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Friday, 9 March 2012

Event Summary: TV Book Club | Review: You Deserve Nothing

Another new and exciting experience came my way this week thanks to my blog. I was invited to the filming of TV Book Club at Cactus TV studios. I arrived all alone and was greeted by some other bloggers. I was the only YA blogger there (to my knowledge). I felt like I had stepped into an episode of Poirot as all these people from different walks of life were brought together. I was sure there would be a dead body when we went on to the set but alas no, this was real life.

The book this episode was focused on was You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik. I have learned from experience that I enjoy book events much more if I’ve read the book so I did just that. It’s an adult novel for sure but it focuses on the life of teenagers at an international school in Paris. I found the book incredibly easy to get into and that it was just my cup of tea which tells me that the social media agency that invited me to the filming really knew their stuff.

I read this book as fiction. I absolutely loved it. When I arrived at the studio one of the other viewers told me it was based on the author’s personal experiences. She said she found it sinister and disturbing. But I do not believe the book should be judged in this way. I believe it should be judged on the quality of the writing and the construction of the story which were, in my opinion, excellent.

The panel on the show Caroline Quentin, Rory Mcgrath, Laila Rouass were joined by special guest Alex James. I think it is fair to say none of them enjoyed the book as much as me. Rory felt, like I did, that it was very accessible and not at all pretentious. Alex found it sinister and didn’t really want to read on. Laila wanted a bit more from the character of Gilad. (I tell you more about him later). I’m not entirely sure it was Caroline’s type of thing. She was much keener on Alex’s new book about cheese.

I liked this book more than anyone else at the filming and that’s fine. I found that it really spoke to me. I understood the melancholy feeling of the end of term. You watch your students go and you are left behind. Then the new intake comes and so does the hope and desire to be the best teacher you can be that year. The character of Will, the teacher at the heart of it all who has an illicit affair with a pupil at the school, made literature and philosophy come to life so that you wanted to be transformed by reading it. You wanted to be in the class learning from him. I understood why his students were hooked on his every word.

The story is told also from the perspectives of Marie - the girl who has a relationship with him. I want to say he seduces her but the way they both tell the story, it isn’t quite like that. Marie is lost amid a school of fakes. She is playing a role and is suffocating because of it. The professional in me says she is a victim, abused by the control Will has over the student body. The relationship is a little more complicated than that, I think. But Marie feels that she’d let him do anything to her which is certainly not healthy.

Then there is Gilad who was my favourite character and the reason that I really got this story. He too is in love with Will. He wants to please him and be noticed by him and be declared as “special”. Gilad hangs off Will’s every word. He is the real hero in this story but if you want to know why you’ll have to read it.

There are many themes at play in You Deserve Nothing but for me there are two undeniable truths. The first is that life is defined by our choices. We make them and we are responsible for them. The second is that people disappoint us. We build expectations around people and glorify them. Inevitably they are human and let us down. And now I tell you that I loved this book but the ending was a disappointment. I believe it was meant to be that way. We want Will to be more than he is. But the truth is that he’s shallow and a coward. If we realise our idols are flawed maybe we’re inspired to try harder to be better people. I hope that’s the heart of this book.  

You can find out about the other books on TV Book Club's Best Reads Collection 2012  at their WEBSITE.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Author Interview: Cate Tiernan

As I'm sure many of you know by now, I am a huge fan of Cate Tiernan. Her latest novel Darkness Falls, the second in the Immortal Beloved series, has just been released and so I was lucky enough to be able to ask her a few questions. I hope you enjoy.

The Bookette: Immortal Beloved is a fantasy series which explores the concept of light and dark magic. Light magic emanating from the self and being in equilibrium with nature; and contrastingly, dark magic draining power from living things by force. Can you tell us a little about how you came to characterise magick in that way?

Cate: Hmm. Thinking . . . In my Balefire books, I wanted to show characters using their magick in a bad way, but more fundamentally than just using it to do wrong things. I wanted to put in a more basic level of choice about one’s actions—with the message that if one is acting with positive intent, their magick can be so much stronger. So I thought about what that would look like, what the physical expression of that would look like and feel like. I think that idea just cemented itself in my mind, and now that’s how I write magick, when I write it.

TB: Nastasya’s place of birth was Iceland over 400 years ago. How do you go about writing Icelandic phrases into her dialogue and narrative? How do ensure its authenticity?

C: I will probably get letters from readers correcting me on various points. But I do a lot of research, mostly on the Interwebz for things like that. I use Google Translate for modern phrases, and for older ones I try to find examples of medieval Icelandic. I try to use several different sources to be as accurate as I can. And I use my (limited) general knowledge of language systems to make phrases sound older, with old-fashioned grammar construction.
TB: Wow! I wouldn't know where to start using grammar systems. It's hard enough in English. I am so impressed.

Darkness Falls is the second book in the series, how different is the experience of writing a sequel? I know this is not the first series you have written. I love the Wicca series!

C: Thank you! I’ve done mostly series, in my writing career. Not too many single-titles. I’m always amazed when someone can tell and wrap up a whole story in just one book! Simply put, I almost always feel like I need a lot of space to tell a story, and need to put in at least most of the things I want to say. With a single title, you have the plot arc and character arcs structured so that everything peaks and everything culminates all within one book. (Okay, that’s obvious.) With a series, the character arc is big and long, stretching out over all of the books, and the plot arcs vary—you have one over-arching story that begins at the beginning of the first book and ends at the end of the last book, but each book has to be able to be read by itself and feel like a more-or-less complete story. So there are smaller plot arcs as well as the long one. And in a longish series like Wicca, there are even 3- or 4-book plot arcs within the main plot. I didn’t explain that very well.
TB: Yes, you did Cate! I see that a long series needs more character journeys to carry it through, even when those journeys may all be tundertaken by one character.

If you could choose a past life to live, where and when would it be, and why?

C: I’ve wondered that myself. Each time period has pluses and minuses. And honestly, for most time periods, the roles of women are so circumscribed that it’s hard to make peace with it. I’ve thought that ancient Greece might be exhilarating to experience. But I’ve done enough research to know that loving the clothes or the events or the romance of a certain time doesn’t erase the much greater effort required to live then, how much less women were able to do, how limited medical care was, how the classes were so strictly enforced. Whatever problems the modern world has, in many ways it’s the best time to live, and the best time to be female.

TB: Ancient Greece, that would be fascinating. I wouldn't mind conversing with a few philosophers! Even now I think there is still so much inequality for women in society but we at least are liberated.

Which books are on your reading pile for 2012?

C: I always have a stack by my bed and a list of downloads on my Kindle/iPad. In general, I read a lot of non-fiction—some for research, some just because I like it. I don’t read a lot of current fiction, though I have certain writers I like. I read genre novels, romances and mysteries and some fantasy. I don’t read much YA at all—I’m worried I’ll find it too influencing.

TB: I can see your point about reading YA and writing YA. Another good consequent of not reading it is that your writing isn't influenced by the trends of the genre.  

And finally, please share with us a piece of writing advice (or a prompt) to help us on our creative way into this New Year.

C: Oh, gosh. I always give the same advice about writing: Know what you want to say, and who you want to say it to. Figure out why you’re writing. Most of the time, “To tell a story” isn’t a good enough reason. Writing is about communication, about reaching a stranger from a distance and sharing something fundamentally human with them. What do you want to share? Why? What do you want them to get out of it?

This probably isn’t that helpful, but it’s the only true thing about writing I know.

Thanks for the interview—


And many thanks to you Cate for taking part and sharing with us your wisdom and experience.

Good luck for the rest of the series. I can't wait to read it.