Good morning guys!
Today is my stop on The Lost Soul Atlas blog tour and I am absolutely honoured to have been asked to host a Q&A. I love asking authors questions because I am, by nature, really bloody nebby (for the non-Geordies in the room, nebby means nosy!) and love asking people about their things… and when it’s a chance to ask about books and writing and that whole process, I get even more delighted!
“A boy awakens in the Afterlife, with a pocketful of vague memories, a key, a raven, and a mysterious Atlas to guide him as he sets out to piece together the mystery of his final moments…
Back on Earth, Twiggy is a street kid with a missing dad. But when he meets Flea, a cheerful pickpocket, the pair become fast friends, better even than blood family itself. Together, Twig and Flea raise themselves on the crime-ridden streets, taking what they need and giving the rest to the even-poorer. Life is good, as long as they have each other. But the all-powerful Boss who rules the streets has other plans. Loyalty will be tested, and a cruel twist of fate will lead to an act of ultimate betrayal that will tear the friends apart …forever?”
I am just going to take it over to Zana now because you guys hear enough of me rambling on hah!
Tell us about The Lost Soul Atlas in no more than 10 words.
Boy. Afterlife. Skeleton Raven. Maps. Riddles. Pickpockets. Memories. Friendship. Home.
What inspired you to write this book?
When I first started writing, this was a book about resistance. About the soft, quiet acts of resistance as well as the big loud angry ones. I had been reading about communities of street kids who were surviving, on their own, with no help or support from adults or government agencies, or anyone. Their greatest danger was sleeping, and their greatest fear was of being disappeared by police and government and vigilante groups. These kids had to be one of the most vulnerable and invisible groups of people in the world, and yet, they were still finding ways to fight and resist – and to do so with such dignity. They were making guerrilla radio stations and newspapers and pamphlets, they were providing resources to support each other, they were raising awareness of their situation through street performances and circuses, they were protesting and using graffiti and other acts of creative resistance and activism, and they were doing all this despite their situation.
I was reminded of an exhibition I’d seen in London of pictures and words by children living in refugee camps. One girl, I think she was 11, wrote ‘I want to talk and raise my voice high’ and this is what these street children are doing. They are talking. They are raising their voices high. We just need to listen. And so The Lost Soul Atlas, as well as being an adventure through the Afterlife, was really an exploration of how individual people can make a difference. No matter how old or young, we can all talk and raise our voices high and effect change. And with the swell of youth based movements around the world, I really think this is true. The time is now! Fight the Forgetting!!!!
If you had to describe each of the characters in a couple of words, what would they be?
Twig: Naïve, good heart, stronger than he knows
Flea: Fierce, loyal, smart, brave, totally awesome.
The Hoblin: Villainous, smart, dangerous
Krruk: Trickster archetype!
Are you more Twig? Or more Flea?
I would so love to be more Flea! Flea is who I am in my head, although I know that really I am more like Twig. When I was a kid, I always imagined myself like Flea though – Robin Hood was my hero, so I guess this is where Flea came from.
Was there anything from the story that you had to edit out?
Yes! So much! When I write, I sit down to explore a question, to discover something that I didn’t know before, or to try and understand something that has been niggling at my thoughts, so because of that, I always tend to over write. I have to feel my way around the story to be able to discover what is lying at the heart of it. And then there are bits I had to edit out because I was the only one who seemed to understand them or enjoy their humour – and I admit that I do quite often play with how much I can push the boundaries of reality and twist our view, perhaps sometimes delving more into the nonsensical… one bit I lost was in describing the way Krruk would ruffle his bones, like the way a bird would ruffle their feathers, which I still love, but the consensus view was that bones were unable to be ruffled.
I also have a tendency – and I do this when I am talking as well – to forget that people haven’t heard the commentary in my own head. So I will often start sentences in the middle of an idea and be a little confused that the person I am talking to has no idea what I am going on about. I suspect I do this in my writing too – so it is lucky that I have a team of wonderful, and very patient editors and publishers to make it all work. One comment I got from my editor was ‘Signpost. Signpost until you want to scream. That’s the point at which the reader will probably say thank you.’ Very good advice!
What’s been the best bit of being an author so far?
Being able to do what I love as my job. There is something so ridiculously amazing about working as a professional Imaginer – I giggle a little when I think about it. On the good days, time stops. I step inside my studio and sit down and emerge hours later feeling as though no time has passed, and I couldn’t tell you a word of what I’d written. That is magical. Or waking up in the middle of the night with an idea just nudging at the edge of your vision – and you know it is wonderful if only you can catch it before you fall back to sleep again…And then of course, there is the fact that for my job, I HAVE to read. Robert Macfarlane wrote that every hour spent reading is an hour learning how to write, and I whole heartedly agree!
What’s next for you? Are you currently writing anything?
I am currently writing many things! I always tend to have a few projects on the go. It helps when I become stuck with one story to shift gear a little, and it is particularly helpful when I am waiting to hear back from a publisher when they are reading a manuscript and deciding if they want it or not. Then I can focus on doing something rather than worrying about something I no longer have control over.
At the moment, I am working on a couple of picture books, a junior fiction/early middle grade book which I am really loving writing, and I am in the middle of a collaboration with the fantastic Bren MacDibble. Neither of us have co-written before, so it is an adventure for us both, but it has been tremendously fun and a wonderful way to work. Bren is in fact, just about to send me back her final chapter, at which point the first draft will be complete!! Oh, and I have just started a PhD in creative writing, so I am researching and writing stories for that as well.
We always love a recommendation here! Is there a book you can recommend for kids and teachers alike?
I have just finished reading Anthony McGowan’s Carnegie award winning book ‘Lark’ which I absolutely loved. It is the final in a series of books that follows two brothers, and all of them are a joy to read. And while I never usually recommend books I haven’t finished, I am in the middle of The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta and am LOVING it. If it is not already in every library in the world, it should be.
You can get yourself a copy of The Lost Soul Atlas now! It’s available at all of the usual places, but if you want to support your local indie, I would be well on board with that!
A massive thank you to the publishers and to Zana for taking time to answer my questions! I am so excited for people to read this book!
Speak to you all soon and happy reading!