Meet the Apocalypsies #3: Leah Bobet

Today I’m joined by debut author and member of the Apocalypsies, Leah Bobet.  Leah is the author of Above, an amazing new Young Adult urban fantasy novel.  Leah drinks tea, wears feathers in her hair, and plants gardens in back alleys. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.   Here’s the blurb for Above:

Matthew has loved Ariel from the moment he found her in the tunnels, her bee’s wings falling away. They live in Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above–like Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, and Jack Flash, who can shoot lightning from his fingers.

But one terrifying night, an old enemy invades Safe with an army of shadows, and only Matthew, Ariel, and a few friends escape Above. As Matthew unravels the mystery of Safe’s history and the shadows’ attack, he realizes he must find a way to remake his home–not just for himself, but for Ariel, who needs him more than ever before.

Now it’s over to Leah to tell us about her writing and Above.  Thanks Leah for your wonderful post.

My writerbrain’s a bit like a game of Katamari Damacy; I read and putter and roll the little ball around, picking up things, and eventually it gets big enough that I become a star have something to write. Here are a few of the things it picked up:

The first was a detail, actually, from an essay I was reading for a third-year philosophy course: where the author described having to stand in his underwear in an examination room under bright lights because his doctors were using the diagnosis of his disability to teach student doctors. I can actually viscerally remember leaning back on my (crappy student) couch when I read it: all this emotion, shame and display and anger, bleeds right through the page. It hit me right between the eyes, and I knew I had to use it for something, somewhere.

The second thing was, well, picking a fight. I used to watch the Ron Perlman Beauty and the Beast TV show back when I was a kid, and I used to watch Futurama, and I have this pickily annoying practical streak that used to do things like correct people when they had song lyrics wrong. So part of my head, for a long time, has been going but it wouldn’t be like that! You get this whole Secret Society of Mutants Living Underground thing, suspicious and insular and ready to set you on fire and hiding in life-and-death ways, but nobody ever talks about how they got that way or the long-term emotional consequences of being locked up down there with the same five people all the time. They live underground in sewers or the like, but they’re always these suspiciously comfortable, all-the-amenities, Hollywood kinds of sewers, not what you’d actually get if a half-dozen people with various mental and physical issues went down into the actual sewer and tried to rough out something to live in. In real life, it’d probably be cold. You’d spend all your time figuring out how to get enough water, power, and canned food to just survive. So, says I, picking a fight with a whole bunch of books and movies, all happy with how smart I was. I’ll show them what it’s really like.

The third thing? A question I’ve been picking at for years, and still haven’t found a great answer to: When someone you care about is in trouble, when do you work like hell to save them, to try to pull them out of the hole they’re falling into – and when do you realize they’re just going to pull you in after them, and let go, and walk away?

I still have no idea about that: Where the line is between being right and safe, and wrong and cruel, or the other way around, lies. But I had enough to say about it, trying to find that line, that a whole book came out: about a boy who grew up underground and a girl who can turn into a bee.

ABOVE (Arthur A. Levine Books, April 2012)

Interview with CRYPT author, Andrew Hammond

Andrew Hammond is the author of a seriously creepy new series called CRYPT (Covert Response Youth Paranormal Team).  The series is about a group of teens who work in a secret government agency to protect the world from paranormal forces.  It’s perfect for guys, especially any who like horror or authors like Darren Shan and Anthony Horowitz.  Andrew’s latest book, CRYPT: Traitor’s Revenge has just been released in NZ so I caught up with Andrew to ask him a few questions about his books.

1. Did you write a history of the CRYPT organisation before you started writing The Gallows Curse?

Yes, I did. It’s important when writing the first title in a series to ‘redefine the world’ containing CRYPT. Up until that point, there was no CRYPT and so it’s important to consider its history, its future and all the little inconsistencies in between. Readers are sharp these days – and they’ll spot mistakes if I haven’t considered how, why and when it all started.

2. Did you interview real ghost hunters when you were writing the CRYPT books?

Although I have not spoken to a real ghost hunter, I read many books, magazines and blogs written by ghost hunters whilst preparing for this series. I’m keen to use the right equipment and the right terminology, so that it seems as real as possible. But the great thing about ghosts is that everyone has a different opinion about them – so that leaves lots of scope for writers like me. We know so little about what really makes up the universe – even at the atomic level – and so I am open to the possibilities of ghosts. Why wouldn’t anyone be? Without proof they don’t exist, it seems strange not to believe that they do.

3. Are the CRYPT gadgets based on real technology or did you create these?

Yes, every piece of equipment issued to the CRYPT agents is real and available to purchase on line. It’s a well known fact that higher levels of electromagnetic energy are found in haunted places, so I’ve based much of the agents’ work in this area. Energy never dies – it remains as electro static and electro magnetic traces in the atmosphere and in the objects around us, and I believe it’s this energy that ghosts harness to take shape and return.

4. Which of the CRYPT gadgets is your favourite?

It has to be the tri axis EMF detector – it’s faster and more accurate than other detectors at measuring the levels of electromagnetism in the air – often a sure sign that paranormal activity is occurring.

5. Have you witnessed any paranormal events yourself?

Yes. I lived with a ghost for years in a big old Victorian house in Yorkshire, England. We often used to detect strange smells in the house, always around dinner time – the smells of fried onions, herbs, spices, sometimes even roast dinners. But it was never when any of us were cooking. Weird. Eventually we found where the smells were coming from – a small cupboard on the first floor of the house. We opened the cupboard door and were swamped in the smells of something cooking. But there was nothing inside it. We decided to look at the old floor plans of the house, dating back to Victorian times. Then we understood. The cupboard was a recent addition – before it was added there was once a small, spiral staircase which led directly down to the kitchen. That is precisely where the smells of dinner would gently waft into the house every evening in Victorian times.

