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!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Patron of Reading at St Bedes

Last Friday was my first day as Patron of Reading at St Bede's School, and I had a wonderful time with very engaged and amusing English classes from Year 7, 8 and 9. I received dozens of suggestions of books to include in the year long reading challenge I am launching, from Geek Girl to The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. More details about the reading challenge are at the bottom of the page.

In the sessions, we talked together about why we love reading, and whether or not it is a cool thing to admit to (this seems to change quite dramatically if you attend secondary school or not...) and discussed books that we love.

Living proof that a love of reading is Extremely Cool.

I met lots of enthusiastic readers, including some enthusiastic readers of Infinite Sky (my favourite kind). And most importantly of all, I had a bona fide school dinner: breadcrumbed fish, jacket potato wedges and beans.

"Excellent." *****

So for any students who weren't lucky enough to be in my sessions, and who want to get involved with my reading challenge, here are the details:

CJ's Reading Challenge for St Bede's

The challenge (if you choose to accept it) is to commit to reading as many books as you can in a year. The challenge was launched on World Book Day 2016, and ends on World Book Day 2017.

6 books = bronze
12 books = silver
24 books = gold
30 books = diamond

The prize for completing the reading challenge, whether at bronze, silver, gold or diamond levels is to be featured on the Reader’s Wall of Fame on my blog, to be entered into the Reading Challenge prize draw, and - most valuable of all - to have read 6, 16, 24 or 30 books in a year!

I will be aiming for diamond, and will let you know how I get on… What will you be aiming for?

Suggested titles from me, St Bede's students and teachers

Grandpa’s Great Escape by David Walliams
Good Dog Bad Dog by Dave Shelton
Infinite Sky by C J Flood
Any from Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
Paper Towns by John Green
The Last Wild by Piers Torday
Mazerunner by James Dashner
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The Worry Website by Jacqueline Wilson
Pigheart Boy by Malorie Blackman
Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Red Ink by Julia Mayhew
Leopold Blue by Rosie Rowell
Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallace
Trouble by Non Pratt
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Girl Online by Zoe Sugg aka Zoella
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman
Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
13 Chairs by Dave Shelton
Hollow Earth by John and Carol Barrowman
A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton
A Monster Calls by Siobhan Down and Patrick Ness
Martyn Pig by Kevin Brooks
To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
Any from the Geek Girl series by Holly Smale
Any from the Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renee Russell
Any from the Young Samurai series
Any from the Chocolate Box Girls by Cathy Cassidy
Pointe by Brandy Colbert
Eragon by Paolini
Have a Little Faith by C J Harper
Nightwanderers by C J Flood
Daylight by Ed Hogan
Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell
The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss
The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
Junk by Melvin Burgess
ACID by Emma Pass
The Fearless by Emma Pass
Coconut Unlimited by Nikesh Shukla

Do you have any more suggestions? Please let me know in comments below, if so.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Hello 2016!

Happy new year people!

So the end of 2015 was mostly taken up with editing my second novel. In case you don't know, it's called Nightwanderers, and is about a girl called Rosie Bloom and her best friend, Titania DeFuria, and the trouble they get themselves into as a result of their love for roaming their seaside town in the middle of the night (hence the title.)

My best friend and I used to do this when we were teenagers, climbing out of my bedroom window and donning my dad's balaclava to run through our fearsome teacher's garden, and I had much fun returning to those foolish and exhilarating times to write Rosie's story.

Nightwanderers is set in a fictionalised version of Falmouth in Cornwall where I lived for eight years, and I loved returning to that beautiful harbour town in my imagination. I hope people will enjoy the story that emerged from blending these elements. More news on the book's progress soon...

My editor, Rachel Mann, has been brilliant in supporting me to get this novel right, and lots of her suggestions have helped to improve the book. More evidence that writing novels can be an extremely collaborative process.

The end of 2015 was also devoted to teaching Creative Writing to undergraduates at Bath Spa, and to visiting schools to talk about Infinite Sky. I had a particularly lovely time at St Bede's Catholic School in Bristol last month, and am delighted to be their Patron of Reading for 2016. Keep an eye out here for posts relating to what I will be doing in my time there...

2015 was a stellar year for UKYA, and my favourite read was Rosie Rowell's Leopold Blue, winner of the year's Branford Boase Award, along with many of the other shortlisted books. Please read them all! Of the not-published-in-2015-nor-necessarily-UK-YA books I read, I loved Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mendel, Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer and Meg Rosoff's new book for adults, which is hilarious, and everyone must read, and that I can't remember the name of (or find online.)

I delayed posting this after hearing the sad news that David Bowie had died on Monday. A man that truly lived. To celebrate his shining life, here is a video of him singing and dancing and waving bye bye in all his feline glory.

I hope 2016 promises good things for you. Thanks for reading!