Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Gill James: Writing for Young Adults

Crooked Cat colleague Gill James writes novels for children and young adults. She also writes shorts stories and flash fiction for adults.  She is a prolific blogger and has been known to write an academic paper now and then. She is the Network News editor for SCBWI’s Words and Pictures. http://www.wordsandpics.org/ She does have a life beyond writing--she sings the tenor part in a choir.         

My new novel, The Tower (Crooked Cat), is the third part of the Peace Child trilogy. The first part, The Prophecy, was written as part of my PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Wales, Bangor. A PhD must always bring something new and writing for young adults was new for me – I’d written mainly for younger children up until then. The subtitle was “a global definition of the young adult novel”. I read in several languages so I looked at works written in Dutch, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and English, and also from several different continents and countries.

My main finding was that young adult novels generally tell a story of growth, so are a type of Bildungsroman. My hero, Kaleem, couldn’t be quite the political figure I’d at first thought. He’s just a normal young man struggling to make sense of the world – albeit one where he is has a demanding role: he has to maintain the peace between two planets. Throughout he is haunted by the Babel prophecy.
In this final volume, the reader is offered an explanation about the Babel prophecy and Kaleem grows in confidence. It’s left open to possibilities at the end not because I want to write more volumes but because young adults readers do like to make their own minds up.  

In The Prophecy Kaleem learns about his true identity. Babel finds him fighting “switch-off” – compulsory euthanasia for an aging population that refuses to die. My blog, Rozia’s G-log links Babel and The Tower, though you don’t have to read it in order to understand the last volume. A supplementary problem for Kaleem in The Tower is a financial system that is about to collapse. Only the Zenoton can make it all work again. They have a very different attitude to money. Ah! Maybe I should send a copy of The Tower to every major bank?

Through all three volumes there is a love interest – three in fact, but one that dominates. Only too right.  That’s another frequent characteristic of the young adult novel.  

The Peace Child trilogy is science fantasy and as always in this genre it’s important to make sure your world is logical. I spent months thinking this all out before I started writing. I’d sit in caf√©s making copious notes and using the environment around me to ask myself questions about what I needed to know of Kaleem’s world. I’m not sure I got it completely right, however. It’s set in 3500 AD on Earth, now called Terrestra. The personal communication device they all use is only a little more sophisticated than the iPhone. I completed the first volume in 2007.

At one point I stopped liking Kaleem. He was becoming a bit of a whinger. “Ah, poor me.  I’m not like other kids. And I have all this responsibility.” He was seriously getting on my nerves. We had Judy Waite as a visiting writer at the university where I lecture in creative writing. She had us writing with our “wrong” hand -  left for me as I’m right-handed - and then lighting a candle for our characters. I know, it sounds a bit spooky, but it did work. I now love and respect Kaleem for the sensitive, intelligent, brave and warm-hearted young man he really is. I’ve lived with all of the characters from Peace Child for quite a while now and I’m really missing them.      
It’s possible to read volume three without first reading the other two. Babel and The Tower each include a summary that explains what has gone before. You can find excerpts of The Prophecy on my Sample Sunday blog, and Babel will shortly be free on Amazon.  I do hope you enjoy it! 


Well, that was fascinating!

Louish was as dramatic as ever.

First off, she greets me in a bright royal blue tunic covered in glittery sequins. It was an incredible outfit. It had  great pleats in the body of it and the sleeves as well. Mind you, it really suited her. And her make-up! I mean, I’m wearing make-up all the time now, but I try to do it so that it doesn’t show. But Louish! Long curly eyelashes. Thick eye-liner. Bright blue eye shadow that matched her tunic. A huge beauty spot. And lipstick so red it almost looked as if her lips were bleeding.
Then there was all her prodding and poking – trying to get things out of me. So much so that I ended up telling as much about Julien as I dared. 
“Well, my dear,” she said. “You’re looking well. Any sign of any new romance?” 
At that point, I felt my cheeks burning.   
“Ah, I see there is,” she said. “Well, do not fear anything from me, sweetie.  If that nutcase of a grandson of mine can’t appreciate what is right in front of him, what’s offered to him on a plate, well then he’s even more of a fool that I thought.” 
She stroked my hair and then gave me a huge hug. I don’t know why exactly, but that set me off. I couldn’t hold back the tears. Was I still sad about Kaleem? Was I pleased she accepted the idea of Julien? 
Maybe she defined it herself in the end.
 She sighed. “I’m sure he’s a fine young man, whoever he is,” she said. “But he’ll take you away from our family I expect."
 The lunch was superb, of course. Louish is always so cheerful and she tells such funny stories. But as we had coffee afterwards she became deadly serious. 
 “I want to arrange a meeting,” she said. “A secret meeting. Between you and Razjosh.”
 I couldn’t begin to imagine what Razjosh might want with me.
 “Oh?” I said.
 “Yes, he wants to discuss the whole switch-off thing with you. Making sure it becomes permanent.”  
 “Ah,” I replied. I couldn’t think that that was going to be easy. He had just had such a narrow escape from switch-off himself.  “What does Elder Frazier think?”
 “He’s all for it, my dear. In fact, he’ll be at the meeting too,” she replied. “You will agree to it, won’t you?”
 How could I not? Louish is such a well-meaning person. I nodded. 
 “Great!” she said, and beamed.
 The rest of the afternoon was lovely. We went for a walk together. She told me all about what she and the other elders’ attachments get up to. Despite this rather heavy task she’s landed me with, it always does me good being with her. I really can’t believe she’s a grandmother and that her  grandson is grown up.     
 “End and delete,” said Kaleem. That was definitely the last time he would read Rozia’s glog. Now that his grandmother knew about the new man in her life perhaps she would stop nagging him about getting back together with Rozia.
 Rozia. She was obviously happy with Julien. That had been the plan. Leave her. Allow her to find someone else. There was no place for romance in the life of a Peace Child. He’d even told her that he approved, even made it sound as if he didn’t care.
 Yet still she was producing her glog in Wordtext. She was doing that for him, he knew. He doubted whether Julien could read Wordtext. And every time now that he read her glog, he just hoped that she still wanted to be with him. But she was with Julien now. Just as he had planned. No point hoping it was otherwise. What was the point, then, of her writing this glog in Wordtext? Was she trying to torment him?  There was certainly no point in him reading it anymore. 
 He sighed. What was there to look forward to now, though?    


The Tower appears in both paperback and e-book this week on both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk


You can find Gill at one of her many blogs

http://gillssamplesundays.blogspot.co.uk/ Samples of The Prophecy -amongst others.
http://gillsrecommendedreads.blogspot.co.uk/ books I recommend. I only post here those very rare books that take me out of my editing head. I will post other reviews elsewhere and I regularly review for Armadillo Magazine and Troubador.    

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