Showing posts with label YA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label YA. Show all posts

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Playstation, Scooters and Short Novels. Fight!!!

So the new Playstation has been announced, and that affects YA authors how..? Well, if you don’t know your audience, how do you expect to write for them? The PS4 is the first of the new generation consoles, machines with so much power the games look more like interactive movies. But is this really what modern kids are after?

Killzone: Shadow Fall on the PS4
Back in September, I appeared on Litopia After Dark with internet legend Frank Edward Nora. Frank is a modern day Samuel Pepys, recording his observations of humanity on thousands of podcast diaries. He is convinced that as technology advances, we’re going to be lost in a virtual work, unable to separate reality from the digital universe, and it looks like the PS4 marks the next stage of that development.

Scary stuff if you buy into it. But I don't, and here's why.

Personally, I am quite excited about the PS4, possibly because I’ve followed the rise of video games since the PONG of the seventies. I spent my youth spent playing arcade games, followed the development of early computers from the ZX81 to Atari ST and eventually found myself working as an artist on 3D virtual reality games.


But my kids are more interested in iPods and those mini app games, so much so that we have an XBOX 360 and widescreen HDTV gathering dust while they move an iPod left and right to roll a ball about the screen - spending chunks of spare time on games that have the most basic of 2D graphics. A Facetime call comes in, then suddenly it’s "helmets on" and they're all off to the skatepark with stunt scooters. In between stunts, they’re pulling out iPods and iPhones, filming each other, (or “doing edits”), updating Facebook and streaming video. They’re not lost in a virtual world at all; they’re merging modern technology with their fun, exciting, busy lives.

Jack, doing a flying tail-whip (whatever that is)
And that’s the problem. Teen lives are busy as hell and console games are far too demanding. The average console game costs around £50 new and takes a good 60 hours to play through. You can’t simply shove it in and shoot stuff, you have to go through the standard tutorial level, then build up skills and weapons as you go. App-games, on the other hand, are cheap (many free) and so simple, you just need to see a few seconds and you know exactly what to do. Take Temple Run or Fruit Ninja. Both free, both simple, free and bags of fun. Turn on, play. Friend calls. Grab your skooter, a can of coke and voooooom, you’re off, with the game in your back pocket.

That’s what YA authors have to compete with, not the PS4.

So, is there a literary equivalent? If certain games are getting simpler in order to attract attention, can the same be done with the novel?

When I was a teen, I was a terrible reader. I could never finish a full novel. But then the Fighting Fantasy series came along and I was hooked. It was reading, and a game, all in one. But best of all, each time I read, it felt like I’d reached the end of the story.

I’m not suggesting these make a return, but I would like to see more short novels for teenagers, rather than doorstops that seem to be the current trend. Books like The Hunger Games, Northern Lights, Gone or The Enemy would have scared me shitless when I was a teen, just by their sheer length, even though the content would have been spot on for my tastes. That’s probably why, back then, I read more James Herbert than Stephen King.

The bottom line is that teens have so many easily accessible, bite-sized bits of fun screaming for their attention that they don’t have time for long games, let alone novels. The publisher that realises this, and captures the attention of the iPod crowd is going to make a lot of money. Maybe it’ll be another kind of adventure book, maybe it will be compact novellas or a modern take on chapbooks. I don’t know, but I’ve got a hunch that a new wave of short, exciting and accessible titles could be one way to grab this young, exciting, and very busy audience.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

My Big Day Out

I was invited down to London for two small events organised by Bounce. The first was an informal lunch with a few (very important) booksellers. The second was an event at Foyles, a fantastic book heaven on Charing Cross Road, where I met reviewers and key bloggers.

Me, holding an invisible balloon.
This was very relaxed and chatty, and I tried as well as I could not to go off on tangents - every now and again getting a subtle cough from Non, and then a clear, 'Colin! Tangent!' I managed to get back to Arabesque and answer a few questions.

The main ones were to do with strong language in teen fiction and the way I chose to end Arabesque. I'm not going to give any spoilers about that, but to give a taste of what I said at Foyles, the end is not meant to be a cliffhanger (I'm not planning a sequel, at least, not at the mo), but reflect the book's opening. However, I also felt it important to add that the YA books I enjoy the most don't tie up all of their loose threads. Life isn't like that, and as I like to write about teens being thrust into a cruel and violent adult world, it wouldn't be fair to have a lovely, happy ending where everything turns out just dandy. To illustrate this, I told a personal story of my uncle's tool shed, and what I found in his vice after he died.

