Friday, 26 August 2011

Latest news from The Edge

This week Edge author Dave Cousins provides a round-up of all the latest news from The Edge.

While you've been away basking in the sun with a good book (I hope!), here at The Edge we've been busy being edgy and getting ready for lots of activity towards the end of the year. Already confirmed for November are Edge authors at the Broxbourne heat of the Kid Lit Quiz and a Pulse Panel discussion at the SCBWI conference, plus lots more in the pipeline. So, what else have we been up to?

The very strokeable embossed cover for 15 Days!
I've spent most of the summer hidden away in my attic, fighting wasps and working on my next book for OUP. Meanwhile preparations for the publication of 15 Days Without a Head are picking up momentum. I received a very strokeable embossed cover proof in the post last week along with a stack of proof copies which have gone out to readers for review. I'm delighted to say that the response I've had so far has been fantastic, including this one from 14 year old Rewan Harper.

"This book is truly awesome! It has everything a good book needs. It is funny and witty, but with a serious edge giving the novel another layer. Excellently done!" 

For more reader reviews have a look at my new website.

Katie is delighted with a wonderful mention for Someone Else's Life in The Bookseller, under the heading of One to Watch

“A girl who discovers she was swapped at birth triggers an unstoppable chain of events in this riveting debut about families, relationships, and long-buried secrets. A really gripping family drama that reads like a Jodi Picoult for teens.” – The Bookseller. 

Katie is now also able to share the cover artwork for the US edition of Someone Else's Life, due out in February.

Apart from the recent publication of her third novel, Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery, which is already picking up some great reviews, Keren is busy writing her next book. In the meantime When I was Joe continues to collect awards and accolades, featuring in the Waterstone's Summer Guide to Teenage Fiction for Boys, and winning the Wirral Paperback of the Year award.

Miriam has had a busy summer, so I'll let her tell you what she's been up to.

"I spent a lovely week on Hayling in August where Hidden is set and visited a lot of bookshops. I signed books in Portsmouth Waterstone's and Blackwells University Bookshop. Both shops are giving prominent display to the book. The Hayling bookshop had sold out and has just ordered another 20 copies and so has WordSouth in Havant. So I'll be off to do another signing later on.
Meanwhile I will be at the Havant Festival in September and I have been contacted by schools and librarians in Hampshire for other events. I've also been asked to join the author panel of the Portsmouth Literary Quiz next January. 
After a quiet week or two there have been several reviews of Hidden and an interview on book blogging sites this week. My editor meanwhile is finishing her final tweaks to the second novel in the cycle, Illegal (March 2012) and will be sending me cover ideas this week. I have also sent her the third book Stuffed (October 2012) for editing. Busy summer? I suppose so. But maybe that is because I have started a new novel set in London this time and on a very specialist and extremely edgy subject. No spoilers - you'll have to wait a while!"

Paula also has a lot of news to share.

"My thriller, The Truth About Celia Frost, was published by Usborne on 1st August 2011. After a fantastic launch at Waterstones in Nottingham and a wonderful ‘author’s dinner’ in London with reviewers and booksellers, I embarked on my first ever book tour. I loved every minute of getting to talk to students, YA book groups and fellow writers. I was delighted at how enthusiastic groups were; willing to discuss reading and writing and asking a load of insightful questions.
I’ve been bowled over by the response to Celia Frost from reviewers, booksellers and readers. I’ve even received a batch of lovely letters from a whole class who read the book in school and wanted to tell me how much they enjoyed it.
The Independent On Sunday chose the book as one of their summer reads describing it as ‘riveting’, Books For Keeps made it Book of the Week and LoveReading4Kids made it a Debut Book of the Month. Numerous reviews from the press and readers can be found on but below is a taster.

"A stunning psychological thriller for young adults." – BookTime

"A page-turning thriller that's impossible to put down." – LoveReading4Kids

"A gripping psychological thriller, mixing issues of ethics with a poignant coming-of-age story." – The Bookseller

"I am a 14 year girl and I thought this book was amazing. It was so unlike anything I have read before. The story twists and turns, every page reveals something new and unexpected. I would recommend this book to all teen readers who enjoy a good story and a fast paced thriller. But it is more than that; some of the issues in this novel have made me think, long after I finished the book. I give this book ten out of ten!" – Georgie James, Reader Review.

I’m also delighted to report that the audio rights for an unabridged reading of The Truth About Celia Frost have just been bought by AudioGo (BBC audio books). The audio book is due to be released on 1st December 2011.
I’m really looking forward to going over to Belfast and Dublin in September when I’ll be doing events and talking to readers about Celia Frost. The next few months are going to continue to be a busy and exciting time for me as I’m involved in various literary events around the country and I’m working hard on my second (stand-alone) thriller which needs to be delivered to Usborne quite soon.
Celia Frost is available in all good bookshops. If you are interested in keeping up with news about Celia Frost’s progress then she’s on facebook, twitter and has her own webpage at

Sara's debut novel Dark Parties is now out in the US and received a great review in the May issue of the American Library Association's Booklist.

"It's really the heart-pounding rush of twists that will induce extreme page turning."

