Tag Archives: Kiran Millwood Hargrave

A Fantastical Escape

This was a great event to end the book festival with! Eoin Colfer is always fun, and he was complemented by Cressida Cowell and Kiran Millwood Hargrave, and kept in some sort of order by Mairi Kidd. There were many laughs and if you hadn’t read all the books yet, you’d want to by the end. Mairi was hoping there were some in the audience who still had this to discover.

Despite ‘promises’ there was no dog, sleeping or otherwise, nor a rear end of cat. But we had a past – Irish – laureate, and the current children’s laureate, and maybe a future one? Cressida was in her kitchen, Kiran in her Oxford office and Eoin was delighted to be anywhere, even in Dublin.

He was feeling smug, having written a picture book and a drama during lockdown. There was ‘nothing he could teach his sons that they’d want to know’ so he mostly ‘read books’ [on Netflix]. So did Kiran, but as she’s married to her illustrator she needed to get some work finished. And Cressida had read her books on YouTube, loving her own jokes, long forgotten.

People with a high IQ are more easily disturbed by noisy chewing. This is a fact. Apparently. Eoin wore his glasses to improve his high IQ look, and to seem more trustworthy as he talked about his fraternal, con-joined twins…

Kiran, who at a young age was traumatised by the tunnel in Eoin’s The Wish List, always has strong ideas of what her characters look like, but can’t draw them. Cressida might be an artist, but has bad visual memory, citing a pear with the stalk at the wrong end.

Eoin regrets the fact that children grow too old to dare write fiction, believing they must do it in a certain way. Kiran used to write as a child, but had forgotten this, until her mother reminded her of it, and reckons that’s 15 lost years where she’s not been ‘using it’ to make it stronger.

At this point Eoin disappeared. Broadband issues? (When he popped up again he blamed Brexit. Something about a hard border.) He’s scared by public speaking. Who’d have thought? After 25 years he’s less worried. His worst experience was doing a parachute jump. Not his choice. It was a gift from his wife… And the cords tangled.

Kiran likes the adrenaline pumping, and bungee jumps are her thing. Caving, not so much, But she got out eventually, that time, and she didn’t drown the time she wasn’t waving at her dad, either.

‘Not usually an issues guy’, Eoin is most pleased with his book Illegal. Although in Ireland you are not supposed to be proud of your own work, but as this is a collaboration, it might be OK. Cressida always likes her latest book best, and she’s always proud. With barely a minute to go, Kiran said her book titles are so long she didn’t have time to list one. Maybe the most recent book.

Retelling Tales

This afternoon it was all ‘debauchery’ and giving classic characters new stories. Well, newer stories. Juno Dawson’s Wonderland is a sort of Alice tale, Kiran Millwood Hargrave has written about the brides of Dracula in The Deathless Girls, and Joseph Coelho tackles Ovid’s Daphne* as a latchkey girl who finds a hidden forest in the library. As you do.

And he should know, since according to moderator Philippa Cochrane he has joined every library in the country.

Juno described Wonderland as ‘trippy and strange’ and said that Alice wasn’t trans to begin with, but she was encouraged to go in that direction, and for Juno it was like therapy. For Joseph it was a case of the ‘characters telling you’ what to write; and how Daphne is fixed in grief. Kiran wanted better for her twin characters, but the ‘story had already been written’. She let the girl with ‘no sense of self’ rely on a best friend.

Philippa warned that none of these novels pulls any punches (but that’s what YA fiction is, surely?). Kiran reckons it is stronger to stay tender, and there is good more than there is bad. Juno said she can’t think of anything worse than Glastonbury, and Wonderland is a bit like it. Joseph laughed and blamed everything on Daphne, who ‘told him to write it’. You can get through difficult situations, and friends and family can help.

Joseph asked the others about their writing habits. For Kiran self care is important. She writes best when healthy, and she needs to get away from her desk regularly, even when the writing tries to keep her there. ‘You matter more’. Juno discovered she needed a job to go to, to see people, to have the commute, after working from her flat in London. It made her crazy. She now has an office in Brighton, but before that she was the monster with the MacBook who sat in cafés, scowling at children.

This was another live event, and one audience question was how much they left of the original stories, and another whether the myths still have any relevance. Also, what characterises a book as YA, and not wider age appeal? We’ve all been teenagers, as Juno said, while both Joseph and Kiran mentioned ‘voice’, and you recognise things, you have lived it, it’s intense.

Kiran really wanted to know which movie the other two would choose if they were to retell a film, saying she herself would pick Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Joseph chose The Thing, and Juno Single White Female.

Philippa hoped publishers were listening, because we could all want to read those books. And said that she had been cheered up on this dreich day in Edinburgh. I think we all had, dreich or not. Great stuff!

(*Joseph’s book, The Girl Who Became a Tree, isn’t out yet, but is available from the festival bookshop.)

Bookwitch bites #141

I was sad to learn that Barrington Stoke’s MD Mairi Kidd has been made redundant. Apart from the effect on Mairi’s personal life, this news makes me want to ask questions. Are times that bad? Is it fair to ask other staff to share her tasks between them? Is the work MDs do so easy to ignore? What will happen to Barrington Stoke now? There has been a lot more noise on social media about this than after your average publishing news, which shows the standing Mairi has enjoyed at the helm of an inspiring company.

Kiran Millwood Hargrave has won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for her debut book The Girl of Ink & Stars, and writer and illustrator Lizzy Stewart won the Illustrated Books category with There’s a Tiger in the Garden, and Patrice Lawrence’s Orangeboy won the Older Fiction category.

Miaow. Gothenburg library is to get its own resident cat. Astrid. Or not. Seems it was merely an April fool thing, which is just as well, as I and many others could foresee problems with this lovely idea. I know it is meant to be good for people and it will lower your blood pressure and you’ll be much happier and all that. But I have often wondered what it’s like for those who are not too keen on pets. While some people are busy feeling better for the presence of the new cat/dog/ferret, it’s not only those who are allergic who might suffer. It could be that after enough time anyone would get so used to the pet that all our blood pressures become just perfect. Or maybe the pressure rises as your level of fear shoots up?

And while we are on the subject of Astrid, this year’s winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is Wolf Erlbruch, ‘a German illustrator and picturebook author. He is best known for his illustrations of The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business, which became a great success around the world. Wolf Erlbruch has written some ten books of his own and illustrated nearly fifty titles by other authors.’

Congratulations to Wolf!