John Boyne is an Irish author of 8 books, including the international bestseller ‘The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas’ which won two Irish Book Awards, was shortlisted for the British Book Award and has been made into a feature film. In this blog post and video, John speaks exclusively to Eason Children’s Book Buyer David O’Callaghan about his fourth children’s novel ‘Stay Where You Are And Then Leave’.
Stay Where You Are And Then Leave is the third novel I’ve written with a wartime setting, following The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas and my adult novel The Absolutist. I find myself increasingly interested in war stories, where so much of human nature can be found: bravery, cowardice, fear, humanity, death and grief.
In Stay, we follow the story of a young boy, Alfie Summerfield, whose father signs up to fight on the day that the First World War breaks out. Four years later, the war is still going on, Alfie is nine, but his father has gone missing. Everyone seems to know what has happened to him, but no one will tell Alfie, who is afraid his father is dead. When he discovers that his father is very much alive, it takes him on a journey that forces him to be more grown up than any nine year-old should be.
The more research I undertook relating to the First World War, the more I realised that there are a wealth of stories that can yet be told about that time. It is less easily understood and less frequently written about than the Second World War which of course has a recognisable villain and a specific atrocity at its centre, but 16 million people died in the fighting between 1914 and 1918 and every one of them has a story that can be told.
I like writing stories for young people where the child is the hero of the story, where he does not need an adult to save him but where he must often take on responsibilities that are not always appropriate for his age. In The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, Bruno struggles to build a friendship with Shmuel during the Holocaust; in Noah Barleywater Runs Away, Noah must face up the impending death of his mother; in The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket, Barnaby must survive alone as he travels the planet trying to get home. And in Stay Where You Are And Then Leave, Alfie will do whatever it takes to bring his father home safely and reunite his family.
At the risk of sounding coy… I wouldn’t want to spoil this for those who haven’t read Ashes. So, all I can really say is that civilizations come crashing down into a pre-industrial black hole; the majority of teens have changed into people you really don’t want to meet in a dark alley; and things get worse: much, much worse. If it helps, one librarian wrote to say that Shadows kept her up at night. And some people can’t look at grapes or spaghetti in quite the same way…
Your books are set in a post-apocalyptic world, but would you consider them to belong to the genre of dystopian fiction?
No, I don’t, although that definition does seem to be shifting into something a tad loosey-goosey. The Ashes series is apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic and concerns itself not only with what happens when the world falls apart, but the choices people make and the rules they’re willing to break in order to survive. I’ve met a lot of people who are convinced that they know exactly how they’ll behave in a given situation, but I think that’s a comforting illusion. Go read history; turn on the television; study just how barbaric people can be when it comes down to a life or death situation. Honestly, you have no idea what you’ll do in an emergency until you’re in it.
So while the ostensible enemy in my books is the ‘Changed’—those kids you really don’t want to meet in a dark alley—many of the adults are no better and, sometimes, much worse. Frankly, everyone changes in my books—and some, not for the best.
Is post-apocalyptic fiction something you always wanted to write?
Not particularly, but I was raised on science fiction, which I think was the young adult literature of my day. An awful lot of those stories focused on the world falling apart.
The genesis for Ashes was pretty straightforward, though. I’d happened to read through several dystopias, and while I thought they were very good and some were better than others, I was a little dissatisfied for a whole host of reasons. One was that I had no idea of how the world got to be the way it was. Then, too, I also thought people were much too well behaved. I remember this one book where this family hangs out in their home for the entire thing—and no one breaks in. There’s plenty of deprivation, but everyone is so civilized, and anyone who’s read history or observed how people behave in the face of disaster knows that’s just not believable. Reading these books was a little like sitting through a disaster movie where the lead actress’s hair is always artfully mussed, and she never chips a nail.
My instinct was to go for gritty because reality is messy and chaos is dirty, in more ways than one. My goal was to bring civilization crashing down in a big hurry that didn’t involve, say, nuclear weapons or the spread of some mutant virus but was still both theoretically possible and scientifically plausible: to create a world in which things fall apart and then change into something none of the characters recognize.
What is it about post-apocalyptic fiction you find particularly appealing?
Oh, who doesn’t want to blow up the world now and again? Seriously, though, as a child psychiatrist, I’ve seen a lot of people under stress. No one’s excited to see the shrink. My office was frequently the stop of last resort: the place people were forced to come because nothing else had worked. So I saw an awful lot of people who really weren’t at their best, and many who were downright abominable to those they say they love. In a sense, you could say that, for them, the apocalypse happened the moment they walked through the door.
But, mostly, I’m fascinated by ambiguity and the evil people do, how quickly civilization falls apart, and the bad decisions that essentially good people make, as well as the lies they tell themselves so they can go on living.
Evie Blake is a pseudonym of Irish author Noelle Harrison, which she uses for her forays into literary erotica. Noelle’s previous work includes bestseller The Adulteress. Her new novel, Valentina, is a reimagining of the graphic novel series of the same name by Italian artist, Guido Crepax. Beautifully written and compulsive reading, this first book in the trilogy conjures up the erotic Italian worlds of 1920s Venice and present day Milan where one unforgettable photography assignment leads to a climactic discovery. We spoke to Noelle about writing erotica, the current ‘craze’ and how this latest venture came about.
