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21 May 2013
Today Night School Book 1 launches in the US and Canada!
You can buy it in all the book stores! You can buy it online! You can buy it… in OTHER PLACES that sell BOOKS!
I am SO EXCITED.
Have you seen Night School anywhere in North America yet? If so, post a photo of it in the wild on the Night School Series Facebook page and I will highlight it for ALL to SEE.
18 Apr 2013
This week, for the first time ever, I attended one of the world’s biggest book fairs. I have always read about The London Book Fair with a mixture of envy and curiosity. It’s geared at the publishing industry — here, agents meet publishers from around the world and pitch books to them. Publishers set up stands to display their most successful books and show off a bit. It is a buzz of activity and BUSINESS.
This is the other side of the publishing industry from the book stores we all know and love. This is how books get made.
Anyway, so I was there to talk about sex.
*Smiles at you*
Should books have age ratings?
To be more specific, I was discussing ways we could protect young readers from books for older teens that contain sex, swearing or violence.
In the US and some European countries, publishers voluntarily put recommended ages on the backs of books for young people. Night School usually is rated ’14+’. This doesn’t mean younger teens can’t read them, it’s just a guideline for buyers so they know what they’re getting before they read the book. Books rated 16+ may contain sex, quite a bit of violence or other more ‘adult’ content.
It’s like a film rating, only no one stops you from reading the book if you’re too young. It’s just there for your information.
There are no suggested reading ages on teen books in the UK.
Most Night School readers who contact me are aged 15-25. But I also have a lot of young readers – the youngest who has contacted me is 10. I ADORE my younger readers *waves at lovely young readers* but 10 is awfully young to be reading books like Night School.
The problem is, the teen section is usually right next to – or actually IN – the children’s section of book stores. It’s easy for younger readers to see an enticing cover and be drawn to a teen book. But teen books are NOT children’s books. An 11-year-old is not a 16-year-old.
Night School may not be an ‘adult’ book, but it addresses serious issues of death, loss and sexuality. It doesn’t wallow in them but it doesn’t flinch away from them either.
Publishers and writers are in a delicate position of wanting to treat teenagers as we identify them – we call them ‘young adults’ after all – while also being aware that these books will be read by much younger readers.
I don’t want to give an 11-year-old nightmares. I don’t want my books to have 10-year-olds Googling the sex acts my 17-year-old characters joke about. But I also don’t want to talk down to my 17-year-old readers. I am not willing to have characters who don’t swear or talk about sex in case an 11-year-old reads my book.
Buyer be aware
At my event at the London Book Fair, we opened the floor up to the audience of booksellers, editors, agents, bloggers and marketers to hear what they thought could be done. To my surprise, no-one was opposed to instituting some sort of voluntary system for UK buyers so they could know the kind of content a book contained.
Because young readers have varying levels of reading maturity – all 11-year-olds are not created equal – one suggestion we all quite liked was for a voluntary colour system: red for sex, yellow for language, black for violence, for example. Then readers and parents could flip a book over to see what they’re likely to get.
My book would probably have a yellow flag for its vaguely sweary characters.
No quick fix
We agreed this wouldn’t solve the situation. That younger kids would still want to read more adult books. That some kids would be drawn straight to red-yellow-black books in hopes of more pervy content. That kids will still dare each other to read the most extreme books and that many already read adult books.
We can’t stop older kids from reading these books, and I don’t want to stop them. This is how you grow up.
As a 14-year-old in the audience told me – “You should see what’s written on the cubicle walls in the toilets at my school. It’s worse than anything in a book.’
But what we can do is alert parents of much younger readers that teen books might not be appropriate for their children. We can at least give them some help to try and shield their child a little longer from words they will eventually Google, and images they will eventually see.
What do you think? Especially young readers – do you mind when things have age ratings? Would it bother you?
3 Apr 2013
Lily Dunn, the talented author of the book Shadowing The Sun, has invited me on a Book Blog Hop. For this, writers answer ten set questions about their work in progress and tag other writers to do the same.
