Character Interview; Lou Carling from The Mess Of Me

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Q1 What did you eat for breakfast?

I just had a coffee. I wasn’t really hungry. Toast is so filling in the morning and I’ve gone off milk lately on cereal. Just a coffee most days. Coffee is fine. I do have two sugars in it though, which is quite bad, so I’m gonna’ cut that down to one pretty soon.

Q2 Do you have any pets?

Yeah, we have a dog called Gremlin. God knows what he is. He has ears like a bat and a smashed in face like a pug? He’s small and fat with along tail and weird, wiry fur. My best friend Joe calls him an experiment gone wrong. Mum bought him for me and my sister when my dad left us. It was the first thing she did! Went out and got us a puppy.

Q3 How many siblings do you have and are you close to them?

I only have one sister, Sara. She’s eighteen and off to University soon. We get on pretty well, but I wouldn’t say we were close exactly. I’ve always viewed her as a bit of a blur. She rushes around, never stays still, always in and out and involved in some huge drama. She’s always arguing with my mum too. They’re terrible together.

Q4 Who is your best friend? And why?

My best friend is Joe. We’re probably only best friends by accident, to be honest. His mum Lorraine (she is absolutely terrifying!) and my mum were in the hospital at the same time having Sara and Travis, one of Joe’s older brothers and became friends. Lorraine has five sons, and Joe is the middle one. We were forced on each other, I guess. We knew each other even when we were in our mother’s wombs! Poor us. Having to sit there, forced to listen to their constant bitching and gossiping! He’s still my best friend because he gets me. More than anyone. And I get him. We basically just swear at each other and our friendship is based on insults. Joe is calm and gentle, not like the rest of his insane family. They don’t see him like I do. Which is sad. I feel sad for him a lot.

Q5 Who are you scared of?

A few people, actually. My dad scares me a bit, or at least he did when I was younger. He was always ranting and raving and slamming doors and storming off. I hated him and the way he treated my mum. She put up with it for years but then he left her for another woman. I’m not really scared of him now. I just think he’s pathetic. Joe’s mum Lorraine scares the shit out of me. She’s like a pitbull, I swear, a pitbull in red lipstick. She’d wipe the floor with anyone. She’s not frightened of anything or anyone. Christ, she’s a horrifying specimen. Her new bloke Mick is a bit scary too. Her oldest sons, Leon, Travis and Joe have a different dad. Mick is father to the youngest two boys, Will and Tommy. Of course, he dotes on them. They can do no wrong. But he seems to hate the oldest three. So it’s like a constant war zone at their house. Mick is a lot like Lorraine and they fight like cat and dog sometimes. Physically and everything. But do you want to know who scares me the most? Well, it’s Leon. Joe’s oldest brother. Leon and Travis are very close in age and always together, up to no good. Travis is okay. He’s no angel, but he has a nice smile and isn’t too mean to Joe. But Leon? There’s something about him that chills me to the bone. Something missing in his eyes. If there’s anyone to be scared of around here, it’s Leon Lawrenson.

Q6 What is your greatest fear?

Well, it will probably sound stupid to you. Stupid and shallow. But my biggest fear is getting fat again. I was such a porker until I started dieting and exercising. Now, I’m losing weight fast and lots of strange stuff has been happening. I’m more confident, which is weird, because I always just wanted to disappear before. Boys are interested in me now! Which is mental! Boys never looked at me before. I’ve had some weird little moments with Joe this summer, and Travis tried it on with me… I know, I know! But yeah, getting fat again terrifies me. I’m not joking. I never ever want to be that girl again. I hated her. I won’t be her again. I know my mum and sister think I’m taking the weight loss too far, but it’s easy for them to say. They were never fat like I was. They don’t understand.

Q7 What are your hopes and dreams?

