Category Archives: Authors

The disappointment

Just say ‘thank you’ if you receive a compliment. You may not feel you deserve it, but thanking the person complimenting you is both the quickest way and the politest.

I shouldn’t really be preaching here, as I’m very bad at receiving praise. It’s odd how it feels easier to say several grumbly things, rather than just the one ‘thank you.’

It was reading Johan Norberg in Vi, and how he finds compliments hard to deal with, that made me think about this. Because he had once come across his favourite author and done the fan thing, only to be told that the author considered himself a fraud and also totally un-interested in what he had written about.

And that was that. Johan lost every positive feeling he’d had about these books and their creator. In some odd way he even lost the pleasure of what he’d read in the past; not just that he wouldn’t want to read anything new by this writer.

The question is why anyone would respond like that when meeting an admirer. Better to say ‘I’m glad you liked it’ even if you happen to know you did a poor job of whatever it was.

I don’t believe I have had anyone say anything of the kind to me, but I do find that with some people, just meeting them in real life changes how I feel about their work. Obvious, I suppose. Some you come to adore, but there’s always one or two I wish I’d not actually met.

Follow Me

I believe one of the young people at Yay!YA+ in April told Victoria Gemmell that her debut Follow Me was the best book they’d read. I can understand that. While as a terribly responsible and boring adult, and for that matter, as the sensible teenager I used to be, I want to run screaming the other way, when I read about how teenagers stomp straight into trouble and then go even further in the wrong direction, rather than be cautious.

Victoria Gemmell, Follow Me

But after feeling scared and also pretty annoyed with Kat in Follow Me, I got to the stage where I couldn’t let go and had to hurry to see who was the bad guy. Because Victoria spreads suspicion all over the place and you’re not totally sure who the evil character is going to turn out to be.

Kat’s twin sister Abby committed suicide, one of several teenagers to take their lives in this small town. And it all seems to have had something to do with a place called the Barn, which Kat hadn’t heard of until she meets Rob, who is one of the ‘founders’ of the Barn.

Handsome and charismatic, Rob seems very suspicious, as does his friend Michael. Whereas Callum who works with Kat is your archetypal heroine’s love interest, and kind and sensible too.

As Kat stumbles round the Barn and the woods, asking questions and falling in love with Rob, you just want to shout that she needs to be careful and to look out! There’s a reason there were so many suicides.

Terribly gripping, even though I really didn’t want to be anywhere near that Barn or the weird types frequenting it. Whatever you do, don’t follow!

Full circle

I received a phone hug last night. This is a technically complicated feat, but it can be done. I sent Son to (a former) prison. Actually no, he went of his own accord. Långholmen is rather nice these days, when you’re not inside for all the wrong reasons. Daughter and I spent a few days there ten years ago, and now it was Son’s turn (I believe it was some kind of conference). And since he was going to be in the actual Stockholm at the actual same time as Meg Rosoff, I instructed him to go to her public event at Kulturhuset yesterday.

Meg Rosoff and Maria Lassén Seger

Son elbowed the competition out of the way and managed to get close enough to the ALMA winner to receive a hug, which was to be passed on to me. Which he did over the phone. I’ll accept that.

The programme for this year’s Gothenburg Book Fair arrived yesterday as well, and lo and behold, they have invited Meg to come. (I just hope she is still upright by the time September comes round.) I consider this all my doing. First I badgered anyone I could for years about how they must have her. And then, as I reported a couple of months ago, I gave up. Decided it would never happen, and it was better to face facts. This is always a good technique, I find. Makes things happen much faster. (Should have thought of it sooner.)

I think I may have to go. Even if Bookwitch Towers is being rebuilt, or something, I must be able to abandon ship for a long weekend. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with builders in the house?

Anyway, the circle. We went eleven years ago, Son and I, as complete rookies. That was when his favourite won. Now mine has won. It’s only fair. He can come, if he wants. And like eleven years ago, Jonathan Stroud will be there. Plus a selection of archbishops and other famous people, such as our favourite French phycisist, Christophe Galfard.

Yay!!!