How did you come to write Valentina?
I have always enjoyed writing sex scenes. I love the challenge as a writer: to walk the fine line between vulgarity and tameness, and craft, through words, an episode that the reader will find erotic. I am a great believer in the sensuality of language and, just like music, literature can put you in a certain mood. A sex scene is only partly about what is happening within it. The language, the pacing and the imagery all create an overall erotic experience for the reader. I don’t think it’s dirty, or coarse, or shallow. Sex is a part of life. And good sex scenes can only enhance a book in my opinion.
In all of my work, sex, whether as a beautiful or erotic component, or as a dark and secretive element, plays an extremely important role. It was because of The Adulteress that the opportunity of Valentina was presented to me. My agent in Milan secured the rights to Guido Crepax’s series and had been discussing with his son Antonio the possibility of bringing the character of Valentina to life in an erotic novel. They needed to find a writer who could write literary erotica, and fortunately my agent thought of me, because of the sensual and erotic passages within The Adulteress.
At first I was hesitant about it. Valentina was not my character. I had not created her, and I was worried about how constraining this might be as a writer. However, it was an exciting challenge, to take a character created by someone else, and bring her alive again in a very different way. It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.
Who is Valentina?
You will not meet an Italian who has not heard of Valentina and who doesn’t have their own personal response to her character. Despite the fact that some feminists criticize her, there is nothing anti-feminist about her. She is free-spirited, liberated and intelligent, with a glamorous career as a photographer. If she is depicted as a submissive, it is because she has chosen to play this part. She is in control, adventurous and encourages men and women to be more open in communicating their sexual fantasies.
We’re thrilled to be hosting the fourth of seven teaser trailers celebrating the release of the hilariously funny seventh book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, The Third Wheel. Zoo-wee-mama!
Author Jeff Kinney has recorded seven teaser trailers exclusively for fans in Ireland and the UK. There are three more trailers to come – you can find the new trailers at www.wimpykidclub.co.uk every Friday until publication date on ‘Wimpy Kid Wednesday’ (November 14th).
Make sure to preorder your copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel now – we’ll deliver it to your door on the publication date.
Our friends at Penguin sent us an exclusive video of Marian Keyes talking about her latest novel, The Mystery of Mercy Close, which promises to be one of the biggest releases of the year!
Pre-order your copy on Easons.com by 10am on Tuesday, September 11th, and we’ll deliver to your door on the date of publication (Thursday, Sept 13th). Just make sure you’ll be at the delivery address you give!
Can’t wait that long for your fix? Check out Marian’s recently-released eBook short, Mammy Walsh’s A-Z of the Walsh Family.
Best-selling Irish author Maria Duffy’s second novel, The Terrace, has just hit our shelves and it is a hugely enjoyable read about the lives of residents on a Dublin street as their world is turned upside down by a missing lotto ticket. Maria first came to prominence last year with her debut, Any Dream Will Do. The novel itself is fantastic but it was her online presence and modern approach to getting published that got everyone talking. We join Maria on a tour of the ‘Twitterverse’ to find out how it all came about.
Maria, in your first novel, Any Dream Will Do, we see thirty-something Jenny drunkenly inviting her Twitter friends to stay with her in Dublin, only to realise that she won’t be able to hide her not-so-glamorous life behind her computer anymore. What a fantastic concept for a first novel! How did you come up with it?
Thank you! The concept for Any Dream Will Do came to me after I was contacted by Sheila Crowley, a literary agent with Curtis Brown in London. She’d been following me on Twitter and told me that if I could write a book using my Twitter voice, I’d have something special. At that stage, I’d been hankering after that elusive book deal and didn’t have an agent. She told me to write something fresh and send her a few chapters. It seemed that a story centred around Twitter was the obvious choice and I started to build the idea and characters in my head. Sheila loved what I sent her and signed me up. Soon after that, I had a two book deal with Hachette Ireland – a dream come true!
What a great way to start out! Did you join social networking sites such as Twitter just to publicise yourself as an author or had you been dipping your toes in the water already?
To be honest, I was dragged kicking and screaming onto Twitter! I know you’ll find that hard to believe, considering my seventy thousand plus tweets to date. I was told that there was an ever-growing number of writers, publishers, readers, etc. who were tweeting and it was the place to be to meet like-minded people. I did as many do and dipped my toe in with a “Hello, is there anyone out there?” and I think it was probably a few days before anyone responded! I hated it! I wondered why anyone would bother. Then I started looking up authors and people I knew and before long, I’d built up a following and began to enjoy my daily tweeting. At first, I tweeted mostly about writing but as I got to know more people, the Twitterverse became a place where we chatted about everything. Nowadays, watching The X-Factor or the Eurovision wouldn’t be the same without tweeting our way through it!
Check out this short clip from author Claudia Carroll speaking of her excitement and influences for her new book,
‘A Very Accidental Love Story’
Bestselling children’s author Jacqueline Wilson stopped by to deliver a personal message to all of her Easons fans! She also introduced her latest book, ‘Four Children and It‘ (due to be published in mid-August).
… what would YOU wish for?