Well, right now, I sort of hope Joe and I can get ourselves out of the mess we’re in. Since we found that stuff in his brothers’ wardrobe, everything has got a bit scary. Suddenly Travis and Leon are being nice to Joe, and I’m really worried about what he’s getting into…As for dreams? Mine are pretty basic. I want to be left alone, because most people annoy the hell out of me. I want them all to leave me alone and let me get as skinny as I want. I want to be skinny. Super skinny. I want to be skinny forever. Aside from that, I hope me and Joe are best friends forever and nothing ever comes between us, and I dream of working with animals one day. I haven’t decided what yet. Maybe just a dog walker or a dog trainer or something? I couldn’t stand being around too many people, I know that.

Q8 Do you have any hobbies?

Running. I love running these days! And listening to music, though Joe takes the piss out of my tastes as I seem to like a lot of old stuff like Bob Dylan. Joe is really into music and wants to be a drummer. He’s saving up for this drum kit and forming a band with his mates. Walking the dog? Except that’s not really a hobby, just something I always end up doing because Mum and Sara are too busy. Writing on my wall. You could call that a hobby, I guess. My mum hasn’t noticed yet, but I’ve been scrawling my thoughts and feelings on my bedroom wall for ages now. I’ve even started the ceiling. If she ever wants to know anything about me or my life, she only has to look! Smoking weed and drinking cider with Joe and my other friend Marianne? Naughty hobby, I know, but we’re teenagers, right? We’d regret it if we didn’t break the rules a bit.

Q9 Describe yourself in one sentence

Fucked up, sarcastic, nerdy mess of a girl on the verge of….something

Q10 What’s your biggest secret?

I’m not going to tell just anyone, am I? Christ, I don’t want the world to know! I don’t want anyone to know. It’s huge and it’s embarrassing and it would change everything if it ever got out…and I although I daydream about what could happen if it did, I’m too scared, too shy, too messed up to do anything about it.

The Mess Of Me

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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

 

My 16 Best Books of 2016

In order to compile my list of the best books I’ve read in 2016, I sat back and thought about the books that have had the biggest impact on me. I quickly wrote down all the ones that came to mind, and so here they all are. I have also included how I came across each book, ie was it recommended to me, was I sent it and so on. I thought this might be useful! I have read so many books this year, and it is simply impossible to list them all, so I have tried to pick books here that are the sort of thing I generally look for when reading.I have not listed them in order of preference, they are simply listed in the order they came to mind. However, there is one book that stood out above all the others for me personally, one book that I can safely say is the best book I have read in 2016 and this is listed as Number One. Enjoy.

