Here is gorgeous Orla Ambrose interviewing Lucy Christopher about her writing process and about her new work – you might even get a sneak preview of the new book if you keep watching! :-)
Interview with Lucy Christopher by Orla Ambrose from Lucy Christopher on Vimeo.
11year old Orla interviews Lucy about her writing and her latest book for Young Adults.
I came to Rancho Las Cascadas by accident. I had been invited to speak at the Guadalajara International Bookfair and I was looking for somewhere idyllic to spend a few days afterwards. I wanted rejuvenation and a bit of ‘soul-time’. Perhaps a beachside yoga retreat would revive me out of my current writer’s block; perhaps I could, even, return to UK winter with a tan.
Still, I hesitated to book. Maybe that particular ocean in front of that particular yoga retreat wasn’t quite the right inspiration for my novel-in-progress. Perhaps the yoga guests on the hotel’s website didn’t look too friendly? Maybe I could find a yoga retreat where I could ride a horse, too?
I typed many combinations into trusty Google. Horse yoga in Mexico yielded some particularly …ah … interesting results, though none returned as a combined yoga and riding retreat. Certainly, none of the retreats I discovered combined yoga, riding AND creative writing. Nevertheless, one website was persistent. Over and over again, the website for Rancho Las Cascadas begged me to consider it. But this place was all wrong, wasn’t it? It had no rejuvenating ocean waves, no barefoot peaceful yogis, and how would I find time for inspiration if I were gallivanting on horseback all day?
But, hey…the opening photo on their website looked like it was on a beach, sort of. And the guests in their photos looked friendly at least. And there were HORSES. Horses that looked exceedingly gorgeous from their photos no less.
I sent a cautious email to Jenny, the Rancho’s manager. She replied within minutes, almost beaming with smiles through the printed words. It took me about a day to change my plans from the Mexican Riveria to a Mexican Rancho.
I am so glad I did.
Not only did I find perfect rejuvenation and ‘soul-time’ at Rancho Las Cascadas, I found what I’d been searching for – inspiration and, yes, even time to write. Despite riding each day during the six days I was there, and even fitting in two wonderful yoga classes (yes, they DID do yoga and riding at the same place it seemed!), I wrote every day. I returned to the UK with half a story written for children about a wild horse, as well as a novel idea about horses. Now, I wonder where I got that inspiration?
The Rancho really is the perfect place to write – there is sunshine, smiles, peace, the calm of horses, and time to explore. However, best of all, I also returned with a wonderful idea for teaching. It was in the lazy haze after a yoga class that I spoke to Jenny about the possibility of running a Creative Writing Retreat at the Rancho. As always, Jenny was positive and helpful. Why not, she said, that would be fabulous!
And why not, indeed!
So, I’m doing it. And I cannot wait. Because, what really could be better than sunshine, writing books, riding horses and, yes, even a little yoga!
Watch this space for details about the Creative Writing Retreat I plan to hold at the magical Rancho Las Cascadas from November 12 -19, 2016.
If you’re interested, let Jenny know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For more info on the Rancho – www.rancholascascadas.com
Hey there you!
Sooooo sorry that I haven’t updated for about 6 weeks… OOOPSS… BAD writer! I’m slapping myself on the wrist over here (I am, really!). I’ve got loads of things I can tell you about too, about all the wonderful schools I’ve been visiting (including the absolutely delightful schools in the Brighton and Sussex area who I visited recently and who voted for me to win this year’s Southern School’s Book Award – thanks guys!). I can tell you about how the film of Stolen is progressing (slowly, slowly!). I could even tell you how my third book is going (completely rewritten it once already, still playing with it!). BUT instead, I’m going to give you something. I’m going to give you a transcript of the speech I gave at this year’s Printz Awards Ceremony in New Orleans. I made a speech there because STOLEN (my first book) was awarded as an Honor Book. It was super exciting being flown out there by my publishers to collect a very lovely award and to talk to about 500 or so fantastic US Librarians. What an experience! And what a totally amazing and beautiful and FUN city. And what a wonderful publishing team I have to do this for me! Anyway, here’s the speech I gave on the night (I was a little nervous, so not all of it came out as planned! ;-) )
Hope you enjoy!
