Saturday, 6 August 2016

INTERVIEW: Keren David on books, musicals, and inadequate trousers...

Today is my stop on the YA Shot blog tour, meaning I get to interview one of my favourite authors, Keren David! YA Shot is a one-day annual festival in Uxbridge, and this year's festival will take place on October 22nd. Around 70 authors will contribute to workshops, panels and signings, and if that wasn't enough, the festival also raises money to support local libraries and schools year-round.

In this post, you'll be hearing from Keren David, one of the country's greatest YA authors. Enjoy!

Hi Keren! For people who haven't read them (they really should!) can you tell us a bit about you and your books?

Hi Amber! I'm a journalist and a mum, I live in north London, but I grew up in a small town and have lived in Amsterdam and Glasgow. I think the most important thing about me is that I love people and I love writing about them. My books are mostly about ordinary teenagers to whom interesting things happen, whether that's going into witness protection, winning the lottery, going to live abroad, or being reunited with your long lost sibling. I never want my books to feel heavy or dull, and I hope they never do, but I want them to explore themes in depth, things like justice and truth, identity and values, family, culture and society. My books reflect our multi-cultural world. They are never ever 'issue books', they are about life.

What piece of advice do you wish you had been given when trying to get published?

There's a lot more hard work to be done after getting published than there was in getting published. May not be true for everyone, but it was for me.

I recently wrote a piece on the importance of libraries. Why are they important to you?

Libraries are the front line in the battle against inequality. Within a library you can educate yourself and you can study, you can turn your life around.  My husband was a working class boy who failed his 11plus, he studied for his O and A levels at Manchester Central Library and got into Oxford. The writer Alex Wheatle, grew up in care, was sent to prison, educated himself at Brixton library and is now a playwright and author. My own kids had bedrooms too small for desks, and scoured London to find the best libraries to revise for exams. I work in libraries and so do many authors. When I was a child my dad took us to the library every week, and there I found the books that I loved. There was no bookshop in my town. Libraries made me who I am.

There aren't any bookshops in my town, either, so I get that. Bit of a different question: What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?

Oh so many to choose from! The one that springs to mind is the time I was speaking in a town far from my home, got up at 5am, got dressed in the dark. Got to the first school and realised that I'd put on the wrong trousers... ones with a hole in the crotch, due to a trailing thread that was still unravelling. By the second school, the trousers were basically falling apart. I did the whole talk with my legs firmly clamped together. I didn't have time to buy a spare pair before getting the train home, so then had to cross London with a pair of severely inadequate trousers.

Oh no! A slightly less horrible, though difficult question... is there a book by someone else that you wish you’d written?

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler. Not one word wasted. Brilliant characterisation. And for YA, Helen Grant's Silent Saturday and C.J. Skuse's Dead Romantic. Helen is the mistress of twisty thrillers, with characters you care about and C.J. writes lines so funny that they make me cry, and that I want to rip out of her book and implant into mine.

*adds to TBR* Your next book, Cuckoo, is out this month. Could you tell us a bit about it? I loved it!

So nice of you! Cuckoo is about a boy called Jake, who is 16. He's been an actor almost all his life and for three years he played Riley Elliott in a popular soap, Market Square. But then things go horribly wrong for Jake. When the book opens, Jake's making a YouTube video apologising for his part in getting Market Square cancelled. His video turns into a web-series, and the whole book is told as either episodes from the series, or comments from viewers.

What else are you up to?

I've been working on a musical version of my book Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery, with composer Paul Herbert and lyricist Lesley Ross, and we're hoping to have a performance with musical theatre students in 2017. I'm also working on another two books, which haven't been announced yet. And I've just started as Features Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, which was the newspaper where I started my career as a messenger girl, quite a few years ago. So I'm pretty busy!

Wow, I look forward to the musical, and to the next two books! Thanks for stopping by at The Mile Long Bookshelf. Now, if any of you are pining after a copy of Cuckoo, never fear, because I have a copy to give away! This is UK only and entry closes on August 13th. Good luck!

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