Today of am happy to host Liz Hyder who I have been following on Twitter for a little while now. If you don’t know Liz, she is known as @londonbessie on Twitter and her debut novel ‘Bearmouth’ has just been released.
Below, Liz tells us what reading means to her. If you ask me, I think she is still a teen at heart :).
I love reading. I’ll read pretty much anything and everything – from the back of a cereal packet to a classic novel, from scripts to picture books, from short stories to poems. Given the choice though, I will more often than not reach for a young adult or middle grade book. I’ll reach for Philip Reeve, for Kiran Milwood Hargrave, for MG Leonard, Sarah Crossan, Brian Conaghan, Alan Garner. I’ll reach for Muhammad Khan, for Sara Barnard, for Patrice Lawrence, Catherine Johnson and Michelle Paver. I strongly believe that we are in a golden era for children’s and young adults books and that some of the very best storytellers, weavers of the most hauntingly beautiful and brilliant prose and poetry, are writing for younger people.
Young adult books are filled with all sorts of stories. There are stories of hope and bravery, stories that empower and inspire, stories that deal with difficult issues in sensitive and empathetic ways but above all the stories they tell are gripping, beautifully told and powerful. You’ll find diversity here too, still not as much as there should be but more than in almost any other area of publishing. Young adult books encourage us to look up and out, inspire us to aim for a better world too. And, without fail, young adult books grip you. After all, a teenage reader is an impatient reader. They want story, they want pace and they want characterisation. They want you as the writer to make them turn the page…. All of this means that YA is read not just be teens but adults, like me (I turn 42 in October so I definitely don’t count in the Y bit of YA!). And, in truth, I can’t get enough of it. Every year, I await the YA Bookseller Prize and Carnegie shortlists with glee, I’ll absorb reviews and previews, follow my favourites on Twitter and Instagram, share and swap books with my fellow addicts, watch out for new writers. And there are never ever enough hours in the day, days in the week or months in the year to devour them all.
I’d love to say that when I started writing my own debut novel, Bearmouth, I had some kind of plan for it to be a YA novel but, in truth, I didn’t. I simply knew that Newt, my protagonist, was a young teen and that the book would be told in dialect, in Newt’s distinctive voice that had been whispering to me at night. I had a story that was bursting to get out of me and so I told it – a raw and emotional story set in the dark, frightening world of a working coal mine. It was only when I’d finished an early draft that I thought maybe, just maybe, it was a young adult novel after all. One of the key themes in Bearmouth is the importance of asking questions, something that we as adults sometimes fail at but teenagers excel. Whether it’s challenging their parents or guardian what time they need to be back from an evening out or sacking off school and joining a strike for the environment, teenagers push at boundaries, defining and redefining themselves as they do so. Newt is no different. Young people drive change, they always have done and today’s teenagers are some of the most engaged, inquisitive and extraordinary people you will ever hope to meet. They’re not snowflakes and hoodies are simply a way of keeping warm that also includes a built-in hat for convenience. Teenagers are young people with hopes and dreams and aspirations, like all of us were in our own youth. What better audience to write for?