“The sunlight hit me immediately. Everything was bright, painfully so.
These are Gemma’s first impressions of the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia where my novel, Stolen, is set. These could also be my first impressions standing up here tonight in the bright lights of the Printz Awards Reception in stiflingly hot New Orleans.
Standing up here is a delight, a privilege, a terror, and an honour. I never would have believed that my first book could take me from the bright sun of the Australian desert to the glimmering heat-haze of the American South. So thank you, very much, for this precise moment. Thank you also for letting me share the stage with authors I hugely admire, and who have also created vivid and intoxicating, brave new worlds with their novels.
For me, the most important pull to Stolen was getting the world right. I drove through the Australian outback for almost a month to research the setting of Stolen. I kept notes in a journal, often talking about the endless desert sand. One short passage goes like this:
Day 13: Middle of Nowhere
“The scenery has changed. Maybe. Less rocks, certainly. More orange sand, if that’s possible. Wildflowers, sand, spinifex, sand, the occasional loping camel, sand, and yes, more sand. In other news, we blew another tire.”
The Great Sandy Desert is aptly named. There are zillions of grains of sand that make it up. In just the same way, there are so many individuals who helped create this story of mine. Without their help, Stolen would still be just a dust storm of scattered thoughts, blowing around in the back of my brain somewhere, with the tumbleweed. Writing a book is a collaborative process. After all, I’m just someone who thinks a lot about strange things like sand and camels and kidnapping – I need other people to help me put this into a book, get that book into the hands of my audience, and to read my fictional world into life.
Tonight I’m going to thank about 512 individuals who have helped (don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it seems, I’ll stick to the time limit). I’m also going to explain why Stolen is special to me. And while you probably already know that librarians are the most important people in the world, I want to share why that’s particularly true in terms of my own writing career.
My first thank-you is going out to you – all 500 or so of you here tonight (see – that’s 500 thank-yous done already). I especially want to thank the amazing, hardworking Printz Judging committee. Thank you all of you who have read, or are going to read, or who are interested in, Stolen. Because, after all, it is the reader who brings my words, and Stolen’s world, to life. Thank you for making my characters breathe. Thank you also for bringing the orange desert sand to New Orleans (or perhaps I should thank the rather bemused customs official for that one). And thank you for giving me a life as a writer. Because you really have, by recognizing me with this honor for my first published book.
Stolen is based on things I’ve felt and experienced – which is part of the reason why it’s so special to me. Though I should probably clear something up right now – I’ve never been kidnapped Not even once! Which is something I get asked often by fans. So no – this book is not a true story. Or based on a true story. And no, Ty hasn’t actually written back to me …yet.
But in a different way, this book is entirely a true story. And I’ve been preparing to write it all my life. The idea of kidnapping a British teenager to the middle of the Australian outback and changing her perception of it felt to me like it had force; like it had too much momentum behind it to have come from nowhere. Like the desert I wrote about, I have since discovered that Stolen had layers of sedimentary thought and exploratory roots beneath its surface.
The first seeds of Stolen were sown when I was nine years old and lived – coincidentally – in the same tiny town in Wales that I do now. My family decided to move to Australia – I didn’t want to go. In some small way, maybe it did feel like a kidnapping. I can remember vividly my sense of awkwardness when I got there; feeling disjointed and peculiar and hot in my heavy British cardigans. To fit in with a different school system, I’d been put ahead a grade and had to take ‘special education’ classes to catch up, I was shorter than everyone, with an accent too rounded, and I’d never been to a pool party.
