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Bookish Firsts, Features, Young Adult / August 19, 2015

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Please welcome to the blog today Claire McFall, author of Black Cairn Point, a creepy mystery about a boy and girl who disturb a pagan ritual site in Scotland. She is also the author of Ferryman and Bombmaker.

Bookish Firsts

With author Clare McFall

What is the first book you ever read/remember reading?
mcfall-whalesWhy the Wales Came by Michael Morpurgo. I know I started with Puddle Lane… but those memories are buried under the mists of time (it was a LONG time ago) and so this is the first book that I remember. It’s about two young children, Gracie and Daniel who live on the Scilly Isles. I had to look them up – they’re a little cluster of islands off the coast of Cornwall. I remember thinking that sounded like a very exotic place to live. It’s a great book with everything you need in a good story: a creepy old man, a story of a strange curse, disapproving parents to make the whole thing more exciting… and a dramatic ending.

I love Michael Morporgo – I teach War Horse and Private Peaceful lots at school – and this was my first foray into his writing. Better yet, I discovered it when I was still very young, so rather than appreciating the writing, I fell in love with the story.

What is the first book you wrote (can be published or unpublished)?

mcfall-ferrymanActually, it was the first book I had published: Ferryman. Lest you go thinking that I’m one of these lucky gits who write a book, quickly get an agent and voila, get their book published… it wasn’t like that. Honest.

In fact, Ferryman wasn’t even the book my agent was trying to sell Templar – that book is still languishing in my homeless pile. But the commissioning editor at Templar liked the sound of Ferryman, so that was the book we went with.

If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a retelling of the Greek mythology surrounding the ferryman Charon who took the souls of the dead across to the underworld. The main character Dylan is in a train crash and wakes to discover that everyone else in the crowded carriage is gone. You can probably guess what has happened to her. The story follows her adventure across the wasteland in the hands of her ferryman, Tristan.

Initially, the book was much shorter. If you have read the book, you know that bit – that bit where Dylan crosses the line and turns round and… Yeah. That’s where I finished it. I thought that was an awesome ending. Because, let’s face it, you wouldn’t have been expecting it to finish there like that, would you? But my agent said that was far too sad and when Templar showed real interest in the story, he sent me off to add something a bit more emotionally satisfying to the end. Now this was Friday night, and he was meeting the publisher again on the Monday. So I had to have the revamped novel ready to go by then. Sounds easy enough… a whole weekend, right? I added 30,000 words that weekend. My fingers nearly fell off.

But the novel’s much better for it. My fingers have never really recovered though…

What is the first book you would save if your house was burning?
mcfall-xoOh man, can I just save my Kindle? That would be soooooooo much easier! No? Okay, then. I guess it would have to be Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. I first discovered this book when I was at university and it was one of the set texts in my Children’s Literature course. I raced through it and then, oh the end… I cried my eyes out. More than I did at Titanic in the pictures when I was 14. If you haven’t read it – you should! – I won’t spoil it, but it’s SAD! I teach the book at school quite a lot – sooooooooooo lucky with the literature in our book cupboard! – and at the end I always have a huge dilemma: let one of the boys read it because they’ll probably be less likely to cry… or read it myself and make me and everyone else in the classroom greet. One year I just chickened out and set it for homework!

The book is about two young people: Callum and Sephy. They are growing up in a world where black people (Crosses) are in power and white people (Noughts) are an underclass. It explores racism on its head and if you read all four books in the series – which, again, you should! – you get to see the slow change in society as it crawls towards equality. That’s really well done by the author, but the reason I really love it is the relationship between Sephy and Callum. I LOVE Callum. He is, I think, my favourite boy character in all of YA.

I’m not going to rave about it anymore. Go. Read it. Now!

About Black Cairn Point

A haunting YA thriller unfolds on an isolated beach.

Heather agrees to a group camping holiday with Dougie and his friends because she’s desperate to get closer to him. But when the two of them disturb a pagan burial site above the beach, she becomes certain that they have woken a malevolent spirit. Something is alive out there in the pitch-black dark, and it is planning to wreak deadly revenge.

One year later Heather knows that she was very lucky to escape Black Cairn Point but she is still waiting for Dougie to wake from his coma. If he doesn’t, how will she prove her sanity, and her innocence?

A chilling and atmospheric thriller from unflinching and award-winning writer Claire McFall.

About Claire McFall

Claire McFall grew up just south of Glasgow in the heart of Celtic and Rangers country. She teaches English in a secondary school in Peebles, Scotland, where she lives. Her debut novel, FERRYMAN, was long-listed for the Branford Boase Award, nominated for the Carnegie Medal and won a Scottish Children’s Book Award. Follow Claire at or on Twitter: @mcfall_claire

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