or the heart beat at their core. Yes, my stories are all different, but does the same heart beat at the core of each of them? Very possibly is the answer. Sara, brought to my attention Julia Cameron’s Vein of Gold in which one of her writing exercises explores the idea of mining themes in your favourite films for your writing. When I look at some of my favourite films, films I’ve watched more than a couple of times and would watch again, I don’t have to dig too deep to see that I might already be doing that.
Amongst my favourite films are these: 

The Godfather
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
The Night of the Hunter

The three words I wrote in my comment on Sara’s post last week were: loyalty, betrayal and survival. Thinking about them now, I would also add hope. These are all central themes which figure pretty high in my list of films. They are also at the core of my writing. Publishers and readers like to brand writers, fit them into niches and genres, and shelve their work under particular headings. I’m often asked, “What kind of stuff do you write?” I usually respond with, “Contemporary teen/YA fiction, dark and edgy.” I guess that’s my brand. It doesn’t mean that I might not write, or am not allowed to write, a romance, a fantasy, or a comedy. It just means that if I do, it’s likely to delve into some of the themes that are at the core of my writing.
At its core, the central themes of my novel, The Long Weekend, are loyalty and survival and hope, and as for my current works in progress, yes, they share the same central themes, the same heart beat. That’s my brand.
What are your favourite films or the films which share a heart beat with your writing?

Friday, 6 January 2012

The Same But Different

Sara Grant, author of Dark Parties, asks: what beats at the heart of your stories?

*We interrupt this blog for a brief announcement...yesterday was a significant milestone here on the EDGE. Three EDGY writers celebrated the publication of their first books – Fifteen Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins, Fairy Tale Twists, a series for 5+, by Katie Dale and Dark Parties by Sara back to our regularly scheduled blog.*

I’d like to think each story I write is its own unique work of fiction – different genres, plots, characters, settings, points of view etc... But if I dig deep enough, I typically find that the same heart beats at the core of each story.

Julia Cameron calls this an author’s Vein of Gold. She believes every artist has a thematic area where their work shines. As part of a bigger exercise, she asks writers to list their five favourite movies and mine them for theme. What do they have in common? She suggests that this is the type of story that writer should be writing.

In film criticism there is a similar concept known as the auteur theory. The idea that the director’s makes a creative watermark on each of his/her films. His/her personal vision shines through to create a ‘family resemblance’ in each of his/her films. Think of films by Hitchcock, Tim Burton, and Martin Scorsese.

I’m currently promoting my debut novel Dark Parties, revising my second book and starting a third novel. Even though these are all stand-alone novels, the heart of these stories is the same: a belief that one person can change the world.

What’s at the heart of your stories?