Tag Archives: Patrick Ness

Mads for Mayor

Trying to decide who came into my life first, Mads Mikkelsen or Patrick Ness. It’s all in the past, and that’s getting murkier by the minute. Some things I just don’t remember.

And others I do. That fateful – but really lovely – young reviewers club I was connected with quite a few years ago, for instance. I remember that one of the boys read The Knife of Never Letting Go. I thought it a curious title, and I wasn’t sure what I thought of the language, so I didn’t read it. Then.

The boy’s review was published on a review site that didn’t exactly get lots of hits, but some. One visitor was Patrick Ness. (I reckon most authors google themselves and their books. At least early on.) I followed the lead to where his subsequent link was coming from, which was on his blog. The review was the first, or one of the first, which was especially noticeable because it was before the book was officially out.

Patrick was pleased, and I was pleased that he was pleased.

Mads Mikkelsen. I know exactly where I clapped eyes on him. Just not when. His Danish television police series Rejseholdet seemed to be screened on Swedish television every summer, and one evening midway through an episode, I happened to switch on. I disliked him on sight.

But I enjoyed Rejseholdet, and eventually, after many years, I grew fond of Mads. And by now I, and the rest of the world, have seen him in lots of films, international as well as Danish.

I had never imagined Mayor Prentiss in The Knife of Never Letting Go looking like Mads. Not even a little bit. But I expect he’ll be marvellous as the ghastly Mayor. I’m already looking forward to the film, but suppose I will have to wait until 2019 for Chaos Walking, as it will be known. Slightly less of a mouthful than the book title.


Patrick Ness – setting aside expectations

Ann Landmann clearly knew she could fill the George Square Lecture Theatre for the Blackwell’s Patrick Ness event on Saturday afternoon. So she did. People were queueing before the doors opened. There were plenty of young fans, but also a good number of unaccompanied adults. It’s OK. I was one myself, as was Kate Leiper who turned up again. (We’ll have to stop meeting like this…)

Patrick Ness and Keith Gray

I knew it’d be good when I heard that Keith Gray was going to be the one to talk to Patrick about his new book Release. This was their third event together (and I’ve been to them all), and as Keith said, a lot has happened since the last time; three books, television, a film.

The edge of the stage nearly brought Patrick down as he entered, but he managed to right himself, and then he put his mic on, having left it off in case we could hear him in the Gents.

Keith wanted to know if he had anything he needs to get to before… ‘Death?’ Patrick is aware that every book could be the last, so he doesn’t hold back. He sets aside what the publisher and the market might expect, and writes what he needs to write. He pointed out that no one was expecting Harry Potter, and that J K Rowling’s joy with her book is clear.

Patrick never expected anyone would want what he wrote. Asked to describe Release to the people in the audience, most of whom had not yet read the book, he said it’s A Day in the Life of Adam Thorn, based on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever, from buying flowers in the morning, to a party at night.

Patrick Ness and Keith Gray

He wants to kick off his safety net, and see how you survive the apocalypse; what feels like the end of the world. Asked why he wrote it now, Patrick felt the time was right. All his ten books are about him, but this one much more so. He’s not trying to be controversial for the sake of controversy. But it was time. It’s the book he’d have wanted to read when he was 16. And he can only write about his own experiences. Gay love needs to be described as more than romantic hand-holding, and he pointed out that his story contains ‘no worse’ than what’s in Judy Blume’s Forever.

Keith wanted to know if Adam might turn up in more books, but Patrick felt that was a terrible question. (He doesn’t know.) Yes, he does want to get people to read Mrs Dalloway and Forever, and there isn’t much difference between Stephen King and Virginia Woolf. Joanna Trollope’s name was mentioned, followed by a laugh. Patrick likes Donne, but not Wordsworth, which is perfectly valid.

Patrick only writes for himself at 16. He writes about everything that he’d have wanted to talk about at that age. When he wrote A Monster Calls, he knew he couldn’t guess how Siobhan Dowd would have written the story, so he had to do it his way. And books are like children; you love them, and send them out into the world, hoping for the best.

Angela in Release was based on his oldest friend, and he used the name Angela Darlington after someone paid £1000 (to charity) to have their name in his book. Someone wanted to know if Patrick would ever write about a trans character, and he replied ‘never say never.’ He mentioned his friend Juno Dawson [formerly James], who came out to him about being trans, and he feels it’s wrong that even now you ‘have to’ come out about sexuality.

Another question was about the world ending, and Patrick said he had waited for the apocalypse, but when the world kept not ending, he didn’t know what to do. Now he worries more about the boiler making odd noises, than about the apocalypse. He had a very kind answer to the age old question about what inspired him to become an author, and which book he liked writing the best.

