Where to find me! Loncon3 events

I can hardly believe that LonCon3 is here – so exciting! Here’s my schedule for the weekend… please come and say hi if you’re around.

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Kill the Parents

Friday 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 1 (ExCeL)

The extreme measures we take to remove responsible adults in order to empower children in stories — whether it’s J. K. Rowling starting poor Harry off as a pseudo-orphan, or C. S. Lewis exiling an entire family to the country, or Suzanne Collins forcing Katniss Everdeen to become the adult in her mother’s own house… Panelists will discuss the importance or lack thereof of parents in YA stories.

Todd McCaffrey (M), Leigh Bardugo , Sarah Maas, Amy McCulloch

Autographing 3 – Amy McCulloch

Friday 13:30 – 15:00, Autographing Space (ExCeL)

Amy McCulloch

The Trouble With Teens

Friday 16:30 – 18:00, Capital Suite 15 (ExCeL)

What are some of the big obstacles associated with writing a teen-centric story within an adult-centric world? What dangers lay in wait for the unprepared first time YA writer? What do young adult readers expect to see in their stories and how will you know if you’ve gone off target in the writing process?

Julia Rios (M) , Suzanne van Rooyen , Amy McCulloch, Eric Senabre, Janet Edwards

Kaffeeklatsch

Saturday 11:00 – 12:00, London Suite 5 (ExCeL)

Amy McCulloch, Amal El-Mohtar

Generations of Genre

Sunday 10:00 – 11:00, Capital Suite 5 (ExCeL)

For one reader, “traditional fantasy” is pre-Tolkienian, pre-genre, sui-generis works; for another, it’s the pattern of story exemplified by Forgotten Realms and David Eddings. Equally, for one reader The Hunger Games is a young adult dystopia, while for another it’s science fiction. Does every generation invent its own reading terminology? Can the evolution of such terms be mapped onto changing demographics — is there such a thing as GenX fantasy, or Baby Boomer science fiction? And do any terms retain their currency, and describe common ground across generations?

Andy Sawyer (M), Maureen Kincaid Speller , S. J. Groenewegen , Amy McCulloch, David Henley

YALC & The Shadow’s Curse release

Hello faithful blog readers! In case you haven’t heard… THE SHADOW’S CURSE IS OUT IN THE WILD! Woah…

Obligatory buy links:

UK readers: Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Shadows-Curse-Knots-2/dp/0552566373/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_pap?ie=UTF8&qid=1405061842&sr=8-1&keywords=the+shadow%27s+curse

Canada readers: Chapters/Indigo: http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/the-shadows-curse/9780385678278-item.html?ikwid=amy+mcculloch&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0

But also, check out this KILLER trailer!

So, yesterday was the first day of YALC – the inaugural Young Adult Literature Convention, held at London Film & Comic Con at Earl’s Court. Since this was the first one ever, I was really interested to see how it was going to pan out. Turns out: this is one of the best book events I’ve ever attended. More buzzy than most other conventions, with a real sense of excitement and interest in the panels. I think the YALC organisers did an amazing job in curating the panel discussions, and there really was something for everyone.

The crowd at London Film & Comic Con
The crowd at London Film & Comic Con
My book on a poster!
My book on a poster!

I, of course, was brought in to cater for the YA epic fantasy fans – of which there are numerous, and they are loud! The best kind of fans :) I was on a panel with Jonathan Stroud (uh, my hero), Ruth Warburton (another publishing type-author mix; is there a better kind?) and Francis Hardinge (who writes just about the cool-weirdest books ever). It was all hosted by Marc Aplin of Fantasy Faction which, let’s face it, is the best fantasy website out there! (So much so, they’re nominated for a World Fantasy Award – congrats to them!)

Cersei, Bran & Hodor T-bag from Prison Break!

But before the panel, I arrived a bit earlier to just a complete sea of cosplay and geeks in comic book t-shirts and authors looking dazed and confused…. my people all in one place! After somehow clawing my way through to the Bookzone (thanks Liz de Jager and Mark for saving me!), I couldn’t believe just how many people were holding, discussing or raving about books. It was amazing. Already dehydrated and overwhelmed, I made my way to the green room, where there was welcome respite. Plus – celebrities galore. Best spot? Lena Headey (aka Cersei Lannister). Amazing.

