Today I have Katie Dale stopping by as part of her UK blog tour for fabulous new book – Someone Else’s Life. This is probably my very favourite So I Say Thank You post, ever! Over to Katie….
When I first started at nursery school, my Mum says she used to ask me every day what I’d done, and I’d shrug and say “playing” – and then one day I came home and could read! With a writer as a mother – she started writing children’s books when she was pregnant with me, so I guess somehow I absorbed it from the very beginning! – I grew up surrounded by books and writing, and even my Dad used to make up bedtime “Moley” stories for me and my sisters.
Consequently, it felt like second nature to make up my own stories, firstly acting them out with Sylvanian families, then later writing them down. Acting and writing have always gone together for me – they’re both all about creating characters and losing yourself in other worlds – and I’d make up plays and dramatic scenes from my favourite books and perform them with my sisters and friends – I particularly remember my under-the-table dragon’s cave for The Paperbag Princess and wrapping my legs in a towel to be the Little Mermaid!
Particular books I remember from my early childhood include Rosie’s Walk and Goodnight Owl – I’d borrow them from the library over and over again, even though I knew them by heart, delighting in having them read to me by my ever-so-patient parents, and enjoying the surprise ending just as much every time. Once I was old enough to read by myself, I became addicted to Enid Blyton. I fell in love with The Magic Faraway Tree and all its colourful magical characters, loved the hijinks of the girls in Mum’s old copies of Mallory Towers, and SO wanted to join the Secret Seven or Famous Five! I even tried out some of their spy techniques on the neighbours!
Books had a way of making the everyday seem magical. Who knew which wardrobe might secretly reveal an entrance to Narnia? Or whether there really were little people living in my house that carefully hid from me every time I entered a room? Or whether Peter Pan might someday come knocking at my window to take me off to Neverland?
Jacqueline Wilson and Morris Gleitzman both provided the perfect stepping-stones between magical worlds and gritty realism with their phenomenal books The Story of Tracy Beaker and The Suitcase Kid (Wilson) and Misery Guts and Sticky Beak (Gleitzman). Their combination of pathos and humour worked wonderfully to keep a story light whilst describing often quite harrowing or tragic situations, and managed to keep me feeling safe and secure, whilst opening my eyes a bit to the world and its darker sides.
Then as I got older I discovered Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High – gosh, how I was obsessed with those books! I still have a whole shelf of my bookcase filled with the adventures of identical blonde twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield! I just could not get enough! I remember I went to a second-hand bookshop one day and swapped a whole box of books, including some of my precious Famous Fives for enough money to buy about three new Sweet Valley books. I’d spend whole summer holidays with my nose glued inside their covers, even if we were up beautiful mountains or on a sandy beach – the draw of Sweet Valley was too strong! I loved everything about them – the friendships, the mistaken identities, the love triangles, but possibly most of all the location – glamorous, eternally-sunny, California. I think that was when my infatuation with America was born. That, and for some reason there just didn’t seem to be that many UK authors writing for twelve/thirteen/fourteen-year-olds at that time. I’d grown out of Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and Dick King-Smith, wonderful as they were, and instead devoured Judy Blume, Caroline B. Cooney, Paula Danziger, and Sharon Creech. Those books were a bit like a guide to puberty – they understood adolescence with all its strange moods and hormones and changes, and it was wonderful to identify with and be reassured by characters going through the same things – which were far too embarrassing to talk about, even with my friends (who also read the same books – they’d get passed around the class till they were dog-eared!).
To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve really progressed much past YA!
True, I’ve read my fair share of classics and adult books, but given the choice, the books I still find most inviting, intriguing, romantic and exciting – the books I really delight in picking up and losing myself in – are still YA. It’s such a vital stage of life – when there are so many choices and complications and heartaches and discoveries – and that to me is endlessly fascinating, and probably why I choose to write YA myself.
Perhaps Peter Pan did sprinkle some pixie dust on me after all!
Someone Else’s Life by Katie Dale
Published by Simon & Schuster Feb 2nd 2012
When seventeen-year-old Rosie’s mother, Trudie, dies from Huntington’s Disease, her pain is intensified by the knowledge that she has a fifty-per-cent chance of inheriting the crippling disease herself. Only when she tells her mum’s best friend, ‘Aunt Sarah’ that she is going to test for the disease does Sarah, a midwife, reveal that Trudie was not her biological mother after all… Devastated, Rosie decides to trace her real mother, hitching along on her ex-boyfriend’s GAP year to follow her to Los Angeles. But all does not go to plan, and as Rosie discovers yet more of her family’s deeply-buried secrets and lies, she is left with an agonising decision of her own – one which will be the most heart-breaking and far-reaching of all… (from Goodreads.com)
Thank you Katie for dropping by and writing such a fantastic guest post. a total nostalgia trip…I think we must have grown up on exactly the same diet of books!
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