Life can be shit, and death sucks too. I guess we're stuck with both.

Book Signing - this one was an
Arabesque poster for Sister Spooky
As for the strong language - I could blog all day about this, but I want to save as much as I can for Litpopia After Dark on the 16th. I'll post a link for anyone who misses that, and do a full blog on strong language shortly after.

At the end, I got a chance to ask questions of our bloggers, and how valued they feel - if they do at all. I hope they do, because usually, even when I find a book that I want to buy, I tend to hang fire and check reviews first, and I find myself going back to the same bloggers. So keep at it! Bloggers are mint!

Between the two events, I managed to do a quick run, around London, snapping as many photos as I could.

Meeting local celebs
At the Tate Modern
Cool phone box near Foyles
Chinatown at night

When we left Foyles, I went with Non, Matt and Caroline (two mega-librarians) for my first experience of a Japanese restaurant.

And this morning, on my way home, I used all of the photos I took to make a Powerpoint of my Big Day Out for my youngest. So much more fun that just telling him.

On the train, making my Powerpoint for Cameron

All in all - a mighty fine visit. Thanks to everyone involved in organising the day, and everyone who came along. It was a blast.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Event: Colin and Non at Foyles

Several events coming up. The first is Foyles in London. I'll be there with my editor, (and YA author too!!) Non Pratt, talking about YA authory stuff. - okay, that's not selling it very well...  (coughs) I'll be telling horrible stories, juggling knives and trying not to make the audience sick (like I did at Shiney Row library :o))

Click here for the FB page. 
ARABESQUE event at FOYLES

So er... come along. It'll be brilliant!!!

ADDED: Erm.. well I tried a quick juggling practice in the garden. Might not be the best idea.


Thursday, 19 July 2012

Advance Copy Arrives

This probably seems a strange thing to do, but for anyone who dreams of being published, this is one of those key moments when the dream becomes a reality.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Swearing in YA fiction

Does strong language have an impact on the commercial success of a book?
There is a big difference between dialogue and transcribed speech. When people talk, in the right environment, every other word can be expletive and no one cares. Usually, this is because the swearing in speech is often used as a wild-card adjective to save having to think of anything more suitable. With teens, there is the added whammy that bad language can define independence. It becomes such a prominent part of their language that some kids can speak in nothing other than swear words and still get their point across.
In a book, that would be awkward to read and ultimately dull. Some writers of adult fiction suffer from this; their novels are so peppered with profanity that you end up having to skim through repetitive crap to get to the story. That bugs the hell out of me and usually puts me off.
So when is it appropriate?
A carefully placed f-bomb can have real impact in certain situations. Rather than just anger, attitude or strength, they can define a specific turning point for a character, their failure, or sudden confidence. There are only a few instances in Clash, and I battled with each one, deciding whether they were justified. If not, they went.
The alternative use of bad language is to show realism - because in the real world, villains tend to swear. The problem with this is that if you have villains in several scenes, you need to be consistent in their language. The single f-bomb no longer works, because that first instance wasn't a revelation; it wasn't a surprise. So if your baddy swears in chapter two, you need to follow through wherever else they appear. If you do that, the f-count rockets up and you end up wondering if this is going to cause a problem. Book sellers can refuse to stock it if they don't consider it suitable for teens, as can libraries and schools, parents...
But can you have a strong, violent thriller without bad language?
Two writers come immediately to mind. Suzanne Collins and Lee Child.
Suzanne Collins wrote The Hunger Games, a book that’s chock-a-block with childhood violence and murder, but has no bad language. Is that because it’s a children’s novel? Maybe, but it doesn’t stop it selling to adults. The three books in the trilogy top the ebook charts as well as paperback sales. Does a lack of bad language hamper the story? Well... in places I can’t help thinking Katniss would react a bit more strongly.
But Lee Child is something else. Lee Child writes commercial thrillers for adults. His books are violent, include murder, imprisonment, brutality, violence, rape and paedophilia with a main character who is strong, moody, and at times explosive. But no bad language. Nothing. I actually reached the end of the first novel (actually, I read #11 first) before realising. So in that case, it worked perfectly well.
But why? Do these authors feel like I do, that too much bad language is repetitive and boring, or that too little makes it obvious that it has been toned down? Or is it a commercial strategy? It might not make a difference with adult thrillers, but I can't help wondering if the Hunger Games was splattered with swear words, would it still be the massive success it is?
I don’t know. All I do know is that Arabesque goes to proof in a couple of weeks... and I need to decide if the strong language I've got so far is essential to plot, or a bullet in the foot.
What do you think? Should YA novels have strong language, or can you maintain the illusion without?