The crowd at our panel
The crowd at our panel
On the panel
On the panel
Kim Curran holding Court
Kim Curran holding Court

The panel itself – called ‘Bring Me My Dragons’ was so much fun. Marc had us all well prepared with questions in advance, but YA fantasy is a topic about which I am so passionate; I could speak for hours! Luckily, I didn’t, but I hope I managed to get a few points across. In a nutshell, those were:

- Like my US publisher’s slogan says: YA is a state of mind, not an age range! I intend to be writing and reading YA for a very long time

- YA fantasy is so much fun, and so diverse. In support of the #weneeddiversebooks movement, fantasy is a place where so many people can find their tribe

- If you want recommendations of YA fantasy books for teens who love Game of Thrones, well, let’s just say I’ve covered it.

After the panel, I went straight into signing. This is my favourite part of any event, not least because I was able to meet so many new readers, and chat to them! I loved being able to say hi to loads of the bloggers who I’ve interacted with on Twitter. Putting faces to twitter handles is the best.

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Two hours of signing later (and pretty much close to collapsing in a dehydrated pile of author goo), I left to have  a rejuvenating drink at the pub before returning for the YALC party. Here was our chance to toast the awesome organisers, Malorie Blackman & Katherine Woodfine, for the immense job that they’ve done in getting this convention off the ground. I can only hope it’s on again next year (and the year after… and the year after that…)


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A Southbank engagement shoot… and feeling not-so-grown-up

The wedding countdown is on… only two months to go.

By all accounts, we are so ready. Everything is on track, all the major bits and pieces bought and paid for, guests preparing to arrive…

But wow, guys. Marriage. For some reason I always thought I would feel older when I got married. I’m 28, and I always thought that by 28 I’d be way more grown up than I feel I am. I thought by now I’d be one of those women with a perfect beauty regime, impeccable diet, and fastidious work-out routine. Instead most of the time I fall asleep with my make-up on, eat too much cake at my desk and flail around at 30-day-shred. But then again, maybe you never really feel properly grown up. Especially when you work in children’s books every day!

Nevertheless, one of the wonderful stops on the wedding train was our engagement session with our brilliant photographer Melanie Woodward, of One Life Studio. She shot my best friend Sarah’s wedding last year, and so we immediately snapped her up for ours almost the moment we got engaged!

As some followers of the blog will know, my fiancé broke his ankle a few weeks ago and had to have surgery on it. We debated moving the shoot until after he had healed up, but decided to go ahead as planned – even with him in a cast! It is definitely ‘of the moment’ and captures this time in our lives with full accuracy!

Engagement shoots are, by their nature, pretty cheesy, but it was great to get to know Mel better and to learn to feel comfortable in front of the camera so that we don’t feel too nervous (at least, about the photography!) on our wedding day. I had been getting very nervous about that aspect of things, but having done this session, I feel so much better about how it will go on the day. We also have some lovely pictures of the two of us, which is also pretty rare, and I’m sure is something we will appreciate later on in life.

Lofty and I got engaged on the Hungerford Bridge between the South and North banks of the Thames, so it was only natural that we wanted to have our engagement shoot there! And just like on the day of our engagement, it rained – nice blow-dried hair went out the window! We started out by meeting at London Waterloo and walking to the London Eye. We also got a glimpse of how disabled unfriendly London can be.

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We stopped for an ice-cream – in the cold and rain! – but it made for a cute and funny photo :)

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A little stop by Big Ben – mandatory. At least the rain had driven away a lot of the tourists, so we could get some photos without crowds of people in the background.

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We also got on the carousel on the Southbank for some silly pics! I’m fairly certain Mel got pretty seasick with all the motion and colour. Worth it for these though! 

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And then on to the bridge where we got engaged…


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Ending up on the Northbank :)
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Bonus pic: the mandatory cast photo – this is the one we ended up getting a print of.

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Photographer: Melanie Woodward of One Life Studio

 

Game of Thrones… for teens

(This is a repost from my Tumblr)

With all the success of fantasy fiction recently, we’ve all heard the ‘Game of Thrones for teens’ marketing line applied to YA epic fantasy. But which books really stand up to that marker? The truth is, most books can’t match the complete depth and breadth of A Song of Ice and Fire but many do have elements that will appeal to lovers of GRRM. Here’s my take on the best ‘Game of Thrones for teens’ books and who they’d appeal to:

If you love… Tyrion Lannister. A flawed hero who steals every scene he’s in.

