Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults - Children's Choice



Finalist Book, I am Rebecca
Fleur with the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal with which she was presented in 2012 for her outstanding contributions to New Zealand Children's Literature
The words in the interview that follows were  composed and sent to me by Booksellers NZ
A copy of I am Rebecca (donated by Booksellers NZ) will be posted to the first person who emails me at barbaram22@xtra.co.nz after reading this…
I have been given the pleasure of featuring the books from Fleur Beale and Philippa Werry that have made it to the finalist list in the Children's Choice Awards. So.  Keep checking this Blog for more news of Fleur and Philippa whose Children’s Choice finalist Waitangi Day: The New Zealand Story will feature in an interview further on in the Blog Tour.  All the writers involved are going to be extra busy as they work through the excitements of the events leading up to the Grand Climax at Government House, Wellington on Thursday August 13th when the winners will be announced.
This is DAY FOUR of the Blog Tour featuring each of the finalists in the Children’s Choice category of the awards. Yesterday’s feature was The Red Suitcase on the Booknotes Unbound blog. (Tomorrow’s feature will be Spark, by Rachael Craw, which will be covered on NZ Booklovers – with a giveaway (http://www.nzbooklovers.co.nz/book-reviews/children-young-adult/interview-rachael-craw-spark/), and on Booksellers NZ http://wp.me/p1boF0-2ba  

I am Rebecca has been voted by teenagers from all over New Zealand to be a finalist in the Children’s Choice Young Adult Fiction category. It is also one of the judge-chosen finalists in one of the strongest YA fiction categories in years. I am Rebecca is a companion-piece, not quite a sequel, to I am not Esther, which won the 2009 Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Best-loved book. Fleur Beale is the award-winning author of more than 40 books, most of which were aimed at teens and Young Adults (and of great appeal to many adult readers as well). .
So how was it, writing the next part of Rebecca’s story, 16 years after I am not Esther

1.       There is a lot of love for I am not Esther, written many years ago. What inspired you to pick up the thread of this story once again?
The story about Rebecca and Rachel has always been in the back of my mind but it never actually occurred to me to write it as I’ve always been a bit allergic to the idea of writing sequels. However, last year I didn’t have any ideas for stories bouncing around in my head and I was moaning about it to Jenny Hellen, my then editor at Random House and during that conversation the idea of a story about Rebecca and Rachel came up and Jenny said, ‘Go for it.'

2.       Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?
The book seemed to be all there in my head, possibly because it had been lurking ever since I wrote I am not Esther. I wrote the first draft quite quickly over about four months. I was staying in Hamilton for family reasons while I was finishing the story and polishing it – this turned out to be extremely useful as I was able to use two of my nieces to bounce ideas off and they also read the final drafts and told me what they thought was and wasn’t working. It’s such a help to have trusted readers who you know have good analytical skills and are prepared to say, ‘Hey, this isn’t right. Go back to the drawing board.’ I sigh, moan a bit (or quite a lot) and then delete and re-write.

3.       How did you tailor this book to the age group it reaches?
I don’t think about the age of the intended audience, not consciously anyway. I just try to walk in the shoes of the protagonist of the story so that what really matters to that character informs the story.

4.       Who have you dedicated this book to, and why?
I tend not to dedicate my books now, partly because I can never think of a nice succinct phrase to sum up the help and encouragement friends and family give me. It’s a bit mean of me because I always enjoy reading and admiring other writers’ dedications. If my Abyssinian cat was still alive I could dedicate it to her with something like: “To Topaz who had to be persuaded each day not to sit on the keyboard and without whose help I wouldn’t have needed to vacuum the keyboard every day.”

5.       Can you recommend any books for children/young adults who love this book?
I’ve just read Anna Mackenzie’s new book, Evie’s War. It’s set during WW1 and is, of course, very different in subject from mine. But it’s gripping and shows a woman’s experiences in that war in a very compelling way. Highly recommended.
6.       What is your favourite thing to do when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?
Every morning I go out to my front garden and pick up the paper – quite often it lands in the rhododendron bush. Then I do the crossword and the code-cracker. After breakfast I have a conversation with myself about whether or not I’ll go for a walk – sometimes that gets me out of the house and sometimes it doesn’t. I like meeting with friends, having writerly discussions with writer friends and talking to my far-flung daughters. Every 18 months or so, I try to go to London to visit my daughters and while they’re at work I immerse myself in art galleries, museums and the British Library.
 Last time I was there I tried out the flying trapeze which was a big step out of my comfort zone because I really hate heights. I managed one swing but discovered I needed to be considerably stronger and fitter to do any more. I was pleased I’d tried though. This year I’ve been going to German classes at the Goethe Institute which has been challenging but so interesting to get a glimpse into a different culture. I keep finding myself trying to turn it into the bit of French I learnt at school. My aim is to go to Germany the next time I go to the UK. If people speak very slowly and only in the present tense, I might be able to understand the odd word.
This year I’m also on the committee organising the Tinderbox Writing for Children conference (http://tinderbox2015.blogspot.co.nz/)  we’re holding in Wellington at the beginning of October. We’ve put together such an exciting and varied programme that looks to the future as well as dealing with the nitty gritty of writing. I’m looking forward to it – it’s going to be such an informative and fun three days.
Fleur with a group of Wellington writers  who were prevented by the weather from attending the NZ Post Book Children's Book Awards in Christchurch a couple of years ago. They toast the winners as Fifi Colston texts the results through.
l to r : Adele Jackson, Maureen Crisp , Fleur, Philippa Werry, Anita Nalder, Sabrina Malcolm
If you want to know more about Fleur Beale, go to her NZ Book Council profile:  http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/Writers/Profiles/Beale,%20Fleur
The Around the Bookshops review of I am Rebecca is here: http://barbaramurison.blogspot.co.nz/2014/07/young-adult-fiction_18.html

The Booksellers NZ review of I am Rebecca is here: https://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/book-review-i-am-rebecca-by-fleur-beale/


You can vote for I am Rebecca in the Children’s Choice section of the Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, here: www.booksellers.co.nz/vote-childrens-choice


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