Friday, 30 August 2013

Switching off to switch back on, by Bryony Pearce

It’s been a fantastic month for me.  On the 1st my new book, The Weight of Souls, launched with Strange Chemistry.  It already has some great reviews.  

Then on the 8th, I went on holiday.  Two weeks in Turkey (I returned to England last week).  It was brilliant, not only because I got to spend some real quality time with the family, or because we enjoyed wonderful food and weather, or because we went on excursions to amazing places (The Lycian Tombs, Turtle beach, Mud baths, Camel Beach etc), but because my brain got to completely turn off from the to-do-lists and daily grind. 

When I look at the presentation I do for school visits, one thing really stands out: that I got my inspiration for Angel’s Fury from two holidays (Bali and Spain).  

Holidays are a genuine source of inspiration for me.  I love to discover the history and culture of other countries, to experience what it is like to be in new places, to look at the local religious and political environment.  All of that feeds into the melting pot from which my stories come.
Going to Turkey has enabled me to store a whole lot of story pieces. 

The most important thing about getting away from the day-to-day though, is the fact that my brain can turn off (it doesn’t often happen). 
That meant that half way through the holiday I found myself grabbing Andy’s crossword book and using the back to scribble notes for my next book.  Allowing my brain to switch off allows my creativity more fertile ground and permits the ideas to brew.

Hopefully I now have enough to keep me going for another year and one day my presentation will cite Turkey as an inspiration for a storyline. 

Do you need to switch your mind off in order to get the creativity moving?  
How do you do it?

Friday, 23 August 2013

In praise of Keren David

 Curiosity killed the cat, so the saying goes, and I've always felt a little uncomfortable about my need to know more, to ask the awkward question, to poke my nose into other people's business. Luckily for me I spent most of my working life as a news journalist, a profession which legitimises those urges and enables you to ask people things that British reticence would normally rule out of bounds.

The other day I got the chance to combine two things that I love. We went to the seaside -  Whitstable, Margate and Broadstairs in Kent -  and I visited a new (to me) art gallery.
The Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate opened two years ago, and it's got a great position right on the sea front. Right now - until September 15 -  there is a fantastic exhibition which is well worth catching. Again and again as I looked around I found myself thinking 'There's a novel in that..'

The exhibition is called Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing, and it combines fascinating artefacts with contemporary  art, the emphasis being on the quirky, the extraordinary, items with a story attached. Often the people connected to the objects were just as curious as the items themselves.

‘Like the cabinet of curiosities of the 17th century, which mixed science and art, ancient

and modern, reality and fiction, this exhibition refuses to choose between knowledge
and pleasure. It juxtaposes historical periods and categories of objects to produce an eccentric map of curiosity in its many senses’ says curator Brian Dillon.

So, there is a vast over-stuffed walrus, and Albrecht Durer's engraving of a rhinocerous. A cabinet belonging to diarist John Evelyn,decorated with inlaid wood and full of secret drawers; a stuffed penguin collected from one of Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expeditions. The dignified expression on the face of this beautiful bird was unforgettable.
John Dee was a mathematician and magician, an adviser to Elizabeth I. On show are his black mirror and crystal -  used for 'scrying' or predicting the future.  Alfie West was a champion cyclist in 1920s, who developed a method for  - literally -  splitting hairs, and making art from it. Nina Katchadourian takes self portraits  evoking 15th century Flemish art -  using materials available in an aeroplane's lavatory. It's an exhibition that makes you think about the  artist's imagination as much as the art that they make.

I came out of the gallery with my head spinning, full of inspiration and wanting to know more about virtually everything I'd seen. It reminded me of Rembrandt's curios in the Rembrandhuis in Amsterdam, which I've visited often. Rembrandt bankrupted himself buying rare and curious objects - Roman helmets, tortoise shells -  and visiting the lovingly restored house where he lived, I always valued his legacy of wonder.

The Margate exhibition starts off with this dictionary definition of curiosity and it struck me how many of the definitions apply to writing. Above all 'Inquisitiveness about matters which do not concern one' is essential to writing fiction. But also careful (or elaborate) workmanship; skill and cleverness; scrupulousness; whim and fancy; a desire to know or learn about something.

And the best books are in themselves cabinets of curiosities, bringing together people and ideas and places and things that make you wonder and think and imagine. 

If you're in need of inspiration, get yourself to Margate, where the  beach is as beautiful as the art in the gallery. And may all your works embody curiosity in all its forms - with no cats killed as a result.

