10 Reasons I Love Writing and Reading YA

On the 11th August my next book The Tree Of Rebels will be released as an ebook. (The paperback is already available!) This will be my sixth release and my fourth YA book. My books fall into both the adult and young adult genres. I never really decide which it will be; that’s a job for my characters. It just so happens that all of my characters tend to be young adults, and in fact, even in my adult books, the young adult voice is very present.  When it comes to reading, I’m not too fussy about genre. I recently devoured horror, crime thriller, literary fiction, autobiography and YA. But it’s fair to say that I am more consistently drawn to YA books, to read and to write.  Here are my reasons for being in love with reading and writing YA;

  1. Inspiration – When I was a kid, the first books I ever really fell in love with were The Catcher In The Rye and The Outsiders. I had enjoyed many books as a child, and I had been writing stories for as long as I could remember, but those two books affected me in a way the childhood books had not. I fell into those books and got lost. I fell in love with the characters and saw them as utterly real. I could totally empathise with the feelings, emotions, and scenarios of both books. I loved the style and the voice they were written in. More than any other books I can remember, those two made me want to be a writer. I emulated them in my teens, writing similar stories with similar characters. From that point on I was always searching for books as good as those. I’m still not sure I’ve found any to top them.
  2. Nostalgia – For that reason, YA evokes nostalgia in me. YA books make me remember the surge of enthusiasm and inspiration I got from that genre when I was a teenager. They take me back to that time and remind me of the impact books can have on your life. This I think, draws me towards reading and writing YA. I’m not a rose tinted glasses kind of person by any means, but I do love a bit of nostalgia!
  3. Feeling Young – There is this. Not that I feel old. I really don’t. In my head, I am still a kid, and I always assume people are older than me and certainly wiser. I still feel new sometimes. I still feel like I have so much to learn. I like reading and writing about young people because I still feel like one of them! What I see in the mirror is not what I see in my head. When I read a really good YA book, I can totally recall what it feels like to be that young. I particularly love a good coming-of-age story. I think being a young adult is a totally unique time in your life. Too many people embrace adulthood too quickly and tend to put up walls, separating their generation from the ones below them. (You only have to look at the amount of millennial bashing that goes on!) I think YA books are important for this reason. They remind you of what it is like to be young, conflicted, confused, with those huge highs and lows, mixed with fear, ambition, self-doubt and hope. If you can read YA and feel young again, perhaps it helps build a bridge between generations.
  4. YA is so varied – This is true. YA is a genre with so many sub-genres and I love them all. I’ll even read Romance, if its YA! Horror, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, coming-of-age, historical, thriller… Having young adult characters just seems to make all these genres better.
  5. YA is fast paced – of course, there are exceptions, but generally I find YA books move pretty fast. Not that I mind a slow moving book. I’m not particularly drawn in by the ‘page-turner’ claim, but YA does tend to grip me. I can’t think of too many YA books I’ve read where I haven’t wanted to start a new chapter as soon as I’ve finished the one I’m on. (Michael Grant Gone series and Unwind dystology comes to mind!!)
  6. Gritty, edgy themes – I don’t want to be bored when I read or write. I want subjects I can really get my teeth into. YA has these in abundance. Frightening dystopian futures, post-apocalyptic disasters, family drama, domestic abuse, substance abuse, self-harm, suicide, bullying, running away, sexuality, sexual awakening, poverty, race relations and more, YA is all about tackling difficult issues head on. As a reader and a writer, this is the stuff I yearn for.
  7. Characters that come alive – I struggle with characters in some adult books because I can’t relate to them. Like I already mentioned, I don’t feel like I am nearly 40, so I find it hard to relate to middle aged characters. I consider myself working class, and so much adult fiction is written by and about middle class people. YA offers a wider spectrum of characters who are flawed, still growing, changing and learning. This in itself makes them relatable and interesting. I’m thinking of Holden Caulfield and Ponyboy Curtis, but also Charlie (The Perks of Being A Wallflower), Katniss (The Hunger Games,) Theodore Finch (All The Bright Places) Leisel (The Book Theif) Jonas (The Giver) Todd and Viola (Walking Chaos Trilogy) and so many more! I really struggle to think of a character from an adult book that has stayed in my head…
  8. You are not alone – Reading YA as a teenager is a life saver. Whatever struggles you might be going through, you are going to find a YA character going through the same thing. There is a YA book out there that is going to help you and show you that you are not alone. This is so important when you are young
  9. Packs an emotional punch – The reason I love writing and reading YA books so much, is the emotional journey they take me on. Writing young characters opens up so many possibilities for reaction and action and motivation when you are throwing dramatic situations at them. They don’t just have the plot journey to go on, they have their own inner, coming-of-age journey going on as well, which I find, magnifies the emotions of everything else! YA books tend to pack an emotional truth and are not afraid to venture into dark or emotional territory. I need this when I am reading, and I find this cathartic when I am writing. What can I throw at these young people and how will they react? How will they change and grow and develop as the story unfolds?
  10. Offers hope – YA books may stray into dark waters, but they are never afraid to offer hope. The characters, being young, tend to veer on the optimistic side. They are not tired or jaded by life yet. They are not cynical. They believe things will get better. These books may not all have happy endings, but you can guarantee most will be fuelled by hope…

