Archive for the ‘Guest post’ Category

Robin Talley’s Top 7 LGBT Characters of Color from YA

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In the past few years, the rallying cries have increased for more books for kids and teenagers featuring diverse characters ― and authors and publishers are responding. As we see more and more books featuring characters of color, characters who are LGBT, characters who are disabled, characters who aren’t native English speakers, and other key underrepresented groups, we’re seeing more and more YA books come out featuring characters who fall into more than one of those categories.

Books like these are essential to accurately reflect the world around us. After all, it’s not as if falling into one minority group makes you any less likely to be part of another.

So here’s a list of some of my favorite characters of color in YA novels who are also LGBT, listed in the order they were released. (I’m limiting this list to protagonists, by the way. If I expanded it to include secondary characters, the list would be a lot longer, and there would be even more amazing characters on here.)

I Am JJ from I Am J (2011) by Cris Beam

J is transgender, and he’s also biracial ― his mother is Puerto Rican, his father Jewish. He spends the story trying to understand what it means to be transgender and what it means to be a man, while his parents struggle to accept J the way he is. What astonished me most when reading J’s story for the first time was how real he felt ― I kept expecting to bump into him the next time I went to Starbucks. That’s how complicated and fascinating this guy is.


Aristotle & Dante (tie) from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2012) by Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Benjamin Alire Saenz

I went back and forth trying to pick a favorite between these two, but I can’t ― I adore Dante’s romanticism and sincerity, but I also adore Aristotle’s beautiful narration and the complex way he thinks about his amazing family. So in the end, it’s a draw. Aristotle and Dante are both Mexican-American boys growing up in Texas who are slowly, very slowly, beginning to understand that they’re gay, and they’re in love. It’s at that same slow, gentle pace that readers discover that they’re in love with this book, too.

Sahar from If You Could Be Mine (2013) by Sara Farizan

If You Could Be MineUnlike Aristotle and Dante, Sahar and Nasrin, the two Iranian girls at the center of If You Could Be Mine, know they’re in love from the first page. Also unlike Aristotle and Dante, though, readers aren’t likely to root for these two as a couple. Although Sahar sees Nasrin only as the love of her life, readers will quickly discover that Nasrin is undeserving of Sahar’s devotion ― and the extreme measures Sahar to which is willing to go to for her, including undergoing sex reassignment surgery, which is legal in Iran despite the country’s criminalization of homosexuality. Over the course of the story, though, Sahar comes into her own, and by its end I was desperately rooting for her to find happiness ― and independence ― against seemingly impossible odds.


J Paul Henderson’s Road Trip Playlist

Hi guys! Today I’m happy to welcome J Paul Henderson, author of Last Bus to Coffeeville to the blog. Since summer is well under way and this is the time when most of us leave on holiday (or counting down the days like me), I wanted to bring you a blog topic fit for the occasion. And since my iPod and I are inseparable whenever I’m travelling, I thought I’d ask Paul to tell us about what kind of music he listens to when he’s on the road.

Coffeeville blog tour


Paul’s Coffeeville Road Trip Playlist

I’ve selected 20 CDs for a long road trip, and twenty tracks I’d be happy to play over and again on a shorter journey. All our in alphabetical order by artist.

20 CDs

Bad Company: Bad Company; Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band: Gorilla; John Cale: Music for a New Society; Captain Beefheart: Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller); Captain Beefheart: Doc at the Radar Station; The Jim Carroll Band: Dry Dreams; Dandy Warhols: Come Down; The Doors: The Doors; Bob Dylan: Street Legal; Eels: Blinking Lights; Grateful Dead: Terrapin Station; Gruppo Sportivo: 10 Mistakes; Leo Kottke: Mudlark; Matching Mole: Matching Mole; Turbines: Last Dance Before Highway; Violent Femmes: Violent Femmes; Tom Waits: Asylum Years; Neil Young: Decade; Frank Zappa: Ship Arriving too Late to Save a Drowning Witch; and Warren Zevon: Transverse City.

20 Tracks
(click on the tracks to listen to them)

1. AC / DC: It’s a Long Way to the Top. One of the best rock songs ever recorded, though still not sure about the bagpipes. I feature this song in my next book: The Last of the Bowmans.

2. Bad Company: Can’t Get Enough. Bad Company was the first album I bought when I moved to Mississippi. Every time I hear this track I’m reminded of living in the Colonial Arms Apartments in Starkville, MS.

