Meet the #YA10 authors

Will Hill

Can you sum up After the Fire in one sentence?

A teenage survivor of the fiery end of a religious cult attempts to work out who she can trust with her secrets and tries to prepare for a new life in an outside world she doesn’t understand.

What inspired After the Fire?

After The Fire was inspired by the 1993 Waco Siege, a standoff between the Branch Davidian religious sect and the American authorities that ended with more than 80 people dead. The novel isn’t a retelling of that event, but it was definitely the catalyst for writing it: I wanted to explore how someone would feel when their entire world ends, and how they would even start to think about moving forward afterwards. Moonbeam, the main character in the story, came to me pretty much fully formed as soon as I started planning and researching.

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

It’s a huge honour, especially given the other writers on the 2018 list and the authors who have won the prize in the past. It has been – and continues to be – amazing to be part of everything that goes along with the shortlisting: the social media, the events, the engagement with librarians and teachers and the readers who are excited to read the books. I can’t wait to go to Hay for the ceremony!

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Like any job, there are times when it’s difficult, when the words won’t come or a story won’t fit together. On the days when it goes well – when the pages fill up as if by magic, and my imagination is working properly – it’s an absolute joy. But the best part of the whole thing is always seeing the reactions from readers, who could be doing anything else with their time but have chosen to read something I wrote. It’s never less than humbling.

What is special about YA from the UK and Ireland?

I think the quality of the work being produced in the UK and Ireland should be obvious for all to see: we have some of the very finest authors in the world, writing at the top of their game. I think the range of stories and subjects being covered in YA is greater than at any time in the past, and I think we should be proud of that. We need far, far more diversity in what’s being published, though: we’ve taken baby steps in the last few years, which is fine, but big strides are what are needed. Too many teenagers still struggle to see themselves in novels, and that needs to change.

Sally Nicholls

Can you sum up Things a Bright Girl Can Do in one sentence?

Evelyn, May and Nell join the suffrage movement, live through the First World War and fall in love; Votes for Women!

What inspired Things a Bright Girl Can Do?

I was asked to write Things a Bright Girl Can Do by my editor at Andersen, who wanted to publish a YA novel about the Suffrage movement. So the initial inspiration came from her. But when writing the book, I was inspired by all sorts of things; by memoirs written by Suffragettes and suffragists and by people who lived through the events I was writing about, by other books I read as research, by the modern-day campaigners I know, and campaigns I’ve been involved in.

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

It’s a huge honour – thank you very, very much.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

I get to make up stories all day – and get paid for it!

What is special about YA from the UK and Ireland?

Every child deserves to see themselves, their history and their culture in fiction. British people have our own concerns, experiences, humour, and heroes and heroines. That deserves to be celebrated. And the diversity of this list shows we have no shortage of stories!

Patrice Lawrence

Can you sum up Indigo Donut in one sentence?

The angry daughter of a murdered mother meets the music-filled boy who knows more than he says – with added Blondie.

What inspired Indigo Donut?

Firstly, the deaths of Peaches Geldof and Paula Yates. In both tragic cases, children were in the house. Even though the children themselves may not remember what happened, they will spend the rest of their lives having to deal with strangers’ opinions about their mothers. Secondly, when I started writing the book, young people in foster care were expected to leave their families when they turned eighteen. That made me sad and angry. Thirdly, I wanted to write about my twin pleasures of London and music.

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

Indigo Donut is a more personal book than Orangeboy – and very different. There were a couple of scenes I really struggled to write, so it was a joy and privilege to see Indigo Donut shortlisted. It also gives me more opportunity to brandish the beautiful cover.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

I can weave in the aspects of social justice that I feel passionate about into my stories. I am also very nosy about other people’s lives, so I get to ask lots of questions.

What is special about YA from the UK and Ireland?

The scope, ambition, passion and readers.

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.