Stories get to stew in his head for a long time before he starts the painful process of writing. And it never becomes what you think it will be. If he has a new idea when reading the first draft, he pretends in the second draft that he always knew about it.

Queue for Patrick Ness

Keith brought the discussion to a close, and Ann Landmann directed everyone where to go; those who had books for signing, those who still needed to buy books, and those who had no intention of stocking up on Christmas presents.

George Sq Lecture Theatre

Patrick Ness

As for me, I realised this was too long a queue for me to stand in (it was of Pratchett/Gaiman proportions), so I stared at the recently emptied auditorium, at Ann waving her hands in the air, took a few fuzzy photos from a distance, said goodbye to Kate, and walked out into the sunshine again.

And here is a prettier one ‘we’ snapped earlier:

Patrick Ness

(Photo above by Helen Giles)


This is a beautiful story. Release by Patrick Ness is, as he says in his foreword, a very personal book. And I believe this is what makes it what it is. I’m obviously not sure what is ‘real’ and what is fiction, but he points out that he was raised in a religion like Adam’s, and that fortunately he also had friends like his main character’s. I hope he had, and preferably still has, an Angela.

Modelled on Mrs Dalloway, ‘one of the three best books,’ Release takes place in one day, and this helps make it special. We follow Adam as he gets ready for a not-party, but a get-together that evening, to say goodbye to his former boyfriend Enzo, who is leaving town.

Patrick Ness, Release

Adam’s very religious parents are hard on him. They don’t want a gay son; they want a perfect preacher for their church, next generation. Adam wants what most teenagers want, a normal life with friends and lovers, an education and a job, and preferably a family where he can feel he belongs and is loved.

He does have the latter, because he can use Angela’s family, who are just what he wants and needs. I’m not sure if I’ve come across a better friend than Angela, who is very short, except in the ‘universes where I’m Beyoncé.’

There might be a new boyfriend. Adam isn’t sure. His perfect older brother is a nuisance, and not preacher material. The town has had a recent murder, so we also have a ghost wandering round on this day, and that’s not as weird as it might sound.

We – and Adam – learn that people are not always what they seem. Some better, some far worse, than you thought. And he still needs to work out exactly what he is hoping for.

For those who have always wondered about gay sex but were afraid to ask, Release tells you more than most YA novels, whether you’re the curious bystander or you’re gay but inexperienced.

I often ask myself if I really need to read the latest book by Patrick Ness. It didn’t take more than a few pages before I knew that I did.

I do.

A Monster Calls – the film

This was the film we tried to go and see all week. We should be grateful it made it to the local cinema, because who would want to be deprived of a good long cry? As it was, Kleenex were required, and there was a bucket too.

A Monster Calls

I can no longer recall the exact details of the book* by Patrick Ness, and by that I mean the minor characters and any minor plots. I think there were some. They are not in the film, which is good, as you don’t want anything to detract from the main story about Conor, his dying mum and his angry grandma. And the school bullies, because to be beaten up every day as your mother is dying is obviously [not] what a 13-year-old boy needs.

A Monster Calls

The film let us concentrate on Conor’s nightmares and the subsequent meetings with a tree monster who comes to the house (voiced by Liam Neeson) to tell him stories.

Then there is grandma, played by Sigourney Weaver, doing a good British accent, while going around being at least as angry as her grandson. And who can blame her; she is losing her child, and gaining a grandchild who hates her.

A Monster Calls

At first the film went so slowly I was afraid it would ruin things but, almost imperceptibly, it sped up and before we knew it we were hooked, by Conor’s dismal daily life, and his mum’s sufferings, and you could literally see her getting worse.

Beautifully filmed in the Northwest, it looked like home to us (not quite as I’d imagined it from the book or from Jim Kay’s illustrations).

And it was only on the way out I remembered I had tissues in my bag, after casting around in my mind what we could possibly use to mop those tears with.

*Based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd

The sorting

‘Don’t forget Ness comes between Nesbit and Newbery,’ I said to the Resident IT Consultant. (That’s of particular interest, as Linda Newbery used to look at the shelves in bookshops before she was a published author, thinking she’d fit in nicely next to Nesbit. We didn’t know about Patrick Ness at the time.)

We were sorting the bookcases. Again. I have done bits of it on my own, but if any serious work was going to happen on the top shelves, especially forming a second row behind, then I needed the Resident IT Consultant. And I’m sure he was pleased to be needed. Climbs well, and can hug a larger pile of books in one go than I can.

