Friday, 29 July 2016

Sarah Crossan and Jenny McLachlan YA panel at Foyles



I loved the Storybox Festival launch at Foyles last week and so of course I had to jump on the chance to attend one of the panels running throughout the festival. The event I ended up choosing was held on Tuesday and was the only young adult panel at the London Charing Cross Road branch during Storybox (there are other YA events at other branches). It featured Sarah Crossan (author of my favourite book of 2015, One) and Jenny McLachlan (author of Flirty Dancing). They spoke about their writing process, gender perceptions and favourite fictional characters, answering questions not only from books journalist Anna James, but from the audience members as well.


We were welcomed into the event space at Foyles on the 6th floor with pizza and drinks – always a great way to start the evening! The slices were big and rustic, and absolutely scrumptious. We could pick between a margarita and a pepperoni and uh... I tried both, yum. After satisfying my pizza cravings and grabbing a glass of fruit juice, Claire from Country Mouse Claire and I settled in the front row, readying our cameras for the start of the panel discussion.


The topics of conversation were varied and very interesting, however as I was live-tweeting the event I did not make any in-depth notes to relay them back to you guys in full. I did jot down some highlights though:

  • The inspiration for Sarah Crossan's One was a documentary she saw, titled Joined for Life. She researched the novel in The British Library, because when you search for conjoined twins on the Internet the focus is usually more on the weird.
  • She initially wrote the novel in prose (she was up to 30k at that point), however when rewriting it came out in verse and it all came together.
  • Sarah has only written standalone novels and while she isn't planning any series she did say she might write a parallel text at some point. 
  • The authors' favourite characters from books are Orlando from Virginia Woolf's Orlando (Jenny) and Lizzie Bennett from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Sarah).
  • Jenny and Sarah are both former teachers and they feel you can see this in their writing. They both feel a sense of responsibility when writing and Sarah added that you can spot a book written by a teacher because they're very literary novels.
  • Jenny also added that she was very excited to tell her year 11 when she knew her first book was going to be published, but they weren't that interested until they saw a cover and it had become tangible.
  • The best bit about publishing? Jenny: "Nothing is more wonderful than creating a world out of words."
  • And the worst bit? Sarah: "I find it difficult to know when a book is good enough and be critical." Jenny: "Insecurity and people reviewing my books online. I have to avoid Goodreads." 
  • There was an interesting discussion about gender and boy books vs girl books. There shouldn't be a distinct difference but often a cover can evoke a certain feeling. Sarah also said there is the perception that books with a boy protagonist are for everyone and those with a girl protagonist are for girls only.
  • Finally the authors talked about their writing processes. Jenny: "I often have a story planned out but it changes as I'm writing. It's especially the ending that changes." Sarah said she has to write in complete silence and she has a shed in her garden in which she writes (jealous!).


After the panel we had the chance to buy the authors' books (beautifully displayed, might I add) to get them signed. I brought my gorgeous hardback of One which, as my favourite book of 2015, of course has to be signed. I don't normally get my books signed anymore as my collection is growing so exponentially that I keep having to clear books out and when I make my friends happy with new books it wouldn't look very well if they're signed (to me). Plus, once a book is signed I don't want to part with it and that's no way to ensure that I don't become even more of a hoarder! However, a few times a year I make an exception for my absolutely favourite reads and Sarah Crossan's stunning novel definitely belongs in that category.

Thanks to the Foyles team and the authors for an inspirational bookish night ♥


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