Friday, 28 September 2012

YA Interrogation with Guest Blogger Cicely Loves Books!

This week we are delighted to welcome Cicely from Cicely Loves Books as our guest on the Edge …  

Cicely with Karen Mahoney
Hello, EDGE-y people! I’m Cicely and I blog over at Cicely Loves Books (you can tell I toiled over that one). I blog pretty much solely about YA, and have been doing so for about a year and a half now, (and LOVING it). I’m also a pretty big fan of the old Caps Lock/exclamation point, so forgive me if I come across as being incredibly excitable. I’m not *always* like this, I promise. Just when I’ve been at the ole’ caffeine, (Which, I guess, is all the time…)

So, Cicely, WHY do you read and write about YA books?
I read and write about YA mostly because, well, I am a teenager. So it only really seems appropriate, right? Also, it makes me feel pretty normal when I’m reading a contemp and the characters are like me and I can just relate and it makes me feel a bit less, well, weird. Makes me feel less alone sometimes, I guess. As does the awesome community!

We're big fans of weird at the Edge! So what are the most ORIGINAL YA books that you've read?
Hmm, most original? That’s a tough question, but surprisingly some of the most original YA (in my opinion) are retellings of things. I think it really takes an original perspective to take something familiar and turn it into something brand new, so books like Shadows on The Moon and Long Lankin, and Nevermore (which is all just kind of based on Poe’s work). Also, anything that takes on a new format in storytelling, I guess, and uses a new style to tell the story like Stolen and The Perks of Being A Wallflower.

OK, but what is a TURN OFF for you in YA fiction?
Ugh, INSTA- FREAKING-LOVE. It needs to be less frequent. I’m not saying it should stop, it should just appear less. Please.

But what makes for a GREAT YA book?
Originality. Interesting characters, or at least relatively realistic/relate able ones. An interesting plot line. Stuff that makes any book great, I guess?

Side-stepping reality for a moment, which YA characters would you most like to take OUT TO DINNER and why?
What YA characters would I most like to take out to dinner...? Katniss Everdeen, because I reckon we’d both have equally bad table manners and I wouldn’t have to pretend I knew why there’s about 7 different types of fork. Plus her tales from the Arena would be pretty interesting, if not off-putting. But if we’re talking date-dinner, probably Will Herondale: witty, tortured, and permanently dressed in Victorian clothing. Perfect dinner companion!

On a similar theme, who is your ideal YA HERO / HEROINE and why?
My ideal YA heroine is probably Korra from the Legend of Korra. I know she’s already fictional, but I don’t care, I want her in a book now please. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this show, but it’s AMAZING and I love Korra and I can’t wait to see her character development and I really shouldn’t have brought this up because now I won’t stop talking about it. *deep breath*

(Half an hour later …) What makes you uncomfortable or question THE BOUNDARIES of YA?
Nothing, really, apart from gratuitous sex scenes I guess. Not that I’ve even come across stuff like that in YA, ever. Yeah… But sex is cool as long as it isn’t really into detail, drugs are cool as long as they’re being represented realistically and not advocated, swearing – well, I swear and I am a teen, so that’s fine. Yeah.

What would you LIKE to see happening in YA fiction over the next five years?
Less paranormal romance, more horror/suspense paranormal fiction. I want scary things to actually be scary. And more high quality YA comtemps! And UK YA!

But what do you think will ACTUALLY BE the next big thing in YA?
Hmm, there’ll still be this thing with Dystopia going on for a little while I think, but I think there’ll be more high fantasy over the next few years, too.

So, give us your TOP FIVE YA/Teen books.
Only five?! But it changes all the time! Okay, I’m going to try. At this very minute, my favourites are:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (so excited for the film!) 
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Everything by Sarah Dessen ever
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowely
Chime by Franny Billingsly

Finally, could we ask for a recommendation – if you read one book this year, read THIS … 
Perks of Being a Wallflower. I only read it for the first time this year, but it’s just really good. If you’re not a big reader, it’s short and simply written, but it’s really honest and melancholy and it’s just a really good book, regardless of it being YA or whatever.