What is the title of your next book?
Night School: Fracture
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The Night School series was inspired by reading about the Bullingdon Club at Oxford, which has among its members, prime ministers, MPs, cabinet secretaries, an endless array of banking executives, media executives, corporate executives, dukes, barons and kings. Many of the people who run this country are members of this group.
I’ve always been fascinated by British boarding schools, so I decided to combine these two things, and Night School was the result.
What genre does your book fall under?
It is a young adult romantic thriller.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I think Ymanol Perset would make an amazing Sylvain. Just look at those cheekbones.
Juno Temple would make a great Eloise.
What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?
When everyone lies to you, who do you trust?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
What other books would you compare yours to?
I don’t know! I’d have to ask my readers. What books do YOU think Night School is like?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Boredom. I was working as a website editor for the government and I needed something to do to stimulate my calcifying brain.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
None of my characters is safe.
My tagged authors:
A native of Sussex, Ruth Warburton is the author of the popular Witch in Winter series, about a girl who discovers her magical abilities after finding an ancient spell book hidden in her house. She is a book publicist by day, and an author by night.
Julie Sykes has written more than seventy (SEVENTY!) books for children, including the award-winning I Don’t Want to go to Bed, the Pet Sitter series, Silver Dolphins and Princess Katie’s Kittens. Julie is currently putting the finishing touches on Amber, a young adult novel.
1 Apr 2013
I was recently asked by my lovely Polish publisher to do a video interview for the launch of Night School in Poland.
It was so much fun to do I asked the amazing team at Trailermade Films – who do all my book trailers – to cut it down into a super-short video for my website.
They worked their magic and voila!
See for yourself
I don’t know what my hair is up to in this video – it has a life of its own. But I love what they did with it, and I hope you do, too.
Have a look…
19 Mar 2013
So I’m back at last from the Legacy Book Tour and, OH MY GODDESS, was it amazing.
I racked up 1600 miles, signed 750 books, wore out three signing pens, and met 500 lovely people. It was a fantastic experience.
Jack and I drove up to Edinburgh on the first day, taking some time to see that gorgeous Scottish city and meet transplanted local girl and author, Elizabeth May. She took us to a pub filled with books and we gossiped like fiends.
The next day, I signed books and talked to the students at the Mary Erskine School, where the students were so welcoming.
The actor John Barrowman was scheduled right after me everywhere I signed in Scotland but somehow I managed not to meet him in person. Better luck next time, Barrowman!
The next day we were off to Newcastle where I visited the local Waterstones and signed at the very cool Westfield school. The girls there were amazing and asked brilliant questions.
The next day were were in Leeds and Wakefield, where I signed lots of books at Waterstones, met a bunch of old friends and made more than a hundred new friends at the Wakefield Girls High School, which is now one of my favourite schools in the world. I felt completely at home there, and really loved the students who made me laugh.
On Monday I went to the utterly gorgeous Queen Margaret School outside York. The students there just blew me away with their wonderful welcome, their great questions and their friendliness. It was such an amazing event and we sold all the books! I’m pretty sure there were no books left in all of Yorkshire after that signing.
Then we were hurrying to Chester to visit the stellar Queen’s School, where I spent most of the day chatting with the students and the lovely librarian, Gillian. We talked a lot about my background as a journalist and working for the government. Mostly they wanted to hear about what it was like working with spies. Then again, who wouldn’t want to know that?
After that it was back home! I freed the dog from the kennel, apologised to the enraged cats and had a good night’s sleep in my own bed. Then, in the morning I hustled off to Surbiton High School for World Book Day.
The students there looked absolutely amazing, dressed up as their favourite book characters. I met Thing 1 AND Thing 2 from Dr Seuss, not to mention Willy Wonka. And I saw Katniss, but only from a distance. She looked FIERCE.
It was the best book tour EVER. I had the most fabulous time. Thanks so much to the schools and book stores who took care of me, and to all the incredible students. You guys blew me away!
See you on the next tour…
[All photos are by my amazing husband and navigator Jack Jewers]