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.


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 »

‘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”

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!



Arthur Quinn 3

When I’m not visiting schools/libraries/bookshops for CBF2012, I’m working on some re-writes for Arthur Quinn 3. I’ve just completed a really big (and really fun) scene today. I won’t say much about it but I will say that the things that Arthur has to face in this book is unlike anything he’s done before.

5 to try

Author Joe Hill posed an interesting question on his blog earlier. What 5 things have you never done as a writer that you would like to try? It got me thinking so here are my 5.


1.Write a graphic novel

This is an easy one. I’ve always loved comics and have a pretty decent collection. I also love art and have studied fine art, graphic design and film in college – all of which work nicely with the medium of graphic novels. It’s years since I made any art on paper properly and I’m sure I’ve lost whatever talent I may have had in that area so I wouldn’t be able to draw a comic but I would absolutely love to write one. If any comic artists or illustrators out there want to collaborate, give me a holla! Read the rest of this entry »

Present Tension

As I mentioned previously, I’m writing again. This time it’s a Young Adult novel. It’s quite dark and grim at times with a seventeen year old narrator. Oh, and it’s all written in the present tense.

The more I write it, the more I’ve been thinking about the present tense. It seems to have become very fashionable these days. Half – (if not all) – the YA novels I read are written in this tense as are a huge amount of books that turn up on award shortlists. In fact, a couple of years ago, Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, wrote a piece in The Guardian bemoaning what he saw as overuse of the tense. It’s an interesting read and, as much as I admire him, I don’t fully agree with him here.

I’ve used the present tense throughout all the Arthur Quinn books – but sparingly. In each book, Arthur experiences strange dreams/visions of Asgard, the land of the gods. I wanted these visions to read differently. Switching from the past to present tense acts as a sort of lingual key for the reader; it takes them away from Arthur’s world and brings them to the world of the gods, a time where time itself acts differently. It’s jarring but it’s supposed to be. Read the rest of this entry »

Writing – YA novel

I’m back writing! But what I’m writing is very, very different to the world of Arthur Quinn. It’s a YA novel and I don’t want to say too much about it but I will say that it’s quite grim at times.

As usual, I’ve created a writing soundtrack and I’ve included some tracks here so you can get an idea of the tone of the book.

Book 2: The Proofs!

Today I got the proofs of Arthur Quinn Book 2 in the post. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the continuing adventures of Arthur and it’s called ‘Arthur Quinn and the Fenris Wolf.’ I always knew it was a longer book than ‘World Serpent’ but I found out today how much longer; a whole 60 pages! So that’s 60 pages more where Loki can cause trouble…