Off the Page with Teri Terry

Deep down I knew. All day I stalked round the house thinking ‘I couldn’t leave it looking like this if people were coming.’ But we were going out for drinks, not staying in, and there was no need to clean or tidy or even remove the empty Ikea boxes or the reading lamp that almost went up in smoke that afternoon. Or anything.

So obviously I asked Teri Terry and Mr Terry round for a cup of tea. As you do. Being polite people, they even praised the hall for being nice, which it might have been were in not for all the stuff. But this is Stirling and I don’t believe you can go out for cups of tea at eight pm, so Bookwitch Towers was the place to go.

Before my domestic embarrassment, we’d had a nice evening at St Ninian’s Library, were Teri’s talk was part of the Stirling book festival. I’d not heard Teri speak in public before, so looked forward to it. There were a good number of readers of the right age – i.e. not like me – and many came without adults, which was particularly encouraging, I felt. But then I know that Teri’s fans do like her.

Teri Terry

There were soft drinks and slices of swiss roll, and they switched on the coffee machine for the adults. Nice warm welcome for everyone (and I only mention it because it doesn’t always happen). They were most helpful about toilet access as well (although I have to admit that was mainly me…).

Most people seemed to have read Slated, and a few had read Fractured, but I might have been the only one who’d got to Shattered. Lucky them to have so much to look forward to. Teri read from the first two novels, free from spoilers, but felt she couldn’t do that with the third book without giving everything away.

She started off by answering the questions she most commonly gets asked, just to get her funny name and accent and all the rest out of the way. (You can find much of it in my interview with Teri from last year.) Teri reckons writers are often a bit crazy, they might move a lot and become used to being outsiders, observing others.

Teri Terry

Teri herself is very interested in nature versus nurture, which was relevant both in her former job as a lawyer, but also now when she writes fiction. She talked about the evening of 9/11 (she was in Australia), and as she did, I did a quick calculation and came to the conclusion that most of the audience had not been born then, or were very young indeed. It’s weird how fast things become history.

Her next book, Mind Games, will be published in March next year (she showed me the cover image on her laptop and it looks fantastic), and she is currently writing the next book again, with a deadline in December, to be published next autumn or spring 2016.

Asked about writing for boys, Teri said that she doesn’t see readers as boys or girls, but as people. She also doesn’t want to suggest which age her books are for, although most readers seem to be from about eleven and older.

Like many authors Teri is very interested in stationery. She has a big collection of notebooks and can’t possibly start writing a book in the ‘wrong’ notebook. She once had to spend a week shopping for the right one before she could begin. She can type really fast, but finds it easiest to start a book writing by hand, moving on to her laptop after a while.

Because it’s not healthy sitting in bed all day writing, she now tends to get dressed every day, and she goes to write in her shack in the garden. But she needs to speak to humans every now and then, so has to leave her shack occasionally.

Teri Terry

That’s when she comes to lovely events like this one, right on my doorstep. After which she ended up much more on my doorstep than we’d intended. It was nice. Very nice. In case Teri and her Mr Terry ever feel like coming back, I will clean the house, decorate it, and purchase some green tea. Possibly find the wine glasses too, just in case.

WARP – The Hangman’s Revolution

I almost, or very nearly, thought the unthinkable. Like, ‘I know Eoin Colfer’s latest WARP novel will be good, but perhaps I don’t need to read it. There are many other books to read.’ Ouch! (My knuckles really hurt. But I was asking for it.)

What I am saying, sister, is this: Eoin writes great books. They don’t deteriorate for being so many. A sequel is still an Eoin Colfer novel. Thinking that there is no need to read, is a very stupid idea to have. But it’s nothing that a good rap over the knuckles won’t cure. Sister.

And of course, time travel is a useful subject to pick. Time travel messes with the system, and you will never be quite the same again. And since yesterday’s future is no longer today’s future, you can – in theory – write as many books as you want. There will be something a little different in each reality. But preserve us from the horrible possibility that there will be no Harry Potter. That would be too much.

