Full disclosure: I’ve known Kim for a few years. In fact, she’s one of my best friends. She’s also a terrifically talented writer – and I’m not just saying that. Her YA trilogy for Strange Chemistry – Shift, Control and the forthcoming Delete – is a superb slice of present-day sci-fi with an ingenious premise: what if any decision you ever made could be undone?
I read Kim’s new book, Glaze, last year, and once again was blown away. Kim’s writing is the most infuriating kind for other writers to read, because it is so effortless. I’m really a little bit jealous.
Today, I’ve got Kim over on my blog to talk about an important topic, not just for YA books, but for books written for any age.
Over to her…
Petri Quinn is counting down the days till she turns 16 and can get on GLAZE – the ultimate social network that is bringing the whole world together into one global family. But when a peaceful government protest turns into a full-blown riot with Petri shouldering the blame, she’s handed a ban. Her life is over before it’s even started.
Desperate to be a part of the hooked-up society, Petri finds an underground hacker group and gets a black market chip fitted. But this chip has a problem: it has no filter and no off switch. Petri can see everything happening on GLAZE, all the time. Including things she was never meant to see.
As her life is plunged into danger, Petri is faced with a choice. Join GLAZE… or destroy it.
In writing for teens, there’s one thing that makes me more wary than anything else. And that’s ‘issue books’. Books which are written with the sole purpose of ‘helping young people these days’. Books with ‘clear moral messages’. I’m talking after show specials in novel form.
(Remember He-Man’s moral lessons?)
That’s not to say books shouldn’t deal with issues. Of course they should. And the best books written for teenagers have always dealt with a raft of important issues, from gender and sexuality to ideas of belonging and the pressure to conform. But the best writers weave these topics into the tapestry of their story. The issue never drives the narrative. The characters do that.
For me, as soon as an adult uses their books to try and ‘teach’ kids something, they’re in trouble. If you want to teach, become a teacher. If you want to preach, become a preacher. Neither of those things belong in books for children.
Writing is about connecting with your readers, not preaching to them. Rather than trying to teach my readers, what I really want to do is encourage them to think. To question. Not only the world I’ve created but their own world and what’s happening to it. And if they’re not happy about what’s going on around them, then realise that they can do something about it. They have a choice – a voice. Something which can be easy for all of us, no matter how old we are, to forget.
Fiction is a powerful way to hold up a mirror to our world. To show an exaggerated or twisted version of our day-to-day reality. Fiction allows us to break through the issue fatigue that often makes it hard for us to handle any more information and see those issues in a new and fresh light.
It’s also a powerful way to help people feel that they’re not alone.
When I set out to write Glaze I didn’t go, ‘Gee I’m worried about how kids use social media these days. Let’s write a book to warn them about it’. The seed of inspiration came from my own fears about how I interact with social media. My love / hate relationship with the networks I spend way too much time on. I try not to make any judgements in the book. The technology in it is, in and of itself morally neutral. It’s what people do with it that causes concern. I wanted the book to empower teenagers, not patronise them.
Glaze was a personal exploration of my fears, my hopes. And it seems that many readers are connecting with those same fears and hopes. Which is a truly wonderful thing and the greatest privileges of being a writer.
I’ll continue to write about the ideas and issues that fascinate me, scare me, fill me with hope. But as soon as I turn one of my books into a soap box, you all have permission to pelt me with rotten tomatoes. Because no one has the right to tell you what to think or to do. And that, kids, is the real moral of my story.
About the author
Dublin-born Kim Curran is the award-nominated author of books for young adults, including Shift, Control and Delete.
She studied Philosophy & Literature at university with the plan of being paid big bucks to think deep thoughts. While that never quite worked out, she did land a job as a junior copywriter with an ad agency a week after graduating. She’s worked in advertising ever since and is obsessed with the power of the media on young minds.
She is a mentor at the Ministry of Stories and for the WoMentoring Project. And lives in London with her husband and too many books.
To find out more visit www.kimcurran.co.uk
Book giveaway! To be in for a chance to win a hardback copy of Glaze signed by the author and cover designer, signed copies of Shift and Control, Glaze Bookmarks, Glaze badges, and to meet with Kim Curran or Skype chat if not able to come to London, follow this link!