I was recently contacted by the lovely people at Ransom Publishing! They asked if I could help promote their new YA branch, Raven Books, as well as share their books and authors with you.
Ransom is a children’s publisher who specialise in providing books for reluctant readers. Whether they struggle to read because of environment, ability, or circumstance, Ransom believes that every reader should find a book that is appropriate for them. Or, in their own words:
"Our high-low reading books have gone on to fill a gap that needed filling, and have helped many struggling and reluctant readers find titles that are age appropriate, unpatronising, and visually appealing books."
And with such a fantastic philosophy, how could I say no? 😉
With all that said, the first author I am going to feature today is the fabulous Barbara Catchpole!
Author of Dead Ed in my Head, Barbara is a full-time writer and experienced teacher. She has been publishing children’s books for a number of years, and has taken the time to answer some questions.
She and Ransom have also included a 20% discount code for Dead Ed, located at the end of this post! So if you like the sound of it, check them out!
Now, without further ado, time for the interview!
First things first: What was the original inspiration behind your book, Dead Ed?
I think behind the book in some way is the fact that I wanted to write about the huge divide between young people and older people.
Older people always think they know better despite the huge mess they have made of the world. How do they know better? They don’t! But they have already made their mistakes and learned from them – sometimes they are worth a listen.
So when your deputy headteacher says you’ll never amount to anything if you don’t wear your tie done up correctly – not worth listening to. However, when she tells you never to accept a lift home from someone you don’t know very well, then listen up!
I wanted to explore the difference (and similarities) between the generations. Ed very nearly steals Tod’s life – he’s not that nice! I think Tod is actually a nicer character than Ed but not so able to cope. Basically they’re both useless blokes in need of a sensible woman – a need that spans generations!
Why do prefer to write stories set in the real world, rather than imaginary or fantastical worlds?
I did write ‘Blood Moon’ which is about a cop whose DNA becomes spliced with a werewolf. And ‘Ben’s Room’ about a room of horrors that feeds off your worst fears (giant jellyfish etc).
No, you’re right – my books are often set in a real context with wild exaggeration – like Gran who swears she is friends with Johnny Depp and is arrested for skateboarding through the supermarket.
I feel comfortable in the world of school and parenting. I think schools are the funniest places ever! You would never believe the things that happen!
I once sat through an assembly in which the headteacher talked about ‘Worble Gloaming’ instead of ‘Global Warming’ and nobody knew if he was serious.
And PE teachers are a rich vein of humour…
Did your 30 years of experience as a teacher help influence the creation of your book, especially in regards to creating your angry teenage protagonist Tod?
Yes, I met a lot of young people who were angry because their adults were unhappy in some way. Young people should be the centre of your world. I think, not add-ons. Also I met a lot of young people who were disrespected by adults or who got angry because they couldn’t understand a school subject. It’s difficult being a teenager.
Between teaching and visiting schools, how do you find the time and energy to write? Do you have a schedule you like to keep?
No, I just write when I get a good idea until it’s all out there!
I’m retired so I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do! It’s brilliant! At last I’ve learned to say, ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’
I’m as grumpy as Dead Ed. I know proper writers do keep a schedule and write so many words a day but because my books are for easy readers, once I’ve got the idea I can just do it! I’m not a proper writer, I’m just having fun.
What draws you to write for a younger audience, rather than adults?
I like writing for young boys because they find so many things hilarious. Basically you’ve just got to mention ‘poos’ or farting and you’re on a winner. I have a pretty basic sense of humour myself.
Also young people care a great deal about all sorts of issues and they care about the characters, so you can make a story funny and sad at the same time.
I have written eighteen stories about a boy called Peter Ian Green (PIG) and central to his books is the fact that his dad has left home and his mum has a new baby and a new boyfriend. While Pig is angry and upset, he is secure in his mum’s love and she fights his battles for him. I get loads of letters from young people who have really got into the books and really care about the character.
You say on your website that adults can communicate better with teenagers if the adult “just makes a huge effort.” What do you mean by this? And has this influenced the way that you try to engage a teenage reading audience?
I was being a bit light- hearted but I think adults have to make the effort because teenagers aren’t going to, are they? They usually just grunt.
I’ll be honest, though, my books aren’t a huge effort – I just write about what I think is funny. Luckily some young people laugh with me. It’s that way round.
Time for the tough question: Which two authors have inspired you the most and why?
I love Shakespeare – Ransom has just published some simplified plays for young people. I co-wrote them with Steve Rickard. I love the plays because the stories are fabulous ranging from violence, bloodshed and hatred to tender young love. Shakespeare must have been quite a guy!
I love the jokes in Terry Pratchett and the whole universe of Hogwarts and oh! Gerald Durrell whose use of words was amazing! And …I just love books!
Do you have any new books or projects in the works that you can share with us?
Sorry but that would be telling… 😉
Finally, for all the writers out there, what is the one piece of advice you would like to give?
Write what you want to write, make people read it whether they want to or not and if you want to be published, never ever give up! Publishers need to be cajoled, pestered and bullied!