Let me introduce Phil Earle - his debut novel Being Billy was released in January. He has very kindly shared his thoughts on reading and writing YA fiction. Hopefully you'll find a recommendation in his guest post to add on your list of titles to read for the British Books Challenge.
A guest post by Phil Earle
It’s a wonderful time to be both reading and writing young adult fiction. Whether you want your kicks from a paranormal realm, a dystopian future or from the here and now, there’s plenty for everyone.
For me, so much inspiration comes from UK authors. There are exceptions of course. I wouldn’t be writing if I hadn’t read ‘The Outsiders’ by S.E. Hinton, ‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar or fallen completely for David Klass’ ‘You Don’t Know Me.’ But for every wonderful American novel I’ve read, there’s a British one to match it.
I decided I wanted to write ten years ago whilst working as a bookseller for Ottakar’s, who had the most fabulous policy to let staff borrow books. If you took a book home and loved it they knew we’d hand-sell it to customers. It’s a simple theory I know, but genius all the same, and it was an invitation I hoovered up. I treated the place like a library!
One of the first books to leave its mark was ‘Skellig’. Obvious choice I know, but sometimes obvious is best. What I love most about David Almond’s books is that he never seems to waste a word, and within two hundred pages he weaves the most fantastical spells. I don’t think I’ll ever read a book that evokes the same intensity of emotion every time I read it, as ‘Skellig’. What a wonderful last line as well, a simple sentence that always makes me smile and brings me hope.
At the other end of the spectrum is Kevin Brooks, who is more anarchic, more rock and roll I suppose, than David Almond. Reading ‘Martyn Pig’ was a revelation, as he took risks and allowed his characters to do things that you just didn’t do at that time, especially with a debut. He played with morality and took YA in a new direction, he created a crime thriller that deserved every award and raving review it gathered. ‘iBoy’ is a bit special too, as is ‘Lucas’ and ‘Black Rabbit Summer ’ (I could go on!).
The most under-rated writer in British YA is Keith Gray – a HUGE influence from my Ottakars days. From ‘Warehouse’ to ‘Ostrich Boys’, he finds the finest drama in every day lives. People say boys don’t read? Well they would if they knew about Keith. I think I’d read his shopping list if he published it.
One final inspiration is Siobhan Dowd, who in the space of a couple of years published four magnificent novels.
Like Keith Gray, she had the most amazing knack of weaving suspenseful, beautiful prose from the grittiest of scenarios. And if that’s not your thing? Then read ‘The London Eye Mystery’. If ever Enid Blyton had wanted to re-write ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’? Well, it would have read like this. Genius.
It’s heart-breaking that Siobhan never added to this legacy before cancer stole her away. How many more classics she would have written by now?
At least we have Patrick Ness’ imagining of her story ‘A Monster Calls’ to look forward to.
Huge shoes to fill, but what a storyteller to fill them.
I can’t wait to read it.
Thanks Phil. I recently read my first Kevin Brooks novel and I am looking forward to enjoying some more. I can't wait for more from Patrick Ness. It strikes me that he is quite a genius!
I have been reading lots of fab reviews for Being Billy.
Here are three fantastic ones you might like to check out:
Clover @ Fluttering Butterflies
Carly @ Writing from the Tub
Sya @ Mountains of Instead