Thursday, 29 March 2012

Lia in America

This is the week that Lia’s Guide to Winning the Lottery was unleashed on the unsuspecting American and Canadian market, and my wonderful American publicists (oh how I love those words) have suggested that I wrote a blog post to mark the occasion. So, here we go. Some warnings for American readers.

1) Lia’s Guide is about a 16 year old girl. You may not like her very much. This is because I carried out extensive research into the ways of British girls (including being one myself, between 1976 and 1982) and discovered that they are mostly locked in battle with their mothers from the age of 14-16, they are self-centred, snarky and loudly assured of their own rightness. American girls may well not be like this. Anyway, stick with her, with a lot of money and some interesting experiences, she improves.

2) The book has not been translated into American. Lia walks on pavements, shops at Primark (cheap clothes, long queues), goes to the loo. Draw on your deep knowledge of British slang gained from reading Louise Rennison, Harry Potter and my other books. But don’t worry, Lia does not speak exactly like a London teenage does, because then her slang would date within minutes and no one would be able to understand her. So I have spared you sentences such as ‘That boy is bare butters,’ which means ‘That boy is very ugly’ - or it did last time I asked, anyway.

3) British culture is much more tolerant of drinking than you are in America. Binge-drinking is virtually a national sport.  So it is relatively normal (although not desirable or sensible) for British teenagers to indulge in the sort of behaviour that most Americans don’t get round to until they are at college.

4) However, a British teenager who drives and has their own car is extremely unusual. They don’t start learning to drive until they are at least 17, and the insurance payments for a teen driver are sky high. You’d have to win the lottery…oh, hang on…

5) Lottery winners get the whole lot as a lump sum right away. There’s no question of having it paid out bit by bit as happens in your sensible nation. This system enables people like Michael Carroll to spend his entire £9m jackpot in a matter of years. He provided lots of entertainment for the rest of us, not to mention the chance for eminent writers such as Martin Amis to moralise about how poor people are just too criminal and undeserving to be trusted with large amounts of money, therefore providing a powerful case for the good old British class system, designed to keep money and power in the hands of a privileged few....

6) ..and the class system is alive and well in this book. The way people join the upper classes is by going to Public School, which is not at all the same as a public school in the US. In Britain Public Schools are very very expensive and attended by the aristocracy, the nouveau riche and foreigners.  Be aware that Raf’s poshness makes him exotic and strange in an ordinary London school. Quite apart from all the other things that make him exotic, strange and possibly paranormal.

7) I have adopted a revolutionary approach to sex in YA fiction, by portraying teen sexual encounters that MAY not end in pregnancy or disease. This is because I am fed up with books that suggest that sex is always disasterous/tacky/regrettable or described only in terms of the boy's plumbing. So, add your own health warnings.

8) American librarians, I can happily tell you that there are NO F-BOMBS in Lia's Guide. Not one.

9)  You'll notice that Lia dreams of going to New York or San Francisco. So do I. Buy enough copies and may be I will...

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Silver linings

This is a picture taken on my phone at the top of Parliament Hill today -  if you've read Lia's Guide, it's the place where Lia and Raf go to fly her kite.

I've had the sort of week when the grey storm clouds gather overhead, when life seems harsh and unfair, and full of worries.  Even little disappointments sting, let alone the big ones.
But still, good things happened last week. My mum's operation went well. Our car was smashed up -  but no one was hurt.  I had good feedback for new projects, I got a brilliant email from a reader, I visited two lovely schools. I'm  loving the evening class I'm teaching at City University, and it's exciting to see students taking risks with their writing and imagining.
So, this picture seemed to sum up my week. Let the silver linings shine, and the kites fly high. And it didn't rain at all.