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  1. The Improbable Wonders Of Moojie Littleman by Robin Gregory is an absolutely beautiful book and very unique. It had me smiling from start to finish, contains fabulously flawed and addictive characters and provides a great big splash of the hope and positivity we all so desperately need right now. I’ve actually lost track of the amount of awards this book has won, so I’ve added a link here . I’ve also got to mention that Robin provided me with a wonderful interview you can read here and she is a thoroughly lovely person!
  2. No Dogs Or Indians by Lisa Hare is  a book I read purely by accident. I’m one of the reviewers for Underground Book Reviews, where authors pick reviewers based on their reading preferences. I was sent this book by accident, as it was not on my list, but was advised to read it anyway as it’s been nominated as one of the books of the year. It sounded interesting so I dived right in and came out with tears running down my face. One of the best books I’ve read in ages, and again, very unique, beautiful in its themes and messages, and one that will stay with me for a very long time. Get it!!
  3. A Necessary Act by Tony Wirt is a book I did choose to read for Underground Book Reviews, and I nominated it for a top pick and book of the year, it was that good. The plot revolves around a really interesting question; if you were utterly convinced a fellow schoolmate was well on the way to becoming a serial killer, would you do anything to stop him? The book puts its teen characters in this predicament and ends with a twist I never saw coming. Tense, horrific, unputdownable!
  4. The Many by Wyl Menmuir is probably one of the most controversial books on my list. By that I mean, it has the most mixed reviews I’ve ever come across! From glowing five stars to downright grumpy one stars, it seems this is a love it or hate it or plain just don’t get it kind of book! I first heard about it on my Facebook timeline as it had been longlisted for the Booker prize which was quite an achievement for a debut novel signed to a small press. I then came across the author in a magazine I receive for being a NAWE member (National Association of Writers In Education) I was so inspired by his article about independent writing spaces in school I contacted Wyl and thanks to his advice, I will hopefully be diving into my first school project next year with my business Chasing Driftwood Writing Group. But anyway, back to the book! Haunting, surreal, dark and claustrophobic are just some of the words that spring to mind. Eerily silent and with an ending that quite literally punched me in the gut. If you are looking for something unique to read, something that has divided opinion quite wildly, then this is the book!
  5. L-2011 by Mark Gillespie is written by a fellow indie author I’ve followed for a while. I loved the idea of this speculative fiction novel; what if the London riots in 2011 had not ended? What if the riots had gone on and on? In this gritty coming of age drama, Mark introduces us to some memorable and believable characters in this book which is the first in the series. The second book Mr Apocalypse is not now and is on my to-read list as I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
  6. The Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman will go down as the most disturbing series I have read this year. If you are at all into The Hunger Games, Divergent or The Maze Runner books, then you simply have to dive into this YA series, as it is so much better! It’s taken me all year to read the four books, partly because I have so many other things to read, and partly because they get under my skin too badly and I just need a break between reading them! This series takes us to a not too distant future after a civil war in America led to a new law being written where parents can retrospectively abort their children between the ages of 13 and 18. They are not technically killed though. Every single part of them is harvested (while they are fully conscious) to be donated to people who need them. Quite horrifically, troublesome teens body parts have become a very valuable commodity. The most genius part of book one is how the author makes you wait until nearly the end of the book to show you what actually happens during unwinding. All the way through you are thinking about it and trying not to think about it, and the tension becomes unbearable. Just finished book four today and I’m really excited to hear they’re being made into films. But read them first, please!
  7. Daydreams and Devils by the brilliant Robert Cowan is a book I selected to read for Underground Book Reviews. I was attracted by the storyline of gangsters and bands and was not let down in the slightest. It was another of my top picks of the year for UBR and I currently have another of Robert’s books on my to read list. This book ticked every box for me; great characters, believable dialogue, fast paced, edgy, coming of age and with an awesome musical soundtrack. I was one happy reader from start to finish and Robert is a terrific reader I am very happy I discovered in 2016
  8. The Leaving by Tara Altebrando is a book I noted down when it came up on a best YA books list. I bought it for my daughter and we both really enjoyed it. The plot revolves around six five year olds who went missing eleven years ago. Out of the blue five of them have now returned. What I liked about this mystery novel was how each chapter was from a different characters viewpoint but in the third person. Each chapter had a very different voice and was written differently, even set out and formatted differently to the others. Very spooky with plenty of twists and turns, I think anyone would enjoy this!
  9. Far Cry From The Turquoise Room by the amazing (and still my favourite indie author) Kate Rigby is a great example of Kate’s work, which is often edgy, gritty and retro. I love her style and her characters who you just want to take home. In this story a young Asian girl feels shunned by her charismatic father after the death of her sister and ends up running away. Kate covers so many hard hitting subjects in this book, and always in a tender, humorous and realistic manner. I’m working my way through her books and always relish getting my hands on the next one!