To avoid the uncomfortableness of being a new immigrant, or perhaps just to avoid the heat, every lunch time I would take myself off to the only place in the school where I could find air-conditioning:…The library. And there I would sit and be deliciously cool. My school librarian I can remember vividly. She was named Mrs. Adamson, and was American, as it happens. She said I could sit under the air conditioner as much as I wanted, BUT…while I was there, I had to read. And because I liked Mrs. Adamson so much — and perhaps more so because I didn’t want to leave the air conditioning! — for the first time in my life, I read. I raced through the Silver Brumby series, Ivan Southall’s books, and I absolutely adored every word that John Marsden ever wrote. It’s only later that I realised these books were very much concerned with the Australian landscape — kids getting lost in the bush, having adventures in the snowy mountains, and hiding out from war in a deep forest hollow. Australia in these stories was always a source of fear or excitement for its characters.
Australia as a beautiful and terrifying land was something I also experienced first-hand. The land beyond our first garden fence was an overgrown nature reserve; a kingdom for spiders and snakes…and adventures. I was terrified of it, but fascinated too. I had never lived so close to something so wild. It was also the first time I felt simultaneously scared and in love with something. This feeling lasted all the way through growing up in Australia, all the way though returning to Wales, and all the way to when I was thinking about writing a book.
I wanted to write about land I loved and also hated. About the feeling of belonging and simultaneously being an outsider.
Stolen sprung from a place of fear and excitement, alienation and yearning, as I think all the most interesting things, do. Adolescence, love, even standing up here in front of you tonight — all of this is entwined with these emotions.
Fear and excitement, in particular, are emotions that define a teenager’s world. And I think this is part of the pull teenagers feel towards reading Stolen – they recognise its emotional world. At first, Gemma is petrified of the desert, and then in love with it; she’s also terrified of her captor, though she comes to love him, in a way, too. Navigating her way through fear and excitement is part of her growing-up process, realising who she is and who she wants to be.
Fear and excitement are very much entwined with my writing process, too. When I’m in the middle of writing anything, I hate it … I want to give up and throw myself from a ten-storey building on a daily basis… I’m terrified that the time and effort I’m spending will be useless. David Almond — a previous Printz winner, and an author I hugely admire — also gets scared by the process of writing. He also feels the fear when he is in the middle of the dark tangled forest of a novel. I heard him talk once about two words he has written on a Post-it note in his office:
‘Be Brave’ kept me going when I was a teenage immigrant in a strange land, even if I couldn’t articulate it then. ‘Be Brave’ keeps me going now, as a different kind of immigrant, because all writers really are immigrants. We jump in on other people’s lives. We never really belong. And we write about strange, fictional lands.
‘Be Brave’ are words that help navigate the forest of adolescence too. And this is what I hope all the teenage characters in my books learn. In Stolen, Gemma learns to be brave under the most terrifying and isolated circumstances. In my second novel, Flyaway, Isla learns to be brave in the face of illness. And in the novel I’m working on now, Emily learns to be brave in the chaos of war.
Books help young people be brave. They help them find the courage to make decisions, and to know what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s real and what’s make-believe. They certainly helped, and continue to help, me.
My final thank yous go to my wonderful teams at Scholastic US and Chicken House UK – who were also brave in publishing this book. Imogen Cooper, Barry Cunningham and Siobhan McGowan in particular. My agent Linda Davis, and all my family and friends, plus all the people I talked with to get the details of the desert right. You’ve made up the grains of this book.
Lastly I thank the desert itself, and am grateful for the experience of moving to a strange new world at a strange young age. My journey as an author started with a very hot summer’s day, a very cold air conditioner, and a very understanding and encouraging school librarian. So thank you, all of you, for doing what you’re doing, for putting books into the hands of vulnerable, curious and confused young people…people like me once. Thank you also for letting me do what I do now.
