Wednesday, 18 March 2015

#TeamSalvage - Keren David Author Q&A

(Collect 1 SchemeScav Point!)

On the run up to the YA Book Prize, I set myself the task of reading as many of the shortlisted books as possible. To date I have made it to 5 (Half Wild, Lobsters, Trouble, Only Ever Yours and obviously Salvage). Not too bad an effort in my books...

Salvage is the one that had the deepest effect on me. This is mainly because:
- I am part-adopted
- I have never met the biological other half of my 'family'
- It is something that I have been mildly curious about over the years
- I identified very strongly with Cass' middle class, good girl persona

I was lucky to meet Keren at the UKYA Extravaganza a few weeks back. At that stage I was only about 50 pages into Salvage, but I was already very interested to have a conversation with Keren about adoption, foster care and what inspired this book. Keren said she was particularly interested to hear my views on it as she had not yet heard a reaction from someone who was adopted. I promised her I would get in touch with my thoughts, and she was kind enough to answer some of my questions. 

So here is our Q&A: 

1. What inspired you to write about adoption and foster care in Salvage?

I read an article in a newspaper about birth families contacting adopted teenagers through Facebook, and immediately thought it was a very interesting subject to explore, but that it would be difficult to write because of all the different viewpoints involved. So I filed it away to think about and wrote a different book (Another Life). Then I was watching my son play football, and talking to another mum of one of his teammates, and she said 'I know what you should write about,' and it was the same idea. It turned out that she was a social worker specialising in adoption, so the perfect person to brief me about the issues involved. 

I'd wanted to write about foster care for a long time, since I was a journalist on The Independent. It seemed to me that so many social issues that we covered -  crime, homelessness, abuse -  had their roots in the poor standard of care that looked-after children often suffered. 

2. What research went into Salvage?

 I talked to my friend the social worker, and to another friend who had adopted her daughter. I read a wonderful book  Family Secrets by Deborah Cohen which includes a history of attitudes towards adoption in the UK. I read a lot about children in care and children coming out of care.  I also watched several excellent television documentaries about adoption.

3. Having not interviewed any foster children, did you have any concerns when writing from Aidan's point of view?
I found Aidan very easy to write. I needed him to have a basic core of love and hope  which hadn't come from his early life, so I gave him wonderful, loving long-term foster parents who cared for him from the age of 8 to 12.  I thought this would also show the positive side of being in care, which should happen for all such children.  Almost everything about Aidan stems from his fragmented upbringing, from his outer charm, to his conviction that happiness can't last. He's damaged, but salvageable. 

I think if I had interviewed foster children I would have got concerned about telling their stories and not Aidan's.

4. From my reading, Aidan has a slight victim mentality, whereas his boss has more of a 'get on with it' outlook. What do you think of these two different reactions to being in care?
Oooh...well, they were different ages, I suppose. Maybe Clive was more like Aidan when he was 18. Clive had had longer to get a grip on his life, build his own family and business, and put the past behind him. Aidan was only two years out of care, and struggling. I liked the way Clive tried to help kids coming out of care by giving them a helping hand and a bit of guidance. He was doing a lot for Aidan -  a job, somewhere to live, driving lessons, and, at the end, encouraging him to do an accounting course.  My hope for Aidan is that in thirty years' time he'll be a bit like Clive -  a successful business -  maybe as an accountant - a secure family, a nice home and no more drinking.  And then he'd be strong enough to help kids coming out of the care system in his turn. 

5. What are your personal feelings about the adoption/foster care system in the UK?
I think the child's needs should be at the centre of any decisions made about its future. Sometimes children get caught in the court system for years, and miss out on the chance of a new family.  For some children though, long term foster care is a better option. Children and parents need a lot of support, pre and post adoption. 

6. If you found out you had a mystery sibling like Cass and Aidan, would you seek them out?
I wouldn't be able to resist.

7. Any other personal comments you have that don't fit into these questions about adoption and foster care.
Salvage opened up so many questions for me about families, and how we build them. I ended up caring so much about Aidan and Cass and all the other characters -  it was difficult to stop myself writing a completely unrealistic sentimental Hollywood ending! I really hope Aidan -  and all kids like him -  gets their happy-ever-after. 