3. Beatles: Hey Jude. My favourite Beatles track; unfortunately, it’s written by Paul McCartney.

4. Captain Beefheart: Pachuco Cadaver. Trout Mask Replica was the most difficult album I’d ever listened to: it took me three weeks just to differentiate the tracks. Once I had, though, I listened to the album for a solid year, and exclusively! (This is one of the songs Arnold Skidmore has played at his funeral).


Guest Post: Which Witches Should Be Making a Comeback?

Hi guys! Today I have another special guest for you. UKYA writer and author of Half Bad Sally Green stopped by the blog to share a fun post with you. I hope you enjoy it! :) Over to you, Sally.

I’m often told by journalists that witches are making a comeback in books. I’m not sure if they were ever really a dominant force (apart from Harry Potter of course), but I’m delighted if they are coming back. Perhaps they are also due to come back in film: Angelina Jolie currently plays Maleficent in Maleficent (the title of the film being that of the witch (hooray) rather than Sleeping Beauty (spit) as in the 1959 Disney version) and Meryl Streep is playing the witch in Into the Woods, due out later in 2014. This got me thinking who are the best witches in films and TV programmes, and which witches should be making a comeback? Here’s my look at some contemporary witches – and my thoughts on who I’d love to see again or otherwise. . .

Maleficent (the Disney version)


Maleficent from Walt Disney’s 1959 version of Sleeping Beauty is the archetypal Black Witch, she has it all from the clothes to the crow. Unfortunately she’s not a witch, she’s a fairy. A fairy! This perhaps explains why her spells seem to lack true horror. Maleficent performs an enchantment at Aurora’s christening which will mean death by spindle, but the enchantment is countered by another ‘good’ Fairy’s and so sleep rather than death is the result. All I can say is that I’m more impressed by Maleficent’s head gear than by her evil spells. Having said that I don’t expect I’ll be rushing to see Angelina play this part as I can’t see how Disney’s version can be improved on.


YALC Readathon Guest Post: 5 Fun Facts About the Oathbreaker’s Shadow

YALC Readathon 2014

Hi guys! It’s day 5 of the YALC Readathon (where did the past couple of days go?!) and we only have two more days left – how are you all getting on? Which books have you managed to read so far and what are you planning on reading at the weekend? In case you want to take a break from reading, today’s guest is Amy McCulloch, author of The Oathbreaker’s Shadow. Amy stopped by Books, Biscuits and Tea to share five fun facts about her book with you – over to you, Amy. :)

1. I remember the exact moment the idea for The Oathbreaker’s Shadow came to me: when I was sitting in the audience at the Toronto premiere of the Lord of the Rings musical. The musical wasn’t so inspiring… but the idea stuck and never left!

2. After that moment, I wrote the first draft of The Oathbreaker’s Shadow in a blur while in my final year at university. Some of my most productive writing was done when I was supposed to be listening to lectures (oops).The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch

3. The first scene I ever wrote now begins Part 2, where Raim is lost in the desert. This was meant to be a prologue, and got re-jigged back to its rightful chronological place when I realized that prologues aren’t always the best beginning to a story.

4. I then completely ripped that draft apart and rewrote it after I went on a post-uni gap year, helped by the fact that I visited my first actual desert in Namibia. This completely changed how I wrote about Raim’s experience. I don’t always believe in the writing advice ‘write what you know’, but in this case it really did help!

5. I might be the only author in the world with my own book tie-in hand-knotted oriental carpet, thanks to my sister who designed it and my dad who owns an oriental carpet store and had the connections to get it made!

#YALCReadathon Guest Post: Marcus Sedgwick on The Shining

YALC Readathon 2014

Hi guys! As part of the YALC Readathon (a week-long readathon dedicated to reading as many books by YALC authors as possible, running from today until the 29th June), which I’m co-hosting with the lovely Jess, Carly and Michelle, UKYA author Marcus Sedgwick stopped by the blog to talk about what he thinks about Stephen King’s famous novel, The Shining – and its film adaptation. I hope you enjoy the post – and if you’d like to sign up for the readathon or find out more, you’ll find all the details here. Over to you, Marcus. :)

Since YALC is taking place inside a film festival, I thought I’d talk about the moving pictures a bit, by asking: Stanley Kubrick, what the hell were you on about?

Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest directors of all time, and certainly one of the most influential. The other remarkable thing about him is that he made a wild variety of films, from early pieces like The Killing (which directly influenced Quentin Tarantino), to biblical epics like Spartacus, to classic war films like Full Metal Jacket, to the unquestionably best sci-fi movie ever, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Along the way there was the shock-fest of A Clockwork Orange, the dark comedy of Dr Strangelove, but the movie I’m going to talk about here is Kubrick’s contribution to the world of the horror film: The Shining.

The Shining

One of the first things you notice about Kubrick is how many of his films were based on books or short stories. He was a voracious reader, and according to his collaborators, was always on the look out for the next story that he found excited him enough to want to adapt.

And talking of books becoming films, ADAPT is the word. For the two beasts are not the same. A book is a book and a film is a film and each has things it is good at, and things it is bad at.

So Kubrick’s film of The Shining is very different from Stephen King’s original novel, and famously, King hated what Kubrick did with it. I doubt Kubrick cared very much; in fact, there’s some rather strong evidence to show that he didn’t.

If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that Jack Torrance and family drive a RED VW beetle. Kubrick was well known for the meticulous thought behind every detail in his films – if he put something in a shot, he did it for a reason. Given that he knew that King hated his intentions for the book; the car that Jack Nicholson ends up driving is a YELLOW VW beetle.

And if you’re thinking so what? Then see what exact car, of all the thousands he could have chosen from, Kubrick has crushed by an 18-wheeler in the car crash scene later in the film…

Oh, a red VW. Two fingers to you, Mr King, I’ll make my own picture.


Summer at the Lake: Guest Post + Giveaway

Summer at the Lake blog tour

Hello everyone! I have a special guest for you today. To celebrate the publication of Erica James’s 18th novel, Summer at the Lake, the publisher has organised a blog tour. As part of the tour Erica stopped by Books, Biscuits and Tea this morning to talk about what she loves about summer –  so kick off your shoes, make yourself comfortable and give a warm welcome to our lovely guest.

Over to you, Erica.

I’ve always considered myself lucky to live in a country that has such clearly defined seasons. I don’t think I could live somewhere that doesn’t have that sense of change and renewal that the arrival of each new season brings. I enjoy them all but summer has that special something and, of course, we British are so good at grabbing it with both hands and making the most of it while we can, for we know from experience just how fleeting it can be. So here are some of my favourite things about summer.

Rise and shine… The longer days always seem to re-energize me, physically and mentally. Waking up at six in the morning in the summer doesn’t feel half as bad as it does in winter. What better alarm clock than the gossipy chirping of sparrows and blackbirds and the gentle cooing of doves through the open window? It’s a sound that’s guaranteed to get the day off to a good start.

As fragrant as a rose… As a gardener I love to see all the new growth in the garden once the warmer weather arrives. Is there anything more uplifting than the sweet smell of roses and the calming scent of lavender, or even the milky smell of freshly cut grass?


Claire McGowan on Putting Real-Life Events into Fiction

Today I’m excited to be part of the blog tour of Claire McGowan’s new novel, The Dead Ground. To celebrate the release of the second book in the Paula Maguire series, Claire stopped by the blog to talk about putting real-life events into fiction. I hope you enjoy it!

Putting Real-Life Events into Fiction

As crime writers, we have to take the worst events that ever happen to people – murder, bereavement, torture, pain – and make them into a story. That story has to be entertaining or people won’t read it, no matter how much we also want to make a point or debate social and moral issues. Sometimes, as a writer, you find yourself wondering if there are any boundaries, things you should not write about, either because you don’t have direct experience of them, or because they’re too close to real life.

I write a series of crime novels set in Northern Ireland, where I grew up, in a town that’s very similar to my own small hometown on the border. My main character, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, is about the same age as me, and like me, left Ireland for university, only to return. So there are obvious parallels already. I was so concerned about reflecting real life that I changed the name of the place to a fictional town, which is roughly, but not exactly, in the same place.

I often have the experience of writing about an extreme, unusual, or brutal event in Irish history, and then finding out the same thing really happened, or even worse. I’ve covered the Magdalene Laundries, child abuse, the IRA Disappeared, foetal abduction, cults and faith healing, the Church selling babies for adoption, and more. All of these things have really happened. At times I’ve thought I’d made something up, only to discover afterwards that, unbeknownst to me, it was real.