Author David Almond Joins Us & Answers a Few Questions
This week at RAoR we have a wealth of riches and on day 3 of our Authorpalooza we have David Almond dropping in to talk about his latest novel MY NAME IS MINA and his writing process. In 1999 Random House published SKELLIG in the US, a wonderful book about acceptance and finding the people you need to support you when you need them most. In SKELLIG, our protagonist Michael is befriended by Mina a quirky, homeschooled and wonderfully open-minded girl. In MY NAME IS MINA, the prequel to SKELLIG, we finally get to hear more from Mina herself, and understand why she is such a remarkable friend. She sees things, people, even birds in a different way, she really SEES and observes until she understands the world around her.
Mina and her friend Michael are characters who might be seen as different, and it is precisely these differences that we should all take time to celebrate. We should take a cue from them, look a little harder inside and outside ourselves and find that we’re all different and quirky and equally deserving of love and care and help when we need it.
Here’s David Almond:
What book made the strongest impression on you as a child?
Are you working on a new book?
Yes, I’m writing a new novel in my cabin at the bottom of the garden. I’m usually pretty secretive about work-in-progress, so I can’t say much about, except that I think it will feature a lighthouse, a flock of kittiwakes and a cliff
What inspired you to revisit a character from Skellig?
When the 10th anniversary edition of Skellig was being prepared, I had a call from Beverly Horowitz from RHCB. She suggested that it might be a nice idea to write a little Skelligy ‘extra’ to go into that edition. I stood at our kitchen door and hummed and hahed and vacillated. As I was talking to her, trying to avoid the idea, a white feather fell from the sky to my feet, It seemed like a sign. OK, I said in the end, maybe I’ll try to do something. I tried out a few fruitless ideas, then started scribbling Mina’s notebooks. They came to life immediately. It was as if Mina was inside me, like she’d been waiting her chance. I only intended to write a page or two, but straight away it became apparent that a whole book was waiting to be written. I was very surprised, and very pleased. Mina had always been the most important character in Skellig. It was a fascinating book to write. I really felt as if I was transcribing her thoughts, her feelings, her words.
Do you plan to continue writing young adult novels or do you think you might write for adults down the road?
I’ve just published my first novel for adults in the UK – The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean. It’s published in two editions – adult and young adult. I like to write for all ages, to experiment with all forms of storytelling. The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean feels like a natural development of the work I’ve been doing for the past few years. I’ve always had a lot of adult readers. Often they come to my books through recommendations, or via their own kids. Many ask why can’t they find my books in the adult sections of book stores. Now they can.
What is one piece of advice you would like to give to aspiring authors?
One piece of advice: Just write. Then: Don’t be scared of the blank page. Enjoy writing. Yes, it can be hard, but it’s also a form of play, so experiment and play with words, ideas, characters. Write the stories that you want to write and are driven to write. Write your own stories in your own particular way. Welcome the influences of writers you love. Be modest but aim high. Play but work hard. Accept your imperfections but aim to be the best writer who has ever lived.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes, but I immediately tell myself to get over it and to get some words onto the page, no matter how stupid they might seem. Writer’s block is an indulgence. I can’t afford to have writer’s block.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
It was great to write Glibbertysnark. It felt truly Mina-ish. It looks and sounds like nonsense, but in Mina’s world, it makes a lot of sense!
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Well, just that I hope they enjoy the book. I also hope that Mina will inspire people to write themselves, and to try out some of her extraordinary activities. And I’d also like to say hello, and thanks for reading my books. It’s wonderful to have readers and fans so far away from my own home.
David Almond went on to write many more books: Kit’s Wilderness, (winner of the Printz Award) Heaven Eyes, Clay, The Fire-Eaters (winner of the Boston Globe Horn Book Award), Kate, the Cat and the Moon, to name a few. Find all of David’s books here.
Thank you David for joining us at RAoR today and thank you for all of your marvelous stories!
Please leave us your comments and questions in our comments section. Thanks!