Swear to Tell the Truth

Every so often, the issue of swearing in YA literature raises its tedious head. And I do mean ‘tedious’. The fact that some adults are still questioning whether a few four letter words are suitable for young adults is more than a little tiresome.

I am firmly in the camp that ‘bad language’ has a place in YA literature. Now, I’m not saying that it would be right for Bella Swan to go around effing and blinding when Edward breaks up with her. It just wouldn’t suit her character. But sometimes not only is it appropriate for a character to use a profanity, it is necessary.

Recently I read two new YA books that deal with curse words in completely different ways. They were the fantastic When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan and the thrilling Half Bad by Sally Green. In the former, we meet young Dylan Mint, who suffers from Tourette’s syndrome. The language Dylan uses in the book is often coarse, offensive and dehumanising. But it is also playful, funny and – most importantly – emotionally truthful. The profanity is sometimes shocking but, despite this, there is not one moment when you feel that it is included for shock tactics. You are in Dylan’s mind throughout, no holes barred.

Half Bad is a very different book. It is a dark, violent, gritty tale of modern day witches. It’s a real page turner and makes you feel that there actually might be a society of witches bubbling under our own world. But I have to admit that I had one problem with the book – and this was something that manifested itself in the latter half. Not only is there no swearing but there is an explicit aversion to it. This is a book that features numerous scenes of mild torture – both physical and emotional – that includes acid burns, backroom surgegical procedures, scarring with knives and much more. Yet it constantly shies away from any four letter words. We are told on a couple of occasions that protagonist Nathan ‘threw in a few swears’ and, on the occasion where Nathan is suffereing the worst agony of his young life, we get an asterixed ‘F***!’

Like I said, I did enjoy Half Bad a lot. It is, quite simply, a great book. The world Sally Green created was believable and immersive. But the reluctance to use swear words took me out of that world. The character of Nathan was honest and open to the reader throughout which made it feel all the more untruthful that he wouldn’t drop the occasional F-bomb in our presence.

There are people who believe that there should be no swearing in YA literature. Some say that young adults are not emotionally mature enough to deal with the language. Others actually claim that it will encourage them to use four letter words – (as if they weren’t already aware of them!) All of that is hogwash. As Patrick Ness has said, children and teenagers are great self-censors. I certainly know that, as a kid, if I ever started a book I didn’t feel ready for, I put it down until a later date.

Profanity should, of course, have a context. But so should every other word and event and character in a novel. The only thing that matters is the truth of the character and the truth of that moment. Denying the character four letter words because of prudishness does nobody any good, least of all the reader.

One Day

People often ask me – (as I’m sure every writer gets asked) – what my average day is like. What time do I get up in the mornings? How long do I work for normally? Or, for that matter, how do I make myself work when I could be just watching a Jeremy Kyle marathon?!

So, to address all those questions and more, here’s my normal day.

The first thing you should know is that there is no such thing as a normal day. I have a basic routine but this can change at the drop of a hat, depending on a lot of different factors. I like to stick to this routine as much as possible, especially when I’m working on early drafts of a book, as it keeps me focused; I’m in the world of the book, thinking and feeling what the characters think and feel. Rather than calling the following a normal day, let’s call it an ideal day.

DSC_0178

7:21 - Wake up.

I know that 7.21 is a strangely precise time to wake but it comes from some ridiculous study I heard about on the radio a few years ago. Apparently the best time to wake every morning is 7.21. I don’t know if it is or not. But I did set my alarm to that after hearing it and have left it since. It works for me, that’s all that matters.

 

8:30 – Get up.

Yes. It takes me that long to wake fully. I like to listen to the radio during that time.

Once I’m out of bed, I’ll fill a Thermos mug with fresh coffee – (which I have on a timer!) I prefer using a Thermos mug for two reasons. Firstly, it keeps the coffee warm for almost my entire writing session. Secondly, it means I don’t have to get up from my desk for a refill.

Read the rest of this entry »

New Ink!

I got a new tattoo and it’s very bookish.

before and after - tattoo

 

I’ve wanted this one for a LONG time. I came up with the idea and the fantastic tattooist designed it for me. It took about 2 hours under the needle but was so worth it.

 

The quote, by the way, is from Matilda by Roald Dahl, my favourite book growing up.

So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.

Arthur Quinn and the AMAZING LETTER!

Just before Christmas, I received some unexpected post…

envelope

 

P1000072

 

I was really intrigued and so opened it up. But the design didn’t stop on the envelope…

P1000073

P1000074

 

A young reader called Niamh Dwyer from Leitrim sent the amazing letter to me. I couldn’t have been more delighed to receive such a beautiful and well-written letter. THANKS NIAMH!

The Reviews Are In!

