Last Wednesday UK debut author Tamsyn Murray came to visit my library and host an author event with female pupils in Years 6 - 8.
Tamsyn introduced the girls to her novel My So-Called Afterlife and read them part of the first chapter. It was great to see them all laughing and really engaged. Tamsyn asked them about their favourite books and there were certainly some interesting choices.
Here are just a few:
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd
Halo by Zizou Corder
Spy Girl by Carol Hedges
Thirteen Treasures by Michelle Harrison
City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
She then got them to identify what made these books great stories. She talked about hooking the reader, plot twists, great endings and connecting with characters. It was fascinating to hear the girls talk about what they like to see in a book. A huge twist was a popular choice.
Then the girls then had the opportunity to ask lots and lots of questions.
We learnt that Tamsyn wrote My So-Called Afterlife in 6 weeks. Her main character Lucy came to her fully formed and made the story really easy to write. Tamsyn would wake up at 5.30 am and write before she went to work. She still has a full time job in IT. She started writing back in 2008 and is about to have her second novel published. Stunt Bunny: Showbiz Sensation is out May 27th and is a story for readers age 5+. I actually got to have a sneak preview as Tamsyn had received the first finished copy that morning.
Tamsyn loves funny books. Two of her favourite authors are Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett. She thinks The Graveyard Book is awe-inspiring. I think perhaps her taste in reading is reflected in her writing -- more on that in the review.
Tamsyn also talked about the need to toughen up when you send out your manuscript. Rejections are a part of a writer's life. She recommended that the girls share their writing with their friends so that they can become more comfortable being critiqued and learn from constructive feedback. Good advice indeed!
My So-Called Afterlife is the story of fifteen year old Lucy. She is your ordinary teen girl except for two things. The first being that she is a ghost. The second being that she haunts a toilet on Carnaby Street. Lucy is miserable until one day Jeremy walks in and (after doing what you'd expect in a toilet) happens to be the first person who is able to see Lucy and communicate with her. They have a very humourous exchange and in time become friends. Jeremy proves to be a welcome father figure for Lucy and takes it upon himself to solver her murder.
With Jeremy's help Lucy learns how to leave the toilet and makes some ghostly friends. There is Hep who isn't having the easiest time coming to terms with the events that resulted in her death. There is Ryan who is the swoon-worthy guy who is more than just a handsome face. I really liked Ryan because he had a mission to help the other ghosts move on to the next life. I thought it was sweet and rather noble.
The story unfolds as a witty journey of discovery. Jeremy actively seeking the identity of Lucy's killer. Lucy seeking friendship and enjoying the teenage aspects of ghostly life. All seeking some sort of comfort and resolution to their lives. Although on the surface this book may seem like a giggly, laugh-a-minute tween story, it actually deals with some really serious issues. Perhaps in a less-conventional way but the light-hearted aspects of the story are what make it perfect for the 10 - 13 age group. I LOVE that Tamsyn has written a paranormal story which is appropriate for young teens. Right now there are so many YA paranormal stories out there but most are suitable for the 13+ age group which is not always helpful when younder students want to read them.
I definitely think you can see Tamsyn's love of witty, funny and rather quirky stories in My So-Called Afterlife. It is very tongue in cheek and has a fantastically amusing teen voice. A great book for tweens who want to take their first dip into the world of YA paranormal. I enjoyed reading this!
A huge thank you to Tamsyn for hosting the event and bringing lots of reading excitement into my library.