Kate de Goldi, author of The 10 pm Question (which we thought was one of the best books published last year) and Wellingtonian, kindly took some time out to answer a few questions about reading, writing, inspiration, characterisation… check out what she has to say, especially if you’re an aspiring writer; there is some good advice and useful insights in here. Many thanks to Kate for playing ball with us. We look forward to reading your next book!
1. What books did you enjoy reading in high school?
I read quite a variety of books…I was – and still am – the kind of eternally hungry (and often indiscriminate) reader who needs something, anything, as long as it’s print, so I read trash as often as I read good stuff. Literal boxes full of Mills and Boons, for example… predictable, reliable, junk food. Short term pleasure, zero long-term sustenance. I read a lot of historical romances – Anya Seton, Victoria Holt, Catherine Cookson, – these were a step up from M&B, (more developed, slightly less clichéd characters, often genuinely interesting historical contexts and interesting settings, but still formulaic (I suspect the less well-written vampire fiction today fills the same need for the erotic and the comfortably dangerous)). I read crime fiction – beginning (as girls often did then) with the Queens of Crime, Dorothy L Sayers, Christie, Ngaio Marsh)… and spy thrillers by men… whatever was in the school library or around the house… I read some science-fiction, loved John Wyndham and CS Lewis.
I read and re-read a lot of children’s books, though I was in my teens – the ones on my bookcase (all the standard – and excellent – children’s writers from the 50s, 60s and 70s, American, British, Australian and some European). I read every young adult book I could get my hands on – the 70s (when I was at high school) was when the YA genre really began hitting its stride… writers like Paul Zindel, ME Kerr, Robert Cormier, John Townsend, John Christopher, Robert Westall, Jan Mark, Margaret Mahy… were all producing great stuff.
In mid-high school I began reading adult literary fiction… I started by ‘doing’ my parents’ book case… they had handsome casebound collections of Dickens and Galsworthy and I read many of those… also, Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, Laurie Lee, EM Forster… There was a lot of history books on those shelves, too, and I read most of those – histories of the French Revolution, of the Second World War (I was obsessed with WWII), of Italy, of the Wars of the Roses, of the NZ gold rushes, biographies of Napoleon, of Louis 14th, of the English monarchs… We had the complete New Zealand Heritage (instalments of NZ history that made up several volumes… I loved those).
Other books that we liked but were too busy to review include:
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. Fantastic reworking of The Jungle Book. Colourful characters (’May they rest in peace‘); great writing (being Neil Gaiman); one fantastic vampire (Silas).
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. In order to spare her sister, Katniss volunteers to take part in the annual Hunger Games, a grim fight to the death in front of a television audience of thousands. The first part of a promised trilogy.
The 10 pm Question, by Kate De Goldi. Local writer Kate De Goldi has written an impressive novel about Frankie, a 12 year old who has worrying questions constantly invading his thoughts. Beautifully written and thought-provoking. Cool cover, too.
It’s been a good year.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart
Favourite line: “That’s a lot of chutzpah you’ve got there. Don’t let it weigh you down.”
Frankie’s a fifteen year old girl with a brain and gumption, but the people around her don’t seem to notice this. She’s “Bunny Rabbit” to her family and “adorable” to her boyfriend. Frankie’s not the kind of girl to let that slide and let people take care of her, though. She embarks on an ambitious project to prove herself - to herself as much as anyone else, possibly - with astonishing success, but unfortunately she lands the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds (an exclusive all-male secret society) in some strife in the process, the undoing of which could be the real making of Frankie.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is a great book; thoughtful, philosophical, clever and hilarious. Frankie is the real female hero of 2008 literature.
If you’re into chick lit then you really have to read E. Lockhart. She’s a totally ept writer; reading her books leaves you feeling turbed and gruntled.
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Marcus, whose online name is W1n5t0n, is a high school student in San Francisco. He’s street smart and knows the system inside out. His high school’s security systems are no match for him as he constantly bunks out of school.
But one day, after he’s bunked out of school for the afternoon, he and his friends find themselves caught up in the aftermath of a huge terrorist attack on San Francisco. Marcus and his friends are found to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and are captured by the Department of Homeland Security as suspects. After days in a secret prison, where they have been mercilessly interrogated, they are released into an unrecognisable San Francisco.