Over to you folks! What do you think about YA books? Do you have a favourite from your youth? Or have you discovered any great ones in adulthood? (PS – here are 12 of my favourite ones off the top of my head!)

  1. The Outsiders – S.E Hinton
  2. The Catcher In The Rye – J.D Salinger
  3. The Chaos Walking Trilogy – Patrick Ness
  4. The Unwind Dystology – Neal Shusterman
  5. The Gone series – Michael Grant
  6. The Giver (quartet) Lois Lowry
  7. The Book Theif – Markus Zusak
  8. The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  9. All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven
  10. The Perks of Being A Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
  11. The Shock of The Fall – Nathan Filer
  12. Vernon God Little – DBC Pierre

 

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I’ve Got A New Book Out!

Happy Friday everyone!

This is just a quick and cheeky post to let you all know I have a new book out. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you will already be more than aware of this! But I wouldn’t be doing the whole social media thing right if I didn’t post the news to my blog too, would I?

Bird People and Other Stories is a short story collection I have been putting together for about a year now. In fact, I have another blog post and the very wise words of a follower on Goodreads to thank for this whole thing!

You see I wrote this blog post almost a year ago, which was all about getting my arse into gear the next time I had a novel out. I wrote a detailed plan regarding promotion, and some kindly fellow on Goodreads suggested writing short stories related to my novels as an added promotional tool. As soon as he suggested it, I got excited. Why hadn’t I thought of this before?

My mind went into overdrive over the next few days, and within the week I had several short stories already drafted. You all know how I feel about my characters, so the thought of writing extra stories from different character points of view was too enticing to resist. I had all sorts of ideas swimming around in my head, and the pen to paper was in overdrive. It was fantastic. I felt like there was no limit to where I could go with this.

Well, here it is and I really hope you like it. For people who have already read my work, you will find in this collection, two stories related to The Mess Of Me (one story from Leon’s point of view and one from Marianne’s.) You will find three stories related to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side ; one from Jack’s POV, one from Lucy’s, and one which is actually the ending I had in mind at one time! You will find a short story called The Collection, which is a teaser for my work in progress Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature. (It’s essentially the basic plot squished into a short story.) You will also find two stories related to a book I wrote when I was sixteen and discovered fairly recently in a suitcase under my bed (blog post here) I have since plotted the book and titled it A Song For Bill Robinson. Nightprowler is a prequel to the novel, and Bird People a character snapshot. You will also find a short story called She Is… This is another fledgling idea for a novel, one that I do not have the time to write for a while, but writing the short story helped ease the pressure! And finally, Tales From Province 5 includes three short stories which are teasers for my next novel The Tree Of Rebels.

Hopefully, there is something here for everyone. For loyal readers, something new, something different, and lots to tease! And for newcomers, a genuine taste of the way I write and what I write about…all for the attractive promotional price of 99p/99c.

Enjoy! And thank you 🙂

In Blood – short story

In Blood

We met in blood.

His and mine.

Sweet, dark tangy blood. Do you know how it tastes? Thick, dark blood. The essence of life. I do. And I like it. I like the rich, metallic tang, and I like the full, intense aroma, and I like the sight of blood in its many forms and shades.

In blood, it ended the same way that it started, and now they call us toxic. They call us sick. But I will wait for him.  We are connected now. His blood runs with mine.