Eoin Colfer, WARP - The Hangman's Revolution

So, where was I? Good question. I could barely remember where we left off. Riley was in his own Victorian times, I believe, and FBI Agent Chevie returned to her own present London. We thought. So we did.

But it was only another London. A nightmarish other London. So it was.

‘scuse me. Eoin does Irish so well. (I know. There is a reason for that.) So he does.

(Sorry, I really must stop.)

So, Chevie’s life isn’t going so well. It’s about to end pretty soon. Or is it? Depends which life, perhaps. She is reunited with Riley. So she is. (Oops.)

Victorian London is full of modern-day men, and now a few modern-day women, too. Sister. Queen Victoria is at risk. The man who runs Chevie’s most recent life has plans for the future. Chevie and Riley must put a stop to them, if only to safeguard Harry Potter’s existence-to-be. Enemies become allies and vice versa. There is an astounding romance, and Missus Figary’s son does well. Some other people don’t. On the whole that’s good.

So it is.

And that goes for The Hangman’s Revolution, too. Don’t be fooled into thinking that humorous Irish children’s adventures that are lightweight are, well, lightweight. If they have anything to do with Eoin Colfer they will be must-reads. I hope I’m never again afflicted by such treacherous thoughts. So I do.

Stories of WWI

This is a beautiful collection of short stories featuring WWI. Edited by Tony Bradman, some of our bestest children’s authors have come up with their own interpretation of the war. It’s interesting how writers can find such diverse starting points for a story on one and the same topic. Many of them have based their story on memories of grandparents or other relatives who fought in the war, or who were among those left behind, or who had to live with the fall-out of what happened to family members.

I can’t pick a favourite. They are all special in one way or another.

As I always say about anthologies; they are the perfect way of enjoying many writers in small doses, and this collection proves again that the short story is a wonderful, handy size of fiction.

Some of the contributors have written stories about soldiers from other countries, thus highlighting the world aspect of the war. Germans are/were human beings like all the rest. They didn’t eat babies. Young men from Australia and New Zealand came to Europe to fight. And so did Indians who sometimes had no idea of what was going on, and the Irish who had issues at home, while fighting for a country that was also the enemy.

If you like war stories, this is for you.

Finding Critical Mass

It must have been towards the end of our holiday, shortly before the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I was going over in my head the things I needed to do and remember before getting to Charlotte Square. Especially knowing I’d have less time once I returned to the new house.

And there’s the crux, dear readers. New house. What do new houses have? Or more accurately, not have?

Precisely. No well-ordered rows of books on shelves. And one of my ‘must remembers’ was that I wanted to take Sara Paretsky’s Critical Mass to have her sign it. I’ve got a lot more relaxed about this, and can actually contemplate seeing people in the flesh without arriving equipped with scores of books to have signed.

But this was Sara and it was Critical Mass. And where was the book? Packed in a box, along with the other 80 or so metres of books. Where was this box? On the floor in the living room piled against the wall with no more than another forty boxes. (The other boxes are/were in other rooms.)

That was enough to make me not get back to sleep. OK, I could buy another copy. But this was the one I wanted signed.

I waited until the Resident IT Consultant seemed to be in a relaxed mood and asked him how likely he thought it would be that the book could be found, in the week we had available. Without either of us going crazy.

Once he realised what I was saying, and could get his head round my description of where the book used to be and how the box was likely to be labelled, he reckoned it was doable.

And it was. It only took him about five ‘wrong’ boxes (plus a lot of heavy lifting), and there it was!

Phew.

Sick reading

I’ve been feeling off-colour with my specially imported Glaswegian lurgy this week. So I’ve read more than average, because when you feel weak and achey sometimes reading is all you can do.

As I was grasping my current book – in the middle of the night – I suddenly remembered other books read while feeling under the weather. And it made me wonder why books read during times of incapacitation remain more memorable. Not better, necessarily, but I suppose illness reinforces the memory. Somehow.

(I could tell you what I read Easter 2007, for instance.)