Thursday, 16 February 2012

BOOOOOM!!!

I feel like my head's exploded. I've just completed a mega turbo ninja edit of ARABESQUE.

I posted a blog at the start of this edit when I first went over the document. It can be difficult for a writer to see all those red lines and comments, but ultimately, it's the sign of a good editor. Of course, the other sign is the editor who insists that all those marks are suggestions, and not orders.

In the case of Arabesque, I think I agreed with about 95%. Copy edits are a doddle - you just decide whether the gramatical changes suit. The suggested changes are the tough ones, but the most satisfying - that's the fun stuff.

So there you go. Writing a novel takes a bit more work than just churning out the words. And just because you've been through the process once, doesn't make your writing flawless the next time round. You'll still need an editor, but the process of editing become easier. It's also good to look back on old attempts and see how far you've come. You realise that what you once thought was brilliant, is actually crap. But more importantly, you'll realise why!

Right... off to find something else to do.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Kyle's Drawing from CLASH

Okay, Kyle is fictional, so no, this isn't really his drawing, but it is the image that inspired a certain scene.



In Clash, Kyle is at a loss what to do when his mother is in the maternity ward and her baby (Kyle's brother) is in an incubator in Special Care. He ends up doing a drawing so his mother can have an image of her baby by her bed - all because the other mothers in the ward have their actual babies in cots by their beds.

This scene was taken from real life.

When my wife had our first boy, he was in an incubator in the Special Care Baby Unit, and she was up in a ward where other mothers had their babies in cots - a bit cruel, but there you go. A decent ward might have put her in a side room.

For some reason I thought you weren't allowed to use cameras in the special care unit (there were some very premature babies in there under special lighting). So I nipped home, grabbed a drawing pad, pencils and set to work. I went back up to the ward and pinned the picture to the wall.

However, there is a spooky side to this story. When we lived in Washington, loads of strange things happened when Matthew came home. His mobile would spin on its own, the cat would go nuts for no reason... there were other weird things too, but the strangest was the morning when this drawing (in its frame) fell off the wall for no reason. This happened at 6am while we were still in bed. The bang woke us up, and I came downstairs to find the frame behind the TV. Rather than refix it there and then, I put in on the bookcase and went back to bed...

...That evening, we had a flood and every picture that was still hanging in our front room was ruined as water streamed down the walls.

Whoooooooooooo.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Rock Music, Stage Diving and a Fire Crew - It's the Clash Launch Party

Thursday 3rd March was one of the craziest nights of my life. Rather than launch the book in a shop or library, I booked a theatre and got local teen rock band, Hell's Marauders, to play.

There were a few surprises during the night. The first was the cake Paula had made, with the full clash cover printed on the icing. The second was the fire engine in the car park.The third was being dragged up on stage to sing Anarchy in the UK with the band.

I think I might be the first author to do a stage dive at a launch party.

The fire crew were there thanks to Nev. Nev gave me some help on a few technical details in the novel. He was on call on Thursday night but wanted to come along, so he turned up in a fire engine with the whole crew.

Catnip editor Non Pratt got up to do a truly wonderful introduction, then I jumped up, grabbed the mike and screamed out, "HELLO FATFIELD!" - proper rockstar style!

I calmed down enough to do a short talk about YA fiction and a reading of chapter one. The band played punk and metal tracks while I signed books. When the books sold out, the band (Cai, Lewis, Mich & Simon) came over to tell me their suprise idea of getting me up to sing a Sex Pistols track with them - a childhood dream come true!


Many thanks to everyone who turned up: workmates, friends and family - some I haven't seen for years. All in all, the launch night of legend.

CLASH

has landed!