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Author Interview – Alison Rattle on her new YA novel The Beloved

Published August 28, 2015 by bibliobeth

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ALISON RATTLE – A BIOGRAPHY

Alison grew up in Liverpool, and now lives in a medieval house in Somerset with her three very nearly grown-up children, her husband – a carpenter – an extremely naughty Jack Russell and a ghost cat. She has co-authored a number of non-fiction titles on subjects as diverse as growing old, mad monarchs, how to boil a flamingo, the history of America and the biography of a nineteenth-century baby killer. She has worked as a fashion designer, a production controller, a painter and decorator, a barmaid, and now owns and runs a vintage tea room in the city of Wells. Alison has also published three YA books about young Victorian women with Hot Key Books – THE QUIETNESS, THE MADNESS and THE BELOVED. Her fourth novel is due out May 2016. Follow Alison at http://www.alisonrattle.com or on Twitter: @alisonrattle

Please click on the book covers to get the link to GoodReads!

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See my review for The Quietness HERE!

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See my review for The Madness HERE!

Interview with Alison Rattle

I’d like to welcome Alison to bibliobeth today and thank her for her time in giving this interview!

1.) Your latest novel, The Beloved is based on an actual religious sect, The Agapemonites founded in 1846. Can you tell us about the research you had to carry out on this sect for the novel?

I stumbled across the story of The Agapemonites a few years ago when I was doing research for another book. I love quirky pieces of social history, so I stored this one away and had pretty much forgotten about it, until I was thinking of ideas for my next book and found it again in my note file. I actually live not too far away from the village of Spaxton, so the first thing I did was to visit the village. It’s a tiny little place, tucked away in the middle of nowhere with a real feeling of isolation. The buildings of the Abode of Love are still there as is The Lamb pub next door. I could really imagine how much more isolated it must have been in the 1800’s and this gave me a real sense of how such a sect could have survived and flourished away from the public eye. The walls of the pub next door were covered in old newspaper cuttings from the day, so I was able to read about the real scandals and to incorporate them into my story. Newspaper accounts from the period you are writing in are always invaluable, and the tone of the journalism was always so much more colourful than it is today.

2.) The main character, Alice Angel is a naive yet independent young woman which I love and your main female characters in The Quietness and The Madness also seem to have that fiesty streak. Have you ever thought about writing a novel from a male perspective?

I suppose I am naturally drawn to writing female characters because of course I am female myself and can draw upon my own memories of what it was like to be a teenager. Every book I write is a new learning curve and a challenge, so yes, I would like to one day have a go at writing from a male perspective – just to see if I could, if nothing else!

3.) Henry Prince aka The Beloved, is a charming yet despicable young man. Do you think he believed his own hype or always had an ulterior motive?

In real life, Henry Prince was actually a very ugly old man, which makes it even more surprising that he managed to entice so many followers into his cult. He must have had such charisma though, like many people of that type do. He absolutely believed in his own hype. He really did think he was God made flesh. Which I guess was what made him so persuasive.

4.) You touch on some difficult subjects in your novels which make them tense but so exciting to read. Is there any subject you have found difficult to write about/or wouldn’t write about?

I am very much drawn to writing about difficult subjects. I don’t know why. It’s just how I’m made I guess. The darker the better as far as I’m concerned! I don’t think there’s any subject that would be off my radar. I did get very affected when I researched the horrendous practice of baby-farming for my first book, The Quietness. When you’re writing historical fiction, there a distance between you and your subject, which can lessen the impact of a distressing subject, because it seems so far from your own life. But when I delved into the world of baby-farming, I began by researching the life of a baby farmer called Amelia Dyer (I co-wrote her biography – Amelia Dyer – Angel Maker)and followed the lives of some of the children she took into her care and later murdered. I ordered the death certificate of one of these children and reading about how he died, and seeing it in print right in front of me, really hit home and made me cry buckets.

(bibliobeth: “Must order Amelia Dyer biography now!”)