I know, I know…I should have written in this thing MONTHS ago. But I tell you…I have just been too busy! This year has been so crazy busy, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced…EVER! Imagine a Merry-go-round sped up about one billion times, complete with super sonic flashing lights and cheering faces whizzing past … and that’s how it’s felt. I’ve already been to Germany twice, Australia twice, America once, and round the bend several times …
I think I should give you the ten-plot-point summary of the past few months :
1). In March I launched STOLEN in Germany. I went to the Leipzig book fair (cool manga characters wandering round!), Hamburg (sat in my hotel room and worked on my PhD) and Cologne (met some super nice Lit festival people!). This was all great fun, even though the crowds I seemed to attract to watch me seemed very SERIOUS. I guess that might have something to do with the fact that my German cover is uber scary….it’s black and menacing and with a man’s face lurking behind. The German title is quite scary too. It’s called ‘Ich Wuenschte Ich Koennte Dich Hassen (which in English means ‘I wished I could hate you’). Apparently it’s doing quite well in Germany. I hope so. I learnt German all the way through school and even went on exchange to Germany for two months before my final year of school. I adore this country and I adore its’ language too – I love the way its’ sounds seem to erupt from the back of one’s throat. It feels like such a privilege to have my words translated into it.
2). End March, I did some great school visits in Sydney and Melbourne … including the most amazing school in Sydney called Newington who runs their own Literature Festival over three days. Gorgeous place, very inspiring too. I even went back to my old school in Melbourne to do a visit – get this, some of the pictures on the walls are still the same from when I was there YEARS ago … (some of the teachers are still the same too!)
3). End May – back to Melbourne for the wonderful Reading Matters Conference. Imagine this – a whole conference dedicated to YA fiction. Blissful stuff. I sat next to one of my childhood heroes – Melina Marchetta. I also signed a copy of Stolen for Markus Zusak … yes, you did read that correctly, author of THE BOOK THIEF! I think this might rank as a career highlight. However, I did have to ask him how to spell his name – how EMBARRASSING is that?!
4). I returned to Germany in May once again for the Saarbrueken Book Festival – gorgeous little town, and gorgeous little festival. My delightful German editor joined me for this one – sie ist sehr nett.
5). In June I was on a panel to decide the winner of this year’s Branford Boase Award, and the winner is …. HA! I’m not going to tell you this YET….you need to wait a couple more days at least. But I will tell you that it’s a book that I absolutely think is one of the best books I’ve read for a very long time ….but I would do, wouldn’t I?! It’s the winner after all. But it’s a good winner, a very, very good winner indeed…. It’s so good I wish I’d written it!
6). End June I jetted off to the steamy armpit of New Orleans to pick up my PRINTZ HONOR AWARD for STOLEN (yes, you read that correctly too! Yay!). I spoke in front of 500 librarians (eek!) and then I carried my lovely award home in my hand luggage all the way. I also got to present FLYAWAY to hundreds of librarians too (which is very exciting as FLYAWAY isn’t out in USA until October – they all got advance, uncorrected proof copies to take away…I’d love to know what they thought….hmmm…). New Orleans was one of the most amazing cities also…I rode in a mule-drawn cart as well as on a paddle-steamer. I came over all-Huck-Finn. Plus, I got to spend time with my fantastic American publishing team.
7), Maggie Stiefvater gave me 5 stars on Good Reads for FLYAWAY (I like this fact so much it deserves a point of its own!)
8). I’m just about to set off for a whirlwind tour of Oz….to attend the Prime Minister Awards, for which Flyaway is shortlisted (cross fingers everyone! Cross toes too please!) and to discuss Stolen the FILM (exciting, hey!? Even more exciting is the fact that I may or may not be meeting my ‘Ty’!)
9). I’m a good way into finishing this third book (after several misguided attempts in the wrong direction!). Easy peasy. Ha! Let’s hope so anyway!
10). End of July – I present my Creative Writing PhD to four examiners, including the very brainy Peter Hunt (Lit academic), the very adorable Steve Voake (YA author), the very lyrical Linda Newberry (YA author) and the very important Paul Davies (head of graduate school). Wish me luck for this one too. My PhD is pretty much all about the writing of Stolen, just in case you were interested.