A few weeks ago I was bowled over by the amazing review that Robert Dunbar gave ‘Arthur Quinn and Hell’s Keeper’ in the Irish Times. A quick read will tell you why I was so thrilled!

Alan Early’s Arthur Quinn and Hell’s Keeper (Mercier, €8.99) concludes his Father of Lies trilogy. Praiseworthy as the two previous titles were, it is by far his most significant achievement. The knowledge of, and affinity with, Norse myth that characterise Early’s writing is again strongly evident, but the way these are woven into a narrative that moves effortlessly between past and present represents new levels of attainment. Not since Cormac MacRaois’s Giltspur trilogy of the late 1980s has this been done so convincingly in Irish children’s fiction.

Particularly impressive is the use made of the flooded Dublin cityscape through which Arthur and his young allies make their way, on jet skis, to Arthur’s final engagement with Loki, the “Father of Lies”. Croke Park, Kilmainham Gaol and Áras an Uachtaráin all figure prominently and very entertainingly. But also worth noting is Early’s portrayal of relationships, whether within the family or between friends. It all amounts to an expertly paced and totally engrossing novel.

But most astonishingly of all, this week Robert has included the book in his list of his favourite Irish kids books of the last 25 years! That my little book has been mentioned alongside books that I read and loved as a kid myself is just mind-boggling! I’m so happy that people are liking Hell’s Keeper as much as they are. It was the most fun to write of the three, but also the most difficult to get right.

‘Peter Quinn: The Underground War’

I got sent this great little short story by a young writer in Longford and thought I’d share it here. I suppose you could say it’s the first piece of Arthur Quinn fanfic!

 

      The Underground War
Chapter one
Peter Quinn was an 12 year old boy.He moved in to a house in Dublin he didn’t like it was the holidays they just started.The first day he found a new friend named Arthur Arthur show him the Dublin castle. The next morning Peter went to Arthur’s house then they went to Croke park then loki attack them Peter asked Arthur “what is your surname” he replied to him “I’m Arthur Quinn your mom told me not to tell you”why “because I’m your cousin”

Arthur – back in Farranfore!

You may not realise this but Arthur Quinn is originally from Kerry; a place called Farranfore to be precise. And this weekend, I was in Kerry. Of course I visited the birthplace of Arthur and the train station that features in Arthur Quinn and Hell’s Keeper.

DSC_0167

The Great Fragola Brothers

On Thursday evening I was invited along to a launch for the new edition of ‘Mad About Books‘, the must-have guide from Dubray Books. While there I was honoured to meet Joe Prendergast and even more honoured when he presented me with copies of his books!

My copies!

My copies!

For anyone who hasn’t heard of Joe, he’s nine years old and he has TWO published books to his name with a third on the way. The proceeds of the books go to Cancer Clinical Research Trust, following the sad death of Joe’s dad. You can read a great interview with Joe here.

Joe was kind enough to sign the books for me!

Joe was kind enough to sign the books for me!

The books themselves are about The Great Fragola Brothers, Italy’s most famous magic duo who get embroiled in the kidnapping of a famous actress, secret societies and even REAL MAGIC! I flew through the first one because I loved it so much. The books are funny, exciting, thrilling and full of edge-of-your-seat action. Go and buy the books. Not only are they for a great cause, but like I said, they’re also great!

 

 

Hell’s Keeper is OUT

I’ve been very lax with blogging recently but in my defence, I have been busy.

So, the last Father of Lies books (Arthur Quinn and Hell’s Keeper) has hit the shops! I hope you all like it as much as (or even more!) than the first couple.

Here’s me opening my box of copies.

 

And here’s a sneak peek of the first page. Yes, I did dedicate the book to some of my best friends.

BQ-GqUVCEAI7kRW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, below is a link to a great review of the book on Bookbag. It got 5 stars!

WARNING! There are a few spoilers in it so you might want to wait until you read the book first. But my favourite quote from the review is below…

An incredible conclusion to one of the best fantasy series you’ll ever read.

Read the full spoilery review here.

Arthur Quinn and Hell’s Keeper TEASERS (Now all in one handy post!)

Last week I posted a few teasers for ‘Arthur Quinn and Hell’s Keeper’ (aka Arthur Quinn 3) on Twitter. I figured I’d put them all here – (with the trailer!) – to give you a better chance of piecing together the clues.

You can find more info (and a couple more hints) at the rebooted Arthur Quinn website. The book hits the shelves at the start of August and you can find out what everything means then!

 

  • ‘People will whisper your name around campfires and in the dark of night. You, Hel, will be the thing they fear the most.’
  • ‘Graffiti covered the walls… One read “Burn in Hell!” and beneath it someone else had sprayed “We’re already in it!”‘
  • ‘Then, without any warning, he unhooked his seat belt, flung open the passenger door and leaped out of the speeding car.’
  • ‘Loki’s throne was a thing of wonder.’