5.) Are you working on anything now and can you tell us a little bit about it?

I’ve just finished my fourth book (well, still lots of rewrites and editing to do!) It’s quite different from my first three books. It’s not set in Victorian England for one thing, but in 1961. The main character is called Violet and she was born above her Dad’s fish and chip shop at the exact moment Winston Churchill announced the end of World War 2 on the wireless. It’s a coming of age story and follows Violet as she deals with broken friendships, first love, a missing brother and a series of mysterious murders.

(bibliobeth: “Sounds brilliant – can’t wait!”)

Now for some quick fire questions!

E book or real book?

Got to be real books, I’m afraid. Just love the smell, the feel, and seeing them all, fat with words, lined up in rows on my shelves. Although I did buy my husband a Kindle for Christmas. And he loves it.

Series or stand alone?

Stand alone. I’m too impatient to wait for the next in a series!

Fiction or non-fiction?

Fiction mostly, although I do love the occasional juicy non-fiction social history, such as The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed.

Online shopping or bookshop trawling?

Definitely bookshops. Especially ones with a coffee shop. Heaven!

Bookmarking or dog-earing?

Oh blimey. Dog-earing, I have to admit. My books are always well-thumbed.

Once again, a big thank you to Alison for her efforts in making this interview possible and I’m incredibly excited now for the next book.

The Beloved was published on 5th March 2015 by Hot Key Books and is available from all good retailers NOW. Why not check out her back catalogue too? I highly recommend both The Quietness and The Madness which are both stand-alone novels and can be read in any order you like!

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The First (but hopefully not the last) Young Adult Literary Convention (YALC) 2014

Published July 25, 2014 by bibliobeth

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YALC is the brain-child of current Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, who was awarded an OBE for her services to children’s literature in 2008 and from the moment appointed, has been incredibly passionate about getting young people to read. Alarming statistics show that only 3 out of 10 young people read daily out of school, and a fifth say they would be embarrassed if a friend saw them reading.

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Malorie Blackman (photo from http://www.theguardian.com)

Malorie says…

“We are incredibly lucky to have such a wealth of fantastic children’s authors and illustrators in this country who create incredible stories for young adults to enjoy.  It’s so important to encourage, sustain and where necessary instil a love of reading in our teenagers.  Reading opens doors and creates life opportunities. That’s why I want to do my utmost to promote YA books for all our young (and older!) readers.”

All hail Queen Malorie! YALC promised a fantastic line-up of events, including panel talks with authors, intimate workshops, a publishers stand with goodies galore and an opportunity to purchase a wide range of YA fiction from sponsor Waterstones. Having bought our Early Bird Tickets for both days (Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th July) my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads were very excited to experience all the delights YALC had to offer. So, how did it go?

DAY 1 – Saturday 12th July

Our introduction to YALC

London Comic Con – the craziness!

Photo from nintendo-insider.com

I have never experienced the pure craziness that is the London Comic Con, and couldn’t believe the immense crowds both outside Earls Court and inside where moving around became a bit of a mammoth task. After finally locating the YALC section at the back of the huge hall, Chrissi Reads and I let out a huge sigh, gritted our teeth and began to move through the crowds. (What things we do for our love of books!). We also weren’t prepared for the amount of people in strange and wonderful costumes – we recognised Spider-Man, Batman, The Power Rangers, Darth Vader and some Stormtroopers and…er… Half-Naked Lady? It was quite an experience! What was funny though was how quickly we got used to seeing costumed superheroes wandering around, checking texts and posing for photos and it became entirely natural to see Iron Man for instance, desperately seeking the toilets.

After locating the YALC Book Zone, our first task was to get some tickets for the first panel talk – The End of The World As We Know It with James Smythe as chair and also featuring Sarah Crossan, Patrick Ness and Malorie Blackman to talk about the dystopian genre, why they think it’s so “hot” right now, and what they see as the future of the genre. Malorie Blackman officially opened the proceedings in a fabulous costume and speaking in Klingon, and Patrick and Sarah provided some witty and interesting insights into the world of dystopia. Does it represent the fears teenagers have for their future? And is there also some hope and positivity in these worlds that young people can cling on to for comfort?

