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 know, I know, I’m the world’s worst blogger. But, truth is, I feel bad blogging to you lot when it doesn’t feel like I’ve got all that much to say. Sure, I’ve won a few more awards, I’ve been to a few more amazing places to talk about and discuss books, I’ve taught some amazing people…but still…I know what you’re all waiting for. More writing, another book. And I’ll be honest here, the book that I’m currently writing is a tricky one. It’s changed shape several times along the writing process – it’s changed settings, themes, characters, even genres. But, most of all, it’s taken a long time. One day I will talk about the process of writing this book, because it’s been a challenging, wacky, enriching and downright surprising one. But not yet.
Right now, I want to share with you two things that have kept me going through this long dark tunnel of writing. The first was that I heard Michael Ondaatje talk about The English Patient on the radio. The presenter asked him how long it took to write the book. Ondaatje told him it took six years of continuous, full time work. The presenter expressed surprise at this and said something along the lines of “But you were doing other things, and other writing, during that time too, right?” To which, Ondaatje replied something like, “No, that’s just how long this book took, it couldn’t have been any other way. All books have a time frame, this was this one’s.” So this got me thinking: maybe my third book has a time frame too. It’s a time frame that’s unique only to this book, one that can’t be pushed and beaten into an easy submission, and one not easily understood by marketing departments. Perhaps creative works have different creative time frames. And perhaps we need to realise this as authors, readers, whatever. Creativity is hard to put a deadline on. Creativity is stubbon. And creativity is not easily tamed. If it were, it would lose the very spark of its essence.
The second thing that made me take heart was hearing Elizabeth Gilbert talk about the elusive creative genius in a TED talk. The idea that genius is something outside of us, rather than inside of us, is comforting. Like realising that each creative work has it’s own unique time frame, it takes the pressure off. It stops us from beating ourselves up when the writing isn’t flowing, or flowing quick enough.
When the writing inside of us needs to break free and race towards the empty page, to tangle words with emotion, and to knit into something complicated and subtle and beautiful… the last thing it needs is a punch to the face.
That’s just what’s in my mind this rainy Saturday afternoon.
Sending thoughts of unicorns,
You can see Gilbert’s fabulous TED talk here – http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html
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.
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,
Here is Maggie Stiefvater and I sharing some bubbles! Well, not that you can actually see the bubbles in this picture (a helpful publicist kindly removed the glasses of Moet out of shot before it was taken!). But nevertheless, this is me and MAGGIE STIEFVATER at the Bath Children’s Literature Festival. How cool is that?! And yes, the length of Maggie’s arm is also impressive. Perhaps this is why she is such a prolific writer. Perhaps the sheer length of her arm means that she can write for days and never tire. Either way, she’s a fab writer and here’s me … meeting her!
For those of you who don’t know it, Maggie Stiefvater has kindly agreed to provide the author endorsement on the US paperback edition of STOLEN. She has also blogged about how much she enjoyed reading STOLEN on her amazing website (http://www.maggiestiefvater.com). So, all in all, this was a starstruck moment.
I also had the priviledge of seeing Maggie Stiefvater and Jennifer Lynn Barnes in conversation, talking about ‘why werewolves’ and other random things like ‘monkey group behaviour’. It was fascinating, and also very funny.
I spent the rest of my delightful day out at the Bath Children’s Literature Festival meeting up with past students, having a coffee with the gorgeous Julia Green (author of such amazements as Drawing with Light and Blue Moon), watching the Great Cornelia Funke talk about her thrilling new book Reckless, and chatting with my publisher Barry about a new piece of Secret Stolen Film News!! He He He He. I know something you don’t know (you’ll have to imagine the singsong voice that was just in my head!). I also got SPOTTED! Yes, that’s right …. someone came up to me with exactly the words one doesn’t want to hear when one is trying to inconspicuously stalk Maggie Stiefvater : “ARE YOU LUCY CHRISTOPHER?”
I was, you could say, rather bowled over.
In other news, today is meant to be Day One of the New Writing Regime (NWR). So far, I’ve blogged (twice…don’t forget, I’m also Writer in Residence for insideadog.com.au), I have eaten crumpets, and I have sat in the sun with only a tshirt on(plus other clothes to cover legs etc…don’t worry, I’m no nudist.). On the plus side for the NWR, I have downloaded some songs to inspire me to write it. Also, hearing yesterday that Jennifer Lynn Barnes can write a book in 6 weeks has somewhat terrified me into action.
And on that note, I must depart. It’s time for me to place hands firmly on my hips and stare squarely at Book 3.
Wishing you fun and frolicks,
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,
So, I’ve never had my own Blog before…and it’s exciting to be writing this from my ole trusty iPhone on a wet and windy morning in my mum’s house in South Wales.
So, hello out there!