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half

You’ll want to read… HALF A KING by Joe Abercrombie

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

If you love… The Westerosi political intrigue. The battle between the houses in a rich and engrossing medieval Europe-esque world.

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You’ll want to read… FALLING KINGDOMS by Morgan Rhodes

In a land where magic has been forgotten but peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering.

If you love… the Khaleesi and the Dothraki. Swords and sorcery in a medieval Mongolian-inspired setting.

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Together

You’ll want to read… THE OATHBREAKER’S SHADOW and THE SHADOW’S CURSE by Amy McCulloch

When a young warrior is wrongfully accused of treachery against the heir to the khan, he is exiled into the desert where he must learn how to survive – and clear his name.

If you love… Arya Stark. Kick-ass young female assassin on a journey all of her own.

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You’ll want to read… THRONE OF GLASS by Sarah J Maas

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince.

If you love… beyond the Wall. Icy intrigue and mysterious supernatural creatures lurking in the woods.

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You’ll want to read… SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka. A lavish world, with a Russian-inspired setting.

If you love… Brienne. A fiercely talented female warrior trapped in a man’s world, with her own twisted sense of honour

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You’ll want to read… GRACELING by Kristin Cashore

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight – she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

If you love… dragons. Just give me more and more dragons.

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seraphina

You’ll want to read… Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

The kingdom of Goredd is populated by humans and by dragons who fold themselves into a human form. Though they live alongside each other, the peace between them is uneasy. But when a member of the royal family is murdered, and the crime appears to have been committed by a dragon the peace and treaty between both worlds is seriously threatened . . .

If you want… George to explore the rest of the world he’s created and learn more about Yi Ti, the Jade Sea and Essos

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You’ll want to read… PROPHECY by Ellen Oh

A superb YA epic fantasy inspired by ancient Korea. Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.

If you want… to read a fantasy that tackles a subject even George hasn’t addressed (yet)

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You’ll want to read… PANTOMIME by Laura Lam

The heartachingly beautiful tale of intersex youth Micah and his struggle for identity and love, set within the confines of a magical travelling circus.

An interview with Emma Pass of THE FEARLESS fame!

So life’s best laid plans have definitely been going astray recently! I had a whole blog calendar plotted out to update you all with various THE KNOTS DUOLOGY-related things, but they’ve fallen by the wayside. While we were on holiday in beautiful Cornwall, my fiance managed to break his ankle in three places – which has rather thrown a wrench in a few of our summer plans!
It also meant my blogging calendar went out the window, including an interview I was supposed to post with the incredible Emma Pass. Better late than never, hopefully! If you haven’t heard of Emma Pass before now, where have you been?! Her debut novel, ACID, was one of my most thrilling reads of last year, and THE FEARLESS does not disappoint. It’s not a sequel to ACID, but another standalone, and proves that Emma is the absolute master of this genre.
Hi Emma! I can’t believe THE FEARLESS is here! It seems only yesterday that ACID was published. Can you tell me a little bit about the book?
THE FEARLESS is set in the near future, imagining what would happen if our troops fighting overseas were given a serum to stop them suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Unfortunately the serum falls into the wrong hands and is used to create a drug which stops people feeling any fear whatsoever, strips them of their capacity for empathy and love, and makes them stronger and faster than ordinary human beings. These ‘Fearless’ invade every country in the world, trying to make everyone just like them. The main character, Cass, is 10 when they arrive in the UK and loses her family, her home and her childhood. Seven years later, all she has left is her little brother, and when he’s kidnapped by a Fearless she must go after him, no matter what the dangers are…
‘Second Book Syndrome’ is something writers often talk about. Did you experience jitters when it came to publishing your second book?
I certainly did! I’ve never written a book to deadline before and I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to pull it off (ironic for a book about people who can’t feel fear!). I was also scared that, after ACID, people would think the next book was a big disappointment… but it’s already had some lovely reviews, so hopefully not!
You seem to have a natural flair for writing kick-ass female main characters. Where do you get the inspiration for these girls from?
I come from a family of very strong, independent women who are a big inspiration to me both in my writing and real life. I also write the sort of characters I want to see more of in YA literature – and in literature in general. There’s nothing more annoying than a female character who waits around for the boy to rescue her. What sort of message does that give readers, especially young readers? Girls can be just as strong and fast and brave as boys, and I hope my books reflect that.
Can you tell me a little about your experience as a debut author?
I’ve really enjoyed it! Being published is quite literally a dream come true for me and it’s been so great to get to know other authors and readers, and work with my fantastic editors, and see an actual book out there with my name on it… two books now! I think it’s really important to build a support network of other writers and I’ve been very lucky to be able to do that.
If you could sum up THE FEARLESS in Five words, what would they be?
Dark, terrifying, action packed, exciting!
Thanks Emma! 