OK, that's a few more books to add to the Edge bookshelf! Thanks for being this week's guest on the Edge Cicely and for taking the time to answer all our questions so thoroughly!

Thanks for having me! 

Don't forget to check out Cicely's own blog over at Cicely Loves Books.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Plotter or Pantster by Edge Guest Jeremy Craddock

Are you a plotter or a pantster?

Ah, the eternal question posed of authors down the ages. It’s something I always ask during interviews for my blog, Bookengine, which celebrates children’s writers.

Are you a blind-panic seat-of-the-pants scribbler, or a literary equivalent of a sat nav?

In a recent interview, Edge member Bryony Pearce told me she was most definitely a plotter, something she discovered writing her first, as yet unpublished, book.  The first ten chapters were plotted, the rest ‘pantsed’ (Bryony’s lovely descriptive verb) and the feedback was loud and clear: the first half was great, the second not so.  Now Bryony thoroughly plans her stories before she puts pen to paper, with wonderful results.

Each writer is different, of course, and one man’s road map is another man’s dead-end.

So, for your entertainment, here are some famous names, divided into the two camps.

Charles Dickens
Dickens mapped out his novels. But as they were serialised in magazines, he only looked as far ahead as the next edition. His notes were sketchy, often just questions to provoke ideas jotted down as they occurred to him.

Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allan Poe liked to plan backwards from the denouement.
In On the Philosophy of Composition, he said: “Nothing is more clear than that every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its dénouement before anything be attempted with the pen. It is only with the dénouement constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the tone at all points, tend to the development of the intention."

Thriller writer Jeffery Deaver takes plotting to an obsessive level. He spends eight months on his synopsis, working out every minute twist and turn so that his story ticks perfectly like a hand-crafted Swiss watch. Once this is done, the writing is a breeze (he revises his manuscript a further 30 times!).

Ken Follett also requires a fully-orchestrated outline before writing. He describes his working method in great detail at his website:


Ray Bradbury
The late Ray Bradbury wrote several essays in Zen in the Art of Writing about flying by the seat of the pants.  He put his trust in his intuition and rhapsodised about writing with ‘zest’ and ‘gusto’. For him, a plot was something discerned only after the act of writing, like footprints left in the sand by a runner.

Stephen King

Stephen King believes a story exists fully formed before it is written and it is the author’s job to excavate it like a fossil. It is inevitable bits will break off and the challenge is to remove as much in one piece.

Michael Morpurgo generally doesn’t know his story’s ending when he takes up his pen, preferring to let the story take him there.
His most famous book, War Horse, is one of the exceptions. He always knew the boy and the horse would be reunited at the end because there would be no story otherwise.

Meanwhile, horror author Dean Koontz may be unique in being neither a plotter nor a ‘pantster’.  He begins on page one and does not proceed to page two until he has fully revised the page to his satisfaction. Quite how he manages to control character development, plot and sub plot, is beyond me.

I ask the question again.
Are you a plotter or a ‘pantster’?

·   Jeremy Craddock blogs about children’s writers at

Jeremy Craddock who runs the wonderful Bookengine Blog (click here)