My job was to tell him what to do and where, and to choose a few books that would be put up for adoption.

The Ns happen to live on the second top shelf, the one to the right of the As and Bs, and not having been a double row before, on account of stability, they were all out front. ‘Here are some Newberys,’ he said. ‘And some more. Oh, there are a lot of Newberys,’ he said as the full range of Linda’s books hit him. Not literally, I hasten to add.

The very awkward Gs improved a lot with our work the other day. I may have mentioned before that there are many Gs in my book world. There were McMacs coming at us from all directions, but they are more orderly now.

In some instances he had me worried when saying he thought there’d be more of someone’s books. I thought so too, until I recalled that this is what my bedside special bookcase is for. The bestest of the favourites live there.

It also turned out we were both alphabetically challenged. We discovered several books that needed to move left. And then a bit more left, before going furher left where they belonged. We must be getting old.

This was the kind of job you put off and put off because it strikes you as hard work. In actual fact, we only needed a couple of hours, and some of it was me sitting down to think about my books.

And then, of course, I had to go and do my best of list and I wanted a photo of the selected books of 2016, so I had to pull them out again, on my own, and put them back. But at least the sorting meant I knew where to find them, even if it was the top shelf.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Or ‘Not Everyone Has to be the Chosen One’ as it also says on the cover of Patrick Ness’s new novel. It makes sense. We can’t all be chosen as some kind of figurehead, although we are all special in some way.

Patrick Ness, The Rest of Us Just Live Here

You can’t tell where this book is going, which is refreshing. It’s so ordinary in its setting, telling us about the last few weeks before graduation for a group of five high school students in a small town in north western USA. Except, there are odd things happening around them. Each chapter begins with a short piece about the ‘indie kids’ and all the weird and awful things done to them. It’s like a fantasy element that doesn’t belong in this ordinary town, were it not for the fact that our five characters hear about when someone has been found dead, or has gone missing, the same way the reader has just witnessed in the chapter intro.

Indie or not, this is basically about growing up and leaving home to go to college, leaving friends behind, and not believing in yourself or suffering unrequited love (particularly bad if it’s one of your best friends). Being gay. The possibility of your high school being blown up. Or maybe about being killed by zombie deer.

It seems every generation has suffered some odd or dangerous threat, like vampires. ‘Our’ teenagers have these inexplicable deaths in the ‘indie’ camp, as well as the odd blue light seen in the woods. And the zombie deer.

Mikey, who is the narrator, feels he’s somehow less than the rest of his group of friends (rather like most of us do), and he suffers from OCD, and from having a politically ambitious mother who occasionally forgets her family needs to be normal.

It’s odd. Not much happens, if you don’t count stuff that might determine the rest of your life, or your indie school friends being killed, or the school being blown up [before graduation]. Or the zombie deer.

Patrick understands the power of names. The indie kids are mostly called Finn, which is as it should be, or Satchel, Kerouac and Dylan. Mikey’s best friend is Jared Shurin, who came in second place after Mikey’s secret love Henna Silvennoinen in the charity auction to be a character in Patrick’s book. I share his gratitude to Henna for winning, because it’s a name that really, really makes this character.

This novel is crazy and calm at the same time. It’s compellingly good, not to mention different in just the right way.


I often say I’m the kind of immigrant that people like or want. I could be wrong. It was never easy being allowed into the UK, but it was possible, and required only a phone call to the British embassy in Stockholm, payment of a fee, a plane ticket to London, a conversation with the immigration officer at Heathrow (who was mainly interested in where the future Resident IT Consultant came from – like was he another ghastly foreigner, importing more of his foreign kind into the country?), another discussion with an unpleasant customs officer, followed much later by a day at Lunar House in Croydon with all the other hopefuls. And much much later an interview with a council employee (who rather suspected I’d be importing all my foreign relatives if she wasn’t strict with me) to get my NI number.

But I got in, and I have stayed.

And here I have read many books about the plight of people in the 1930s who fled their countries and ended up in Britain, and survived because of it. There are the books, and then there are the authors, who wouldn’t be here today were it not for someone getting permission to enter back then. Now there are people here who actually are proud of this, even though there was hostility at the time.

Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness is another foreigner who must have managed this move as well, since he now lives in the UK. He’s blonder than me, so was possibly more welcome.

By now it appears that Patrick has caused hundreds of thousands of pounds to be donated in aid of the refugees, whose fate we see in the news at the moment.

Just think, in 2095 there could be people who will proudly say how happy they are that Britain welcomed these scared and desperate human beings in 2015. Because it’s what good countries do.

(Here is where you can donate to Save the Children and join Derek Landy and John Green.)