“I started writing this when I was 17”: An interview with Christchurch writer Jack Hartley

CoverAll the other days by new author Jack Hartley is fresh off the printing press, and the book launch is happening at Tūranga on Monday 26 November 6pm. This is a free event and everyone is welcome.

This week Jack Hartley filled me in on why he writes Young Adult fiction and what it means to him.

Jack Hartley. Image supplied.
Jack Hartley. Image supplied.

Jack, what motivated you to write this novel?

I started writing this text as a screenplay when I was 17. I was frustrated because I couldn’t find a book that was written from a guy’s perspective, a genuine voice, so I decided that I would be the one to attempt to do that.

Describe this book.

This book has drama, mystery and romance components. It’s also about mental health and what that can look like for a young person. The main character Judd is having what you could say was an existential crisis. He absorbs himself in drawing to possibly escape the reality of his life in which his parents who are constantly fighting.

All the Other Days

What do you like reading?

CoverI enjoy classics like Romeo and Juliet, I like love stories but love stories that don’t necessarily have happy endings. Happy endings are not always realistic. I like James Franco and his short stories because they are weird and messed up. But tell the truth of what it’s like to be young.

In your busy life how do you find time to write?

It took me five years to write the screenplay of All the other days. When I finished my Psychology degree in 2016, I went back to complete my teaching degree last year. This made me miserable so I left teachers college and I spent the next six weeks writing full time to adapt the screenplay into a novel. My Psychology degree helped me immensely in my character development for this novel.

Are you working on anything else?

Yes I am writing two more books at the moment, one of them is about young people and mental health and is focused on actions shaping your life when you are young. The other is a time travelling romance mystery.

Have you got any advice for new writers who are wanting to be published?

Just go for it. Writing is something if you’re passionate about you’ll do regardless of getting published. If you get published then that’s awesome, but don’t let that be the thing that stops you from writing or not.

Jack was interviewed by Greta Christie, Youth Librarian at Tūranga

Michael Robotham – The psychology of crime

Michael Robotham is full of stories. He had a crowd enraptured at South Learning Centre last night with his tales of crime, psychology, writing, and the Ozarks.

He is now a best-selling, award-winning writer, but started out as a journalist. Later he was a successful ghost writer, working on 15 autobiographies (including Ginger Spice, Rolf Harris, and Lulu – he turned down Bryan Ferry though!)

Michael started writing his first novel The suspect when he had some time off between ghostwriting memoirs by Lulu and Rolf Harris. There was a bidding war – he had arrived with a bang. When it was published, he sent a copy to his Mum. After a while, she still hadn’t read it and told him “I had three library books to get through”.  She won a Friends of the Library Award for that commitment to libraries. Her review of his first book? “It took me a while to get into and then I did”.

Michael and author Paul Cleave
Michael Robotham and Paul Cleave. Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8920

Michael talked about his road to becoming a writer, and his literary parent Ray Bradbury, as told here in Ray Bradbury is my ‘Father’.

He also shared stories about his dealings with Oz’s most wanted crim Raymond John Denning, It is a ripper of a tale and was sparked his fascination with the psychology of crime.

Michael told us about time with psychologist Paul Britton (who was the basis for the fictional character Cracker played by Robbie Coltrane). This was the man who went to Fred and Rosemary West’s house and when they found bodies in the garden said “they’re in the garden because the house is full”. Very creepy stuff.

His books all have a factual basis. The spark for his latest book Close your eyes was the murder of Janet Brown in Somerset. Life and Death was inspired by a man who escaped from prison the day before he was due to be released – and was never seen again.

I try so hard to write fiction that reads like fact.

Michael Robotham talk at South Learning Centre. Wednesday 26 August 2015. Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8919

Michael told us about his trip to the Ozark Mountains, scouting for a location for Life or Death. The locals were less than friendly. A burly Ozarkian Sheriff sparked good lines like someone being “dumber than shit on a biscuit”.

Not only did we get most excellent anecdotes, Michael also shared some writing tips. Find your own way. Do just enough research so the premise works, don’t let your research dominate.

Michael has just gained a new gang of Christchurch fans.

Michael Robotham and Dennis
Michael Robotham and my Dad.  Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8922

Search our catalogue for Michael Robotham.

Cover of Close your eyes Cover of Watching you Cover of Say you're sorry Cover of Life or death Cover of The suspect

Night night Spot: Eric Hill RIP

Eric Hill has died at the age of 86. He was the author and illustrator of the famed picture books about Spot the dog. The Guardian’s obituary shows  how much Eric identified with his famous creation:

“When he shows excitement on Christmas Day and cries ‘Yippee’, that’s me in there. I love the character, he’s my buddy and I’m at ease with him. Subconsciously, I see things from the dog’s point of view, so Spot is within me.”

Cover of Night night spotCover of Kei hea a Spot?

Florence Preston – Good in parts

CoverReasons to love New Zealand writer Florence Preston:

  • Her writing is Good in parts.
  • She’s a Southland woman – Florence was born in 1905 in Invercargill.
  • I really like the cut of her jib:
    “My own pet hates are mostly the offspring of television: the wailings and wigglings and screamings and grimacings of pop singers, female and male; claque audiences in the wings; and ‘spectacular’ shows during which for no apparent reason the artists keep changing their clothes”.
  • She uses the word claque! What a great word – according to Wikipedia it is an organized body of professional applauders, and members of a claque are called claqueurs.

I’ve found this in the Source, which led me to this Literature Resource Center article on Florence.

If you feel compelled to read some of her books (I do!), search BiblioCommons for Florence Preston.

Have you read Florence? What do you think?

John Green – author and Nerd Fighter

Whenever I read a new John Green book I’m immediately struck by how much he understands the male mind.  I find that alot of  young adult fiction portrays males as either jocks or someone who is out-of-reach of main female character and not someone who I can relate to at all.  However, John Green’s characters are usually just normal guys, who are a bit nerdy (the main character in An Abundance of Katherines is obsessed with numbers) and you can really get into their head and understand how their mind works.  Looking for Alaska was Green’s first book which was great and was then followed by An Abundance of Katherines a couple of years ago.   An Abundance of Katherines is absolutely hilarious with it’s interesting mix of characters.  It follows Colin who has only ever dated girls called Katherine.  He has just been dumped by his 19th Katherine and so him and his Judge Judy-loving friend, Hassan go on a road trip hoping to prove his mathematical therom that should predict the future of any relationship.

Green’s latest book, Paper Towns is his best so far.  Once again, we get a glimpse of life from the perspective of an ordinary guy who lives life under the radar.  Quentin lives next door to Margo Roth Spiegleman, a girl he has secretly loved for years.  One night, Margo climbs into his bedroom window and drags him off on a revenge mission.  However, the following morning Margo seems to have disappeared and it’s up to Quentin and his mates to follow the clues she has left behind and find the girl he thought he knew.  The characters are totally believable and there are plenty of hilarious moments, especially on the marathon road-trip to get to Margo.

John Green himself is a really interesting guy and I’d imagine that there is alot of himself in his characters.  He has a cool website with info about his books and a daily blog, as well as his Nerd Fighter website that he has set up with his brother, Hank.