Friday, 16 August 2013


This week, we’re delighted to introduce Jess from Jess Hearts Books blog

Hi guys, thanks for having me! I’m Jess - a twenty something, British Nerdfighter with a love for all things Disney. I’ve been blogging on my book blog Jess Hearts Books for three years now. I mainly blog about YA but there is some Chick-Lit and New Adult on there too for good measure! It’s bizarre to be interviewed; usually I’m the one interviewing the authors!

      Why do you READ and WRITE about teen/YA books?

I love to read YA books as I think it’s the most diverse and interesting genre around. One minute you can be reading a book set in the future with robots and aliens and the next be reading a love story about an ordinary girl crushing on her best friend! I blog because I love discussing books with other readers. Nothing makes me happier than receiving a message from one of my readers saying they’ve enjoyed a book I’ve recommended or reviewed. I like to blog about YA because I think it’s important to get teens reading. At this age with plenty of required reading for school I know it can make or break a teen’s relationship with books. I like to highlight the amazing books out there that they can relate to with characters going through the same, or similar, struggles as them. It’s very easy to feel alone and isolated as a teenager and reading can not only provide a great escape but can also provide role models to take inspiration from and look up to.

   What are the most ORIGINAL YA books that you have read?

I think the most original series I’ve ever read is The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer it’s about fairytale creatures, cyborgs, people who live on the moon, an evil queen…it’s bizarre but utterly fantastic and unique. Ultraviolet by R J Anderson is a book that I wouldn’t even know what genre it fits into it’s that different! I guess the best way to describe it would be a YA Psychological Thriller - with a twist! Cat Patricks books also have some unusual and undiscovered concepts.

     What is a TURN OFF in YA fiction?

A pet peeve of mine with any book would be poor editing. It just comes across as very careless, sloppy, and half-hearted and in my opinion can ruin what could be a brilliant book. Series that are ridiculously long with eight or more books I usually just end up giving up on. I’m also not a fan of most love triangles unless they are done really well and have purpose to the story.

      What makes for a great YA book?

My favourite YA books are books that are strong in Plot, Characterisation and Prose. I think you can write about pretty much anything and if the writing is engaging, the plot well explored and paced out, and there are characters that feel real and relatable then any story on any subject has the potential to be a great one.


    Which YA characters would you most like to take OUT TO DINNER and why?

I’d love to have Will and Jace from The Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instruments - although they are from the same world they are alive in different time periods and I’d love to get them together to see how they get on! I’d also like to invite Kat from Heist Society - I think we’d get on really well and it’d be pretty awesome to pick the brains of a teen criminal mastermind!

   Who is your ideal YA HERO/HEROINE and why?

I like heroes and heroines who are strong - not necessarily physically but mentally. I like characters that are intelligent, brave and compassionate. A side of nerdy and witty is also very much appreciated! Simon from The Mortal Instruments I feel has all of these traits and even though he’s not the main hero in the story he’s my hero. One of my favourite heroines of all time is Rose from Vampire Academy she’s intelligent, funny, a loyal friend, and is strong in every way possible.


     What is your dream YA ROMANTIC PAIRING and why?

Rose and Dimitri from Vampire Academy are my all-time favourite YA couple. They have this amazing chemistry that sizzles off the pages and they respect one another hugely. They make an incredible team.

      What makes you uncomfortable or question the BOUNDARIES OF YA fiction?

I’m all for the controversial reads that put hard, or even taboo, subjects under the microscope. No matter how uncomfortable a topic is you can bet that there is a teenager somewhere going through it and I think these books are important for teens and parents to read and discuss together. I’ve found time and time again that books that are banned or controversial or make for uncomfortable reading are the books that provide the biggest lifeline to teenagers who are experiencing similar things.

     What would you LIKE to see happening in YA over the next five years?

I’d honestly like to see more standalone novels! It seems like everything is part of a series these days and it’s hard to keep up with them all! I’d also really like love triangles to become a thing of the past and perhaps see some stories that have no love story at all. I enjoy romance as much as the next person but I find it unrealistic and unnecessary that every single story and situation requires one.

  What do you think will ACTUALLY be the next big thing in YA fiction?

I’ve been seeing a few books based on Japanese Mythology this year and Parallel Worlds. These seem to be the hot new topics in YA.

Give us your top FIVE TEEN/YA books please, Jess

I’ve just took a peep at my favourites shelf and these books jumped out at me! There’s some Fantasy, Contemporary and Historical Fiction in there but despite genre I’d recommend these to anyone who simply loves good YA!

 Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

And finally, Jess, if you read ONE book this year, read THIS...

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey is my favourite book of 2013 so far and is something I’d recommend to anyone! The characters are fantastic, the plot is mind blowing, there are so many twists and turns and the writing is so incredibly powerful. I think it has all the ingredients that make a great book (as mentioned above!) - I couldn’t put it down!

