Celebrating Young Adult fiction by UK authors

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GUEST POST: Katy Birchall’s Do’s and Don’ts when you’re an author (based on personal experience) 

KatyBirchall1DO work on your signature. Mine is the worst ever and I can’t go back now. Signed copies of The It Girl are doomed to a scrawl that looks like a two-year old had their first go at writing on the inside cover. And I know I’m not being modest because my dad said to my brother, “she needs to work on it, it’s just awful” right in front of me last weekend.

DO stock up on snacks when you need to write. It has been scientifically proven that Rolo yoghurts improve mental stimulation. No, really, I’m serious. Ok, FINE, maybe not proven as such…

DO invest in a good laptop. Mine whirrs. Is it meant to whirr? I kind of find it comforting now but most likely won’t when it collapses and dies in the middle of an unsaved chapter and I become so stressed at the situation that I cry out “WHY GOD, WHY?!” and then do something stupid like throw my laptop out the window and end up in prison.

DO go wild with herbal teas. Good Lord there are so many flavours out there I’ve had to dedicate an entire kitchen cupboard to my selection. I don’t even drink that much herbal tea, I just open my cupboard every so often and proudly admire such a collection. Sometimes I do that when friends come round and then I force them to have one just so I get to show them the incredible variety

51hqWWlf18L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_DON’T announce during your first author talk that a spider bit your eye-lid and that’s why it’s red and sore. You will draw more attention to it when most people probably didn’t notice in the first place. And then you will encourage more questions about the spider biting your eye than about your book that you spent the last two years of your life working on.

DON’T go into a bookshop when it first comes out, see your book and then just stand there and stare with your mouth open. It looks weird.

DON’T ask your friends for character advice. Suggestions will all be along the lines of: “you should definitely have a character named [insert name of whoever is talking here] who, like, goes out and saves the world with a flame-thrower. You are welcome, my author friend, you are welcome.”

DON’T listen to your uncle when he says you should give up that writing nonsense and do something useful like becoming a plumber. True story. That ACTUALLY happened to me. Look who’s laughing now! Mwahahaha! IN YOUR FACE.

DON’T gloat in your uncle’s face. He will say a clever retort that you won’t understand and then you’ll be like, “yeah, well, you know, yeah” and look like an idiot.

DON’T watch a Marvel film and then come out of the cinema determined to find your superpowers. You will end up just staring at objects for hours, trying to move them with your mind. This is time that you could be spending writing because you are a sophisticated author now and not the kind of person who just stares at pencils. RIGHT? *puts pencil away*

DO keep writing! There’s no better way to spend your time (except maybe training to be one of those agility dog trainers because then you can run around all day with a dog and watch it do cool things like jump through a ring of fire)

The It Girl by Katy Birchall (Egmont Publishing, £6.99) is out now.

About the author: Katy Birchall is the debut author of The It Girl series. She also works at Country Life magazine as their Deputy Features Editor. Katy won the 24/7 Theatre Festival Award in 2011 for Most Promising New Comedy Writer with her very serious play about a ninja monkey at a dinner party. Her four pet Labradors are the loves of her life, she is mildly obsessed with Jane Austen and one day she hopes to wake up as an elf in The Lord of the Rings. She grew up in Essex and currently lives in Brixton. 

Kat Ellis’s Top 10 UKYA books

katWhen I started thinking about my top 10 UKYA picks, I decided I wanted to put something a little  different out there, and highlight some books that are brand new favourites, or maybe haven’t had as much exposure as some other titles. So my picks are ALL (I hope!) books that haven’t yet been featured on this site as Top 10s. In no particular order…

1. THE DEAD HOUSE by Dawn Kurtagich

This doesn’t come out until the summer, but I was lucky enough to read it early. Carly and Kaitlyn are the Johnson sisters – two girls who inhabit one body. Carly gets the day, and Kaitlyn has the night – though nobody believes Kaitlyn is real. Diary entries, psychologists’ reports, and recovered video footage shine a light on The Johnson Incident – the night where Elmbridge Academy burned down, killing several students. Amazingly dark and creepy!

eren2. EREN by Simon P Clark

Tell the story to its end, the monster tells Oli. This is a haunting novel about secrets and stories and finding our own truth, and it’ll appeal to fans of A Monster Calls and Skellig, in particular.

3. THE HANGED MAN RISES by Sarah Naughton

This story is set in a Victorian London where a killer hunts children by night. It has a Jack-the-Ripper-ish feel to it, with a dose of dark magic and creepy supernatural goings on.

prettybadthings4. PRETTY BAD THINGS by CJ Skuse

This was the first of CJ’s books I read, but I could have mentioned any of them as an instant favourite. It tells the story of Paisley and Beau, the ‘wonder twins’, who go on a crime spree across the US in a bid to find their long-lost father. It’s hilarious and heart-wrenching, and just great fun.

