Monday, 20 August 2012

Different countries, different books

My brain
Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis maybe aware that I am an academic as well as a writer. And it was as an academic that a few months ago I was approached by a journal who asked me to write a review essay for them. They very kindly sent me a collection of six YA books which I had to read and they wanted me to compare them with UK YA fiction.

For part of my PhD I explored the representation of drugs in British contemporary realist fiction and how it had changed since Melvin Burgess's Junk. The idea for this review essay was that I would look at these new books from a foreign land and see how they represent drugs in their YA books.

It has been an interesting experience as I was surprised how different they were. The drugs they use to illustrate drug use tend to be different to ours and some of them were far more didactic. You could almost feel the author wagging their finger at you and shouting 'DO NOT TAKE DRUGS' as they lurched from one episode of drug taking to the next. It seemed to me that some didn't follow Blanchot's idea of leaving questions on the page ready for the reader to pick up and explore. These weren't questions they were statements/directions.

But it also made me think about my own writing and how 'international' it could be and should that be something I even thought about as I wrote. Is it something you planned or it just happened?  I have moved the setting of my story from France to  a non specific city in the UK. I am assured this is a good move but we will see. I would love to hear what the rest of you think about this and whether you consider it when writing?

The picture above is mine but it also represents my brain at the moment as I try and flit between the academic/critical writer and my creative brain as I am thinking of a new story.Wish my luck, it is a bit like pulling teeth.

And in the spirit of things here is Karima Francis playing The Author, which seemed appropriate today:


  1. For commercial reasons you do have to think international these days. Now that foreign rights are so important in keeping many publishers afloat you do need to be conscious of how your book would be received in other countries, whether there is anything in it that might be unacceptable or might not translate or adapt into a different culture. A few years ago I went to a picture book workshop where one guy had written and illustrated a wonderful story about a lollipop lady. He was told it was a non-starter because lollipop ladies were unknown outside the UK. Similarly I have recently written a retelling of Hansel and Gretel for a reading series 'without a witch, please, because we can't sell witches to the USA'.

    1. Janet, that is really interesting, thank you for sharing your experiences. There is so much to think about when you are writing these days!!