Jess, thanks so much for submitting to the EDGE INTERROGATION!

Phew! *Wipes sweat off brow* I think I’m going to go have a little lie down with a book now after that! 


If you’d like to read more of Jess’ reviews, you can find her here:
And you can follow her on twitter @JessHeartsBooks



Friday, 9 August 2013

The Nirvana of Writing

EDGE Author Sara Grant 
is falling in love again

I’m experiencing writer’s nirvana. I’m more than 30,000 words into my new teen novel, which I’ve tentatively titled Mind Fields. After many failed attempts, I finally have a pretty solid outline, an interesting setting to explore, a cast of engaging characters, and time each day to write. For me that’s better than winning the lottery.
As I’m writing and discovering the story, I keep hearing Marlene Dietrich sing:

“Falling in love again
Never Wanted to
What am I to do?
I can't help it.” 

Until now it’s been a battle. Me against the novel I wanted it to be. And then Me against the novel it wanted to be. I tried several times to start Mind Fields, but something kept stopping me. Starting a new project is scary. There’s always the fear of failure that lurks at the back of my mind. I can’t help but hear the one-star reviews for my yet-to-be-penned story or worse yet see the pile of rejection letters from publishers. If I start, then I can fail. If it remains a glimmering idea in my head, it will always be perfect.

I also know the all-consuming stress and obsession of revising a novel and polishing every word until it shines. Once I start, then I’m heading for lots of time hunched over a computer. The story and characters will invade my brain with ideas at 3 a.m. and revision notes almost constantly.

But me and Marlene can’t help it.

Fear and stress only momentarily cloud my progress. Then I remember why I do it.

I love it.

Then it’s hello nirvana!

This is my favorite stage of the novel-writing process. It’s all going well. The characters are behaving. I can't wait to see what will happen next. I’m sticking to my outline but am pleasantly surprised by twists and turns that add to what I’ve already created. This could be my best novel yet. Amazon will have to adjust its rating system to add a sixth star because five is not enough. The nominations will fall from the heavens like manna. Reviewers will use words like ‘genius’ and ‘beyond original’ and maybe even ‘mind blowing’.

A writer can dream, can't she?

I’ve learned to enjoy this part because it won’t last. Once I have a rough draft, I will start to see its flaws. Spot the cracks in the plot. Discover my characters’ shortcomings.

Then my writers group, agent and editors will read it. Don’t get me wrong. I'm a fan of feedback. I treasure my agent’s and editors’ suggestions. They’ve taken my previous novels to the next level. But revision and re-envisioning your masterpiece takes patience and practice -- and hard work.

Each book has its own process and challenges. I’ve learned from every love and loss and misadventure. Sometimes it takes two major revisions to iron out the plot; sometimes it takes nine. Perhaps to find the voice I must first write it in an omniscient point of view then try it in first but settle on a close third-person narration. All these trials and errors before, during and after the draft are necessary -- and I'm learning to love them too.

But enough writing about writing. I’m off to discover what happens next and enjoy the euphoria while it lasts.


A Few Announcements

Win signed copies of 10 YA books 
featured at the Edinburgh Book Festival!

I’m thrilled to once again be speaking at the Edinburgh Book Festival. This year I was invited by four Edinburgh-bound authors of young adult fiction to participate in a pre-festival book hunt. We are giving away signed copies of ten of our books. Visit my web site for event details and more info about our giveaway :

Our book hunt closes at midnight GMT on 26th August 2013.

Undiscovered Voices

The deadline is fast approaching for the next Undiscovered Voices. If you are an unagented and unpublished writer or illustrator focusing on fiction for children and teens, check out

From the three previous anthologies, 22 of the 36 selected authors – including EDGE authors Dave, Katie, Bryony and me – have received publishing contracts for more than 70 books.

The submission deadline is 15th August.

If you plan to submit, good luck!

Sara Grant is the author of the dark, futuristic teen thrillers Dark Parties and Half Lives. She also writes Magic Trix, a fun friendship series for young readers. She is the co-creator and co-editor of Undiscovered Voices.


Friday, 2 August 2013


Paula Rawsthorne discusses the value of school libraries which seem increasingly under siege.

 I’ve heard a great many secondary school students say that they never, voluntarily, read a book because studying literature in lessons has made them feel that reading is work.  I know that talented English teachers do their utmost to enthuse their pupils in lessons.  However, sometimes the tedium of having to go over and over a text, picking it apart in anticipation of exam questions, can destroy the enjoyment of even the most brilliant book and kill off the urge to read at all.