  10. Chance by Peter Dudgeon was recommended to me by a friend. It’s about a killer who picks his victims by random chance and 9-year-old Cassie who is able to see into the future when someone is about to be hurt. Being in close proximity to both the killer and some of his potential victims allows Cassie a disturbing glimpse into his warped mind and she soon realises the police are on the wrong track completely. Brilliantly written, tense and gripping, you won’t be able to put it down. There is also a sequel which is on my to-read list, and Peter Dudgeon is another author I’m very glad I discovered this year!
  11. Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski is another book I read after my teenager had her hands on it. She picked it up in the book shop one day and after reading the blurb I couldn’t wait for her to finish so I could start. It’s an eerie YA dystopian set on a mysterious island , where it is daylight for fourteen years followed by nightfall for fourteen years. During the nightfall the islanders pack up and leave the island and do not return until the next daylight. The main characters Marin and Kana are brother and sister and they miss their boat off the island when they go in search of their best friend Line, who is missing. When reunited, the three teens have to face the darkness as it begins to fall, knowing they are trapped on the island for fourteen years, but worse than that, they soon realise they are not alone. Loved this from start to finish! So well written, steadily paced, so much is held back until you need it, which makes you just keep turning the pages.
  12. The Recital by Kyle V. Hiller is another book I chose to read and review for Underground Book Reviews. I was intrigued by the storyline which promised contemporary issues wrapped up in magic realism. The story is told in the first person from the wonderful Edith, a 12 year old girl I quite quickly fell in love with. Edith has a few troubles on her plate. She hasn’t grown in a year, she is in love with a boy who is dating her arch enemy and her family life is about to be shattered. On top of all of that she has just found out she is a witch who needs to learn to control her powers (which, by the way, can have quite horrific results for anyone who is in the wrong place at the wrong time!) As Edith staggers awkwardly from one disaster to the next, an intriging and unique story unfolds, involving magic and spells, as well as coming of age, bullying and sexuality. Put a smile on my face from start to finish and I will definitely be reading more from this author!
  13. Those Who Wander (All That Glitters Book 1) by Shalaena Medford is a fast-paced steampunk YA novel which involves pirates, maps, and a stolen zeppelin. In many ways an action-packed steampunk adventure, but also a coming of age tale, in which main character Song has to let go of the past and construct a new, true version of herself, this book is a journey in many ways. I felt like I was on the journey with her, both the physical and the emotional one. Extremely visual, I could see this making an awesome movie! I was very impressed and will definitely be buying book two when it is released. Anyone who likes steampunk, action, adventure, fantasy or sci-fi will love this! I came across this book as I follow Shalaena on social media.
  14. The Soul Bazaar by Anthony Morgan Clark is a uniquely crafted and captivating collection of dark stories, which will have both a physical and emotional effect on the reader. From the title story The Soul Bazaar, which introduces a chilling trader of souls, who wears only red, to post-apocalyptic disease and violence in After The Disease Part One and Two, this is a rollercoaster ride of horror and uneasy feeling. Wake, the story of a man enduring a life-saving transplant, will stay with me for some time to come. As will Bes, a glimpse into the troubled mind of a dangerous individual and his imaginary friend. The author has the unique ability to make your stomach cramp with the tension he builds, and the language used to convey the horror his characters live through is just perfect. A disturbing and spine chilling read, highly recommended. I came across this book as I follow Anthony on social media.
  15. Spine Chillers: Hair-Raising Tales Book One by Q.L Pearce is a book fans of Goosebumps will really enjoy.  I was sent this book for free in return for an honest review. (Plus, look out for an exclusive interview with Q.L Pearce in the New Year here on my blog!) Each one is guaranteed to offer the reader a dark and bumpy ride into the unknown and leave you with your jaw hanging open. I enjoyed all of these stories but got a particular kick out of Hale Hallow Woods, a tale of ghostly revenge, Seaworthy, a creepy pirate themed adventure, and my firm favourite, The Healer. The twist in The Healer is one I did not see coming and have been unable to stop thinking about ever since. This is a flawless collection of spine chilling tales and I very much look forward to the next instalment.
  16. The Giver by Lois Lowry is a book I had been meaning to read for a very long time. When I finally got around to it, I was not disappointed in the slightest. I was enchanted, disturbed, touched and intrigued. You probably all know the plot, but for those who don’t, 12 year old Jonas lives in a seemingly perfect, pain free world where children are assigned to their parents, just as spouses are perfectly matched and employment is dealt out depending on personality and skills. The system works. no one feels pain and everyone is content. But when Jonas goes up to receive his position he is told he is to become the next Receiver of Memory. His training starts right away with an old man known as the Giver, and Jonas soon discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world. A trail blazer in the genre of dystopian fiction, this book is simply breathtaking. I quickly ordered the entire quartet and read them one after the other. (My daughter is getting them all for Christmas and I really can’t wait for her to read them so we can talk about them lots and lots!)

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 🙂