The Last Wild

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Author Interview – Piers Torday on his Last Wild series for YA SHOT

Published October 12, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Piers Torday

PIERS TORDAY – A BIOGRAPHY

Piers Torday’s bestselling first book, The Last Wild, was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Award and nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal as well as numerous other awards. His second book,The Dark Wild won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. The third book in the trilogy, The Wild Beyond, will be published in 2015.

Born in Northumberland, where there are more animals than people, he now lives in London – where there are more animals than you might think…

Click on the books to get to their description on GoodReads!

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Interview with Piers Torday

I’d like to welcome Piers to bibliobeth today and thank him for his time in giving this interview.

1.) The Last Wild is the first book in your award-winning trilogy and features Kester, the modern day Doctor Dolittle, whose world is threatened by the disappearance of all the animals. What made you decide that Kester should only be able to talk to the animals and not the humans?

Since the Second World war we have seen an epic decline in biodiversity across the globe. Over 40% of species on earth are either extinct or are severely endangered. The reasons for this are multiple, from climate change, to overfishing, pollution, habitat loss, to the spread of disease through global air travel – the list goes on. And the people who will have to ultimately deal with the consequences of a less diverse planet are the children of today. I felt that they were coming into a world where the many wonderful and unusual creatures – who not only share this planet with us, but are critical to its survival – had their needs completely overlooked by one dominant species.  I am not saying that animals had a “voice” before but perhaps there was more of a balance. So I wanted a hero who could connect with that sense of biological disenfranchisement. And, of course, who also often feels they don’t have a say in the direction of their lives? Children. I thought an ability to speak for an ignored majority but not to their shared adult overlords would provoke the sympathies of young readers for the natural world around them.

2.) In the second book, The Dark Wild, the animals decide to get their own back on a world that destroyed them. Do you have a soft spot for any animal character you have written in particular?

I have a soft spot for all my characters, and the animals probably were more fun to write because they are so colourful. I really enjoyed writing the White Pigeon because I have always loved that very silly British word-play, and yet he also surprised me with his heart and bravery. The Wolf Cub is very popular with readers and he was also fun because I think he is a bit like the showoff child I was! The whale was the most challenging – trying to find a poetic language that made sense, and was mysterious while remaining accessible to readers. And of course the Eagle – because he says so little! 🙂

3.) The final book in the trilogy, The Wild Beyond has recently been published with Kester facing the toughest challenge ever and coming up against some dastardly villains! What inspired you to write villains like Auntie Fenella, Selwyn Stone and Captain Skuldiss?

From my own childhood on, I have always enjoyed great villains – from Bond baddies to scary Tolkien wraiths and spiders – and wanted to give my readers the same satisfaction. But it is too easy to create a cod or arch villain who is only scary on the surface, and there is little enjoyable jeopardy to be gained from a perilous situation where the villain doesn’t pose a real threat. So I looked to the villains who scared me the most. Skuldiss, the most sinister of the lot, is inspired by the Child-Catcher from the film of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, only he is an animal catcher – but with the same psychotic glee. Fenella is my tribute to some of the great Disney movie villains like Cruella de Vil or Ursula from the Little Mermaid – vampish and over the top but also seriously nasty. Selwyn Stone was the hardest to write because he is ultimately deranged but he is a real complex person with an ambiguous moral centre. He believes genuinely he is doing the right thing, despite the vast destruction it causes. All I will say is that perhaps some recent notable political figures helped with that one!

4.) You are appearing at YA Shot in Uxbridge this year chairing a panel about nature as a character and concern in YA. Is it crucial for you as an author to get an important message across in your books?

I don’t really have a “message” as such, and don’t really like books which feel didactic or judgemental. But I think an enjoyable read is always about more than just the story. I have no particular view on which of the many proposed strategies to deal with climate change and mass extinction are the right ones, not being a scientist or politician – but I hope my readers are moved to think about the questions involved. Do animals have a right to conservation and protection? What would you be prepared to sacrifice to save the planet? Are there too many of us for a sustainable future on this planet? I think the role of landscape in fiction, in such a rapidly changing world, is going to be major when it comes to defining memory and experience and I think we’re going to have  a cracker of a discussion on this at YA shot.

5.) Do you believe that libraries still play an important role in inspiring young people to read?

Libraries are crucial civic spaces and should be cherished as such. In a hectic, screen dominated world, they offer vital opportunities for reflection and discovery. For some they might provide the only opportunity. It is librarians, and not algorithms, who can recommend books which might just possibly change the course of a child’s life, suggest that book which is a gateway to a lifetime’s journey  of knowledge and curiosity.

6.) Have there been any authors in particular that inspired you as a writer? How do you see the future of YA/MG fiction?