Friday, 14 September 2012

New Adult - New Genre? Savita Kalhan

Recently a new genre has been promoted by some publishers: New Adult, NA. The other name for it, which doesn’t seem to have stuck is Mature Young Adult. It is fiction aimed at 14 to 35 year olds and started out as primarily ebooks, but can now be found in bookshops, although I have yet to see an NA section, but I think it’s coming.
Would I read NA? Yes, I probably would. I’m not a genre-bound reader. I read a lot. I like teen/YA fiction and adult fiction and read everything from  thrillers to fantasy epics, contemporary to classics. What counts is the story and how it’s written.
The question is whether a subdivision is necessary, or whether it is purely a marketing ploy. Lots of YA readers are very happy with the introduction of NA – the characters are slightly older, 18-22, so similar to YA, but the language and subject matter can be more edgy, the main character point of view is as often male as it is female. YA POVs have become very female dominated. NA fiction explores the college years, newly-found independence with all the angst and responsibility that comes with it. When you think about it, it’s very different to teen fiction and most gate-keepers would balk at placing some of the NA titles I’ve seen anywhere near the teen section, but it’s not leaps and bounds away from YA. There is more of line that can be drawn between teen and YA than YA and NA.
Tammara Webber, who was self-publishing her NA books, has just been taken on by a major publishing house who have introduced her work as NA. Her book, Easy, was a New York Times ebook best seller. Looking at the book, and others in this genre, in terms of themes and language, it’s aimed at age 17 and upwards rather than age 14s and up, which are often read by much younger teens, and with the higher sexual content, (there are lots of sizzling romances), I’m doubtful it would pass the gatekeepers here and make it to the teen section. If you want to find out more there’s a Twitter hashtag:  #NALitChat. Lots of very active NA blogs have cropped up too, with lists of recommended NA books.
Personally, I’m not for age-banding books and believe that kids and teens, and young adults, usually navigate their way quite well through the books available to them, putting down books that don’t appeal and reading the ones that do, all by themselves. It was the way I did it when I was growing up.
But if you have a manuscript filed away with characters, theme, and language just a little too old for teen/YA then there might be a place for it now.

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Profound Teenage Years

The EDGE welcomes author Jeff Norton and congratulates him on his debut novel METAWARS

I’m blessed and cursed with an exceptional long-term memory and a terrible short-term one. Ask me what I did yesterday, and I’ll struggle to give you an accurate answer. Ask me about 10th grade (age 15), and I can give you a full run-down on what subjects I studied, where my locker was, and who I had a crush on (no, I’m not telling!). 

It’s an annoying trait in day-to-day life, requiring me to constantly write down little notes so that I don’t forget things, but it’s a great resource in crafting fiction for teen readers!

My new book, METAWARS: FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE, is set thirty years in the future, in a post-peak-oil London where two teenagers get swept up in the battle for control of the internet. It may be set in a ‘dystopian’ future, but the emotional spine of the story is ripped straight from the past, from my teenage memories.

People who say that high school is the best time of your life are either lying or have grown into adults they don’t want to be. Being a teenager is hard. I remember, vividly. High school can be a nasty equivalent to prison, nature plays lots of cruel jokes on your body, and the adult world isn’t ready to take you seriously yet. Please trust me when I tell you, and I’m sure the fantastic Edge authors would agree: it gets better.

My ambition with METAWARS was to extrapolate the chaos of teenage reality in an exciting, action-packed thriller set in a dangerous future world. My two lead characters are Jonah and Samantha (Sam), two at polar opposites of the teenage spectrum. Jonah is young for his age - I’ve painted him as a sheltered, quite naïve fifteen - while Sam is a bit older yet far more worldly and experienced. 

Jonah lives under curfew on a retired London bus (no more oil means no more bus routes) while Sam spends her nights blowing up buildings. The emotional story arc over the four books charts the development of their interdependency and contrasts Jonah’s growing maturity with Sam’s gradual climb-down from fundamentalism. When we first meet these characters, they are both incredibly certain about their views on the world. Only through their adventure together do they realise that the world is a far more complex place than they ever imagined.

I believe that the awakening from childhood to adulthood, the awkward phase we call ‘teenager’ is humanity’s most profound experience. It’s painful (growing pains!), physically awkward (spots anyone?), and emotionally fraught (frienemies, crushes, first loves), but it’s the crucible that turns children into adults. It’s fertile ground for fiction and I remember it well.

Jeff Norton is the author of METAWARS: FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE, published 2 August 2012 from Orchard Books.

Find him on the web at, ‘like’ him at  or follow him on twitter via