I’m so thrilled to host super cool author Tom Pollock to mark the release of the third and final book in his epic urban fantasy series, Our Lady of the Streets. Big congratulations to Tom for completing The Skyscraper Throne series and I look forward to reading it!
P.S. As part of the amazing Authors for Philippines last year, I bid to be in this book, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what sort of evil villain Tom has made me out to be. I promise it’s all made up. Really.
Guest Post from Tom Pollock
Why? Why? Why YA, eh?
(Title to be sung to the tune of Tom Jones Delila, obviously.)
Okay so there this question I get asked a lot, and it bugs me.
If you’re anything like me you’ve probably been asked it too. It usually comes when you’re chatting to someone about books you like, or when they come around to your house and see your shelves, or you tell them what you’re working on. They take a sip of their tea to make a bit of time, wrinkle their brow, smile at you in an ‘I hope this isn’t rude of me to ask’ kind of way, and say:
‘But why YA? Isn’t that a little bit young for you?’
If you’re anything like me, this question makes you want ‘a little bit’ to Eskimo kiss a piranha, because the implications are clear:
‘Shouldn’t you, you know, read books for adults, now? You know, proper books?
Shouldn’t you have put away childish things?’
Rudyard Kipling, you have a lot to answer for.
This expectation – that if you read or write YA, you ought to be a teenager – is bizarre, particularly so because it’s not one we hold for any other kind of fiction. I don’t need to be a Victorian to read books set (or indeed written) in the 19th Century, I don’t need to have battled a white walker to read A Game of Thrones, and if everyone who read books about serial killers actually was one, well, the population of Sweden would be considerably smaller for a start. In fact, every character we read about will be different to us, they have to be, otherwise it wouldn’t be fiction; it would be memoir.
Imagine a world where the only thing you were allowed to read was your own autobiography. Over and over again.
So what’s different about YA? Why do we think it’s normal for an adult to read about a mass-murdering cannibal psychiatrist, but not someone under the age of eighteen?
Part of it, I think, is the lack of clarity around the term. People tend to think it means ‘for young adults’ rather than simply ‘about young adults’. But I think ‘for young adults’ in this context doesn’t actually mean anything, or at least nothing we can identify in the text. What is this elusive quality that makes a novel exclusively appropriate to those of pre-voting age? YA books run the gamut across genres, styles, themes and structures, from the Spartan brutality of The Hunger Games to the multi-generational historical satirical romance of Life: An Exploded Diagram. The only thing all these books have in common, is that they’re about teenagers.
The other factor I think, is this:
There’s this lie.
It’s a lie that’s so deeply imbedded in our culture and our language that people rarely actually have to say it outright. It’s a lie that scared the crap out of me as a kid, and it’s this:
‘One day, you’ll grow up.’
Before you start fitting me out for a green felt hat and tights, it’s not the ‘growing up’ bit that I have a problem with: it’s the ‘one day’ bit. It frames the process of becoming an adult – of finding your place in the world and deciding who you are, as discrete, as a thing with an end point, a thing that stops.
Like all good lies it’s reinforced by stories and movies and common idiom, and well everything except our actual experience of life:
What do you want to be when you grow up?
When you grow up, you’ll understand.
…and they all lived, happily ever after.
It was that ‘ever after’ that so appalled childhood me. It was so permanent, so fixed, so static. ‘You’d better get this coming of age thing right’ it suggested, ‘because you only get one shot at it, and you’re going to have to live with the consequences forever.’
The good news? It’s not true. The world is way too complicated for it to be true.
We can’t just pick one way of living on the back of eighteen years life experience and expect it to last us for the next sixty. We’re always changing: changing the jobs we work, the countries we live in, changing in response to getting married or our parents passing away. We’re always growing, you can pretty much lose the ‘up’. So obviously books about growing and adapting and changing, about finding your place in the world and deciding who you want to be, will feel relevant to us, there’s no surprise in that.
So the next time someone asks me why I read YA, maybe I’ll say ‘I guess I’m still growing up. Why? Aren’t you?’
About Our Lady of the Streets
Release: 7 August 2014
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Four months ago, Mater Viae, the Goddess of London, returned from London-Under- Glass to reclaim her throne. And ever since then, London has been dying.
Streets are wracked by convulsions as muscles of wire and pipe go into spasm, bunching the city into a crippled new geography; pavements flare to thousand-degree fevers, incinerating anyone and anything touching them. Towers crash to the ground, their foundations decayed.
As the streets sicken, so does Beth, drawn ever deeper into the heart of the city, while Pen fights desperately for a way to save her. But when they discover that Mater Viae’s plans for dominion stretch far beyond London’s borders, they must make a choice: Beth has it within her to unleash the city’s oldest and greatest powers – powers that could challenge the vengeful goddess, or destroy the city itself.
About Tom Pollock
Tom is a long-time fan of science fiction and fantasy, and has failed spectacularly to grow out of his obsession with things that don’t, in the strictest sense of the word, exist. He studied Philosophy and Economics at Edinburgh University. He now lives and works in London helping to build very big ships.