On the Blood Red Road to writing stardom - five questions with Moira Young

It could all have been so different. A career as a dancer, opera singer - and possibly one part of a sketch-writing partnership. But for a horrific injury falling off a bus (which resulted in two broken wrists) Moira Young may never have decided to write for young adults. But we're extremely glad she did...

Moira Young visited Abingdon School yesterday, and captivated the male audience as she explained her (sometimes painful) route to writing success with her book Blood Red Road, this year's winner of the Costa Children's Book Award. As well as a trailer of the book, Moira played a snippet of 'The Wizard of Oz' to the boys (which I reckon must be a first) to illustrate the importance of change which influences the characters in her book.

Blood Red Road fits perfectly into the current hunger (no pun intended) for dystopian future novels, but what makes Moira's book stand out from the crowd is the voice of the main character Saba, which has a rhythm and cadence crucial to the success of the book (and which, it must be said, has divided some critics). Despite the grim future depicted in the book, Saba is someone who you would very much want on your side if faced with a similar scenario...Moira was bombarded with questions from the boys, shared plenty of writing secrets (and a few secrets about her family and writing influences) and we were delighted when she agreed to sit down and answer a few questions after the signing... 

Five questions with...Moira Young’s Writing Life

1.    What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on a sequel to Blood Red Road, due out in August. In fact, I really should be working on it now! I’m into final editorial revisions, so after the weekend [she was appearing at the Oxford Literary Festival the next day], Monday morning, I'll sit down at my desk – and bang!

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

The best tip I was given – and I can’t remember where this came from – is ‘sit at your desk every day and write something'...even if you end up never using those words. You need to write regularly, every day. Whether or not you are lucky enough to be a professional writer, this is your job. You need to focus on the process.

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

The best thing is meeting the kids. The worst thing: certain authors, in certain ‘literary circles’, look down on children’s writers, and can be quite nasty. But children’s authors are nice people! Also, children are a tough audience, much tougher than adults. Children won’t give you fifty pages to get into a story, they don’t have the patience, and they need to be hooked immediately or you’ve lost them. Oh, and children expect the next book quickly, so deadlines – particularly for series books – are tough!

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

I need absolute quiet. I work with earplugs in! I cannot have any distractions, in fact I rent a room (in Bath, where I live) in the back of a hairdressers. It’s my little white box, just a desk and nothing else!

5.    What was your biggest breakthrough?

Blood Red Road and the Costa [Children’s Award] has changed everything. I got huge interest from the press, and has put me on their radar whenever they want a quote or comment on dystopian fiction. It has raised my profile enormously, and of course sales of the book!

(Signed copies of Blood Red Road are currently available at Mostly Books)

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