His city has now been turned into a police state where everyones’ movements are tracked and everyone is monitored. The innocent often disappear for no apparent reason. Everyone is being treated like a potential terrorist.
Reunited with his friends, Marcus decides that something must be done to protect everyones’ freedoms. He can’t turn to the government and police for help, so he decides that he must take down the Department of Homeland Security himself using his computer programming and hacking skills.
You will not want to put this book down! It’s a very exciting and thought-provoking read.
Paper Towns by John Green
Quentin Jacobsen is a genius! He hangs out with geniuses and he has a perfect attendance record at high school! NERD you might say, but then one night, Margo Roth Spiegelman, the girl next door he has loved from afar all his life, climbs into his bedroom window dressed for stealth and wanting HIM! Well his driving skills actually, as she sets out on a night of revenge on her ex-boyfriend and others. Think photo of ex running down the street with items of his anatomy hanging out and dead fish under seats of cars! Then the next day she disappears, leaving him clues to follow as to where he might find her. His friends help to try and solve the puzzle but will it end with them finding her alive or dead?
Spud, by John van de Ruit
I picked up this book recently, during my lunch hour, and found it near impossible to put down.
It’s 1990 and John ‘Spud’ Milton is a scholarship boy entering his first year at an elite boarding school in Durban, South Africa. Spud’s family consists of a high-maintenance mother, a mentally unstable father who fears the crumbling of apartheid and the impending release of Mandela will ruin the country, and Spud’s senile grandmother, Wombat. Though Spud is off to boarding school, he is unable to escape his dysfunctional family who visit him occassionally and to whom he returns every long weekend and holiday. At boarding school, Spud is thrust into a world of raging testosterone, bullying prefects, and the typical hi-jinks that act as a counterbalance to archaic institutionalism. Spud’s dorm group forms the Crazy Eight, a group of misfits and rebels who’s escapades and midnight swims become legend throughout the school. All the glorious mayhem inherent in coming of age is faithfully chronicled in Spud’s diary, which is the narrative device of the story.
Spud is written by John Van De Ruit, South African writer, actor, producer and playwright. Unshelved have done a little comic strip review as part of their Unshelved BookClub feature.
~ Sam M
The Magician of Hoad, Margaret Mahy
A hero, an ageing magician, a farm boy, a noble daughter and a mad Prince all play a part in Margaret Mahy’s latest young adult novel. Eloquently written and at times quite poetic, The Magician of Hoad will have your imagination working overtime to keep up as this is definitely a hard book to put down.
Dooley Takes the Fall by Norah McClintock
Only a few months out in the world after a three year sentence in a juvenile detention hall, Ryan Dooley comes across the body of a teenager while on his way home from work. Dooley wants nothing more than to keep his head down, stay out of trouble and get through the last year of high school in peace, but he does the right thing and calls the police.
But the dead boy turns out to be a fellow student who was known to have caused trouble for Dooley, and bit-by-bit evidence is mounting up pointing straight to him. The police aren’t likely to look elsewhere once they have an obvious suspect; his school has judged him guilty and just wants to get rid of him; and Dooley’s uncle – the only one who has given Dooley a break – is having a harder and harder time believing him. But Dooley isn’t going to take the fall without a fight…
This is an exciting, well-written ‘high-school noir’ mystery, in a similar vein to the movie Brick and the television series Veronica Mars, but with the added appeal of Dooley: a cool, hard-nosed, world-weary kid who, through all his misadventures, has the reader rooting for him.
We asked some librarian types what their favourite books of the year have been and which they would recommend the most. They’ve read some interesting stuff, as it turns out; over the next few days we’ll be highlighting one of their reviews per day, counting down to Christmas. Check them out, if you haven’t already.
This is the first in what will be a weekly feature on the Teen Blog. Every week I will find some cool songs to add to our new imeem.com account and you can listen to them. Sometimes there will be a theme (like this week which is based on our best albums of 2008 list) other times it will just be stuff I like. Think of it as a try-before-you-issue type thing. Or just some background noise. Anyway, enjoy …