Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Author Interview: Malorie Blackman

Thanks to RHCB for arranging this interview, and to Malorie Blackman for taking the time to answer my questions!

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Is there a particular event that inspired Noughts & Crosses?

A number of events inspired Noughts & Crosses actually; events taken directly from my own childhood, a number of real-life situations that happened to friends and family, things I’d seen and heard about and things I learnt for myself and from others. Inspiration can be taken from anywhere and everywhere if you’re open to it. The Stephen Lawrence case in the 1990s was just one of the catalysts that made me sit down and put a number of those events together into a story.

Did you always intend to end Noughts & Crosses with Callum’s shock decision?

I usually plan and plot my books meticulously before I start writing, but with the Noughts and Crosses series, I wanted the characters to dominate, not the plot. So I had a rough outline of the plot in my head but spent ages really getting to know all my characters so that I’d know how they’d react in any situation (though they still managed to surprise me during the course of writing the book). When I started writing Noughts & Crosses I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to end but by the time I got to the middle of writing the book, I could tell which way the wind was blowing! It was still a very hard ending to write though because I’d grown so attached to Callum. I wrote that ending with tears in my eyes.

Did you find it difficult to write about and address Jude’s terrorism in later books?

Jude was more chilling than difficult to write about. The outcome of his relationship with Cara in Knife Edge sent a chill down my spine as I was writing it and the way he was so utterly convinced that his world view was the right world view made it challenging to always make him a believable character rather than just a cartoon baddy. Part of writing is about being empathetic to the views of others, even if you violently disagree with that view.

You cover a lot of important social topics, such as racism and acceptance. Did you ever think your intended teen audience might struggle with these mature themes?

No. I never for a moment thought that teenagers would struggle with any of the issues presented in the book. I knew some adults might though! I wrote the book knowing it was just the kind of book I would’ve loved to have read as a teenager and the letters, emails and comments I’ve received over the years from teenagers have been nothing but positive.

What prompted the US title change from Noughts & Crosses to Black & White?

In Britain, Nought & Crosses has connotations – it’s the game no one plays past childhood because no one ever wins it, plus nought is another word for zero or nothing and cross can have certain religious implications, so I thought that reflected what I was trying to say in the book. Usually I really struggle with titles for my books but this one came to me before I’d even written a single word. In America, they call the game Noughts and Crosses, Tic-Tac-Toe so the title didn’t have the same meaning over there. The US publishers decided therefore to change the paperback title to Black & White to be more representative of what they felt the book was about I suppose. (The US hardback was called Naughts and Crosses)

Why did you choose to write a fourth book in the series, rather than end it with Checkmate?

I was going to end the series with Checkmate but one of the minor characters in that story, Tobey Durbridge, kept whispering his story into my ear so that I knew I wouldn’t be able to write anything else until I’d told his story first. That’s how Double Cross came about.

Will you be revisiting the world of noughts and crosses in the future, or is that story finished?

No one else from that world is currently whispering in my ear so I think the Noughts and Crosses series is finished now. But then, that’s what I said at the end of Checkmate!

What effect have your book’s success had on your life?

I’ve met some really interesting people because of the book so that’s been fantastic, eg. when the Royal Shakespeare Company produced my book as a play adapted and directed by the wonderful Dominic Cooke. So the best thing about it has been the emails and letters I’ve received from people who have enjoyed the book or the series and the wonderful people I’ve met directly because of the story. And what’s been particularly amazing, are the letters and emails I’ve received from all around the world, not just from Britain.



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Related links:

Malorie's site: Malorie Blackman.co.uk
UK publisher's site: Random House

10 comments:

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

Great interview! I interviewed Malorie but haven't actually read her books. Shameful, I know!

Luisa said...

Fascinating interview - thank you very much, both of you. I loved the explanation of the title change, and it's so interesting to think about the connotations of the title "Noughts and Crosses".

A.J. said...

Really good interview! I'm excited to start it. :D

Anonymous said...

Malorie Blackman is an amazing author! This a good interview to.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Malorie Blackman is an amazing author! This a good interview to.

Anonymous said...

Malorie Blackman is an amazing author! This a good interview to.

Anonymous said...

Malorie Blackman is an amazing author! This a good interview to.

Anonymous said...

Malorie Blackman is an amazing author! This a good interview to.

Anonymous said...

Malorie Blackman is an amazing author! This a good interview to.