Monday, 26 October 2009

Guest Blog: Linda Strachan

Linda Strachan: author of Spider

Exploring the Inner Darkness

Writing Spider was a bit of a challenge. Let’s face it I am not a boy,
never have been, and I’m certainly not 15! In fact that was part of the
challenge. I recall those teenage years with a certain amount of
discomfort and for a long time I resisted attempting to write anything
that meant I had to spend time reliving the angst, the pain and
embarrassment of being 15. Not that I had such a bad time, just that the
adult me squirms when I recall it.

I had been happily writing warm, cuddly and fun books for younger
children but the darker side must have been itching to come out. As with
most ideas it was a combination of things that led me to start exploring
the situation that led to Spider.

A newspaper report, one of these that appear all too frequently, about
several young people injured or killed in a car crash, where the driver
was just 17 - another article about kids stealing cars and ‘joyriding’
in city centres. I started to think about how easy it is to be so
excited and lost in the moment, having a wild time with your friends
until a split second when everything changes.

There is another thing that happens in the aftermath of any crash or
potentially life threatening incident, secrets often come out. Things
that have been held close and hidden often unravel and are exposed, but
not in the way we might have hoped.

These were the starting points. Deciding how to tell the story wasn’t
really a problem because I knew I wanted to tell each of the character’s
stories in their own voices and the voice in my head at first was
Spider. My main concern was whether I could tell it convincingly as a 15
year old boy. As a parent I am used to my kids telling me I don’t
understand, so could I get into Spider’s head and would he be
convincing? One of the most reassuring comments I had was from a boy who
read it before publication and without knowing who had written it, he
guessed it had a male author.

I had an amazing time doing research for the book. One Saturday I went
out with an ambulance crew as an observer on a night-shift, a truly
scary and at times grizzly experience, but the paramedics were great. I
also attended a training day at our local Fire Service training school
when they extracted victims (played by firemen) from crashed cars (I got
some great photos!) and I went to speak to a young lad who was attending
a project to help kids who had been joyriding or getting into trouble.
That really helped with getting inside Spider’s head. Spider’s
girlfriend, Deanna and his best friend, Andy, each had their own story
to tell and secrets to hide, and once I had established their characters
they all played off against each other.

Spider is a short book compared to some YA novels out today but I have
had a very positive reaction to that from the young people I have spoken
to and many of them, even the enthusiastic readers, had said that they
were keen to start a book that wasn’t too long. The less keen or less
able readers said they were more likely to read it all if it was shorter
and they found some longer books too just daunting to start at all. But
I never really thought about the length when I was writing. I firmly
believe each story has its own length and trying to make it any longer
would have meant filling it with padding and slowing the pace, which is
not something I wanted to do. Most of the action in Spider happens over
a very short period, just a few days and I didn’t want to let up on the

So will I be writing this kind of thing again? Well, yes, I’ve just
finished my next novel, Dead Boy Talking, which is due out next spring
and is another story told over a short time span, about 36 hours from
start to finish. It is the story of Josh, counting down the 25 minutes
he has left to live. He has been left to die just hours after he stabbed
his own best friend. The dark side has emerged again.


LovesSam said...

Wow - Interesting post, I do like short books especially books that have action because a slow pace can really put me off! :-)

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

I love the sound of Spider and Linda seems really cool.

Kate said...

Spider sounds really good =)
Great guest post. And I also love the sound of Dead Boy Talking.

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