Thursday, 22 October 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Interview with Jim Carrington - Boy 23 (Bloomsbury)

I'm really pleased to be sharing with you the following Q&A with Jim Carrington. His latest novel, Boy 23, will be published on the 19th November 2015 by Bloomsbury Children's Books. It is a dystopian novel that has had me thoroughly intrigued. I'm only half way through the book, but I'm really enjoying it. I hope that this interview piques your interest and encourages you to purchase a copy to read.

Tell us a little bit about your latest book Boy 23?
Boy 23 is completely different to anything I've written before.  It's a dystopian story, set in Germany, featuring a character with unique powers and a deadly new disease.  It has a bit of sci-fi in there as well.  It's been described by some as Black Mirror meets the Chaos Walking trilogy.  And seeing as I love both of those, I'm happy to be compared to them.

Is there a message in your book?
Stories are a reflection of the world we live in, so if they don't say something about that world, if they don't contain some kind of message, I think there's a problem.  In Boy 23 I think readers could find messages about religion, about the way that those with power behave, about disease and those that profit from disease through providing vaccines and medicines.  I didn't set out to write a book that sent those messages, they just came from the story I wanted to tell.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
In the past I've been inspired by things that have happened in real life which I've seen or have happened to me.  Having said that, the idea usually changes quite a lot from the original inspiration.  In the case of Boy 23, though, I was intrigued by a few news stories I read a while ago about 'wild children' who had lived in the forests, away from the rest of society.  One story in particular took my interest - Kaspar Hauser.  He was a boy who turned up in a German town.  He didn't seem to know much about who he was or where he came from.  Eventually he told people his story, that he'd been kept in a dark cell for his whole life, never getting to meet another human being until just before he was left in the forest.  It's a real life story, but nobody knows for sure what had happened to him before he walked into the town.  Some believe he was the rightful prince of Baden, who had been swapped over at birth.  His story gave me inspiration to write Boy 23.

What do you think makes a good story?

I always look for something that flows well, first of all, something which sucks you in from the very first page and then doesn't let you go until the very last page.  Believable characters are also a necessity.  And a plot which is intriguing, something you can't necessarily predict.  I like all kinds of stories and books.  The major turn-offs for me are flowery description which goes on for pages and writers who clearly have a well-thumbed thesaurus at hand and use the longest, most pretentious words they can find.

How many books have you written? Which is your favourite and why?
Boy 23 is my fourth novel.  Before this I'd written Inside My Head, In the Bag and Drive By.  I love each one of them, but at the moment my favourite is Boy 23.  It's the one I've had to put the most research into and it took the longest to write.  I've always loved dystopian stories, so it feels good to have finally written one myself.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc come from?
I owe it to my parents I think.  Our house was always filled with books, so it was natural to me to pick them up and start reading.  As for my love of writing, I think it has always been in me.  Apparently when I was three years old I wrote my name backwards on my bedroom wall and I haven't stopped since then (although I usually use a notebook or computer nowadays).  Over the years I've had a go at writing most things - fanzines, newspapers, magazines and now books.  Writing a great sentence gives me such a buzz.  I love being able to conjure up whole worlds just from the contents of my mind.  There isn't a better job, is there?

Do you think that the book cover plays an important part in the buying process? 

A great cover can make me pick up a book and want to read it, make me want to own it and covet it and display it on my shelves.  But it's the words inside that really count.  I might pick up a book with a great cover and start reading it, but if the words aren't right, the cover won't save it.  I think I've been lucky to have some really brilliant covers on my books.  And Boy 23 is the best cover yet, in my opinion.  Hopefully my readers agree that the words live up to the covers.

Are you currently involved in any writing projects that you can tell us about?

I'm very excited about what I'm currently writing.  It's a superhero story with a massive twist - boy gets hit by electrified worm and accidentally clones himself when cutting his nails.  It has the working title of WormBoy!

Do you read much and, if so, who are your favourite authors?

I read loads.  My tastes are fairly varied - I read a mix of adult, YA and children's books.  Right now I'm reading a childrens' book by Jo Nesbo and before that I was reading Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy.  Next up, I plan to read The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis.  My all time favourite book is probably Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse.  I tend to get drawn towards books with anti-heroes, and Billy is the perfect anti-hero.  I plan to write my own story with an anti-hero soon.

What are your thoughts about how to encourage more children/teenagers to read?

It's my opinion that the perfect book is out there for everyone.  Once children find that book, they'll realise the enormous fun that reading can be and they'll be hooked.  Some readers are lucky enough to find their perfect book or genre really early and they never look back.  The challenge is finding the perfect book for each person and that's where parents, school librarians and teachers can come in so useful.  Over the years, I've met some school librarians and teachers who have been brilliant at doing this for their pupils, knowledgeable people who know exactly the right book to interest each child.  They've turned countless non-readers into readers and have enriched their lives immensely.  If I was to give one bit of advice to schools, it would be to employ a really, really good school librarian and to stock their libraries with excellent reading matter.

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