Friday, 29 August 2014

Writing for Children - Tip 11 #writetip



The best plots for children’s books have elements of fairy tales in them, and there is nothing to stop you taking one of your favourites and bringing it up to date.

Tip 11 – Modernising Cinders

You could try retelling the entire story from a modern point of view. The film, A Cinderella Story, follows the storyline of Cinderella set in a contemporary high school. Sufficient changes were made to make it a new and fresh story, but the theme of the true heiress ill-treated by her wicked step-mother and step-sisters remained unchanged.

Robin McKinley’s Beauty is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and Terry Pratchett’s fantasy novel for children, Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, is a hilariously funny (but at times harrowing) take on The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

The important thing is to use the storyline only as a blueprint, and to ensure you put your own individual slant on it. You couldn’t, for example, simply alter the names and settings and expect a publisher to show any interest.

One way of changing things around is to take a leaf out of Terry Pratchett’s book and turn the fairy tale into a parody. He has a talking cat travelling from town to town with his special band of rats, and is in cahoots with a young man called Keith.

This accomplice conveniently turns up, flute in hand, when the townsfolk want their municipality cleansed of Maurice’s rodents. All goes well until they reach the town of Bad Blintz, when Maurice realises the town is well named, because something very bad indeed is going on.

It is at this point, quite early in the novel, that Pratchett parts company with the fairy-tale and makes an entirely new story of it.






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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Getting to know … Emma Mooney


What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
A Beautiful Game is a contemporary, adult novel set in Edinburgh.  The book is centred around an adolescent boy growing up in a house filled with abuse and unhappiness, and it tells the story of his struggle to break free from the cycle of abuse. 

What made you choose that genre?
I write from the heart, and Robbie’s story felt important to tell.  He represents all of the children I’ve taught over the years who, despite difficult circumstances, have gone on to be successful and hopefully happy in life.

How long does it take you to write a book?
A Beautiful Game started as a short story, which I wrote in the week following the 2012 Scottish Cup Final.  I started writing it after listening to a radio discussion about the link between big football matches and domestic abuse.  But the main character Robbie had a bigger story to tell and it soon developed into an eighty thousand word novel.  Within two years of starting the book, it had been accepted by Crooked Cat and was on its way to the printers.  I realise this is an unusually fast time-frame, especially for a first novel, and I’m grateful to so many people who allowed me to be selfish during this time and focus on my writing.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Because I’m very busy juggling my writing with looking after my three children, as well as working part-time as a teacher, I often have to grab any spare minutes throughout the day that I can.  I find myself writing at my daughter’s piano lessons or when I’m waiting in the car outside the school gates, and I often write very early in the morning or late at night when everyone’s in bed.  On the days when I’m teaching I’m generally too tired after a day in the classroom to write something fresh so I use these days for any editing that needs done.  The bulk of my writing gets done on the days that I’m not working and on these days I rush home from the school run and write furiously until it’s time to pick up the kids again at three o’clock. 

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
The ideas often start after overhearing a conversation, or from an issue in the news.  I then try to think of a character that I can put into a situation similar to the one overheard.  I choose a name for the character and start writing from their point of view and see what happens.  The blank page can often be a scary thing and so I sometimes need to force myself to start writing by giving myself permission to write complete and utter rubbish.  I usually find that within a short while something starts to take shape.  If the character has a story to tell I’ll soon know and they’ll take over.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
When my children were very young I went along to as many writing classes as I could and, although I didn’t have much time to write anything of length, I listened carefully to all of the advice.  I was like a giant sponge.  I only started writing novels when my youngest child started school seven years ago.  At that time I took the decision to continue working part-time to allow me to write.  I couldn’t have done this without the support of my husband who is constantly telling me to forget about the housework and other jobs needing done and to just write. 

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Like most writers I love to spend my time reading.  Other than that I enjoy getting outdoors and going on long walks with my family.  I’m very lucky to live close to the Trossachs National Park in Scotland which is home to some of the most beautiful lochs and hills.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
The most surprising thing?  I guess that would be when the magic happens.  The magic is what I call it when I sit down to write a chapter, and I have a rough idea of what is going to happen in that chapter, but then the character takes over and I end up writing something completely different.  When this happens I genuinely get goosebumps.