Day One YALC

James Smythe, Sarah Crossan, Patrick Ness and Malorie (Klingon) Blackman

Photo from http://www.theguardian.com

The talk was very entertaining and I was especially excited to see Patrick Ness (my new favourite author) who did not let me down and had me in fits of giggles. Next, it was time to see what else YALC had to offer. We visited publishers stands where I managed to bag some bookmarks, a cute YALC badge and even some advance copies of books I’m quite excited about. This included There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake and Solitaire by Alice Oseman. And where Waterstones are selling books, it’s compulsory to buy some! I picked up Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman and the illustrated edition of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Then we visited a couple of stands where other YA authors were promoting their work and I picked up The Narrows by James Brogden and Dystopia by Anthony Ergo, both authors were absolutely lovely and took time to talk to us. At the Hot Keys Book stand, they had a fabulous idea going where you could bring in a book and swap it with another which is where I acquired a copy of Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd.

After all that book buying and walking around it was time to go home, shoulders feeling the extra strain but incredibly happy bloggers! Bring on Day 2.

DAY 2 – Sunday 13th July

Talks, talks, oh and a Book Wall!

The next morning, Chrissi Reads and I were up bright and early but we were still not prepared for the enormous queue that awaited us when we arrived at Earls Court. Looping right round the building it ended up in the underground parking space and then looped a bit more. We needn’t have worried however, as soon as the doors opened at 09:00, the queue moved very fast and it was a little easier to navigate our way to the Book Zone to make sure we had all the tickets for the talks we wanted to see. The first talk didn’t start for a while, so it was the perfect opportunity to curl up on a bean bag and read under a Wall of Books.

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The Book Wall at YALC

Photo from http://www.theguardian.com

Sooner than we knew it, it was time for the first talk which was set to be interesting with the title: I’m Too Sexy For This Book, featuring the newly-crowned Queen of Teen, James Dawson at the helm and also featuring Cat Clarke, Non Pratt and Beth Reekles. The talk was absolutely hilarious and dragged down into the gutter at times but always in a fun way, with innuendos galore and lots of “sexy fun time.” Where do you draw the line with sex in young adult novels? Shock announcement – yes, some teenagers do actually have sex! All panellists agreed that if the sex is portrayed in a positive and educational way, it cannot be a bad thing. Personally, I remember Judy Blume’s Forever feeling quite graphic to me as a teenager, but I think I also learned a few things that I may have got the wrong information about otherwise.

The next talk was Crossover: Not Just For Kids, the panel consisting of David Maybury as chair and authors Nick Lake, Anthony McGowan, Meg Rosoff and Matt Haig. They explored how novels such as The Hunger Games and The Fault In Our Stars are being read by adults as well as teenagers and the possible reasons for this. They certainly made me feel more comfortable about being an adult YA fan, and Nick Lake made the very good point that a lot of books we consider classics now would actually fit into the YA genre quite well, for example The Catcher In The Rye and Oliver Twist.

Our final talk was Sisters Doing It For Themselves with chair Sarra Manning and female authors Tanya Byrne, Julie Mayhew, Isobel Harrop and Holly Smale. This again was a great bunch of authors with fantastic insights into the role of our modern day heroine in YA fiction and heroines that inspired them personally in literature. We had a range of answers here from Tanya Byrne who took inspiration from people around her, Sarra Manning who had a soft spot for “mad girls” such as Sylvia Plath and one of my own personal favourites, Anne of Green Gables who was Holly Smale’s heroine.

YALC – THE END?