 Often schools need to reignite (or ignite) the desire to read for pure pleasure.  It’s liberating to pick up a book, safe in the knowledge that you won’t be tested on it.  It’s great to become engrossed in a story whose themes and characters may well hold meaning for you, but you have the luxury of deciding whether you want to explore them, or just finish it and think, “I really enjoyed that.”

I believe that school libraries play a vital role in enabling students to discover, and get into the habit of, reading for pleasure.  An enjoyable aspect of my job, as an author for Young Adults, is visiting secondary schools to run workshops and to talk about reading, writing and my novels.  As well as meeting hundreds of students, I get to meet a lot of school librarians and see their libraries.  The librarians I’ve met have come across as dedicated and hard- working and they want to do everything within their power to engage the pupils in reading  (hence, they have gone to the trouble of organising the author visit)

But during my travels I’ve noticed how varied school libraries can be and their quality seems to be highly influenced by the head teacher’s perspective and priorities.  In some schools it’s obvious that the libraries are being colonised by ‘ICT suites’.  Ironically books aren’t the focus of some school libraries and this is often (but not always) signposted by the change of name to ‘Learning Resource Centre’.

Sometimes, when I enter a school library, computers are the first thing I see.  The computers dominate the room whilst the books lurk around the edges or are demoted to a corner.  I understand that it must be very tempting for some heads to invest in ICT suites at the expense of the school library.  Maybe they believe that books are redundant now that you can access anything and everything on the Internet. However, I believe Hschool libraries are essential and that the Internet is no substitute for books. Schools without libraries are not helping their students to become discerning, independent learners.

The 2011 Ofsted report ‘Removing Barriers to Literacy’ recognised that school libraries ‘contribute markedly to inspiring literacy skills.’  It stated that the enthusiasm and responsiveness of the librarians generally had a direct impact on the attitudes of the students towards the library and reading.

The school library offers the opportunity to open up the world of books and reading for pleasure, especially for students who’ve never had books at home and aren’t of the mind-set to use their community library.  Some school libraries I visit are inviting spaces, bright with comfy seats, quiet areas for study and well stocked, with a variety of the latest YA fiction as well as classics, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers and journals.  It’s possible to make the libraries attractive to even the ‘too cool for school’ kids.  An enthusiastic, knowledgeable librarian is able to open up the world of reading  by spending time finding out what kind of story interests even the most reluctant of readers.  I find it’s useful to chat about what films/t.v  reluctant readers are into and then suggest a book in the same genre.

I’ve seen schemes that encourage ‘pupil librarians’ who learn to use the computer system, how to stock the shelves and recommend books to their peers.  In some schools, library lessons are timetabled so that pupils can learn how to use a library and develop their information literacy, aided by the librarians.  These lessons help to increase independent learning skills and teach students to be more selective about information they use instead of just picking the first article they find on a search engine.

Many librarians set up school book groups and it’s always a pleasure to talk to them.  These groups have an enthusiastic, welcoming atmosphere and the students appreciate having the autonomy to choose and debate books that appeal to them. These librarians are doing any invaluable job.

 But I’ve also been in schools that have ‘got rid’ of their library (and hence their librarian) to make way for an ICT suite and so have redirected library resource money into buying computers.  One school told me that the Head saw that only a few pupils used the library anyway, but surely that Head should have been asking why this was the case and at what they could do about it.  Shouldn’t they have been proactive, raising the profile of their library and the status of reading for pleasure; making the school library an inviting place to spend time, getting authors in to enthuse pupils about reading, investing in the latest books that will appeal to teenagers, instead of running the library down into a forgotten wasteland?

I’ve been in schools were the librarians have felt undervalued by staff and management.  I’ve been in schools where over-stretched English departments have no time or interest in working with their school librarians to create a buzz about reading.  They are so confined by the curriculum that they only focus on getting students through exams, rather than the wider value of cultivating a love of reading for pleasure.  Whilst this is understandable it is unhelpful; not every pupil is going to get excited about Shakespeare!  Research keeps showing that students who enjoy reading do better in their studies.  
There are many dynamic school librarians out there and they and their libraries need to be valued and given the status and resources they deserve.   

It’s required by law to have libraries in prison, but it’s not in schools.  What message is this giving to our head teachers as they measure up the school library to change into an ICT suite?

What are your thoughts and experiences of school libraries?

Paula Rawsthorne is the author of the award winning The Truth About Celia Frost. Her new novel Blood Tracks is out now. “Blood Tracks confirms Paula Rawsthorne as one of the U.K’s best young adult authors.” (The Lancaster Guardian)