Also check out the great Dark Parties trailer, Sara's US publisher Little, Brown did for the book.

The publication of Dark Parties in the UK, has been moved to 29th December, and is gathering a host of great reviews, too many to include all of them here. To find out what readers are saying about Dark Parties, visit the news page on Sara's website. Here's a taster for now:

"With vivid imagery and realistically portrayed teen angst and emotions, Grant creates a believable, if horrifying, world peopled with interesting and well developed characters...There are plenty of twists and turns. The conclusion is satisfying but leaves things open for a sequel, which should seriously be considered. Grant is a debut author to watch." – Library Media Connection

“Dark Parties started out SO freaking awesome!...This book is fast paced and WICKED suspenseful! Yet really romantic, sweet and sensual... There's death, betrayal and most of all hope.” -- The Bookish Brunette

“I have to say that it was probably Grant’s writing style that truly drew me in; I was hooked by the way she was able to so perfectly captures the uncertainty, fear, and longing in Neva’s life, all in just the first chapter. Then she continued to reel me in closer to the heart of the story with such impeccable pacing and plotting until the very satisfying conclusion. Dark Parties is so much more than a mere summary of review can every do justice. It drags up old ideas and forces the reader to really examine them closely. This is one of those rare books that provides both thrilling entertainment and a good reason to reevaluate one’s outlook and values.” -- The Book Muncher

“I absolutely loved this book. I could not put it down for anything, and when I was not reading it, I was thinking about it. Grant creates a very believable world, and such strong characters.” – Books Complete Me

“Don't expect to get anything done while reading it because it's INTENSE! And fabulous. It's exactly the way any dystopian should be.” – Candace’s Book Blog

Bryony and Savita were both off promoting their books at the time of writing, so we'll have to catch up with their news next time. All that remains is to wish you all the best – enjoy the rest of the summer (of course it's raining outside as I write this!) and hope to see you soon.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Location Location Location

Edge Author Katie Dale asks How Important is Location in Fiction?

Is it important where a story is set? At first consideration it might not seem to matter too much, and in some cases the location is pretty interchangeable. For example, Sam in Before I Fall could pretty much attend any US high school – or even be relocated to the UK, as the teen social scene is fairly similar (which is one of the reasons the book is so thought-provoking – this could happen to anyone.) But imagine Wuthering Heights set anywhere but the Yorkshire moors, or The Beach anywhere but Thailand. Indeed, sometimes location even almost becomes a character in its own right, such is its impact on the characters and plot.

Location affects among many things the climate of the story, the culture, the laws the characters must live by, what they wear, how they speak – the list is endless. Consequently, choice of location must be considered carefully.

Some authors choose real-life locations – Forks in the Twilight saga (whose largely overcast and inclement weather proves beneficial to its resident vampires); Hayling Island in Miriam Halahmy’s Hidden (vital as the location Alix encounters an illegal immigrant); others use real locations under a fictional name (e.g. Sarah Dessen’s Lakeview is based on Chapel Hill, North Carolina); whilst yet others create worlds all of their own – Middle-earth, Hogwarts, Oz, Neverland, Wonderland, Narnia – where the reader is reliant on the author to paint absolutely every detail for them in their imagination. What a responsibility – and what an opportunity!

Detail is equally important when using a real place – it must be accurate enough that if a reader visits (or lives there) they will find it as described in the novel. In my upcoming book, Someone Else’s Life, my main character, Rosie, discovers she was swapped at birth and tries to trace her real family to the States. Luckily, I had visited all the US locations, but when I did research to flesh out the details I discovered that sometimes fact is even more incredible than fiction! – I could never have invented a giant lobster-pot Christmas tree or the giant black and white photos covering the pier!

Whether real or imaginary, as well as affecting and enhancing the plot, a well-created sense of place enriches the reading experience no end. To feed the reader’s imagination in such a way that they actually feel like they’re physically transported to that setting – seeing, touching, tasting and smelling everything around them – is one of the most powerful things about fiction, truly bringing a story to life. Wherever a book’s location may be – real, imaginary, or somewhere in-between – perhaps the most important thing is that it must feel real for the reader. I'll always remember feeling Lyra's cold in Northern Lights, the stickily warm exotic night air in Sarah Singleton's The Island, and Lucy's delighted amazement as she steps through the wardrobe into a snow-covered Narnia, and I thrill at the knowledge that at any time I can revisit any one of these places and many, many more besides, simply by opening a book.

What are your favourite literary locations? Do you prefer real places or imaginary worlds?

Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale will be published by Simon & Schuster in the UK and Delacorte Press in the US in February 2012

Friday, 12 August 2011

The art of storytelling

Edge author, Dave Cousins asks: Can comics and graphic novels provide a gateway into reading?

The trend of turning comic book stories into blockbuster movies shows no sign of abating, yet the comic itself is still often over-looked, or rather looked down upon, as inferior to ‘proper novels’. But can comics actually play an important role in the development of prose literacy for young readers?