So as you may be able to tell, reading Salvage was a very personal experience for me. The story really hit home for me, particularly the idea of extended families getting in touch and what you open yourself up to. In way of a mini review, I really enjoyed the dual narrative, Aidan's very believable characterisation of someone with no self-esteem and the never contrived or forced portrayal of family dynamics. I have to admit, I wasn't as sold on the ending or on Neil's character but overall I loved SalvageAlthough I have never been in the same experience as these characters, I really feel that Keren hit the nail on the head with the mood, voice and that intangible 'rightness' that all the book I really enjoy have. 

So ahead of tomorrow's announcement of YA Book Prize Winner, I have my fingers crossed for Keren and Salvage! 

Monday, 2 March 2015

The First Ever UKYAExtravaganza!

So on Saturday 28th Feb I attended the first ever UKYA Extravaganza at Waterstones Birmingham, organised by the formidable Kerry Drewery and Emma Pass. There was a staggering collection of 33 authors with an avid audience of bloggers, vloggers, booksellers, librarians and book enthusiasts of all kinds. 

First off, thank you to @LibwithAttitude for my ticket. I missed out on the sale of tickets, but Lib sadly couldn't attend so she was very kind to send it on to me, with a lovely little note too. My phone died so no tweets, but this write up is for you Lib, and George who I also promised tweets. My bad... 

Sadly I missed the first half hour (traffic in Birmingham... quel nightmare!) but lovely Jim from YAYeahYeah caught me up. There format of the event was mini panels of 5 authors and one minute each to  summarise their books, followed by a Q&A. According to Jim, the first panel attempted short readings each, but it soon became clear this wouldn't work. Which was a shame, because I would have been keen to hear more from all the authors. If the event were to be repeated, I personally think it could have done with either being smaller or longer, giving more time to each author. I really won't complain though, because it was brilliant to hear about so many fantastic books and meet so many booklovers. 

UKYA Extravaganza
If like me, you looked at the line up and saw amazing authors you'd heard of but never picked up, here were some of my highlights and new discoveries: 

Books I brought along with me

Keren David, author of Salvage 

I am slowly but surely making my way through the YA Book Prize Shortlist, so Keren was the only author I had read before this point. Salvage is the story of Cass and Aidan, brother and sister separated by an adoption. On a personal note, I was adopted by one of my parents and I do not know anything, by choice, about the other side of my parentage. So this subject is very close to me, whilst also being something that I have not really thought much about which makes it a weird but really provoking read for me. I am currently 50 pages in, and I'm really enjoying it thus far. 

Lovely dedication from Keren
I was very keen to meet Keren and was lucky to have a conversation with her about her inspiration. Interesting fact -she didn't speak to any adopted children before writing this story. She spoke to adoptive parents, social workers and other people involved in adoption, but not an actual adopted child themselves. 

As she is not adopted herself, Keren wanted to avoid the story becoming too biographical of any child she spoke to. As someone effected by adoption, I'm curious to see what my reaction to the rest of the story will be and have promised Keren to give her my reaction when I'm finished. I will definitely be reviewing it here in due course. 

Books I picked up on the day (because they sounded awesome 
and I couldn't resist!)

Lovely dedication part 2 from Christina 
Christina Banach, author of Misty
One morning, Christina woke up to a sugary smell. It was exactly the smell her father a baker, would bring home with him every day from work. She then heard the happy panting of her rescue dog. Trouble is, both had been dead for several months. 

And then suddenly, the entire story of Misty where one identical twin watched the other from beyond the grave came straight into her head. Christina's story was so inexplicable and she told it with such conviction that I ran to the table and snapped up one of the last copies.I'm really glad this comes from indy publisher Three Hares Publishing, and it's right at the top of my TBR pile. Check out Christina's full story here

My haul for the day 
  Eve Ainsworth, author of 7 Days 

I've heard a lot about this book and the fact that it's a dual   narrative told both the victim and bully's point of view   made it impossible not to buy. Especially when Eve was the first person I spoke to and she was so incredibly nice. 