How many books have you written?
I refer to my previous books as the ‘novels that live under the stairs’A Beautiful Game is my third complete novel, and I knew when it was finished that it was the one that I wanted to get out there.  I have no intention to revisit the other books but I do think of them fondly.  No writing is ever a waste of time, no matter how bad, because the only way we improve and learn is by making mistakes.  I think of my ‘novels under the stairs’ as stepping stones that helped me get to where I am now.

Which is your favourite and why?
A Beautiful Game is definitely the favourite story that I’ve written.  I’m very fond of the main character, Robbie, and feel very protective towards him.  I also have a collection of poems that I wrote when my children were very small, and they hold a very dear place in my heart because they take me right back to the moment.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
When I was growing up I had two dream jobs.  I wanted to be an astronaut and a writer.  Unfortunately I get really bad motion sickness which ruled out being an astronaut, but even into my forties I never gave up on the second dream!  I’m extremely lucky in that I love my day job of being a primary teacher; it’s one of the best jobs in the world.  I’ve been teaching children for twenty years now and I’ve always told them to never give up on their dreams, and I hope that seeing me finally get published will inspire them.

What are you working on now?
I’m currently getting to know a new character called Lizzie.  Lizzie is growing up in central Scotland in the 80s, which was a time when sectarianism was prominent and it wasn’t unusual to be judged by the colour of your school tie.  Even though the subject matter is serious, I’m discovering that writing about the 80s is a lot of fun, and I think Lizzie has an interesting story to share.  

Author Bio:
Emma Mooney is not a football fan and, to her, it doesn’t matter which teams win or lose, but she does care about young people and it’s this passion that inspired her to write A Beautiful Game.

Emma has completed courses in creative writing at both Glasgow and Edinburgh University and for six years was an editor at Ironstone New Writing.







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Monday, 25 August 2014

Vlad the Inhaler hardback under half price #mgbooks



I don’t know how long this special offer will remain on Amazon.co.uk, but the HARDBACK version of Vlad the Inhaler is on offer at less than half price! It would make a fabulous Christmas present (I know it’s still months away, don’t shoot me) for any child between the ages of eight and twelve (and most adults, too).

Of course, for those with kindles, the e-book version is only £2.22

VAMPIRES, WEREWOLVES, AND PEACHES, OH MY! Vampires suck... But Vlad is half-human. Vlad's parents have disappeared, and his evil relatives will stop at nothing to steal his inheritance and eliminate the asthmatic "hupyre" they despise. With two new friends and a heart bursting with courage and determination, Vlad faces perilous adventure and certain death to make things right in the world of Dank Forest. Peppered with gorgeous black-and-white illustrations to bring imaginations to life, join the adventure and bring a peach for Vlad!






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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Writing for Children - Tip 10 #writetip



Long after the storyline has been forgotten, a memorable and well-drawn hero will stay in a child’s mind. The hero needn’t actually possess any heroic qualities as such, just so long as he is seen to be the winner at the end of the book.

In Vlad the Inhaler, Vlad starts out with so many things against him, it’s no wonder he struggles. However, he is the hero of the book, so has to win despite his obvious disadvantages.

Tip 10 – Creating Memorable Heroes

Even the wimpiest character will be well loved by young readers if he finds a way to overcome the bullying tactics of an older and aggressive child.

To be believable, your protagonist has to be a mixture of both good and bad. It must be someone with whom young readers can identify.

If human, the hero of your book should be slightly older than the targeted age group you are writing for. But, of course, heroes don’t have to be human. Animals, aliens from space, fantasy creatures, giant insects, and even ghosts, have all been the heroes and heroines of children’s novels.

Regardless of what type of creature you have cast as protagonist, for your readers to empathise, you will need to make him, her, or it, a memorable creation. Any character which isn’t well rounded, with flaws as well as qualities, isn’t going to reach out and touch the hearts of your audience.