The UK government commissioned, School Library Association publication,
Boys into Books, included a number of comics and graphic novels in the list of suggested reading for 5 to 11-year-olds, while a Canadian Council on Learning report found that: “Boys who read comic books regularly also tend to read more text-based material and report higher levels of overall reading enjoyment, compared to boys who do not read comic books. In fact, some evidence supports the idea that comic books provide a “gateway” to other literary genres.” (1)

Many well-known authors cite comics as an important early influence, including
Desperate Dan fan, Michael Morpurgo, who read the Classics Illustrated comic series as a youngster rather than the books themselves. Philip Pullman, continues to champion the medium, contributing The Adventures of John Blake strip for David Fickling Comics. “The comics' form,” he believes, “has all the vivid immediacy of the cinema, and all the private advantages of the book.”

In the hands of skilled practitioner like Bill Watterson, author of Calvin and Hobbes, even the traditional four panel comic strip in a daily newspaper can be a fine, multi-layered piece of storytelling. A prime example of show-don’t-tell, and making frequent use of the cliff-hanger device, a well-written comic can provide a lesson in pacing and the effective use of dialogue. As with film, where every second of screen time costs money, each frame in a comic must be drawn and therefore earn its place on the page.

The popular myth that comics are only useful for immature readers is clearly ridiculous when you consider that to fully engage with a story told in strip form, the reader is required to not only read the words, but also the visual language of the pictures: the use of colour and lighting to create mood and tension, choice of framing and viewpoint – all sophisticated devices that are both subtle and powerful when skilfully employed.

In its purest form, the comic strip uses no words at all.
Shaun Tan’s beautiful graphic novel, Arrival is a fine example of this, as is Calvin and Hobbes (for which there are no superlatives worthy). Bill Watterson is renowned for his exquisitely perceptive, warm and witty dialogue, but is possibly at his jaw-dropping best when there are few or no words at all.

Calvin and Hobbes, copyright Bill Watterson

Recognition of the value of comics is gradually increasing. Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan won the Guardian First Book Award, and Art Spiegelman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Maus. Graphic novel versions of many  literary classics are now available, as well as popular series such as Artemis Fowl and Alex Ryder, and it was recently announced that David Fickling Comics will be reborn in 2012, as The Phoenix.

The statistics say that comics can provide a path into ‘reading’ – which is brilliant. But I’d like to suggest two things. Firstly,  that reading comics is reading; and secondly, that this path allows traffic to flow both ways, and we may find much to inform and entertain us on the comic book shelves.

15 DAYS WITHOUT A HEAD by Dave Cousins, will be published by Oxford University Press, in January 2012.

(1) source:  J. Ujiie & S. Krashen, "Comic book reading, reading enjoyment and pleasure among middle class and chapter 1 middle school students", Reading Improvements, no. 33 (1996), pp.51–54. 

Friday, 5 August 2011

Walking along the edge, or crossing the line? By Bryony Pearce

There’s been a lot of talk recently about YA fiction and how it crosses the line into indecency, horror, or depressing darkness. 

These people have a tendency to throw all YA fiction into the same blackened basket, completely forgetting writers such as Meg Cabot, Louise Rennison et al. 

Us edge writers though, can’t really complain about being mis-filed. Our writing is … dark. 

When I was writing Angel’s Fury, I read some teen horror because I wanted to know how ‘far’ I could go.  After reading some Darren Shan and visibly paling, I realised that I didn’t have to worry about limits in terms of graphic violence.  Angel’s Fury has self-imposed limits in that area so I wouldn’t say it crosses that line. 

My original draft of Angel’s Fury has a racist character tormenting a little Jewish boy. I ultimately had to change his character into a generically annoying kid, because my publisher was concerned that I, the writer, and by association Egmont, the publisher, would appear anti-Semitic if I allowed my characters to behave in that way.  I had some solid reasons for making Freddie (who eventually became Lenny) Jewish, including a lovely circularity that readers of the book will understand, but he had to go. 

I also had to remove a number of swear-words. 

Perhaps interestingly, the parts of the book that the publisher was most concerned about were the holocaust sections (at one point my Nazi was “too evil”, but we couldn’t make him too sympathetic either) and the chapter where Lenny ends up ‘in the hole’, which was considered too frightening – there were apparently lots of internal discussions about whether or not I could keep it. 

Yet the parts of Angel’s Fury that I was most concerned about writing, were not the scary elements, but the religious ones.  I was worried that there might be objections to the liberties I took with Hindu, Christian and Jewish lore.  So far there haven’t been objections (that I’m aware of); in fact people have liked them. 

To me this shows two things. One, that publishers aren’t just blindly publishing ‘dark’ fiction, they are seriously considering how our writing will effect readers, whether it is too racist, too scary or too offensive and that, as a mother, is very comforting.  The other thing is that as a writer, I appear to lack an awareness of what will cause a problem and what won’t.  What I was worried about turned out to be a total non-issue and things I didn’t hesitate about writing, had to be cut. 

So what does this tell me?  That as writers, perhaps we just need to tell the story we need to tell and rely on our publishers to make sure that we continue to walk the edge rather than crossing the line.  

Especially as, so often nowadays, those lines seem to waver.