Meet the 2017 #YA10 authors

Patrice Lawrence

Can you sum up your book in one sentence?

Good boy Marlon stars in a London thriller about loyalty, family, friendship and grief with added Primark and music.

Why did you write your book?

It was an accident. I’d gone to a crime writing course with a plan for a series of books set in 1940s Port of Spain, Trinidad. I came out with a few thousand words that later became Orangeboy.

However, I’ve always been fascinated by choice versus destiny. I remember a teacher telling us at school that by the age of five, you can identify the children who will be troubled adults. Was that true?

There was also an interview with Stormzy recently where he said it was a foregone conclusion that he would get into trouble in his teens – “I think just growing up where I’m from, the secondary school I went to, the people I was surrounded by… It was just all the recipes for like ‘You’re gonna do this’”.

What draws people into that world? What enables them to pull away?

What does it mean to be on the YA Book Prize shortlist?

To be able to call people I admire and respect ‘my peers’? Joy.

Which book made you a fan of YA?

Paul Zindel’s The Pig Man courtesy of Mr Jones, our second year (Year 8) English teacher. Followed by the rest of Zindel’s books, courtesy of Haywards Heath library.

What is special about YA from the UK and Ireland?

The ambition, the politics, the creativity and the community.

Lisa Heathfield

Can you sum up Paper Butterflies in one sentence?
It’s June’s story, about finding hope in the darkness.

Why did you write Paper Butterflies?
I was working on another book when June appeared to me and asked me to write her story instead. I tried to appease her, telling her that I’d write her first page and then would have to be left alone for a bit, but she wouldn’t go. When I told my editor about June, she said that I had to write her story, so I started that night and became completely consumed by it.

What does it mean to be on the YA Book Prize shortlist?
It means SO much to me. There are so many incredible YA books being published at the moment, so to even be considered alongside them is truly amazing.

Which book made you a fan of YA?
I’ve been reading YA books since I trained to be a secondary school English teacher years and years ago. The three books that stood out for me at that time were Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, Go Ask Alice and Junk by Melvin Burgess (I promise that I’m not saying that because he’s a judge!! I’m truly completely speechless that he might now read a book of mine).

What is special about YA from the UK and Ireland?
Writers and readers are passionate about it. It’s open, it’s honest and it increasingly reflects our diverse society.

Clare Furniss

Can you sum up How Not to Disappear in one sentence?
A secret past and an uncertain future unfold as pregnant teen Hattie and her cocktail-drinking great aunt Gloria who’s losing her memory go on a life-changing road trip together.

Why did you write How Not to Disappear?
I’ve wanted to write about dementia for a long time. My grandma had Alzheimer’s when I was growing up and even though she would forget things that had just happened she could remember things from her childhood incredibly vividly. I wanted to explore what losing your memory means in terms of your identity, and to compare the lives of teenage girls in the 1950s and the present day in a way that felt real and exciting and funny and sad. There were a lot of strong, intelligent, opinionated older women in my family when I was growing up who had a huge impact on my life and I wanted to write a story that celebrated those precious relationships that span the generations. I love reading and writing mysteries so I knew from the start that Gloria’s story would have that element to it, as Hattie tries to work out the truth of what happened to her. And I love the film "Thelma and Louise" so the road trip was a bit of a tribute to that!

What does it mean to be on the YA Book Prize shortlist?
It’s amazing! This book was a hard one to write and at times I felt I’d never even manage to finish it, let alone create a story people might want to read! YA in the UK and Ireland is so strong at the moment, it’s a huge honour to be on such a strong, diverse shortlist.

Which book made you a fan of YA?
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. It really showed me the scope of YA. Here was a book about the terrible effects of war but also about the complicated family life of a teenager who hates her pregnant stepmother, that was also a love story AND made me laugh out loud. It was the book that made me decide to try and write YA.

What is special about YA from the UK and Ireland?
I love the fact that UK and Irish YA authors take their readers seriously and don’t sugar-coat or simplify difficult subjects. The result is books that are powerful and thought-provoking as well as being exciting to read. This shortlist shows perfectly the uniqueness of YA in the UK and Ireland - there’s the mythology and folklore, the history, the rich cultural mix, the darkness, and the humour. It’s a very exciting time to be writing YA!