5. TINDER by Sally Gardner

This is a fairytale retelling of The Tinderbox, and it has a really dreamy, abstract quality to it that’s totally absorbing. The illustrations in it are wonderful, and bring the story to life.

getimage_195_300_c1_center_center_0_0_16. THE SAVAGES by Matt Whyman

Sasha comes from a family of cannibals, so maybe bringing her vegetarian boyfriend home for dinner wasn’t such a great idea…This book is darkly funny and very original.

7. THE YEAR OF THE RAT by Clare Furniss

Pearl’s mother died giving birth to ‘The Rat’ – Pearl’s baby sister. This is the story of the year that follows, and it’s hilarious as well as heart-breaking. I started crying when I reached page 14, and didn’t really stop until the end. I almost had to be put on a drip.

bunkerdiary8. THE BUNKER DIARY by Kevin Brooks

This won the Carnegie Medal last year, and definitely deserved to. Teenager Linus is abducted and held in an underground bunker with 5 other people, with no way out unless their captor lets them go… Gripping stuff!

9. JON FOR SHORT by Malorie Blackman

This short, weird book with illustrations by Vladimir Stankovic is a twisted little nightmare, where Jon’s limbs are taken one by one each night as he sleeps. I bought this one for the cover, but it has really burned itself into my brain.

killingwoods10. THE KILLING WOODS by Lucy Christopher – I had high expectations after STOLEN broke my heart, and Lucy definitely gave it another shattering with her second YA novel. Emily’s dad, suffering from PTSD, is accused of killing a girl in the woods. But as Emily finds out more about what happens in the woods late at night, it’s not so clear who is to blame for the girl’s death… tense, thrilling, and sinister.

And that’s it! Hopefully I have stuck to my own rules and not duplicated any from other lists, but feel free to call me out on it if I have. I will give a special mention to 3 I would’ve included if they hadn’t already appeared elsewhere: TROUBLE by Non Pratt, SKIN DEEP by Laura Jarratt, and THE UNIVERSE VERSUS ALEX WOODS by Gavin Extence.

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GUEST POST: Rejection letters and pots of tea – How to survive as a budding writer by Caroline Healy

4312fc_b2b72eb0e10d46b58311f98857a805ec.jpg_srz_179_244_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzFive things you need to know about rejection (in terms of literature):

There is a grieving period, a time where you realise that not everyone on the planet recognises the genius of your opus.

It helps to talk to a trusted friend, whilst eating copious amounts of ice-cream, about how yucky the agent/magazine/competition/publishing house is.

Accepting rejection early is the crux to getting over rejection. Eat ice-cream for an afternoon, not for a week if you are really bummed about a ‘Thanks But No Thanks’ letter.

Do not take rejection personally. (This one is easier said than done.)

Do something else…like perhaps start you next work of artistic awesomeness.

Every writer experiences rejection. There are countless stories of famous authors receiving letters.

Sylvia Plath got multiple rejections for The Bell Jar. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road was a no goer for a while. J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book racked up twelve rejections before someone would give Master Potter a chance. Dr. Seuss was ‘Too different from other juvenile titles on the market to warrant its selling.’ Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit was rejected so many times that she decided at the age of thirty five, on the 16th December 1901 to self-publish two hundred and fifty copies. The book went on to sell forty five million copies.

So I suppose even the best authors get rejection letters. It is like a rite of passage. That doesn’t mean that rejections are fun to receive or get any easier to stomach the more you clock up.

4312fc_7d34ad8e9b0f4baf86a5ba1d30705ec3.jpg_srz_258_395_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzWhen I started to write my debut novel Blood Entwines the prospect of publishing wasn’t even on the radar. I had two hundred and fifty blank pages to fill first with something half decent, with a story that other people would be interested to read.

Blood Entwines is about Kara, a girl who, in the aftermath of a blood transfusion that saved her life, begins to feel different. Her senses are stronger … she can hear whispered comments not meant for her ears … she can hear someone following her.

When Jack, her stalker, reveals himself and insists that Kara has something that belongs to him, she does her best to avoid him. But he’s determined to talk to her, convinced that they’re linked through the blood she received during her transfusion.

I was lucky that my novel got picked up by Bloomsbury but it took a while, a full eighteen months before it was successful with a publishing house. It was short listed and long listed at a number of competitions and agents said plenty of ‘Thanks but no thanks’, ‘We like it but…’, ‘It’s just not for us right now.’

That, coupled with the many short stories gone out to magazines, literary journals, websites, competitions; rejection is part of the writing process.

The thing to learn is no matter what, no matter how many times you are told ‘No’, you keep going. With all the ‘nos’ you learn a little bit more about your art form, a little bit more about your own strength of character and a little bit more about the importance of following your dreams.