So it was time to drag our weary bodies back home, we had an absolutely fantastic weekend and it was worth every minute queueing and being bumped by crowds. Thank you to Malorie Blackman for putting on a great programme, all the authors who came and gave talks and thoroughly entertained us, and all the publishers and people behind the scenes that made the event possible.

YALC – this time next year? (please?!)

Say Her Name – James Dawson

Published June 4, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Rowe is not the kind of person who believes in ghosts. A Halloween dare at her ridiculously spooky boarding school is no big deal, especially when her best friend Naya and cute local boy Caine agree to join in too. They are ordered to summon the legendary ghost of ‘Bloody Mary’: say her name five times in front of a candlelit mirror, and she shall appear… But, surprise surprise, nothing happens. Or does it?

Next morning, Bobbie finds a message on her bathroom mirror… five days… but what does it mean? And who left it there? Things get increasingly weird and more terrifying for Bobbie and Naya, until it becomes all too clear that Bloody Mary was indeed called from the afterlife that night, and she is definitely not a friendly ghost. Bobbie, Naya and Caine are now in a race against time before their five days are up and Mary comes for them, as she has come for countless others before… A truly spine-chilling yet witty horror from shortlisted ‘Queen of Teen’ author James Dawson.

What did I think?:

This was the first book of James Dawson’s that I read although I know he is becoming very popular in the Young Adult sector, and now I can see why! Many thanks must go to Lunas Little Library for kindly letting me read an advance copy of this great Young Adult thriller. Say Her Name has all the classic elements of the Point Horror fiction that I used to devour as a teenager – we have a boarding school, a bit of romance and a spooky game to invoke the ghost of Bloody Mary which funnily enough, I used to play also at my own boarding school. Unlike the teenagers in this story however, I was never able to complete the game before fleeing the bathroom with terrified squeals and was so petrified that same evening that my house-mistress had to come in and say a prayer for me. Oh dear. While spending a bookish holiday with Luna and my sister Chrissi Reads, she also made us watch the infamous Supernatural Bloody Mary episode which was also completely terrifying but which I do recommend.

Our main character in this novel is Roberta/Bobbie Rowe who is spending Halloween evening with a few friends from the school and several local boys telling ghost stories and generally trying to scare each other as you do at that age! Then the party descends into a game of dares where they encourage each other to play “Bloody Mary,” with only candles for light in the schools bathrooms. Bobbie definitely does not want to lose face, especially in front of cute local boy Caine who she has a bit of a crush on so agrees to the game and is one of the few teenagers who is able to complete saying her name five times. Nothing seems to happen until the next day when Bobbie finds a chilling message on her bathroom mirror – “FIVE DAYS.” It then becomes a race against time for Bobbie, her best friend Naya and Caine to explore the strange and frightening events that happen to each teenager both present and in the past that have evoked the ghost of Bloody Mary. Five days really isn’t a long time to try and solve the mystery of who exactly Bloody Mary was and why she continues to haunt everyone who ever says her name and it is also becoming exceedingly more dangerous for Bobbie as the power of Mary seems to becoming stronger and more frightening.

It’s really brilliant to read a story about a childhood game that I used to participate in myself and James Dawson elegantly weaves a chilling yet completely gripping tale that I literally couldn’t put down. Actually, I think the prologue might be one of the creepiest things I have ever read and that is in comparison to some adult horror fiction! I had to vet this book before my sister Chrissi Reads read it as this kind of thing really freaks her out (she ALSO played the Bloody Mary game at school), and after just the prologue I was raising my eyebrows, unsure if she could take it (sorry Chrissi!). Luckily like me she read it and loved it so that was a relief. The characters were beautifully drawn and both authentic and appealing to young adults in my opinion and the action and drama sequences just kept coming. With a James Dawson book I’ve realised I’m never bored or disappointed and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

For Chrissi’s review of Say Her Name, please check it out HERE and for Luna’s Little Librarys thoughts please click HERE.

Say Her Name is published on June 5h by Hot Key Books so what are you waiting for? Go grab a copy!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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