Today I'm excited to be participating in the YA Shot 2016 Blog Tour!
(Taken from their website) If you didn't know...YA Shot is an author-run, author-led Young Adult and Middle Grade festival that raises the money and resources to run a year-long programme pairing libraries and schools for free author events to foster a love of reading, inspire a passion for writing, and encourage aspirations to careers in the Arts. We believe in equal access to books and opportunities for all – YA Shot brings UKYA and UKMG authors together to pursue that goal, supporting libraries and young people across the country. At present, we’re a not-for-profit organisation but we’re seeking to become a charity.
YA Shot is a one-day annual festival based in the centre of Uxbridge (London). The 2016 festival will take place on Saturday 22nd October 2016. Around 70 authors are involved in a programme of workshop, panel and ‘in conversation’ events (plus book-signing sessions) in the Uxbridge Civic Centre, Waterstone’s Uxbridge and Uxbridge Library. There is also a programme of fantastic blogging and vlogging workshops. YA Shot is run in partnership with Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstone’s Uxbridge.
I was able to go last year and it was a wonderful opportunity to see authors and readers alike connecting through their love of reading, while also raising money.
And now I have an interview with the wonderful author Michelle Harrison about writing, future selves and talking animals (as you do). Don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end!
1) Hi Michelle, thanks so much for sparing some time for this interview, could you tell us a little about your latest book The Other Alice and what inspired it?
The Other Alice is about a writer whose characters leave the pages and enter the real world if she's unable to finish a story. When Alice goes missing her little brother Midge discovers a secret book she's been working on – The Museum of Unfinished Stories – and realises that the weird people popping up are its characters . . . including the villains who have their own idea of what the ending should be. It's down to Midge to stop them, and find Alice.
The book was inspired by a few things: initially writer's block and the feeling of being haunted by my own characters whenever I've left them in a tight spot that takes a while to write them out of. I've often thought about all the unfinished stories in the world, too, that are either given up on or never completed because the author has died first. It makes me sad to think about them, and their characters left in limbo.
2) Can you give some examples of when ideas came to you, accidentally/in weird ways?
Most of my ideas are accidental and are stored for months or even years before they get used. The idea for the ritual of the Summoning in Midge's hometown, Fiddler's Hollow, came from the village of Orsett, Essex near where I live. Every year, people make straw scarecrow figures which they leave outside their houses, usually to the theme of what that person does for a living. I've always enjoyed driving past and looking at them. I'd initially set the story around Halloween and my mind started wandering about some sort of spooky ritual that could take place involving effigies (Likenesses) that villagers could use to 'Summon' that person. It evolved from there, and you can see the links between the Likenesses and Guy Fawkes being burned on a bonfire! I later changed the time of year to February and made it a custom of the town in its own right.
Then there's the five-legged stag that features later in the story. This came to me by happy accident, driving past the real five-legged stag: a statue in Dorset on the grounds of Charborough House. I'd never have thought of it otherwise. And the idea for Alice's novel, The Museum of Unfinished Stories, came from hearing about the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia (www.brokenships.com). I found this such a sad but intriguing idea, and it just fused with the 'unfinished stories' theme and went ping in my head.
3) If you were to create a Likeness (a doll that looks like someone: fictional, dead or far away) and then ask that person one question, who would it be and what would you ask?
I'd Summon myself from the future and ask how things had gone. Then try to work with whatever the answer was to make it better. Or, if time travel wasn't allowed, I'd Summon Tabitha (the talking cat from The Other Alice) and ask her to give me one of her nine lives.
4) What’s the best/worst writing advice you’ve ever received?
Best: Get it written, then get it right. It's virtually impossible to finish a story by repeatedly editing as you go along. Get the whole thing down first, then sort out the messy bits later.
Worst: To look for agents who represent books/authors similar to you/rs. I did this when I was querying and got nowhere. When I decided to sell my book as being nothing like others already on an agent's list, that was the agent who took me on. Perhaps it won't work for everyone, but it did for me.
5) What was your journey to getting published like (finding an agent, seeing the book cover etc.)?
It was like being dipped in that horrible sludgy water you get in the rubber rim of your washing machine, wrung out, put on a spin, then coming out and being re-dipped in melted Lindt chocolate. To elaborate, the submission/rejection stage can be a gloomy time where you question your worth and consider giving up – a lot. But once I got that lucky break, an agent who loves and believes in my work, good things started to happen. Securing a publishing deal was one of the best moments of my life. Seeing the book covers take shape from concept to final artwork is really exciting. And finally seeing your new book on the shelves never, ever gets old.
6) If there was a book of your life, with everything written from start to finish, would you read it and why?
I'd be lying if I said no! I wouldn't be able to resist – I'm terrible with surprises. I also love anything spooky to do with divination such as tarot cards (as you'll be able to tell if you read this story) so the idea of seeing my future written would hold a lot of appeal, even if I'd probably regret looking.
7) If you could have any animal be able to talk, what would it be?
Oh, a cat. They're so self-centred, and sneaky and disdainful. I'd love to get inside their heads.
8) Would you rather not be able to talk or only be able to shout?
Ha ha ha! Definitely not be able to talk. I'm used to being silent much of the time with my work, and having an Essex accent usually leads to people jumping to certain conclusions. I enjoy being the dark, quiet mysterious one at parties, anyway . . .
9) If someone came to the door claiming to be a person from 3016, what would you do/say?
I'd offer them my clothes, my boots and my Mini (because I don't have a motorcycle).
10) If you could have any superpower what would it be?
Flying. As a teenager I used to have so many vivid dreams of flying, and it was amazing. I rarely have flying dreams now – sob.
Fan fiction yay or nay? For me personally it's a nay, but I've no problem with other people doing it.
Ebook or paperback? Paperback. I don't even own a E-reader . . .
Tea or coffee? Tea! With two sugars and full cream milk.
Zombies or vampires? Neither, thank you.
About the Author
My first children's novel, THE 13 TREASURES, won the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize and has been sold for translation in 17 countries worldwide. It's followed by two sequels: THE 13 CURSES and THE 13 SECRETS, and a prequel, ONE WISH.
I've also written UNREST, a ghost novel for young adult readers. My next story is called THE OTHER ALICE, and it publishes in the UK in July 2016.
Before becoming a full-time writer I worked in publishing as an editor, and also as a bookseller. I'm currently working on a new middle grade novel. I live in Essex and I have a son, Jack, and two cats.
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GIVEAWAY (UK ONLY)
Win a signed (finished) copy of The Other Alice, signed bookmark, bracelet and a set of handcut paper images (all inspired by the book)