6. What movies, books and music inspire you?

I don’t watch scary movies or read many scary books – I’m just too easily frightened. I have a vivid imagination and just can’t sleep after something like that. But over the years I’ve found that being so sensitive can make you an effective writer – because I know what fear feels like. I can remember the sweaty palms, the prickly neck, the sinking feeling in my stomach and the palpations in my chest. I don’t wish to numb those senses – not just yet!

Besides, I don’t want to be affected by other people’s notions of what horror could or should be. I like to come at this afresh.

But as a kid, my favourite book was always Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles. I’ve read it so many times now and one summer I even rented a cottage on the fringe of Dartmoor and read it on location. Scary stuff.

7. How many books do you plan to write in the CRYPT series?

There are five books in the series. I’m working on Book 4 right now, which takes us back to Viking times – and some pretty ghastly rituals they carried out on their enemies. I like my history – always have done. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to write about real historical figures, events and places in each of my books. Recently, someone said of my CRYPT series: ‘This is great, history just got scary.’ I like that.

And I don’t plan to kill off the main characters in the final book in the series, as you just never know – there’s a lot of gruesome history out there still to be explored. …

Thanks to Andrew’s publisher, Hachette NZ we have copy of Gallow’s Curse and Traitor’s Revenge to give away.  Enter my CRYPT competition to be in to win.

2012 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal Shortlist

The shortlist for the 2012 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal have just been announced and they both include some amazing books.  I’d both love and hate to be a judge of these awards because I love the books they choose and would find it really hard to pick just one.

The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children. This year’s shortlist includes:

The Kate Greenaway Medal is awarded annualy for distinguished illustration in a book for children.  This year’s shortlist includes:

  • Wolf Won’t Bite by Emily Gravett
  • Peter Puffin by Peter Horacek
  • A Monster Calls illustrated by Jim Kay
  • Slog’s Dad illustrated by Dave McKean
  • Soloman Crocodile by Catherine Rayner
  • The Gift illustrated by Rob Ryan
  • There Are NO Cats In This Book by Viviane Schwarz
  • Can We Save the Tiger illustrated by Vicky White

SO many great books!  I’ve read (and LOVE!) quite a few of them and will try and read the others before the winners are announced. 

Which ones are your favourites?

Slide Book Trailer

Slide by Jill Hathaway is about a girl who can ‘slide’ into other peoples bodies for a brief time.  She has narcolepsy and when she passes out she slides into other people’s heads and ends up seeing through their eyes.  Then, one day she finds herself in the head of a killer, who is standing over the body of one of the girls from her school.  I’m only 50 pages in and the story’s already gripped me.

Fast Five with Amy Brown

1. Why did you want to be a writer?

My parents’ house has always had full bookshelves; there are piles of books next to each bed, and even beside the bath. The idea of being able and allowed to write the words in these important objects was thrilling. In Standard Two, I said that one day I wanted to write books for children. After school that day, I asked Mum what she thought I might be when I grew up. When she guessed that I would be a writer, I was delighted at her response. I still am.

2. What’s the best thing about being a writer?

When I’ve been writing for quite a while – perhaps two hours non-stop – the words sometimes begin to come unexpectedly. The chapter unfolds almost as if I am reading rather than writing it myself. Rereading these pages later, I often forget having written parts of them.  This is an exciting feeling.

3. What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

I won’t choose a favourite, because it is too difficult. But, I will say that Maurice Gee’s O Trilogy has stayed with me since I first read it nearly twenty years ago. I still have dreams (nightmares?) about Susan Ferris meeting the Birdfolk. I also vividly remember Jack Lasenby’s Harry Wakatipu stories. If you haven’t read them, Harry Wakatipu is a surly talking packhorse who lives with a deer culler in the Ureweras and gets into all sorts of mischief. Recently, I tried to tell a friend the story of when Harry starts illegally tickling trout, but had to stop because I was crying with laughter.

4. What do you love most about New Zealand?

I love that, in New Zealand, you’re never too far from the sea. I also love that you can walk barefoot without worrying about snakes or spiders biting you (I currently live in Australia).

5. What book changed your life?

Because I read it so often, and then later used it as a model for my own books, Jill’s Gymkhana by Ruby Ferguson probably changed my life. Its sense of humour, weird 1950s references to Bing Crosby, and brilliant line drawings have no doubt contributed to who I am today. I admit that it isn’t the best book in the world, but it has been important to me.
Amy Brown is the author of the Pony Tales series, including the latest book, Jade’s Summer of Horses.

Win a Lorax prize pack

One of my favourite Dr. Seuss books is The Lorax so you can imagine how excited I was when I found out they were making a movie of the book (I love the movie of The Grinch and Cat in the Hat).  The movie is released in NZ next Thursday (29 March) and I have a Lorax prize pack to give away, including a copy of the eco-edition of the book, a Hoyts movie pass, and a recycled paper notebook.

Thanks to everyone who entered this competition.  The winner is Stephanie.

Will Hill introduces Department 19: The Rising

Department 19: The Rising is the sequel to Will Hill’s 2011 debut.  It’s one of my most anticipated April new releases and I can’t wait to get into it.  Will Hill’s Department 19 books are perfect books for boys, especially those who like Anthony Horowitz and Robert Muchamore.  There’s plenty of action, violence, blood and guts, and vicious (non-sparkling) blood-sucking vampires.

Will Hill will be joining me on the blog in April to tell us why he writes (and reads) scary stories, and I’ll have a chance to win the first two Department 19 books.