So, that’s it for now chickens. Take care out there. Hopefully it won’t be forever again until I write once more…. I’ll try my best anyway. ;-) In the meantime keep those toes crossed for Flyaway at the PM Awards, and watch out as I hand my baton over to the new Branford Boase champion… it’s a big baton, wouldn’t want to hit you with it!
I’m going to leave you with my favourite quote of the moment – “Be kind. For everyone is fighting a hard battle.” (Plato)
Wishing you sunshine and salutations,
Here are some photos from the recent Chicken House Big Breakfast!
This is an annual event that brings together Chicken House authors, publishers, reviewers, booksellers and other bookish types. It’s great fun and has great grub.
I was particularly excited to see one of my ex-students, Giancarlo Gemin, as one of the crop of new Chicken House authors. Well done Giancarlo!
Anyway, lots of eating and talking to be done in these shots…. :)
If you have any spare time and you want to hear me waffling on yet again about Christmas, then hop on over to Chris Cheng’s wonderful blog where I talk about what I miss about Christmas. If you don’t know it already, Chris Cheng is a fabulous Aussie writer for young people as well as an all-round lovely guy. He’s managed to assemble twelve authors together to tell their tales of Christmas, and he’s posting one a day on the Twelve Days of Christmas – cool, hey?! There are some other really interesting posts to read too…I really love Wendy Orr’s piece especially.
Anyway, here’s the link….
I hope that 2011 is turning out well for you so far. Thanks for all your support this past year. For me, 2011 is going to be the year of lots of work and lots of visits. Can’t wait to meet some of you this year.
Take care all,
I wanted to write a blog post to wish you all a Merry Christmas. Whatever you’re doing, out there in the world, I hope it’s special and I hope you have someone special to share it with.
I’ve done many things at Christmas. I’ve had a BBQ on the beach, I’ve eaten crayfish from an iced bath, I’ve decorated a Christmas tree called Fritz in the depths of Southern Germany, I’ve eaten a six course meal with a load of strangers in the Lake District, I’ve been with family in an ancient cider mill in Herefordshire, and, many times, have I listened to the Queen’s speech while munching on Christmas pudding in Wales. Each year, Christmas for me is simultaneously different and familiar; made up of traditions old and new. Things change every year. The strangest things remain the same.
Some traditions remain wherever I am. There are always stockings filled with silly gifts, and they always contain a slightly squishy orange at the bottom. I am always on the phone for at least several hours, calling family and friends who live everywhere, all over the world. At some point over the Christmas meal, I always remember someone who I forgot to send a Christmas card to. My mum is ever present. Christmas is her favourite day of the year, so to imagine it without her involved is like imagining Santa without his sleigh. Christmas, for me, is my mum. I’m not sure one exists without the other.
But there are changes this year, too. This year I will be celebrating Christmas for the first time without my grandparents, a change that will feel very vivid indeed. This year is the first Christmas that I can remember being snowed in. Loss and seclusion, absence and isolation; things familiar to many at Christmas, and things I’m thinking about a lot this year. Looking around the little Welsh town I’m living in right now I can see that Christmas isn’t always a happy time for everyone; I’ve noticed the homeless person in the doorway of the supermarket, and I think about my great Aunt who is worried about leaving her house this year because of the ice. Perhaps, for the first time ever, this year feels more balanced. Joy merged with sadness; all mixed up in a Christmas pudding.
And I guess that’s probably important to remember. Laugh and smile and eat and eat and eat … but don’t be afraid to cry a bit too, if you want to. Christmas has got everything, and it’s all wrapped up there under the tree. Unwrap the good stuff, but don’t be afraid of the strangely shaped gift from great Aunty Nora that’s in there too.
