Friday, February 27, 2015

UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour!: Interview with Leila Rasheed

It's UKYA Extravaganza TOMORROW! How excited are you all? As the last author spotlight on the tour, I want to just say that I hope everyone has a great day. Here is my interview with the brilliant Leila Rasheed. 

Hi Leila! Welcome to To Another World. Tell us a bit about yourself and your books? 

Thanks for having me! OK, so my life story to date goes: be born, move to Libya, live there for 10 years, go to boarding school, read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, move back to England, go to day school, write a lot, read all the Chalet School books, go to university, drop out of university, get back into university, move to London, do an MA in children’ literature,  work for a children’s literacy charity, write more, realise that I write children’s books, meet a Dane, move to Brussels, work for Waterstone’s, move back and forth between Brussels, Italy and England with dizzying rapidity (think pinball with passport), do an MA in Writing, get an agent, lose an agent, get Bathsheba books (comedy for 9 – 12 years old) published, get new agent (Julia Churchill- v good), get married to the Dane, get pregnant, have baby, write 8 publisher-led books in 2 years plus a book of my own, send out new novel, drink coffee, wait…

I read the Bathsheba series quite a few years ago, and I adored them – is her character based on anyone in particular? 

Thank you! I got the idea after reading a magazine article about Madonna’s daughter, and thinking how weird it would be to be the child of someone who would always be a million times more famous than you. It must be like starting life on the back foot, while at the same time everyone expects you to appreciate your situation. At about the same time I was getting a lot of rejections for a novel, and feeling really depressed about it, losing confidence – I wondered what it would be like to be the kind of person who was made of rubber- totally resilient and no matter how much she got knocked down was totally impervious to it – the kind of person who bounces into a room full of confidence, shouting, ‘Hello world!! It’s me!! Aren’t you lucky to see me??’. Thus was Bathsheba born.

Obviously Bathsheba has quite an odd perspective on life – how did you decide on what would happen to her throughout the trilogy? 

Well, I knew from the start there had to be some deep insecurity, vulnerability, under her bumptiousness. So it was about wondering how that could be addressed, and at the same time, teaching her a bit of a lesson, kindly though. In a way, I think she’s a scapegoat for the reader. She’s a bit like Amelia Jane, if you’ve ever read those Blyton books! Amelia Jane is really, really naughty and the reader gets to feel very smug and happy that they’re not that naughty. I suppose, thinking about it, a lot of British comedy is like that. It’s all about being glad you’re not the miserable anti-hero. But basically Bathsheba is a good person underneath, and I wanted her to get what she dreams of at the end of Book 3. 

More recently, your series At Somerton has been published. It looks very different to the Bathsheba books – was the change difficult? 

At Somerton is a publisher led series, so everything was different about it, really. It was a challenge to work in that way, to try and make a publisher’s ideas come to life. It was great fun writing for an older age range. I did enjoy it, especially the research and having lots of space to write description and really try to create a sense of time and place. It’s also fun to write for an older audience who have an understanding closer to your own.
Moving on, how do you write? Any habits, particular snacks or rooms? 

 I often write outside the house, in a cafĂ©. That’s mainly because my flat is small and cramped and not much fun to sit about in. Other than that, not really. I try to start off in longhand and a notebook before moving to the computer, because I think writing in longhand makes you think harder about what you write. 

As a child, were you into reading and writing? Did you have any favourites? 

Yes, I was a passionate, obsessive reader. Far too many favourites to count, but here goes!

·         The White Deer by James Thurber
·         The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M Boston
·         Tintin
·         Asterix
·         The Narnia books
·         The Hobbit
·         Alan Garner’s books
·         Joan Aiken’s short stories

I started writing when I was thirteen and wrote stories for my friends to read. Looking back I think I started writing because I was very shy. I couldn’t talk to people but I could write to them. Nothing has changed.

Quick Fire Questions

Favourite animal? 

Cat. Not very original but what is better than a cat? Rhetorical question.

Favourite song?

Nite Flights by David Bowie. Or Heroes by David Bowie.. Or Always Crashing in the Same Car by David Bowie. Or anything by David Bowie at all.

You’re trapped on an island and can have one novel, one album and one person. What are they? 

That is so difficult! The Lord of the Rings, I think. It’d do me no good at all as far as survival tips goes (does not contain recipe for lembas), though I guess I could light a fire with it since it’s pretty thick.  And if I were trapped for a long time it’d last me as reading material. Also it’s my favourite book. One album – again, so difficult! Maybe Music for the Jilted Generation to put me in the kind of mood to tackle wild beasts and cannibals.  One person – this is impossible since I have both a lovely husband and a lovely son. So maybe I’ll pick someone like Thor Heyerdahl who might actually come in useful building boats and such. (I am assuming I can re-animate dead people for the sake of this thought experiment…)

This Or That

Cake or Cookies? Cake ideally carrot.

Lemonade or Coke? Coke. With ice and lemon.
Twitter or Facebook? Facebook, I haven’t the energy for Twitter.

Thank you for the interview, Leila! 