  • Try giving your hero an irritating character trait, which is nevertheless loveable, such as being incredibly clumsy
  • Have them striving for something which is almost unattainable, but which they achieve in spite of messing up every step of the way
  • Put them in situations where they have to surmount obstacles and have their own character flaws working against them, such as an anti-social child wanting to fit in at school
  • Try making your character a know-it-all who is kind at heart
  • Round out your characters by having them see themselves as weak, or inferior in some way, but fighting to overcome their insecurities to save the day






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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Getting to know ... Kit Habianic



What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
Can I plead the fifth on that question? Writers seem to spend a lot of time worrying about what category our novels fall into, which is crazy; that’s a marketing question. Our job as writers is to write the best books we can – books that enable the reader to feel something, whether that’s enjoyment, or curiosity or rage.


Until Our Blood is Dry, published this spring, is the story of a South Wales community and three main characters whose lives are ripped apart by the Great Miners’ Strike of the mid-Eighties. It’s about choosing sides; about love and loyalty and belonging. And about a time and a place where the roles of men and women were thrown open to question – when everything that was certain dissolved and fell away.

What made you choose that genre?
I made no conscious choices. It was all about writing a story that sank its hooks into me and wouldn't let go.

How long does it take you to write a book?
I spent about three months writing the first draft of Until Our Blood is Dry and the next eight years unpicking all the horrors, restructuring it, mining the live scenes, fleshing out the characters, working out how to begin and end the thing. And everything that happened in between. The writing feels like one thing and the crafting completely another. Which may be why I’m struggling to talk myself into starting the next book…

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
When writing is going well, it takes on a life of its own. It can feel as though the book is writing you. You go to bed, thinking about what might happen next, about how your character will act or react, and wake up with the next scene or plot development buzzing around in your brain. When that happens, you need to stop and write before it all dissolves.

I was lucky, at the time of writing the book, to be freelance and to be able to put everything on hold one summer to get all the words down on page. Most days were full writing days but when it goes well, that doesn’t feel like a chore. 

At the moment, it feels like a struggle to find time to think. It’s a question of thinking and writing in short bursts, jotting down outlines, scribbling notes that can maybe flesh out into scenes.  

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
Things that happen, to me, or to friends, or in the news. Feelings that are dark or difficult or dangerous to follow in real life. Things that make me sad, or angry or that beg questions. Ideas can be concrete or abstract, and maybe the most powerful story ideas are those that tap into both.

At the moment, I’m excited about disconnects; about words that aren’t spoken and relationships that don’t happen and the choices that lead us down strange and winding paths. It’s about the grey hinterland that lies between the things our friends and loved ones want and expect of us and what we can do or be. Gaps and ambivalence. With canal boats and little dogs.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
There were lots and lots of unfinished books that started and tailed off after a few pages’ furious scribbling. And lots and lots of bad teenage poetry about boys and oceans and injustice and angst.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
The next best thing to writing, especially if you’re trying to get into the storytelling or structuring or plotting zone, is to read. It doesn’t matter whether you read within your genre or field of interest or way, way beyond. Inspiration can strike in surprising ways.

But sometimes you just need to get away from books altogether – go travelling, take a bike ride, dance, go to a really loud live gig, get to know unlikely new people or spend time with friends who have no interest whatsoever in books.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That you don’t necessarily control your own material. And that the book you really want to write may always lie a good few millimetres beyond your grasp.

How many books have you written?
Just the one.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A crime-fighting, bird-watching pirate who writes books? Blame David Attenborough and Swallows & Amazons and Nancy Drew.

What are you working on now?
I’m dithering over two very different ideas; one that is linear and has a relatively simple structure and choice of point of view but that may be difficult to move forward through time, another where the story feels straightforward but where choosing a point of view is proving hellish. Maybe it’s time to hole up at a writer’s retreat to ponder…

Bio
Kit is the author of UntilOur Blood is Dry, published in April by South Wales-based Parthian Books. Her short stories have been published in literary magazines and anthologies and shortlisted for the Willesden Herald prize. She grew up in Wales and now lives and works in London.

Until Our Blood is Dry is published by Parthian Books. It’s available in the Kindle Summer Sale until September 1.
Twitter: @kithabianic







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