Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Reports of 'Unrest' at local schools: Michelle Harrison in Abingdon

Michelle Harrison always starts off school talks 'fessing up about the fact that she writes fairy books. This may or may illicit a chuckle or two from some of the boys in the audience, but, after explaining that her fairies are not of the 'pink' variety, but of an altogether darker hue, she goes on to talk about the dark side of myths and legends, and our need to be frightened. From then on, things get a lot scarier and there isn't much chuckling at all...
On Friday we welcomed Michelle to Abingdon to talk about her new young adult novel Unrest (which we reviewed here)

Over lunch, Michelle spoke to pupils from Larkmead and St Helen and St Katharine. The first extract she read involves the protagonist, Elliot, and a seriously scary episode of 'sleep paralysis', something that is truly terrifying if it happens to you, and for which Michelle got the idea from the experiences of her sister.

(honestly, sleep paralysis sounds horrible, and if you want to put yourself in the mood for what Elliot goes through in the book, take a look at this Guardian article here - I also found it very interesting that great works of art have resulted from the experience).
Michelle explained that she never always wanted to be a writer, and instead studied as an illustrator. But after starting with short stories in her teens - and with her love of the supernatural and horror - the writing slowly took over.

It took her four years to get an agent, and a further year to get a publisher to take her first book, so she certainly served her apprenticeship in her route to being published. In fact, talking of horror, she did make the process of editing (and in particular, copy editing) sound particularly awful - but the result is definitely been worth it.

In the afternoon we zoomed round the corner to John Mason School.
Here - after talking to students and giving another reading from the book - Michelle took questions about film rights, whether she would ever write a sequel, and a very involved question about 'The Exorcist'...
Thanks very much to Michelle, particularly as it was the final day of a gruelling tour around the UK.
 
Unrest deserves to do very well, and come Monday, Michelle has perhaps the most terrifying experience that any author can face, that of the blank sheet of paper - as she begins her next book. We attempted to find out a little bit more...

Five Question With...Michelle Harrison's Writing Life

1.    What are you working on at the moment? 

I'm about to start another teen novel (no title yet!) but this time telling a story from the girl's point of view. It's going to be a contemporary, very creepy tale in the same sort genre as Unrest.

2.    What is the best writing tip you’ve ever been given? 

Get it written, get it right. Can't remember who said that, but what it means is: get it down on paper first and then get it 'right' afterwards.

3.    What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a children’s writer?


The best thing about being a children's writer is that you get to make things up all day long. The worst thing is anything to do with paperwork (e.g. accounts) - boring!

4.    Do you have a writer’s survival kit, eg a place, thing of snack essential before you can start work? 


Millions of cups of tea! No, I can pretty much write anywhere, but prefer to write on my laptop - so basically as long as I have my laptop to write on, that's fine. However, cutting off the Internet is pretty much essential!

5.    What was your biggest breakthrough?


Getting an agent without a doubt. Once I got an agent, everything started to happen.

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