So that's it! I hope you enjoyed that and have an awesome day at UKYAX tomorrow :) 


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jessica Cole Blog Tour! Charli Reviews: Code Red Lipstick

Models, spies and lipstick gadgets... When Jessica's father, a former spy, vanishes mysteriously, Jessica takes matters into her own hands. She's not just a daddy's girl who's good at striking a pose; she's a trained spook who knows how to take on MI6 and beat them at their own game.

Author: Sarah Sky 
Series: Jessica Cole: Model Spy #1 
Genre: Contemporary / Crime YA 
Publisher: Scholastic 
Pages: 336
Source: Review copy (Thank you to Scholastic for this copy; I received it free of charge in return of an honest review. This is in no way affects my review.)
Review by: Charli 

Code Red Lipstick is ideal for those YA readers who like interesting adventures matched with cute yet strong protagonists; as well as the tad of a mystery. 

It's a short read packed with scenarios to captivate you; and Sky doesn't let romance overtake her plot in any way. 

Jessica Cole is sharp and intelligent, and yet she can wear lipstick and heels. I like because, without going into it too far, a lot of feminists' have this type of internalized misogyny that you can't do and be both; and Jessica as the protagonist helps to prove that this is far from the truth. 

Sky's writing style is fresh and uncomplicated; making for a light reading experience mixed with all the action that occurs throughout the book. I particularly liked the mystery in this book because I felt like I was solving it too; Jessica going every step of the way. The gadgets and things used throughout were really interesting too. 

I probably ruined my reading experience of this by accident; reading it on a bus when I had high stress levels wasn't a very good idea! But all the same, I really enjoyed this book. 

I'm not very into fashion; and I honestly expected that element of the book to put me off it completely. Fortunately, however, it didn't... It was written well and I liked the description of all the dresses. (I am put off ever using face cream, though.)

Ideal for any fan of Gallagher Girls or Geek Girl, Code Red Lipstick has a great plot, amazing characters and just provides a very genuine look on life.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

She Is Not Invisible: "The Charli Effect"

I read "She Is Not Invisible" by Marcus Sedgwick last September, and I also met Marcus. He told me to find my effect - The Charli Effect. 

For those of you who don't know, SINI features two main characters, Laureth and Benjamin. As well as Laureth being blind, Benjamin breaks every electrical item he touches (in short). They affectionately call this The Benjamin Effect.

And, finally, a few months later, I have found my effect.

I bring out opinions in people; coaxingly or angrily. I talk, I rant. They listen; whether they care or not. They may agree, they may disagree. Sometimes they are indifferent.

I spark debates; leaving tension in the air. I slam people for being homophobic, racist and etcetera.

Some people don't mind, we click or they just go off feeling slightly odd. Some do mind, but that's okay.

And like Benjamin, I try to reign it in or keep it under control. But it's difficult.

To stop their opinions, I must stop mine. And being passionate and opinionated is both a blessing and a curse.

The beauty? There's always conversation to be had, and I'm never left out. I always have something to say.

Some dislike my Effect; this slight abnormality of making people feel the need to speak their words. It can be overbearing, annoying. I can get angry or overly exuberant.

But that's my Effect. What's yours?

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Moving Forward: What Does YA Need?

We all know that YA is beautifully diverse; but it's got some gaps.  So, let's discuss what it needs for the next generation of YA readers... 

  • More Asexual spectrum representation. 
The ace spectrum is basically the forgotten spectrum. It contains so many sexualities; from asexual, to demi, to grey-ace. YA forgets about all of this and forgets that not everyone wants sex. Which brings me on to...

  • More acknowledgement of romantic orientations! 
 The fact that aces/demis might want a romantic relationship is also forgotten; that aromantics do exist; that not everyone's sexual and romantic orientations line up. Our society tells us that we have to be, or want to be, in a relationship to be normal, and YA honestly does the same. The endless love triangles and romance being the center of every single novel doesn't help. Books shouldn't NOT have romance, but it needs to be acknowledged that not everyone wants that. 

  • Culture variation!
Alright... YA does this pretty well, I'll say that. But I think there are still gaps to fill and stereotypes to squash, y'know?
  •   More about gender identity.
 NOT EVERYONE IDENTIFIES WITH THEIR BIOLOGICAL GENDER. YA is getting better at acknowledging Trans* people, but there is so much more to it. Being gender fluid, agender or other types of non-binary is not uncommon and there needs to be more about it.

  • Stop keeping up with the gender roles. 
 I've come to the conclusion that this one will come with time, y'know? A lot of YA is slowly squashing that boys can't cry and girls can't do the asking out; but it's still there, even if it's stuff hidden in the sidelines.

  • Mental health representation
We're slowly seeing more of this, but it can be pretty inaccurate. And I don't mean inaccurate about the illness, necessarily, more like inaccurate that it tries to say that a mental illness is the same for everyone. It isn't. There are so many components to every mental health condition, whether that be depression, OCD or anxiety.

  • STOP WITH THE SLURS (And slut shaming)  
Hey, you. Yeah, you. I don't care what context you're saying that in, just don't. Alright? Thanks for that. 

So there you are! Those were a few things I thought of when I wondered what YA needs, can you think of anything else? Let me know.