The night of the party, that was our night. Our first night. But I had been watching him for a long time before that.  Let mel tell you what I saw. I saw a brute, a bear, a man, a thug. He was top heavy with arm muscles and his movements were precise and fast. He was a man who had never doubted himself, never questioned anything. He did not know hesitation or procrastination. He knew who he was, and the best thing about him was that he did not give a shit about anything. Not one single thing, not one single person.

Everyone knew who he was. The big lad, the top one, the bully boy from the bad family. Bad reputation. From the estate. Not to be messed with. Steer clear. If you had the brains you were born with, you would steer clear. But silly girls never listened. Silly girls saw his looks and his power and believed they could change him. But not me; I never wanted to change him.

I didn’t worry about brains, although I had plenty of them. Instead I concerned myself with instinct; where my guts led me. Besides, trouble was fun. Good girls were dull. Life was short, and Heaven was a lie.

He didn’t notice me back then. I was in the background. I think that is how he sees most people. Blurred noise while he cuts through it all. You always see him coming. You always stand back, hold your breath, look on. I remember doing that, when I was just in the background, looking in. I was a self-satisfied,  slinky, skin slashing, know it all. I still am.

I watched him, watched and learned. I was intrigued. I thought maybe, we had things in common. You see the thing about him I liked, was the thing about him they all hated, or feared. He was mean. He didn’t give a shit about anyone. He would hurt you, use you, laugh at you. It was just him and his brother Travis to take on the world; the twosome, one long and lanky and messy haired, and him, solid and immoveable. The younger brothers were not on his radar, not any of them. Not the little sticky fingered brats, and not Joe. If Joe was anything to him, it was a punch-bag.

I didn’t care about Joe. Not much. Or Lou, my so called best friend. I try not to care about people, for numerous reasons. It’s boring, for one thing. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but people are mostly terribly boring. Plus if you do care about them, it tends to get sticky and complicated. So, we had that in common at least. Me and Leon. See, I knew it would work. I knew it was right. If I had said such a thing to Lou or Joe, or to anyone, they would have laughed and jeered, and then looked at me as if I was crazy. Yes, I am a little bit crazy, I want to tell them, so fucking what? Who isn’t anyway? Everyone is fucked up, and that is the truth, my friends. That is the truth. With some people it’s obvious. It’s written all over their face or their body. Some people hide it better, but usually they are the ones who are more fucked up than anyone. At least the freaks and the geeks and the oddities let it loose, let it out, embrace it and rejoice it. Be different.

Don’t be afraid of pain.

That night, we caught each other’s eye for the first time, and it was all how I knew it would be. I get a feeling, a sense about these things. I was tiny and dark in my little dress and shoes, and he was the monster I invited to my party. The kitchen was full of people, packed tight. But Leon was the only one I could see. The rest were blurry-faced. I moved closer to him, and then moved away. I caught his eye, and then refused to look back at him. I watched from the edges as he drank beer with his brothers and Lou. I felt flashes of hot, surprising rage, when she looked like she was in the centre of them. All three brothers looking at her and laughing as she got pissed up.

I made my move when she ran outside to be sick and Travis followed her. Joe turned away from his brother, and Leon was alone.  He took a chair and sat down, and before he could lift his beer to his lips, I was on his lap.

‘It’s quieter upstairs,’ I told him, and then I was gone. I heard his curious tread coming up the stairs behind me.  I opened my bedroom door,  and in he came. Just like that. We didn’t talk a lot at first. He sipped his beer and looked around at my room. Then he went to the window to check out the garden.

‘Your bedroom is about the size of our house,’ he muttered, and I laughed. I was lying on my bed and playing with my razor.

‘Don’t you get bored,’ I said to him. ‘With everything, and everyone?’

He came closer, his eyes narrowing in on my razor blade. ‘What are you, suicidal?’

‘No, not at all. I’m just bored. And I’m interested in pain. How about you? Tell me something interesting about you.’

He was quiet for a moment, just watching me. He looked hungry then, like a dog sizing up a good, juicy bone.  I waited for him, eyebrows raised.

He said; ‘I’ve got a wrap of coke in my back pocket, if you’re interested.’

I grinned and held up my razor. ‘Well aren’t we just made for each other?’

