Monday, 26 September 2011

Blog tour: Kate Harrison - Soul Beach - 'Not one of those books...'

Today I'm taking part in the blog tour for Kate Harrison's awesome debut YA novel 'Soul Beach' which was published on 1st September 2011 by new imprint Indigo. 

I've read several of Kate's adult novels which are wonderful, including my favourite, The Secret Shoppers series and so was curious about how Kate had bridged the gap between adult and young-adult fiction.

Not one of those books…
Of all the things I expected when my first book was published – fame, fortune, a movie deal – ridicule definitely wasn’t one of them.

But that’s what I got. At my very first literary party, I was brought swiftly down to earth. I was making small talk with a nice chap, telling him proudly about my debut novel.

‘What’s it about?’

I told him it was a dark comedy about a thirtysomething school bully who organises a reunion to liven up her life, not realising all the guests hate her guts.

‘Oh, it’s one of those books. Chick lit. I don’t know how you can lower yourself to write that rubbish.’

I was, momentarily, lost for words. Then I managed to smile and asked him, ‘what do you write?’

‘Computer manuals,’ he replied, before turning away to find someone more worthwhile to talk to.

It was a sign of what was to come. Not from the fantastic readers, or from othere authors of what I prefer to call commercial women’s fiction. But newspapers and critics and more literary writers love to weigh in, blaming books with pastel covers for pretty much everything from girl gangs to the death of literature.

After a while, I learned to ignore it and focus on what I wanted to do: tell a good story, entertain people. If that wasn’t to some people’s liking, that was their problem.

So, fast forward to today. Exactly eight years after my first adult novel was published, my debut Young Adult book, Soul Beach , is making its entrance into the world. And the response couldn’t be more different. I’ve accidentally stumbled into a ‘hot’ genre. YA is vibrant and cool and some of that seems to be rubbing off on me!

‘What made you want to write YA?’ people ask. Some of them sound like TV legend Mrs Merton when she asked Debbie McGee ‘What was it that first attracted you to millionaire Paul Daniels?’

The truth, though, is that I wasn’t chasing the money, or the cool. I simply wanted to tell a story that gripped me, just as I did when the idea for my first novel, Old School Ties , came to me one freezing cold Christmas.

Chick lit, YA, dystopian – they’re just labels. Sure, they can help us find our next book to read, to navigate a world where thousands of titles are released every year. But I certainly couldn’t spend a year (or in the case of the Soul Beach trilogy, three years) working on a project just because it seemed fashionable. I need passion to keep me writing.

Any book is a risk. When I started Soul Beach , I didn’t know if I could pull off a darker novel. I certainly didn’t have a book contract or any interest from publishers. But there were things I wanted to explore in my story: paradise and loss, the seductiveness of the online world, love and hate, sisterly love and the fear of the unknown.

I can’t pretend its not great fun to be part of a ‘hot’ genre, especially when I look at my brilliant Indigo stable mates. I think YA is hot because it’s a place where readers are willing to suspend disbelief, explore new ideas, bend genre rules.

But as a writer, what’s most important to me is the idea, the characters, the journey. And as a reader, I happen to think that the least we can expect from an author is that same passion to tell the best story they can.

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