Meet the #YA10 authors

Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness talks about writing his YA10 shortlisted novel, Release.

Holly Bourne

Can you sum up It Only Happens in the Movies in one sentence?

A teen romance set in a cinema exploring how real love is nothing like in the movies

What inspired It Only Happens in the Movies?

I was working as a relationship advisor, and noticed how many romance films portray hugely problematic depictions of love as 'ideal'. In fact, lots of the male heroes in romances actually exhibit abusive behaviour. I wanted to write a romance that turns generic conventions on their head and helps teens critique these films, so they have a healthier, and more realistic, blueprint of what a 'romantic' relationship is. 

What does it mean to be on the shortlist?

Dude, Philip Pullman is on this list! What has happened to my life? 
 
What's the best thing about writing for young adults?

They're the toughest, most honest, critics but, when they love your book, they really really love your book. It's the best feeling in the universe. 

What is special about UKYA? 

From looking at this shortlist - just the huge expanse of talented authors writing across such a vast range of genres. You can gorge yourself on talent. That, and the humour. I think UKYA books are just plain funnier.

Sarah Crossan

Can you sum up Moonrise in one sentence?

Joe hasn’t seen his brother Ed for 10 years because he is on death row, but now Ed’s execution date has been set and Joe needs to find a way to say goodbye.
 
What inspired Moonrise?

The first documentary I ever saw about execution was "Fourteen Days In May", a BBC film which I watched when I was fifteen. It’s about a guy called Edward Earl Johnson who was on death row, and the BBC filmed his last fourteen days. One of the moments that particularly stayed with me is when Edward said goodbye to his family a few hours before his execution. I always wondered what that felt like, to say goodbye to your brother.
 
So from the age of fifteen I have been really anti-death penalty. There’s an acknowledgement in the back of the book to Clive Stafford Smith, who runs Reprieve, the anti-death penalty organisation, and who was the lawyer for Edward Earl Johnson.
 
What does it mean to be on the YA Book Prize shortlist?

It’s an honour to be shortlisted alongside such extraordinarily talented writers. Writing YA is incredibly important to me and to have an award that recognises and celebrates the work of just YA writers is amazing
 
What’s the best thing about being writing books for young adults?

I absolutely love meeting readers and going into schools. I used to be a teacher and I love how honest teenagers are about how they feel about your book. I’m hugely passionate about poetry and the effect language can have on you, and the places it can take you. Getting to talk to people about words and books every day is a real privilege

What is special about YA from the UK and Ireland?

There is a huge amount of talent here, as the shortlist shows. YA readers are often at a point in their lives where their world can feel narrow but I think our writers are incredible at broadening their view and showing them how big and brave the world out there is.

Philip Pullman

Can you sum up La Belle Sauvage in one sentence?

No. That’s why I had to write a whole book.

What inspired La Belle Sauvage?

The idea of a flood, a massive natural event which disrupts everything and stirs up old and long-forgotten things.

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

It’s marvellous. I’m very excited and pleased.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Well, I used to be a school teacher, and the coffee’s much better as a writer. Staff-room coffee is awful.

What is special about YA from the UK and Ireland?

I think we have a great tradition of storytelling in these islands, as well as the enormous benefit of using the immense, infinitely flexible, rich, welcoming and beautiful English language.

M A Bennett

Can you sum up S.T.A.G.S in one sentence?

Nine privileged teens. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend.

What inspired S.T.A.G.S?

I grew up in a little cottage in the grounds of a big stately home where my Granny worked. She started off as a kitchen maid and rose to housekeeper. Every weekend in hunting season the 'big house' had shooting parties. Lots of incredibly well-to-do people came up for the weekend to kill things and my Granny had to run around after them. I always wondered what would happen if a bunch of entitled teens had a hunting party without any adults around – how quickly the rules would be broken.

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

It’s a through-the-looking-glass experience. Philip Pullman was one of the authors who first inspired me to write YA, and now I’m on a shortlist with him with my debut YA! I’m on the far side of the mirror now and it’s strange and wonderful.

What’s the best thing about writing books for young adults?

YA is terrifically rewarding because you get such great feedback, particularly online. I had someone tweet me the other day that she stayed up all night reading under the covers with a flashlight, hoping her parents wouldn’t stop her because she just had to finish S.T.A.G.S. That’s a huge compliment.

What is special about YA from the UK and Ireland?

It’s very brave. No subject is off the table. There are many courageous British and Irish writers dealing with issues that matter to teens head-on, without feeling the need to sanitise or dilute the experience.

Emily Barr

Can you sum up The One Memory of Flora Banks in one sentence?
 
A girl with amnesia goes to Svalbard in search of a boy she kissed, but when she gets there she finds few things in her life are what they seemed. (This is strangely difficult to do in one sentence.)
 
What inspired The One Memory of Flora Banks?

It was Svalbard, the Arctic setting. That was the thing that came first, and I’m pretty sure it was in an actual dream. I was supposed to be writing a completely different book, but I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I needed to write a book about someone in the snowy Arctic who didn’t quite know why she was was there, and I had a very strong visual image of it. It grew in my head, and shut that other book out completely, until I wrote it. It wasn’t as straightforward as just writing it, of course (I had no contract and no money) but it was the starting point.
 
What does it mean to be on the YA Book Prize shortlist?

It means the world! I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was absolutely stunned when I found out about it. To be in that sort of company on a list like that is incredible, and I wish I could go back to the impoverished single mother who started writing that first draft into a void, and tell her that this would happen.
 
What’s the best thing about writing books for young adults?

Truly, it’s the readers. They are so involved, so passionate. I love how much YA readers talk about books, and how excited they are by them. It’s an amazing world. I also love taking myself back to that time when you’re on the cusp of adulthood, when every decision you make could lead to a different future. It’s a wonderful time to write about.

What is special about YA from the UK and Ireland?

It’s easy for YA to become US dominated (because of course there is fantastic stuff coming from the US), but the diversity and the range of UK and Irish YA at the moment are breathtaking, as this shortlist proves. In many ways it feels far more open than the world of adult literature, and although I am very definitely not young, I love reading UK/Irish YA because it can take you anywhere. It’s a very exciting time to be involved in this world.