The other thing I’ve mused about (all this thinking can’t be healthy) is why it’s so hard to find enough time to read, when it makes me feel much better. Even without the lurgy.

Kirkland Ciccone at his celebration party

The drawback this week was having to cancel going to Kirkland Ciccone’s celebration in Kilsyth. ‘Where?’ I hear you ask. Somewhere fairly near Bookwitch Towers, although even my native Resident IT Consultant wasn’t totally sure exactly where.

Kirkland Ciccone celebration party

It was (would have been) an opportunity to celebrate Kirkland winning the Catalyst Award for Conjuring the Infinite. I understand there was – almost – unlimited Monster Munch. And a red carpet. They know how to party in Kilsyth.

Kirkland Ciccone celebration party

To prove how mentally challenged I’ve been, I went as far as addressing this noble award winner as Kirkie… I’m so very sorry. It won’t happen again.

Welcome to the Family

There are more than one kind of family, as most of us who are not politicians know. And knowing isn’t always enough. You want books about your own family type. In Welcome to the Family you get so much variation that surely just about every type of family has been covered?

Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith, Welcome to the Family

Families can have one or more adults. Any number, really. Any combination of the sexes. There can be one child, or lots of them. As for colour, any combination is possible.

Welcome to the Family shows the child how they might have arrived with their parents. It can be anything from ordinary homemade babies, to fostering and test tube babies. There are gay parents and single parents. Mixed colour families and same colour families.

This is not a story book, but more a way of telling a child that they are normal, whatever their own reality. It shouldn’t be necessary to have books like this, but unfortunately we still have a long way to go before some kinds of family are seen as so natural that there is no need to mention them.

The usual wonderful illustrations you expect from Ros Asquith accompany Mary Hoffman’s text.

I’d happily belong to any of these families, but of course, I have my own. Both the one I was born into and the one I helped make. Both different, and both good.

Brush twice a day

I do tact so very well. (Like the foreigners I am surrounded by, I cling to my own country’s excellence. Sometimes.) Years ago I dragged Son from one British dentist to another, looking for one that would meet with my approval. (How Son didn’t end up with a dental phobia, I don’t know.) For the last dentist we saw (before I gave up and travelled across the water for treatment for all the family) I had decided in advance what I would say. It would be measured and fair and polite. But what actually fell out of my mouth were the words: ‘I am Swedish and I think Swedish dentists are the best.’

He smiled at me sweetly (he did have a lovely smile) and said that he was Scottish and he reckoned Scottish dentists were also pretty good. Offspring remained with him for several years, until they outgrew his remit.

We did dental holidays from then on. When I happened to mention the annual dental trip to Sweden to Tim Bowler once, his retort was that my dentist must be one hell of a dentist. (I was a little taken aback at his use of hell. Tim is always very proper.)

Anyway, Son eventually found a dentist in the UK that he liked. I went there once as an emergency, and he was fine (ish), but with a solid mistrust of foreign dentists (which is rich for someone who hails from outside Britain).

But most good things have to come to an end and my trusty Swedish dentist retired. And I moved. And I had another emergency, because I am old and so are my teeth. I felt so willing to try new things that I went to see Aunt Scarborough’s dentist. I liked him. He seemed very competent, for a foreigner. And with as sweet a smile as his polite fellow countryman from that other occasion.

I have actually made the jump now, for real. He has an admiration for Swedish dentists, which does him credit. He sells books, too. In the waiting room there are shelves of used bestseller paperbacks, sold in aid of a charity. It’s a clever idea. Instead of sitting there reading a magazine you couldn’t care less about, you can start on a book. (Me, I bring my own, but we have already concluded I am abnormal.) And once begun, you will want to finish, so you pay 50p and the book is yours.

Books at the dentist's

Last week as we were whiling away the time between injection and action, he asked if I had noticed his multi language wall posters. I had. He asked if I would do one in Swedish for him. It has to say something like ‘for healthy teeth, brush twice a day.’

So as the drill went to work, I lay there pondering how best to phrase it. I wanted my translation to be as good as Swedish dentistry.