Wednesday, 12 December 2012
Alison Bacon, author of A Kettle of Fish, and Shirley Wright, author of Time out of Mind, both published in the same stable as my own children's book TOUGH LUCK contacted me to ask me more about the book. I was delighted to tell them that the book Alison went on to wring these questions out of me...
What was the working title of your book?This children’s novel for confident readers was originally called Bad Luck Dimesy, but everyone told me that this wasn’t urgent or specific enough; it didn’t tell the buyer anything about the story. So now it is called Tough Luck, which is emphasized right at the start of the first chapter...
Do you believe in luck? Coincidence, fate, any of that stuff?
Before I knew Jake, I only believed in my own bad luck. The world and its mates were out to get me and mostly they succeeded.
Where did the idea come from?
An article in a Sunday supplement about people who have black ancestry and yet have, in the following generations, lost any physical trait of that side of themselves. They look white, or maybe tan easily. Some didn’t even know they had African or Afro-Caribbean ancestors. I thought this would be a fascinating subject for a novel; at that point I didn’t really think about using it for a children’s novel at all.
What genre does the book fall into?
It’s a book for children who are already confident in their reading, sometimes called 8+ (or 9+ in Waterstones). It’s a personal drama with historic aspects. My last novel for this age group, Sweet’n’Sour (HarperCollins) was a ‘time slip’ - the character finds himself ‘out of his own body and/or in some other place’. This is used in novels such as Stig of the Dump and Tom’s Midnight Garden and Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution. I wanted to do something a little different this time, but still use a historical aspect; in this story, the children discover things via a school project.
Which actors would you like to see play your main characters in the movie of your book?
Well, clearly they will be 13 year olds...an ideal opportunity for the acting profession to discover a new generation of Emmas, Ruperts and Daniels...
What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?
Brandon’s in deep with tough luck trouble – all because a conker fell on his head; there’s a gang out to get him and a mystery to solve, and Constable Webb is on his case, catching him out whatever he does...but getting to know Jake Silver reveals just what tough luck can really mean…
Will the book be self-published or represented by a traditional agency?
I’m delighted to say that ThornBerry Publishing has offered me a contract for this book, and that it will be the very first on their new Children’s List. I’m hoping that together, we can promote both the book and the new list!
How long did it take you to write the first draft?
I did a lot of research for this story, mostly (and some of it was extremely difficult to read) the history of slavery in the Caribbean. It took me about 2 years, I think.
What other books would you compare yours to?
Keren David’s books in the first person are as gritty and realistic as well as being informative, although about different subjects.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Racism just doesn’t seem to go away. When I was younger, a bit older than Brandon, some of my friends were attacked in the way he is in the story, and I can remember at that time thinking that one day we would all live in peace in this country, but that just doesn’t seem to be happening, not completely, anyway.
What else about your book might pique a reader's interest?
Tough Luck is a modern adventure story, which allows its characters freedom to have exploits in the ‘real world’, to follow a ‘quest’, and to learn about the history of slavery. Brandon, a year 8 Bristolian boy of Afro-Caribbean extract, tells this story. He’s a bit of a maverick, and likes to be thought of as a joker, so the narrative style is upbeat and easy to read, even for children who are still struggling. The action begins quickly and builds into several peaks. The themes of the story are hard-hitting and effect children’s lives today. But most importantly, Brandon and his class mate Helen are feisty and energetic children, who come over on the page as kids you might want to get to know. During the book they grow through the discoveries they make within their story. Brandon is no lover of school work – he’s easily influenced by his friends and has trouble staying out of trouble. But despite his insistence that he is dogged by bad luck, telling us that us the reason he likes his friend Helen is because ‘she knows who she is’, the paradox is that as their adventures unfold, it is Brandon discovers how to be himself with growing confidence, while Helen has to rediscover her place in the world all over again.
Monday, 10 December 2012
(Naomi Lewis, Sunday Observer)
I moved from Bristol to Ceredigion in west Wales a year or so ago with the desire to live simply, eating our own veggies and the eggs from our hens, and to enjoy the rolling green landscapes and slower pace of life. I also hoped it would inspire my writing, and that’s certainly been the case. Since arriving, I’ve divide time between the writing desk and the garden, not to mention our lively, ever expanding social life. Tranquil, yes, but boring? Not in our house.
I’ve been concentrating on a number of projects since moving, and the first bears fruit today, with the publication of my latest book for older children. It’s out as an ebook today, Monday the 10th December, and already other writers are acclaiming it.
Jane Rogers,winner of this year's Arthur C. Clark award for her novel about a 16 year old girl, The Testament of Jesse Lamb, says of Tough Luck...Gripping storytelling – Brandon’s voice is strong and convincing, his world vividly imagined...
Tough Luck is for kids who are becoming confident readers, and is the story of Brandon, a 13 year-old boy who’s tough luck always leads him in into trouble. There’s a gang out to get him, and a mystery to solve, and Constable Webb is on his case, catching him out whatever he does. All because a conker fell on his head! But when Brandon and his class mate Helen get to know Jake Silver, a slave boy
Jean Burnett, historic author (Who Needs Mr Darcy? published by Sphere) says; Tough Luck is a multi-cultural fable, a painless history lesson, and very good fun. A first rate young adult read...
Tough Luck is set in my home city of Bristol and deals with powerful themes, especially racism, belonging and of course, luck! Through Brandon’s and Helen’s eye, the reader enters the world of children growing up in a tough city today, but also the world of a child who was growing up as a black slave two hundred years ago. Tough Luck is out from ThornBerry Publishing as an ebook available on Kindle and other ebook media from 10th December.You can buy it via the link :
When sales are established, it will also come out as a paperback.
My previous novel for older children is Sweet’n’Sour published by HarperCollins. It is available now as a paperback from Amazon.
Thank you, everyone who has endorsed the book; I’m so glad you enjoyed reading it. Now I’m asking all my friends and acquaintances to download Tough Luck onto their Kindle, Ipad or whatever, and leave a review on Amazon if you possibly can, as my writing compatriot, Shirley Wright, author of Time out of Mind (also published byThornberry) already has....
An engaging and moving novel, Tough Luck tackles issues that confront most teenagers today. Drawing upon Bristol’s dark history of the slave trade, this story of inner-city racial tensions challenges children to think about the ability of individuals to make their own luck and so change the future...
Don’t forget, with Christmas coming up, Tough Luck will make a great gift for screen-keen kids of around 8 to 13, and, with its low price and even lower postage costs, it won’t break the bank. Just contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like me to ‘sign’ the book via email.