Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon Blog Tour: Linda Newbery Talks About Writing for Children and Adults!

It was the day when everything stopped.
At quarter past two on a hot afternoon in August, Anna's beautiful, headstrong elder sister Rose disappears.
Twenty years later, Anna still doesn't know whether Rose is alive or dead. In her early thirties now, she sees her future unfolding - with sensible, serious Martin and a grown-up, steady job - and finds herself wondering if this is what she really wants.
Unable to take control of her life while the mystery of her sister's disappearance remains unsolved, Anna begins to search for the truth: what did happen to Rose that summer's day?

Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon is Linda Newbery's first novel for adults and is now available in the UK, published by Doubleday. I'm excited to read it and I'm sure it will be great - Linda has written some brilliant children's books and I'm sure this one will be no different.

Thanks to Linda for writing this fascinating post for me!


Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon is my first novel for adults, after twenty-something years of writing children’s fiction. I know that I’m going to be asked whether there was a huge leap to make. My feelings about that are similar to those of writer friends who are doing or have done the same thing: it’s not the giant leap some people seem to imagine.
I started by writing teenage fiction, gradually branching out into writing for younger readers. Over the years I’ve published one picture book (Posy, illustrated by Catherine Rayner) and several “first-readers” – short, illustrated chapter books, for instance a series about Barney the Boat Dog. So my books for young readers range from Posy - 50-odd words – to Set in Stone, a substantial Victorian mystery, aimed (as far as I do aim) at readers of around fourteen and over.
There’s a far wider gap between Posy , Barney and my other young stories than there is between Set in Stone and my new adult novel. In fact Set in Stone, first published on a children’s list by David Fickling Books, later appeared in a Black Swan adult edition, with a different cover: what’s between the covers in each case is, of course, exactly the same. Adolescents of fourteen and up will be reading adult fiction at school, if not privately; while writing, I had no sense at all of tailoring the language, sentence structure or content for child readers.
Young adult fiction has come to be dominated by paranormal romance and dystopian thrillers, as a look at bookshop shelves will confirm. There’s a great deal of copy-catting by authors and bandwagon-jumping by publishers. But alongside the dark and angst-ridden covers you may find first-rate writers such as Mal Peet, Aidan Chambers, Elizabeth Wein and Celia Rees. Read their young adult fiction and you’ll have no sense that the authors are talking down to you, or of reading with less than adult absorption. To suggest that these authors, if they wanted to write adult fiction (as indeed at least two of them have), would need to step up a gear would be to miss the subtlety and skill of their writing.
So, what is the difference? Mainly, it’s the age of the characters. Writing for teenagers, I wouldn’t choose a 60-year-old woman as my focal character, as I have for some sections in Quarter Past Two; nor a woman of thirty-three, either. It’s not harder to do that; it’s just different. Writing fiction means immersing yourself in the world of the viewpoint character, seeing and feeling things as that person does, whatever their age; and finding your way through the story arc, gauging its shape and dynamics.
Oh, and my book isn’t even published yet (at the time of writing this), and already I’ve had more than enough of “Oh, an adult book? Is that as in adult nudge-nudge-wink-wink?” So I’m just going to call it a novel.
Linda Newbery
August 2014


 [Click to enlarge.]

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