Monday, 28 May 2012

Suzanne Collins versus Cassandra Claire: Celebrity Author Deathmatch

uses one of the favourite tricks of YA and kids literature.

Got to get rid of the adults.

Ever since Enid Blyton sent the Famous Five on absurdly dangerous summer holidays, up Mount Everest and through the Amazon Jungle (practically) authors have been finding ways to evade watchful eyes.

Boarding schools are a classic example (more about them HERE)  as are absentee parents, like in Twilight or Amanda Hocking's My Blood Approves.

Suzanne Collins way around it is to essentially have the government isolate the children on purpose. Basically the state takes on the role of the evil stepmother, forcing the kids to the worst chores imaginable.

Cassandra Claire's take on this old problem is innovative and refreshing. She has young people who are that extraordinarily able that they take the roles of adults, then combines that with a life that is so tragically prone to early death that they have to get on with it before it gets on with them.

I read The Hunger Games back-to-back with Cassandra Claire's . the second work is set in the same shadow hunter world as the Mortal Instruments series, but winding it back 150 years to Victorian England. It's nicely Gothic, without over doing the top hats and goodness gracious ma'ams.
And as in the Mortal Instruments there's an institute inhabited by a bunch of teenagers who seem to run around the city, doing more or less what they want. Just like the Mortal Instruments, too, it has a haughty, distant, handsome hero. Jace Wayland as a brunette.
For all the familiarity the story motors along nicely. The plot is excellent, stacks of twists and turns, and the characterisation is very strong, there are a couple of flawed characters who are especially well drawn.
So who wins the death match?
I read these two books, but only when I finished one of them did I buy the sequel straight away. Which one?
Clockwork Angel.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Buying shares in Cassandra Claire, The Hunger Games, Emma Watson and JK Rowling Dress Contest, and Lord of the Flies

The Hunger Games. Current flavour of the month, or at least until they bring out the first of the Mortal Instruments movies.

Let's pause to think about that, for a moment. Outside of teen paranormal fiction fans, Cassandra Claire is a bit unknown. JK Rowling is a billionaire megastar. it's not going to be long before they will be mentioned in the same breath, then Claire will be famous for having out-Rowlinged Rowling. She's got two series on the go, with more to come. the potential is galactic, if you know of any way you can buy shares in Cassandra Claire sell all your shoes and gettem!

But anyway, the Hunger Games. A dystopian YA thriller, without any paranormal elements, but lots of death and suffering. It's about kids at each other's throats, running around in a forest setting traps for one another. At school everybody in the UK has to read William Golding's Lord of the Flies, about a bunch of schoolboys stranded on a desert island, who descend into savagery. I didn't like it. I was in the Scouts, and I wanted to believe we would do better. Hunger Games gets around this issue by having the kids FORCED to fight one another, then Suzanne Collins, the author, gets around it a second time by having her heroine, Katniss, somehow - more by luck than judgement - never actually have to hurt somebody who's nice, or who doesn't deserve hurting.

I liked that, it made the story easier to read, but somehow it's not completely buyable.

The other slight downside is Katniss. Though she's a great heroine, especially in contrast to the typical female lead in YA books (think Isaballe Swann) in that she's resourceful, independent, tough, smart and brave, she's also a bit odd. Her response to incredibly intense situations is often muted, and her response to the first romance, ever, in her life is weirdly cold. I didn't get it.

As far as downsides, go, those are it. The world created is believable, tangible, scary and captivating. The characters are rounded and interesting. More than anything it's exciting, man is it exciting. Twists, turns, twisting back again, turning over, then just when you think everything's going to be okay it twists itself all around in a loop again.

Solid recommend, and I'll be writing more about this next week...

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Rainman, Belle Dame Sans Merci and Lullaby of Lies

Writing first drafts of novels can turn you a little bit into Rainman. You start off, and it's all about the small numbers. You go as fast as you can to get to a hundred words, three figures. Next is 111 ( you need to get rid of the zeros) next is 125 (an eighth of a thousand) 200,  222, 250, 300, 333, 400, 444 and 500.

That's ten results to celebrate before you've written five hundred words. If you know what to say, if there's nothing on TV and you can stay away from the internet for long enough, you can do it in twenty minutes.

The first five hundred words of Lullaby of Lies is mainly preface. It's going to be re-written, of course, but it includes this line, that I like enough to be fairly sure it will still be there when it's finally available.

'Morgan’s fingertips brushed against the wall and two fingernails fluttered to the ground, like the pale wings of a dying moth.'

It's all the same on the way to 1000. From then on, the thousands are the milestones. They're the excuse to stop and have a cup of coffee and stare out the window. But of course there are new super milestones. 1111, 2222, etc. These are cool, as are 2,500 and 7,500, up to 10,000 then you add 11,111 to the mix, as well as the mega-super milestones, 25,000, 50,000, and 75,000.

Which is where I am now with the first draft of Lullaby of Lies. 75,000 words. Hopefully today I'll get to 76,666 and tomorrow 77,777. How awesome will that be? To be honest, if you're not completely sunk in this thing like I am, not very awesome at all, but like I said, writing novels makes you even odder than you are to start off with.

This is going to be bad news for those of you who are waiting eagerly for Lullaby of Lies, and I'm sorry. When I finish the first draft I'll set a definite release date, but I guess it'll be August. Between then and now, though, there are going to be some pretty exciting Levels events and give aways, so watch this space. In the meantime, here's the last sentence I wrote, including word 77,777.

'I ran back towards Kieran. His face looked like a hideous skull with the jaw strained unnaturally wide and all his teeth gleaming as he forced out the end of a dying scream.'

What do you make of that? 

Oh, and one other little clue. take a look at the picture at the top of this post. 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci.' It's not there just cos it's pretty...