Thursday, 22 March 2012

True story?

 What is this fascination with true stories? “Inspired by a true story” is NOT a unique selling point anymore! Who cares if it’s real? Certainly not me.
I want to read interesting stories, I couldn’t care less if they actually happened or not. To be honest, I prefer if they didn’t actually happen. Haven’t we got enough reality in our lives already? Don’t you want to detach yourself from the real world for the length of a movie or a book? I know I do.
I don’t want “believable” characters. I want characters who do things no actual person would do, or at least not anybody I know. I want characters who love and hate passionately, much more than any of us “real” people can comprehend. I want characters who go on such adventures and survive such disasters that none of us can even imagine. I want characters who take me on a journey, on an emotional turmoil that no actual person can live through.
And I don’t care if facts are exaggerated or even completely made up. I don’t care if no such technology or weapon or world exists. I don’t care if CSI agents are made-up to the last detail of their pretty little faces or that they are wearing heels – it’s much more pleasant to watch than a swarm of people in white overalls, don’t you think? I don’t care if there’s no such thing as vampires in the “real” world or that the Japanese didn’t actually come up with a synthetic blood substitute.
You know when your uncle caught that medium-sized fish he’s so proud of? Remember when he started telling the story how the fish was a foot long, the sea was calm and he had two other mates in the boat with him? And do you remember how from mouth to mouth, from day to day, the story grew in front of your eyes until the fish became five feet, there were giant waves and your uncle was all alone in his little boat in the middle of the storm? Which story do you like more?
Can you imagine a world without imagination? Because that’s what you are asking for if you want to read and watch “true stories”. We have so much mundane truth in our lives, why bring it in our books and films as well? Why not think of something bigger, scarier, more romantic, more unbelievable, more colourful?
There is enough of that already, some would argue. We want to experience something believable, something real! And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t, everybody is free to read, watch and listen to whatever they like, I just don’t understand it. I cannot comprehend the desire to be sucked in somebody else’s real life. Let alone the “true story” selling point.
When it’s a good story, who cares if it’s true?

Sunday, 18 March 2012

What makes a good book?

I guess the answer to that question is very individual, and I can talk only about what makes a good book for me.
For me, a book is good if it makes me feel.
It doesn’t matter what – happiness, anger, frustration, fear. It makes me think about the characters while going on about my daily tasks; dwell on the story and possible outcomes while shopping in Tesco; cry when a love triangle gets impossibly tangled; choose reading over a movie with Ryan Gosling; throw the book against the wall when the ending is not what I wanted (although since I have a Kindle I refrain from that).
All of the four books of the “Star-crossed” series by Rachel Higginson are exactly that. I can’t even believe these books are not published by one of the big houses. The story is so attention grabbing from the very beginning that in the end of the day it left me emotionally drained. It has everything a good YA novel needs to be successful and entertaining – fast pace, love, feisty lead character, supernatural powers, lots of action and twist and turns, death, destruction, desperation, hope. I could never predict where the story was going because Ms Higginson has created a truly unpredictable heroine in Eden and also, she reveals the secrets of her amazing world little by little. I never knew what to expect on the next page because I just didn’t know the whole story yet. And that’s what kept me turning the pages with pleasure.
Sometimes the urge to throw my Kindle against the wall got so strong that I almost did it. Eden may be a wonderfully developed character but she’s also so stubborn and irritating in her self-doubt that I found myself shouting at an electronic device that couldn’t respond. I cried so many times I lost count. I laughed at the sarcastic remarks Eden loves so much and truly gloated with satisfaction when the baddies got what they deserved.
Now that’s what makes a good book.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Why I'm proud to be a YA writer

I never “chose” to be a YA writer. It just happened. I’ve always been fascinated with the paranormal, the extraordinary and the unbelievable. Ever since agent Mulder was chasing aliens and telling us not to trust anybody and keep looking for the truth because it’s out there. Nobody believed him but the viewers.
But my obsession with the inexplicable forces had probably started when I was a little girl with pink ribbons in my hair. Not that I remember anything vividly but my mom has a story she loves telling at dinner parties (or when she was meeting my boyfriends for the first time). Apparently, when I was about 5, people started asking me the eternal question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And I, very proudly, used to say: “A witch!” Their stunned faces made my mother cringe and she used to take me away and say: “Why do you want to be a witch? Stop saying that!” And I would reply: “But mom, it’s cool, they ride brooms and make spells and if somebody makes them angry, they turn them into a frog!”
Instead of being delighted with my answer and my happy face, one day my mom gave me the talk. “You can’t say that anymore, people get the wrong idea. Why can’t you be a princess or a ballerina like a normal person?” Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t being nasty or unkind, she just didn’t want her child to be stared at with obvious horror. “OK,” I said, “can I be a chimney sweep?” “What? Why do you want to be that?” she asked. “Because, they bring luck to people who touch them.” My mom smiled and deep down she knew I’ll never be content with being a princess or a ballerina. But still, she didn’t want to feel like she wanted the earth to open up and swallow her whole when I said something inappropriate. So, we settled on a ballerina for strangers or people we didn’t know that well, and a chimney sweep for friends and family. The whole witch thing was forgotten.
At least by her. The more I grew up, the more interested I became in every book, film or even magazine article that portrayed an imaginary creature – a werewolf, a vampire, a witch, an elf, a fairy – you name it. Unfortunately, when I was growing up, there was almost no such thing as books for teens let alone YA fiction. I read everything I could get my hands on in that department, and a lot of adult books a well – Agatha Christie, Mark Twain, Dickens, and later on Stephen King, John Grisham, David Baldacci… But still, something was missing. I needed a book that really interested me, that provoked my imagination and transcribed my own teenage girl emotions.
So I started writing. I used to write short stories all the time. Back then I didn’t have the patience or the skill to complete a whole novel, but it gave me an outlet to write what I wanted to read. I’m way beyond my teenage years now but I still enjoy the YA books – reading and writing them. I feel so blessed to be able to be a part of something so huge – not just in popularity but huge in a sense that teenagers today have such a big choice of books that correspond their emotions, their state of mind and the things that interest them. I’m so glad that young people read and more importantly, enjoy reading. They swap books, share opinions, fight for their favourite characters and have library cards. And that doesn’t make them uncool like it used to make us.
The book world is adapting to the ever changing technology – more and more people have Kindles, Nooks, iPads and tablets and they use them to read. That opens up a whole new world for them – they can read books, magazines, blogs and stories that they can’t find in the bookshop or newsagent. They have the choice to read what they like, not what is available right now.
And when I say “they” I mean “we”. You have no idea how excited that whole new magical world makes me – the one that is a short trip to the bookshop or a click of a button away. I’m so glad to have my own private door to it.