Laure Eve

Can you sum up The Graces in one sentence?
"Everyone said the Graces were witches - I was going to make them mine."

Why did you write The Graces?
Frankly, the world needs to love complicated, unlikeable female characters as much as I do. I'm doing my bit for the cause. I've also always been curious about ideas around power. What is it, what makes some people have it and others not? Finally, ever since I was taught "The Crucible" in school and read Robin Jarvis and Terry Pratchett at an impressionable age, I've been obsessed with the idea of witchcraft.

What does it mean to be on the YA Book Prize shortlist?
It's shocking. At some point I feel sure someone's going to sheepishly announce that they made a mistake and they meant to shortlist a different book called The Aces or something. You just have to look at the two previous winners to realise what a fabulous prize it is, and how unbelievably flattering it is to make it onto the shortlist.

Which book made you a fan of YA?
Wait, this is tricky. How far are we allowed to go back, here? I mean, Carrie by Stephen King... The Secret History by Donna Tartt... I see these as YA books. I think the book that really introduced me to the modern label of YA was The Hunger Games. I'd heard a rumour that it was a rip off of "Battle Royale" (a beloved film of mine) so I approached it with some reservation. Then I found myself totally devouring the whole trilogy over 48 hours of a particularly rainy holiday.

What is special about YA from the UK and Ireland?
I think it has a kind of fearlessness to it. There's a sense that it wants to be upfront with its audience about the big, complicated, terrible stuff, instead of playing it safe and dumbing down. It's very admirable, and an ethos I aspire to.

Malorie Blackman

Can you sum up Chasing the Stars in one sentence?
Chasing The Stars is a story of love, jealousy, murder and betrayal set in space!
Why did you write Chasing the Stars?
I’d wanted to write a story inspired by Shakespeare’s “Othello” for quite some time. My main character Olivia is the captain of a ship who is desperately trying to make her way back home to Earth after a mysterious virus has wiped out her crew. She rescues some human refugees and falls in love with one of them, a guy called Nathan. But someone on board is intent on sabotaging Olivia’s new relationship.  And then the deaths start...
What does it mean to be on the YA Book Prize shortlist?
I can’t tell you how excited I am to be a part of such an amazing shortlist which is truly diverse in subject matter. There is something for every reading taste here. I’m just thrilled to be a part of that.  
Which book made you a fan of YA?
Growing up, there were no books written specifically for YA to be honest. Yes, I’m that old!  The book that made me want to write YA was Melvin Burgess’s Junk (such a fantastic book). The books that switched me on to YA books were Dear Nobody by Berlie Doherty and Fifteen by Beverly Cleary among others.
What is special about YA from the UK and Ireland?
While I love reading about experiences from around the world, there’s something about the familiarity of recognisable landscapes, people and places that is also incredibly enjoyable and satisfying. YA books from the UK and Ireland keep getting bolder and better. Long may it continue.

Sara Barnard

Can you sum up Beautiful Broken Things in one sentence?
Longtime best friends Caddy and Rosie learn about friendship, love and recovery when Suzanne hurricanes into their lives.

Why did you write Beautiful Broken Things?
Because it wouldn't let me go! The characters have been with me for a long time. I wanted to explore the "after" of a traumatic experience, the way the effects can linger and what the impact can be on a young person and their relationships.

What does it mean to be on the YA Book Prize shortlist?
A huge amount. This is *the* prize that honours and celebrates YA in all its variety and diversity. Just look at the list - there's such a range of genre, content and style, taking readers from the depths of space to inner London. There's something for everyone in YA, and this prize recognises that. I feel very honoured and proud to be on the list.

Which book made you a fan of YA?
It wasn't a single book, so I couldn't name just one. There wasn't much of what we now call YA around when I was actually a teenager, especially not from the UK, but I loved Sarra Manning and Malorie Blackman. Across the sea, I was a big fan of Jaclyn Moriarty in Australia and Sarah Dessen in the US.

What is special about YA from the UK and Ireland?
I think it's very honest - you don't see much romanticising, which is a great thing. It's down-to-earth and often quite unflinching. You can tell you're reading a British/Irish YA book from the first page.