Every no is one step closer to a yes. (And everything can be made better with a good cup of tea)

Caroline’s website

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GUEST POST: The story behind The Goddess Society by Kelly McKain

goddesscoverI’m so excited that my YA comedy-drama The Goddess Society is out now as an e-book, and even more excited that I designed the new cover myself. I hope you like it!

The book is about three best friends – Jen, Shelley and Lia – who form a society to lose their virginity. Yes, you heard that right. You wouldn’t think they’d have much trouble with this goal – surely there must be lots of boys willing to help out?! But the thing is – the Goddess Society girls don’t just want any old first time. They each want a perfect first time, something really special that they can look back on when they’re old and wrinkly. And they each have the perfect person in mind to lose it with.

Or so they think…

Parents, kid brothers and drag queens all get in the way of their plans… not to mention the boys themselves.

I really hope you enjoy the book if you get chance to have a read. You will laugh, definitely. You might cry, a bit. You might also have a blush or two and have to turn the page/screen away from the person next to you on the beach/train/sofa – because there are some sexy bits, of course. I’m not one of those authors to cut away to curtains billowing at the window while the action is happening! I wanted everything to be in the book – the friendship, the fall-outs, the fun, the cringes, the sad bits, the scary bits, and most definitely the bits where they finally get down to their perfect first times (or not, in some cases!).

The story behind The Goddess SocietyI was only 24 when I wrote this book, which probably seems massively ancient to you guys, but to me I felt like I was only just starting to get a handle on being a grown-up, and to grow into myself and find out who I was. I wrote the book to capture the spirit of being in my late teens, and all the thrill and fun and shock and horror of that time (here’s me at 17).

I was into writing (of course!), reading, dancing, playing the piano and giggling. A LOT of giggling. Most of this giggling was done with my two best friends, Helen and Laura, who I’m lucky enough to still have today, (GASP!) twenty years later. We talked about boys and boyfriends, our hopes and dreams and fears, our ambitions and worries, Blackadder and The Shining (which we watched from behind cushions!), and we were weirdly obsessive about Lipton instant lemon tea. We played guitar, sang and danced, went pubbing and clubbing, drove to the beach with our boyfs to jump off the old bomb shelter (for some reason!), and laid in the park reading magazines. Most importantly of all, we inspired each other with the strength and confidence to be who we were, and encouraged each other to think big and to keep reaching for our dreams.

The Goddess Society is about boys and love and sex, of course. But most of all it is a celebration of girls’ friendship – through the ups and downs, the joys and struggles, the random and weird stuff that life throws at us all. I’m not going to tell you which bits in the book, if any, are based on real events – you’ll just have to guess 😉

So, give your friends an extra-big hug today! And enjoy the book!

Download the book at (paperback also available)

Find me at and

and @kellymckain

Author Gary Meehan’s Top 10 UK YA Books

Gary_Meehan_520x520Gary Meehan is the author of True Fire. He’s chosen his Top 10 “in no particular order.”

The Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale

A girl recovers from post-traumatic stress disorder by retreating into a fantasy world. Or is it fantasy? Beautifully written and thought provoking.

images-4The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend

I’ve grown up with Adrian these past — oh my god, thirty years (pause to contemplate mortality). The first remains a devastatingly funny read for anyone who’s ever worried about doing the right thing, the pretty girl in the class, and how long their thingy is.

Geek Girl by Holly Smale

A witty, charming tale of a bullied geeky girl who accidentally becomes a model. Plenty of heart and one of the most surprising meet-cute scenes you’re likely to read.

18482265Boys Don’t Knit by TS Easton

A spiritual successor to Adrian Mole, in that it’s a told as teenage boy’s diary. Very funny, but with a serious message. Many YA books encourage girls to do ‘boy’ things; this one lets boys know it’s okay to be ‘girly’. I still have no idea how knitting actually works though.

Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

Proof you don’t need a likeable or even sympathetic heroine to make a story compelling. You know something bad’s gonna happen, but you can’t stop reading.

UnknownNowhere by Jon Robinson

Ah, some good old-fashioned sci-fi. An intriguing premise — why have all these kids been snatched and locked up — a fast-paced adventure, and hints of something manipulating the fundamental nature of the universe.

Trouble by Non Pratt

An honest story of teenage lust and its consequences, shot through with comic moments. Read it, kids, and let your next purchase be a jumbo pack of condoms.

Unknown-1Half Bad by Sally Green

A tale of brutality and paranoia, unbending bureaucracy and the nature of good and evil — a bit of light reading, then. Tense and thought-provoking.

Code Red Lipstick by Sarah Sky

A fun, lively adventure with a kick-ass, kick-head, kick-everything heroine. Not everything has to be dripping in angst, you know.

A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil by Christopher Brookmyre

My stretching-the-definition-of-YA entry. It’s a tale of bunch of kids growing up wrapped in a murder mystery set when the kids are adults, but it’s the acutely observed school scenes that stick in the mind. If it’s a measure of book you’re a little heartbroken to leave the characters behind, then this measures up.