I have been inspired by so many – as a child, Roald Dahl, C S Lewis, Eva Ibbotson, T. H. White – and as an adult, J K Rowling, Patrick Ness and David Almond, to name but a few. Who knows what the direction of YA/MG fiction is, certainly not me. But what I do know is that without doubt it is the most exciting place to work in publishing at the moment. The best fiction for young people seems able to discuss big ideas, experiment with form, maintain narrative drive, AND actually sell books. Win win all round as far as the novel is concerned.

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

I am working on a new book, a standalone, which comes out next autumn but it hasn’t been announced yet so I can’t say a thing – but I am very very excited and hope readers will be too.

Now for some quick-fire questions!

E book or real book?
Real book! E-books are good for reading on airplanes or in the dark but that’s about it.
Series or stand alone?
I think standalone – series are great, but people always have their favourite and one off books perhaps make the most impact?
Fiction or non-fiction?
Fiction – I can never finish non-fiction books although I do enjoy them.
Online shopping or bookshop trawling?
Online shopping for instant gratification, bookshops for pleasureable discovery
Bookmarking or dog-earing?
Dog-earing!
Once again, a big thank you to Piers for his efforts in making this interview possible. All three books in the Last Wild series are out now and are available from all good book retailers.
Come visit bibliobeth again tomorrow where I will be reviewing the second book in The Last Wild series – The Dark Wild.
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YA SHOT REVIEW – The Last Wild (The Last Wild #1) – Piers Torday

Published October 11, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

This is a story about a boy named Kester. He is extraordinary, but he doesn’t know that yet. All he knows, at this very moment, is this:

1. There is a flock of excited pigeons in his bedroom.

2. They are talking to him.

3. His life will never be quite the same again…

What did I think?:

Welcome to a very special week on bibliobeth! On the 28th October 2015, many popular authors in the world of young adult fiction are coming together in Uxbridge, London for a days worth of inspiring talks and interesting workshops otherwise known as YA SHOT, spearheaded by the wonderful author, Alexia Casale. I’ll be writing a separate post soon about the day, but this week will see reviews of all three books in Piers Torday’s Last Wild series accompanied by an interview with the man himself. Later on this week, I will also review Jane Elson’s new novel – How To Fly With Broken Wings which will be followed by an interview/grilling on what inspired her to write this, her second novel. For now, it’s back to Piers and his best-selling debut novel, The Last Wild which was short-listed for the Waterstones Children’s Book award and nominated for many others, including the prestigious Carnegie Medal.

I knew I was going to enjoy The Last Wild when I read the synopsis (hey, it’s talking animals, always a plus point for me!) but I had no idea exactly how much I was going to love it. Our main character is a young boy called Kester, a modern day Dr Doolittle who finds he has a rather unusual gift for talking to animals after a rather strange meeting with a rather bold little cockroach. The world that Kester inhabits is in terrible peril where an unusual disease has wiped out almost all the animals on Earth and the humans are reduced to eating a bland food-stuff known as “formula,” to survive.

Kester is the first human the animals have been able to communicate with and they desperately need his help. After escaping from a home for “troubled children,” Kester manages to gain the confidence and trust from the last few animals that he can help them from becoming wiped out forever. Kester joins forces with Polly, a young girl whose parents have disappeared and even though he can’t communicate properly with her he has no such issues with a gentle stag, a boisterous wolf cub and the previously mentioned military cockroach, known as General of course (sir!). Kester has no idea however on how intense and dangerous his mission to save the last wild will become. There are villains aplenty, eager to thwart Kester at every turn, but also new friends to meet and protect, a cure to figure out and a world to change.

This is a fantastic and imaginative debut novel that I’m certain is destined to become a classic in the world of children’s literature. I love the animal characters and the bond that develops between them and Kester as the story develops and the adventure and excitement of the plot is non stop and intensely readable. I also enjoyed the message that the author was trying to get across which was combined with such a wonderful sense of humour and fun that it was always a treat to be reading it. Piers Torday has created a lovely little mystery within the plot and I can’t wait to see how it develops over the series and affects Kester as a character. I must also mention the illustrations in this novel by Thomas Flintham, especially the map at the beginning which let the reader picture the surroundings with perfect clarity. Finally, I have to mention the villains of the piece, who I absolutely loved to hate and who may go down in literature history as being some of the creepiest and creative individuals that just came alive and jumped off the page for me. A brilliant start to a beautiful and thought-provoking new series for children that will easily appeal to adults too, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Kester and his Last Wild.

Visit bibliobeth tomorrow to read my interview with Piers Torday where we’ll find out the answer to what we all want to know – does he dog ear his books?!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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