Five Hundred Miles

Five Hundred Miles is just wow! Kevin Brooks has done it again, and Anthony McGowan needs to look out. Generally I find the harsh settings of Kevin’s books quite hard to cope with, as I do the bleakness in his books. This one is no more cheerful, except the title tells you there might be something to look forward to.

Kevin Brooks, Five Hundred Miles

Cole and Ruben are the sons of a feared criminal, and live in a breaker’s yard in East London. You feel they are good boys, even though it becomes quite clear they are capable of both theft and violence.

When they unexpectedly come across a teenage girl who’s wanting to rescue a monkey from some gangster types in a pub, it’s not only the fact that she looks like their dead sister that makes them jump in to help.

I ought to dislike everything these boys stand for and what they do, but the way Kevin writes about them you just want to love them and be their friend. This is the kind of book I want to put into the hands of dyslexic teenagers everywhere, as well as capable readers. No one could help but love this book!

Idiocy

I never did read The Da Vinci Code, and I’m not likely to do so now, either. Dan Brown – or his publisher? – is planning to dumb it down to YA level. What a relief! Because young readers are so stupid, they couldn’t possibly read as complicated a book as TDVC, copies of which I understand litter second hand bookshops to the extent they can’t sell them.

If Dan Brown wants to do something for the young, but I’d rather he didn’t, to be honest, couldn’t he simply write a YA novel from scratch, like all these other people who feel they should give this ‘easy’ genre a go?

Then, who to dislike the most; J K Rowling or presidential hopeful Donald Trump? I’m with the many people who fervently hope this man will not succeed. But he does have the right to speak, even when what he says is so offensive that we’d prefer for him not to.

I think J K is correct in saying that we must be bigger and fairer and allow those who say bad things to keep saying them. Banning them will not help. Trying to re-educate them would, but might prove hard. It is very tempting to be as bad as, or worse, than those we fear and dislike. Lots of people find it pretty easy to disagree with a wealthy and famous author. The Guardian photos of the two make them look like pals, almost. But that is the newspaper’s fault, not J K’s.

To finish with something much nicer and easier, here is the link to the interview with Meg Rosoff on Swedish television, first broadcast on Sunday night. It’s on several times this week, but for those of us outside Sweden, it is available to watch online. Meg is on first, for 15-20 minutes, and she is on good form as ever. I think we should have programmes like this in Britain. You know, a bit about books and not just baking and dancing.

Meg Rosoff on Babel

Personally I’d like to know how to tie a scarf like Meg’s. Once you do, you will still look good, no matter what you wear with it. (Or maybe I wouldn’t, under any circumstances.) Meg’s new glasses are divine. Quite Harry Potterish, in a good way.

The Adventures of Alfie Onion

I loved this! My first (yeah, sorry about that) Vivian French book. Not my last.

Vivian French, Alfie Onion

Alfie Onion is an adorable boy with a somewhat misguided but romantic mother, and a lazy slightly older brother, Magnifico Onion, the seventh son of a seventh son. He is supposed to make his mother proud.

Unfortunately he likes his food too much and is too scared to make a truly good hero. (And we all know who’s the hero in this book.)

It’s a case of going to find the princess and to kiss her and become tremendously rich. And happy. Magnifico can’t go on his own, so Alfie has to go with him. There are ogres. And trolls, and a talking horse and a couple of mice and some magpies, and Alfie’s loyal dog.

Even when you know who has to kiss whom, this is fun and exciting. Great stuff. And how to get round the seventh son nonsense.

Cute and funny illustrations by Marta Kissi.

Immi

Your everyday things could be someone else’s treasure.

Immi lives somewhere cold, and she fishes for food through a hole in the ice. One day she catches a colourful, painted wooden bird instead. And after that there are many more such treasures; beautiful things of a kind she’s never seen before.

Karin Littlewood’s picture book about Immi shows the difference something new and beautiful can make to your life. In Immi’s cold, white world these bright and strange things are exciting.

Karin Littlewood, Immi

When the ice starts to melt, Immi decides to throw her wooden polar bear down the hole in the ice, and one day it appears on the warm and sunny beach where – possibly – Immi’s little surprises originated. (I’m imagining a sort of wormhole between somewhere cold and some place much hotter.)

Very beautiful.