Celebrating Young Adult fiction by UK authors

A Lily, A Rose by Sally Nicholls

51ZhHHBr75L._SY445_Lady Elinor of Hardford has fallen in love for the first time, with Dan, her cousin and knight-in-training. But her father has other plans. She must marry his friend, Sir William of Courtney – and he’s nearly 50!

Ellie must draw on all her skills to work out a solution to her dilemma. Can she change her father’s mind? And will she ever get to marry Dan?

Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers of 12+

All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls

11761921Catastrophic disasters don’t always mean the end of the world….

When Isabel’s village in the Yorkshire countryside is devastated by the Black Death, it seems that the world is ending in horror and fear. But for those who survive the apocalyptic plague, a freer society will emerge from the destruction of the feudal system that enslaved Isabel’s family.

Sometimes hope rises out of the ashes.

Writer Lucy Marcovitch’s Top 10 UKYA books

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA1. Skellig by David Almond – I read this when it was first published and I’ve never read anything so unique, haunting and beautiful since. Although he came very close with My Name is Mina!

2. Dear Nobody by Berlie Doherty – a completely un-judgemental, un-preachy, honest and sensitive book about teenage pregnancy. I wish I could write a book half as real as this one. I think it should be on the sex education curriculum!

3. The Writing on the Wall by Lynne Reid Banks – I read this book in the 80s as a teenager, and it was the one which inspired me to want to write for young adults. It’s the perfect model of everything you’re told in creative writing classes about how to craft a story for YA.

4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness & Siobhan Dowd – probably the most powerful evocation of grief in any book for children or adults that I’ve read. It’s a true modern classic, and the uniqueness of its authorship makes it more powerful. It also wouldn’t be half as powerful without the illustrations, which sets it apart in another way, as an illustrated YA book.

5. Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls – if only I could write a first novel as beautiful as this one! I wept buckets at the end. I think it’s a shame it was eclipsed by other books with a similar theme that were published at the same time, as I think it is much more superior than any of them, being so under-stated.

6. My Name is Mina by David Almond – I love how David Almond’s characters take on lives of their own, even when they aren’t the main characters. This ia another beautiful book – for a while it was touch and go whether it surpassed Skellig for me!

7. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling – when I was a teacher I kept reading articles by libraries about this brilliant book about a boy wizard. I read it in one weekend, then tried it out on my class. I have never seen 35 10 and 11 year-olds sit so still and beg me to read more after 3.30. It’s hard to remember that in 1996 there wasn’t another book quite like it.

8. The Witch’s Daughter – Nina Bawden is best known for Carrie’s War, but I I always preferred this mystery story. None of the characters are stereotypes – even the baddies have a human face. And the name Perdita always fascinated me, especially as I couldn’t work out how to pronounce it!

9. Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer – classic time slip book that inspired my favourite teenage band The Cure. What could be more exciting for a young adult?!

10. The Edge of the Cloud by KM Peyton – I’d choose all the Flambards books, but at a push this one is my favourite. It’s a beautiful combination of love story and historical novel, romantic and exciting – Christina and Will are living the life all older teenagers would dream of. And of course it makes the opening tragedy of the third novel even more unbearably tragic!

Check out Lucy’s blog or follow her on Twitter @lucym808


Guest post: Other People’s Characters by Sally Nicholls

Author photo high resolutionI was probably about fifteen when I started writing fan fiction. I say ‘writing’, but that’s something of an exaggeration. When I was fifteen, most of my writing happened in the back of my head. (This started when I was about five, and only really stopped when I started writing novels full-time.)

Anyway, I’m not going to tell you who I wrote fan fiction about, because even now it feels too private, and you probably won’t have heard of some of the people I wrote about anyway. When I was fifteen, it was intensely private. When people ask me, “Where do you get your ideas from?” I usually talk about how sometimes a story or a character feels like they belong to you, the same way a book or a film sometimes does. Someone will tell me a story, or I’ll meet a character, and I’ll think, “You’re mine. I’m going to write a book about you.” (I have pictures which have been sitting in my head for fifteen years, waiting for me to write a book about them.)

So, the fan fiction was private, partly because I was slightly embarrassed about it, and partly because there was something incredibly personal about these characters who had asked me to write about them. I wrote fan fiction based around three or four different worlds, one science fiction, two fantasy and one realistic, and in all three cases it was a particular character who leapt out and said, “I’m interesting. Write about me.”

(And yes, all of the characters had had traumatic events dumped on them by their authors. I haven’t changed that much.)

Fan fiction was appealing because so much of the work had already been done for me. I didn’t have to come up with something which interested me. I didn’t have to invent a character, or a world. Although actually, I did used to end up inventing a lot of characters, because one thing I was really interested in was back story – what was this character like as a child? What was this bit of story which I haven’t seen because I wasn’t watching the soap at that point like? So I did end up inventing a lot of mothers and fathers and siblings. That’s one thing fan fiction made me realise – how much of the process of inventing characters comes from necessity. You can start with Interesting Tragic Hero, but eventually he’s going to need some parents, and a friend, and a girlfriend, and …

Another thing fan fiction taught me was how much of comedy is about character. You may think you can’t write comedy – and it’s one of the things I find hardest – but try writing a scene with Jeeves and Wooster in it which isn’t funny. You just plonk them down – well, anywhere, really – and let them react to the world around them.

I don’t think fan fiction taught me how to be an author. (I’d been telling stories in my head for about ten years before I started writing it, remember.) But I think it helped solidify those stories. The structure of the telly programmes and novels I was writing about reminded me to give those stories a beginning, a middle and an end. (The soap was particularly good for this.) And it taught me something about how stories fit their medium. I mostly wrote scripts for the telly programme characters and prose for the novel characters. When I tried crossing them over, it felt weird and bits started to fall off the stories.

I went to a talk by Meg Rosoff once, where she told us to steal our plots. So I now pass on this bit of advice to you. Steal your characters. Or borrow them, at least. Because that’s the best thing about fan fiction. There’s no way you could – or should – make any money out of these worlds (unless you get very lucky and are asked to write tie-in novels or something) and so your interaction with them is always strictly about fun.

And that’s the best sort of writing there is.

Sally Nicholls‘ latest book is A Lily, A Rose, published 1 March. 

We Sat Down’s UKYA Books of the Year


Joint choice (by M & Little M):


127434721.       Slated – Teri Terry


Chosen by Little M:


1.       The One Dollar Horse – Lauren St John


2.      Secrets of the Henna Girl by Sufiya Ahmed


Chosen by M:


1.       Codename Verity – Elizabeth Wein


2.      Maggot Moon – Sally Gardner


3.      The Weight of Water – Sarah Crossan


4.      After the Snow – SD Crockett


5.      All Fall Down – Sally Nicholls


6.      The Seeing – Diana Hendry