Five reasons why writing a novel is like Game of Thrones (Season 1 spoilers alert!)

(Please note this post contains spoilers for the first book/season of Game of Thrones! Proceed with caution.)

Who’s hooked on the latest series of Game of Thrones? I’m watching with a mixed group of readers and non-readers, so it’s been thrilling to see how we all approach the storyline – some, completely fresh – others analysing their reactions to seeing the novels’ various plots unfold on screen. I was actually pretty disappointed to be spoiled on Twitter as to a recent major event – and even MORE disappointed by the reactions I saw stating: ‘Well, if you don’t want to be spoiled then read the books!’ For me, the TV carries its own momentum and even though I know the events I don’t know when in the TV they will appear.

Anyway, minor gripe over – time for a bit of fun. How about five ways that writing a novel is like the Game of Thrones…?

1. There are lots of characters and plotlines to keep up with.

Whether you’re writing fantasy or contemporary, historical or crime, you’ve got to keep your characters and plots straight. George R.R. Martin holds them all in his head but he also has the fab Elio & Linda of Westeros.org to help him out if he forgets the colour of a knight’s horse. If only we could all have our own personal archivists, that’d be great!

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2. The big six versus Houses of Westeros

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Like the Starks, Lannisters and Targaryens, the big publishers all vie to rule the book realm. So, who do you pledge your allegiance to – the powerhouse Penguin Random House? Crafty HarperCollins? Heavyweight Hachette? Mighty Macmillan?

3. Brutal cuts must be made.

To your manuscript.

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Or someone’s head.

4. You must take a cue from the mother of dragons and rise from the ashes 

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We all have those bad days. The days when you ‘stumble’ onto Goodreads only to see your writing eviscerated  by a bad review. But there’s only one thing for it – to get up, dust yourself off, and hopefully have a pet dragon to show for it. Or at least, skin as thick as dragon hide.

5. Creativity run dry? Sometimes, one word is enough:

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Easter in Edinburgh, with a side trip to East Lothian!

ImageAh Edinburgh. What a fantastic city! And what a weekend for it… absolutely bright blue skies the entire time set the scene for great food, fantastic people and awe-inspiring sights. ImageA panoramic view from half-way up Arthur’s SeatImageThe view from the top!

We had an amazing dinner at The Witchery by the Castle, but can I just shout out to the most excellent breakfasts we had? The Edinburgh Larder made some of the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had out, and Urban Angel had amazing hot chocolate and eggs benedict. I’m a brunch addict, so this made me extraordinarily happy!ImageThe walk back to EdinburghImageAmy tries to stick em with the pointy end at Edinburgh castle…ImageOn Sunday we left the city centre and headed out into East Lothian, to the Craigielaw Lodge and golf club. We played the 35th oldest golf course in the world (allegedly – how random!) called Kilspindie, which was right along the coast. We were quite lucky that the forecast rain held off, although it was pretty windy.ImageI now just want to see way more of Scotland. In a lot of ways it reminded me of my favourite place in the world (New Zealand) and I’m sure there’s so much more to see and discover.

 

 

Inspired by the London Marathon? Why running is like writing… (and vice versa)

Congratulations to all the London Marathon runners today! I was watching on television and itching to put my own trainers on. It feels like ages since the Edinburgh marathon and I admire everyone who’s put in all the effort and training.

All this running talk means I think it’s the right time to re-post one of the most popular blogs I’ve written, which was inspired by my Marathon training!

Why running is like writing… (and vice versa)
January 13th, 2012

As I stepped out of the front door of my apartment block this morning, the air was frosty but the sky was bright and clear. The perfect kind of morning to run the four miles in to work rather than cram myself onto a sardine-like train from the UK’s busiest train station. I’ve learned to love running now, but at the moment it’s classified as ‘training’ until May 27, 2012, when I complete the Edinburgh Marathon.

