John Boyne is best known for his young adult World War II novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2006)and the companion novel The Boy at the Top of the Mountain (2015). The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was my book club pick for March. You can read my review here.
The one hour talk ‘The Narrative of History: John Boyne’ was hosted by journalist Guy Somerset.
The focus of the talk was on his adult novel A History of Loneliness, which explores the issue of sexual abuse and cover up by the Catholic Church in Ireland.
He talked about how when you are from a small country, such as Ireland, people expect you to write about where you are from. An expectation that is not put upon writers of countries, such as England and the United States. He resisted writing about Ireland until he had ‘something to say’.
John read two excerpts from A History of Loneliness. Powerful stuff!
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is both his most popular and unpopular book. He is proud of the work and does not mind that it sometimes overshadows his other work. He is also fine with the criticism levelled at the book as literature should ‘create debate’.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. A special collector’s edition will be released later in the year illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. So check that out.
The most powerful moment of the talk was during the audience Q&A portion when a young woman about to take her A Levels asked for advice on recovering from abuse. He told her that the fact she can stand up and talk about something so personal in front our a group shows that she is much stronger than she realises.
John will next be appearing at the Sydney Writers’ Festivalin Australia. If you go let me know what you thought? If you attended the Auckland Writers Festival what did you think? Have you met one of your favourite authors before? Let me know in the comments.
Michael Grant is the author of popular young adults series, including the dystopian Gone, the multi-platform BZRK, and his new World War II trilogy Front Lines.
The one hour talk was led by award winning New Zealand young adult author Jane Higgins (The Bridge, Havoc).
From the beginning before Jane had even introduced him, Michael showed his sense of humour, which would be present throughout, joking about there being vodka in the water jug.
The first part of the talk focused on his new novel Front Lines (released January 2016). He played the book trailer and then they discussed his research process. As a fiction writer he has a creative license, for example to create his own ‘supreme court decisions’, such as the ruling that women could enlist in the armed forces during WWII. He noted though that he wanted to get the technical stuff right.
Michael has already written the second novel in the Front Lines trilogy and has delivered it to his publisher.
Michael talked about the processing of writing a book series. Before he starts he writes his version of a ‘series bible’. He uses this document to sell his concept / idea to a publisher and this bible is what will help him shape the series.
When creating characters sometimes he will often use Google to ‘cast’ his characters. He searches for headshots of young teenagers. A picture will jump out at him, he won’t know this young woman or man but this will be the basis of the character he writes.
He normally writes about two books a year but has written three books in a year before. When he was writing smaller books he could write fourteen books in a year.
Michael rubbished the notion of writer’s block. He joked that he did not get waiter’s block when he was waiting tables or cleaner’s block when cleaning houses. His advice for aspiring writers struggling to write is to just sit down and write – he said that you might throw out forty pages but somewhere in there, there will be something.
On Young Adult Fiction…
When asked about his thoughts on the young adult divide Michael said quite simply that young adult fiction featured young adults.
During the audience Q&A portion he was asked to recommend a young adult book. He said we may be surprised but he does not read young adult fiction as he does not want take someone else’s ideas. He did recommend his wife’s book though because of ‘co-checking accounts’ lol.
Killing off his darlings…
Michael is not adverse to killing off characters when it serves the purpose of the story. He joked that he thought of his characters as his ’employees’ – it is a ‘family business’, but if they aren’t performing he will kill them off.
When talking about the Gone series he said that he was inspired by the television series Lost, which is essentially Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe, 1719), which in an essence is the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
He addressed the point that the characters in the Gone series are under 15 as oppose to being older teens. He said that young people are intelligent and capable of doing the same things as adults. He also joked that an 11 eleven year old kid walking down the street holding a bottle of booze is very scary but an 18 year old walking down the street is just another night in LA.
Good news for fans: He is planning another book set in the Gone universe. It is not a sequel in the traditional sense but may feature some characters from the Gone series.
Michael will next be appearing at the Sydney Writers’ Festivalin Australia. If you go let me know what you thought? If you attended the Auckland Writers Festival what did you think? Have you met one of your favourite authors before? Let me know in the comments.