I’ve got lots of gifts to be grateful for this year. Stolen won stacks of prizes, including the Branford Boase Award in the UK and the Gold Inky Award in Australia. Flyaway too has held it’s own, getting on the shortlist for the Waterstones Prize and the Costa Book Award (keep your eyes peeled for this…it gets announced in January!), and being on the longlist for the Carnegie Medal. I’ve met the most amazing readers and librarians and teachers and bookish sorts all over the world. I’ve had the privilege of working with some wonderful mentors and teaching some wonderful students, and I’ve thought lots about the world and life and all that sort of stuff. I’m now working on a third book, which is hard, but I’m told that anything worth anything is hard. Expect to see that in about a year or so.
In the meantime, stay happy and healthy and inquisitive. Enjoy your Christmas, even the pesky brussel sprouts.
Thank you so much for all your support this year.
Wishing you pudding and presents,
Don’t forget – I’m speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival tomorrow (Sat 16th) at 4.15pm with the wonderful Barry Cunningham and talented CJ Skuse (my friend, fellow Chicken author and, believe it or not, ex-student!). Come along, why don’t you?!! There are still tickets available. We will be talking about the X Factor in teen fiction – how do you get it, what is it, and do we even have it! Ha!
It should be rad (now there’s a word I haven’t used in a long time…perhaps I’m going to bring it back…come along to the festival event tomorrow and I’ll try to slot the word ‘rad’ into my conversation!). Perhaps a prize if anyone spots it?!
Free smiles too for anyone who attends! Of course we’ll be signing too.
OK, I’m kind of getting into the hang of this blog idea now. I thought I might tell you a bit about the kinds of things that are going on in my writing life right now. There are a few excitements!
Firstly, for the month of October, I am the official Writer in Residence for the fabulous Inside A Dog blogspot (part of the Centre for Youth Literature, Australia). This is really exciting because anyone who really knows me knows I’ve never been the most technologically minded of gals. But now? Look at me go! I have a wonderful new website which I’m blogging on right now, plus I am Writer in Residence for this other fabulous site. Soon you won’t know me…I’ll just be known as Ms Geek! So anyway, check out my other blogging site for the month of October HERE. Also, while you’re there, check out some of the other really cool info on this site….there are some lovely reviews and whatnot!
While we are talking about the fantastic Inside A Dog website, let me tell you about a linked piece of information that is really rather exciting. STOLEN has been longlisted for the Inky Awards. These are such brilliant awards. They are set up by the Centre for Youth Literature, are international awards for teenage literature, and are voted for by YOU (well, if you’re under 20!). The shortlist for these awards is announced on the 12th October, so please, everyone reading this cross your fingers now and say a small word of encouragement under your breath that STOLEN makes it onto this!
So, in other news? Well there’s some really exciting news about the possibility of making STOLEN into a film, but I’m not sure how much of this I can reveal yet, sooooo…..let’s just keep you hanging on this one for the moment. But let me just say I let out a small squeal of delight whenever I think about what’s going on here.
Tomorrow I’m off to the Bath Children’s Literature Festival to see Cornelia Funke and Maggie Stiefvater (maybe even meet this fabulous lady, who is providing the author endorsement on the US paperback edition of STOLEN!).
I’ll blog about my adventures here soon.
And then next week I am embarking upon the New Writing Regime. This is a self-imposed regime of boot camp for me to get my third book written. Book 3 is currently being a little pest of a creature, and it’s now time to beat him into ship shape. I’ll no doubt be blogging about the New Writing Regime over the coming few weeks, so this won’t be the last you hear of this. Mwahahaha (that’s my impression of a scary man laugh!).
Anyway, I’ve waffled on here for far too long already, and yeah, I haven’t told you all the stuff that’s going on in my life, but I think I’ve told you enough for now…. so it’s time for me to make like a tree….
Thoughtfulness and friendship,
While in New York, Lucy popped into the Scholastic Offices to answer 5 questions for their fabulous blog, On Our Minds.
Check this out here: On Our Minds @ Scholastic
Also check out the nice stuff it says about Chicken House and Barry Cunningham (Lucy’s great UK publishing house, and publisher!)