Me running in the Royal Parks 1/2 Marathon in 2009 – my first proper race

In fact, in a lot of ways training for a marathon is a lot like writing a novel. Here are my reasons why…

1. You need the right gear… but gear won’t do the work for you!
Yes, you need the right gear to run. Properly fitted trainers, clothes that wick away sweat, maybe a heart-rate monitor so you can judge the improvements in your fitness… they will all help to better your training. But you can get carried away with gear – Nike+ or a GPS running watch? Barefoot running shoes or comfortable, sturdy Asics? You can get carried away with writing gadgets too. Plain Microsoft Word or Scrivener? Fountain pen or ball-point? Laptop? iPad? Spiral notebook? To start running you really just need a pair of running shoes, some clothes you can sweat in, and the road. Just like all you really need to write is good old pen and paper. You can’t let the pursuit of perfect gear prevent you from starting.

2. There are no shortcuts
When training for a marathon, you gotta put in the miles. There’s just no getting around it. Yes, when I’m running to work I’m sometimes tempted to detour toward the bus stop I know will take me straight to the office. But I know that that’s not going to help me on marathon day. Same with writing a novel – you have to put the words down on paper, or else you’re never going to end up with a finished product.

3. Sometimes you feel you’re not getting anywhere
I’m now running anywhere between 20-30 miles/week but when it comes to getting fitter, sometimes I feel like I’m not getting anywhere. Some runs are just plain hard, and I don’t understand why my body will scream against a 4-mile run when it ran 8 miles the week before. Writing feels like that sometimes. There are times when I feel like my writing is not getting any better (it might even be getting worse!), and the finish line feels further away than it ever did before. The only solution to this, I find, is to switch it up. Instead of a run, I jump on the cross-trainer at the gym, or go to the climbing wall with a work friend. Instead of forcing myself to write another paragraph on Oathbreaker 2, I’ll do a freeform writing exercise, or update the blog, or read a book to get inspired.

4. You need to have the proper fuel
In order to run, you have to fuel your body properly. My pre-run breakfast consists of porridge and a banana – boring, but it works! And for any run longer than about 6 miles, I take a bottle of orange-flavour Lucozade Sport. For this month’s Lucky 13s 13th day post, all the 13ers (including moi) are discussing what they eat and drink to get them through their writing days.

5. There will be pain
I’ve actually been fairly lucky when it comes to running injuries and (touch wood) I’ve never experienced anything that has been completely debilitating. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been pain, however! Pain in muscles I didn’t even know I had. Soreness that won’t disappear for days, blisters in between my toes, twinges in my knees and beside my shin bone. In writing, there is pain too. The pain of rejection – injuring the pride you didn’t even really know you had – the agony of not being able to solve a plot point in a storyline that you created, the reviews that cut to the bone… oh yes, and the most common of writing ailments: the dreaded papercut! Sometimes those sting really bad, man…

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I haven’t completed the marathon yet, but I have completed a novel and I can imagine those experiences will have some similarities too. Friends, family and complete strangers will marvel, and say that they could never do a thing like that… they couldn’t run a mile, or they couldn’t dream of putting down that many words. But what they don’t realize is that to achieve those goals you just have to put in the miles, put in the sweat, put in the tears.

Or at the very least, give it a go. And if it’s not a marathon or a whole novel yet, start with a 10K race or a short story.

For every writing or running journey, you gotta start somewhere.

Find me on @Wattpad and a #UKYA chat to come!

Are you on Wattpad?

I’ve been a huge fan of the site for a while now, ever since (with my editor hat on) I was privileged enough to publish the amazing Abigail Gibbs (The Dark Heroine & Autumn Rose), who developed her writing skills and got her big break from the site. Last year, as part of my The Oathbreaker’s Shadow Canadian tour, I had the opportunity to visit the uber-cool Wattpad offices in Toronto, and I’ve been wanting to work with them ever since.

Me and Amanda at Wattpad
Me and awesome Canadian YA author Amanda Sun at Wattpad

Well, now’s my chance! If you’re on Wattpad, follow me @amymccullochbooks and every Tuesday & Friday (starting with this Friday), I’ll be posting a sample of The Oathbreaker’s Shadow FREE to read on my profile.

