Friday 1 February 2013

Black Spring Blog Tour

This is the very last stop on the Black Spring Blog Tour and I'm very pleased to welcome Alison Croggon to the blog today to talk about 'Freedom in YA - the pleasures of storytelling' but before all that, have you heard of the book?  Here's the synopsis:

Inspired by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, BLACK SPRING re imagines the passionate story in a fantasy 19th century society sustained by wizardry and the vengeance code of vendetta.

Anna spent her childhood with Damek and her volatile foster sister Lina, daughter of the Lord of the village. Lina has magical powers, and in this brutal patriarchal society women with magical powers are put to death as babies. Lina’s father, however, refuses to kill her but when vendetta explodes in their village and Lina’s father dies, their lives are changed forever. Their new guardian Masko sends Anna away and reduces Lina to the status of a servant. Damek—mad with love for Lina—attempts to murder Masko, then vanishes for several years. Anna comes home five years later to find Lina about to marry a pleasant young farmer, and witnesses Damek’s vengeful return and its catastrophic consequences.

Passionate, atmospheric and haunting, BLACK SPRING will stay with readers long after they turn the final page

Take it away Alison...

Freedom in YA – the pleasures of storytelling

For a large part of my writing life, I wasn’t in the least interested in telling stories. I read them voraciously, but I didn’t imagine that I was the kind of writer who wrote them. This was partly because I wrote poems. There are many poems that tell stories, from the Odyssey to Les Murray’s Fredy Neptune, but I am a lyric poet, more interested in what goes on between things than in devising narratives. Or so I thought.

You can imagine my surprise when I found myself writing novels. Having spent most of my adult life focusing on poems that were seldom longer than a page, I suddenly wrote an epic fantasy, a story that was basically two thousand pages long. (Well, not suddenly: it took me nine years to write the Books of Pellinor). And now I’m hooked: I’ve finished two books since then, and have four other half-finished stories on my desktop.

I write for young adults and genre readers in part because you don’t have to apologise for making up stories. I have never been quite sure what YA is, to be honest: there are so many definitions that it gets confusing. It’s truer to say that I write the kind of stories that I like to read, and that in today’s marketplace, that’s considered YA. I make up fantasies, and that’s considered genre.

I love imagining stories and I am fascinated by the architecture of narrative. Where once I made tiny sculptures, I find myself thinking about cathedrals. This discovery of my inner storyteller has been extraordinarily liberating, for many reasons, and it’s enriched my thinking about all the forms of writing that I pursue. But I sometimes wonder why I could only find this freedom in YA writing, and why story telling is so often dismissed as a literary virtue.

Once there wasn’t this thing called genre (there were genres, but they functioned differently) and story telling was a vital part of literature. Through the ages there have always been many kinds of writing, from the lyric poem to the critical essay to the epic tale, but in our time the pleasures of story telling have become laden with value judgments. Some people who consider themselves “serious” readers think that stories are for children or, worse, genre readers. This dismissal of the power and pleasure of story is deeply strange. It’s as if literature is voluntarily throttling itself.

When Howard Jacobson says contemptuously that he never reads genre or when Martin Amis says that writing for children is working at a “lower register”, I mainly feel amazed. Don’t they know the history of their artform? Dostoevsky wrote one of the greatest crime novels ever with Crime and Punishment, but that’s filed under Literature with a capital L, not in the crime section. Milton wrote a brilliant fantasy in Paradise Lost, but that’s called poetry. One of the most exquisite and profound meditations on love and mortality and imagination, Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry’s The Little Prince, was written for children. Jane Austen wrote the archetypal romance novel in Pride and Prejudice.  And so on.

Of course, snobbery can run all ways: I am equally puzzled by people who dismiss “literary” novels out of hand. It seems to me that there are as many ways to write as there are authors, and they all are tools for discovering different truths. And as the Australian poet and playwright Dorothy Hewett once said, it’s all writing.

Thank you to Alison for being on the blog today.  Black Spring was published on 3rd January, 2013 in the UK and WILL BE available in the US in Autumn/Fall of this year.  To find out more about Alison and her books, please click here to visit her website.

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