And we sat together at my desk, and I passed him my blade to chop up the coke, and my bare leg was pressed against his denim clad one, and the pulses in my body were on fire, throbbing and swelling. And then she knocked on the door. That little bitch.

Let me tell you a few things about Lou Carling.

She used to be fat, but now she’s not. She’s on a mission to destroy herself, and I am along for the ride. These kinds of things are interesting. After all, isn’t that the gist of being human? Isn’t that the curse? Once we are old enough to understand that everything must die, we start to destroy ourselves any way we can. Drugs. Drink. Sex. Work. Hate. Love. You name it. It cuts us up, from the inside out. Lou Carling is one of these people, cutting herself up on the inside where nobody can see it. On the outside she is tough and sarcastic and slow to smile. For some reason, she cannot see that her best friend Joe is totally and utterly in love with her. It makes me quite sick. It’s almost like incest. I’m not kidding. They were bathed together as kids, ran around naked in the garden, you name it. But now that their bodies have grown and been honed and hemmed and tightened and lengthened, things are getting all screwed up. Believe me, spend ten minutes in a room with those two and you will want to scream at the top of your lungs; for God’s sake just fuck each other and get it over with!

But anyway. I digress. Lou Carling, short and sweet and bitter and more fucked than any of us. I hang around with her because I want to see how fast she unravels. I want to see what lies underneath.

She knocked on the door with Joe because she was worried about me. How sweet. What happened next was not surprising to anyone at that party. Leon went out there, called her a few choice names, and then beat his brother up. Meanwhile she stormed past them to see if I was okay, and yes, how surprising, I was okay! I was chopping up lines of coke, and she could join in if she wanted to, but no.  No, of course, not Lou Carling. Not perfect little Lou. Smoking the odd spliff with Joe and drinking cider in the park is fine, but you know, anything else is evil! We had words and she went on her merry way to see to her precious non-boyfriend.

When Leon came back in, he had blood on his knuckles and blood on his face.

‘Little bastard,’ he said, under his breath.

God, I wanted him then. I wanted him so much. I couldn’t even speak. But that didn’t matter, because it was all there in the way he looked at me, and the way I looked at him. He was breathing hard and fast, and part of me wished I had gone out there to watch. Pow! Pow! Take that Joe, you little runt, you loser, you nothing!

I don’t mean it. Not really. I kind of like Joe. I kind of like everyone.

But things get so boring

We got back to business. I watched his face as he cut up the powder. I examined the contours of his features, and the curve of his chest, as he breathed fast, in and out. The muscles flexed on his bare arms. He was so very alive. And so was I. So was everything and everyone. It got so much I wanted to eat it. I wanted to grab the whole world and all the fizzing exploding swelling life within it, and shove it right into open mouth, chew it up and swallow it down. Weird, when you feel like that.

We took our medicine and then went to lie on my bed. We kicked off our shoes and stared at the patterns on the ceiling. After a while, he rolled over and looked at me. It felt like he looked into me. He cupped my face with his hand, held it like it was china…

‘What are you waiting for?’ I asked him, and he shrugged.

‘Nothing.’

That was the first time. But it was not the last. His blood mingled with mine, and then again on the night he rushed in and saved me. I was out of it. Mostly, I was absent. But I do remember his arms scooping me up from the bloody mush of my bed. It felt like I was being ripped from my mother’s spongy womb. I remember the feel of his arms, like branches of a tree, holding me close and holding me up. I don’t remember him ripping his t-shirt, which that night was once again doused in the blood of his brother Joe. I don’t remember him using the cloth to tie up my wounds, but apparently his quick thinking saved my life. He tied me once again to this world.

The thug, the animal, the sub-human scumbag. He came to me that night. He could have gone anywhere. He could have vanished from all of our lives, and Lou and Joe and his mother, and the rest of them, would all have been relieved. Good riddance to bad rubbish. But he came to me. He came to me. With the vilest crime a crimson stain upon his hands and all over his clothes, he came to me.

And our blood met again, and when all of this is over, he will be back.

And I will be waiting.

If you are interested in these characters and would like to find out more, you can download the YA novel they are related to here ; (available in paperback and ebook)12227067_1068628339823097_548647694753202354_n

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mess-Me-Chantelle-Atkins-ebook/dp/B00CSVQ8EQ/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=