As another kick-off for The Oathbreaker’s Shadow paperback launch, I’m also going to be hosting the #UKYA chat on Twitter this Friday, starting at 5.30pm! Follow me: @amymcculloch. Last week there was some great discussion with SF Said, and the week following will be the lovely Emma Pass! Please do come along for a great discussion on publishing, writing and reading in the UK YA world.

Pre-order The Oathbreaker’s Shadow (Knots 1/2) pb – out May 22nd (UK)

Pre-order The Shadow’s Curse (Knots 2/2) pb – out July 3rd 2014 (UK)

Wit, Skill and the Read

Have you seen? HarperVoyager (my former place of employ) have updated the covers for Robin Hobb’s amazing Farseer trilogy:

Photo from Dom Forbes, link: http://instagram.com/p/lPo9BhpJ1z/
Photo from Dom Forbes, link: http://instagram.com/p/lPo9BhpJ1z/

They look absolutely fantastic, thanks to beautiful new artwork from Jackie Morris and art direction by Dom Forbes. And this seems like the perfect time to talk about these books, especially as this post has been sitting, half-written, in my draft folder on the blog for almost three months.

Thanks to a cracking Kindle deal, I had downloaded the first three Robin Hobb books (Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin and Assassin’s Quest) onto my iPad to read over Christmas. I first read this series back in high school, when I was devouring as much epic fantasy as was humanly possible. In a way, it has diminished my memory of individual series. So, having worked on (and loved) some of Robin’s more recent books (The Rain Wild Chronicles, to be specific), and knowing that a return to Fitz & the Fool is coming next year, I decided to revisit this wonderful trilogy…

…what I did not expect, however, was to lose myself so utterly and completely to those words, all over again.

This is not a review. These books are classics of the genre now, pinnacles by which other works are judged – rightly so, and to ‘review’ them feels almost pointless. But I feel compelled to write about how a re-read of these works made me feel, and maybe just to marvel at Robin Hobb’s skill, the like of which I haven’t read in a long time.

Anyone familiar with these books will know of the two seemingly opposing forces of magic Hobb creates: the Skill and the Wit. The Skill is the magic of the royal family, enabling certain people to communicate and/or influence people across the miles. As it is mostly used by the royals, those who possessed The Skill are often respected and, somewhat, revered. The Wit, by contrast, connects certain people to animals – and is feared and misunderstood. Hobb’s protagonist, Fitz, is blessed/cursed with both.

From the moment I stepped back into Hobb’s world and into Fitz’s head, I was lost. Those who know the story know that while this is an incredibly immersive tale,  it’s not always a happy one. Far from it. As the reader travels with Fitz, every blow to him feels like a blow to the reader, and by the end of it I felt beaten black and blue with the bruises. Occasionally it moves with agonising slowness; this isn’t a story of non-stop action and adventure. Instead, it shows the real, human, personal, hard-hitting, sometimes magical, sometimes incredibly depressing impact of living in her world. Her magic doesn’t only give power – it takes. And, just like in real life, those dark lows Robin isn’t afraid to depict on the page make the moments of height and wonder even better. And there are plenty of those too.

Yet my connection to these books went beyond the words on the pages. In certain moments, I felt Fitz’s dark moods possess my own. How does she do it? I’ve decided it is because Robin Hobb possesses her own form of magic, that I’m going to call The Read. Somehow, she is able to reach out through the pages and imprint her characters deep in my mind. During that time, whenever I broke for air – only for necessities like eating, “being sociable at Christmas”, sleeping (occasionally), etc. – I found myself constantly tethered back to the story, with Fitz a constant presence in the back of my mind. I had to find out what happened to him. Real life struggled to compete with book life. I was right there alongside Fitz, experiencing everything he did, and no one could understand why my emotions seemed all over the place. I just needed to press the book into their hands for them to understand – that is, once I’d finished (no one could tear it from my protective clutches before that time).

Robin isn’t the only author blessed with the Read, but she’s one of its master practioners. Rarely do I find characters taking up residence in my mind in quite the same way as Fitz. My anticipation for the new book is incredibly high now, and I know it’s going to take the publishing world by storm.

And why wouldn’t it? After all, Robin has the Read and she isn’t afraid to wield it.