It’s Oxford Literary Festival time, so yesterday I put on my cunning ‘humble punter’ disguise and trundled off to see some Important Successful Writers in action. Meg Rosoff (Rose-Off, apparently: who knew?) was every bit as relaxed, witty, and insightful as you’d hope a favourite author might be in person. I say a favourite: the book she was there to talk about, What I Was, was a disappointment to me – but perhaps only because her first two, How I Live Now and Just In Case, are quite so brilliant. And I have enormous respect for her disregard for doing the expected thing, despite it presumably driving her publishers nuts. She’s a YA author here and in Canada: they’re marketing her as an adult writer in the US, and she says herself she imagines her most obvious readership to be middle-aged women. (From the front row I detected the sound of a PR person quietly expiring.) Certainly she seems brilliantly unbothered by the demands of the market to put authors in a neat convenient pigeonhole: her next two novels are an adult-sounding period romance (complete with ‘sexy poacher’), and a contemporary tale of a 19-year-old God. File under: Uncategorized.
She also says she’s rubbish at plot, and recommends stealing other people’s. I too am rubbish at plot, and plan to put ‘Meg Rosoff said I could’ at the end of all future books, just in case the lawyers come knocking.
I then couldn’t resist a panel of chaps who write the current Doctor Who tie-in novels, despite never having read any of them. It wasn’t exactly earth-shattering (Do you hide behind the sofa? Yes. Which are your favourite monsters? We like Daleks. etc), but the audience was almost entirely made up of excited small children (and their excited nerdy dads), one of whom was in costume as Patrick Troughton’s Doctor, and that made me grin all day.
Split by a Kiss, by Luisa Playa (10+, contemporary, girls). Josephine, new Brit arrival at an American high school, snogs the cutest boy in the school, and finds herself split in two: cool Josie, who wears the right clothes and hangs with the popular girls; and Jo the nerd, trying to remain true to herself while also struggling to fit in with the ‘alt’ kids. It’s Mean Girls meets Sliding Doors – except that Playa cleverly manages to keep both versions sympathetic, no matter which one reflects your own teenage status. (And on the nerdy writer front, I was really struck by how what sounds like a tricksy complicated structure is perfectly easy to follow: she makes it look effortless, and I’ll bet it wasn’t.) Throw in oodles of Buffy references, a genuinely touching sub-plot involving Jo’s mum, and a simply lickable love interest, and you have a gem that’s pitched absolutely perfectly at the target audience. If you know teens that eat up Louise Rennison, Jacqueline Wilson’s teen books, Joanna Nadin et al, they will consume this with equal glee. (And if they’re looking for further inspiration, they’ll find plenty at www.chicklish.co.uk, Luisa Playa’s own website, which is stacked with that sort of thing. You might come across a rather fabulous review of a certain Big Woo while you’re there, too…)
Publication Day! Well, it will be tomorrow. And actually Big Woo appears to be available EVERYWHERE already: I keep spotting it on tables in bookshops. (Possibly this is because I’ve been going into bookshops to look for it. Ahem.) I ought to do something special to mark the Official Release, I know, but I’ll just be having my usual Monday: being taken out for lunch in old London Town, and buying myself some posh underwear. *sighs theatrically*
Chuckling over the Guardian Apprentice blog, which is still every bit as entertaining as Siralan and co; continuing to marvel at eclectic DJs (China Crisis followed by Outkast, anyone?); boggling at the wacky snow ‘n’ sunshine thing happening outside.