Books I wish I could have bought *if it weren't for my self-impossed limit* 

Kerry Drewery, one of the organisers and author of A Brighter Fear and A Dream of Lights
Both of Kerry's books are set in hostile places she has never been able to visit, Afghanistan and North Korea. So I asked her how she could properly represent these places she had never been to. She pointed out that no-one has ever been to the places written about in a lot of fantasy and science fiction, but that as these were real places with real problems she felt a big need to portray them right. So she read lots of different kinds of books on all the places and immersed herself as much as she could into the place. Little writer's note: Kerry writes in an attic room with no windows and a slopped roof. So she covers the slopped wall in front of her desk with pictures of the place she is writing about to really get a feel for it. 

Emma Pass, also an organiser and author of Acid
Acid is a dystopic novel about a girl who is busted out of prison by a rebel group, and our heroine has to find out why, and why she was there in the first place. This sounds a lot like a terrible novel I wrote when I was 14, so this is really a curiosity/self-flagulation thing.

Alan Gibbons, author of Hate
This book to me sounded really interesting as it about the murder of a girl by four ignorant lads because she is a goth. The vilification of subcultures like 'goth' is something I find really horrible and sad, so I'm sure this book is going to touch me. Also, Hate is inspired by Alan's meeting with the mother of a girl who was murdered for dressing as a goth. So this is going to be really raw and truthful hopefully. 

Alan also went on something of a 'middle aged man rant' - his words, not mine - about libraries shutting down in Birmingham. Good to have another warrior on the scene.

Sarah Naughton, author of The Blood List

 This story was inspired by a programme Sarah watched about medieval folk stories, where Sarah heard about how parents used to leave their babies out in the woods in the hope that the fairies would replace them with perfect babies. The Blood List is a story about a family this happens to, and the repercussions afterwards when the 'perfect child''s origins start to unravel. This sounds to me akin to Half Bad, which I really enjoyed, so will pick this up next pay day for sure. 

Kate Ormand, author of The Wanderers 
The Wanderers sounds like a trippy, YA version of The Night Circus. I LOVED THE NIGHT CIRCUS so I am really looking forward to this, but why is September so far away? Time to read The Dark Days in the meantime I guess... 

Kendra Leighton, author of Glimpse
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.   
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.   
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

Glimpse was inspired by Alfred Noyes's poem 'The Highway Man', which I loved in high
school, so that may just have to go on the TBR pile too. 

Caroline Green, author of Cracks
Cracks is the story of a girl who can see actual cracks forming in the world that no-one else can see and how she deals with this. Caroline had a moment of inspiration when she saw a crack in one of her bathroom tiles while brushing your teeth. Moral of the story, brush your teeth more. That's where the magic happens. 

 Lou Morgan, author of Sleepless
Sleepless is a horror/thriller about what happens when students take performance enhancing drugs. I love the concept, but probably won't pick it up because I am a big chicken and can't read horror without being up for days, rocking in my bed clutching a flashlight. 

Bryony Pearce, author of The Weight of Souls 
Ghost stories seemed a strong theme at this event, and Bryony's 2nd novel fit in very well. I loved the idea of ghosts marking you and having to find the murderer. I'll be keen to give this a read, because I think the balance of darkness in this could be really interesting. 

Sarah Sky, author of Code Red Lipstick 
I didn't get to hear Sarah talk, but I did discover she went to Nottingham Uni, just like myself and Lauren E. James. So it would be just plain rude of me not to pick up her book. Looking forward to this one, and Lauren's The Next Together coming in September. 

Honourable mentions

CJ Daughtery, author of The Night School Series
 I had heard of CJ and her series before but not picked it up. I was very interested to hear it was inspired by the Bullingham Club and a picture she saw of Eaton. 

Rose Mannering, author of Roses
Roses is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and is part of a wider trilogy inspired by fairy tales. I always like the sound of these allegorical sort of books, and intend to read around them quite widely - handy goodreads list in anyone is keen to do the same. 

Author line-up (this is only half of them!) 

Overall, I had a really good time at the event and as you can tell from the above, discovered some fantastic books and authors. I met some great new people, including Olivia who is a fellow newbie blogger - check out her great blog Write for Real here. 

I want to say a massive well done to everyone involved, it was a great day and I would love to go to another event like this. And I'm in luck because... *drum roll*...

There is to be another UKYA Extravaganza event in October in Nottingham
My university town, yay! 

Find out all the details of this second event and watch videos of the event on Saturday 
over at Chelle's lovely Tales of Yesterday. 

Bookish love!