books

Meet the Author – Anna McKerrow

01/08/2015

Name: Anna McKerrow

Jobs: Author, creative projects for Booktrust, teaching creative
writing, running workshops

Facts: Anna has published 4
volumes of poetry, and has taught
creative writing in adult education for 7 years. She is a Pagan, reads the
tarot, and is a Reiki practitioner.

Books: Crow Moon

Synopsis:
Danny is a fun-loving 16-year-old looking for a father
figure and falling in love with a different girl every day. He certainly
doesn’t want to follow in his mum’s witchy footsteps.

Just as his community is being threatened by gangs intent on finding a
lucrative power source to sell to the world, Danny discovers he is stunningly
powerful. And when he falls for Saba, a gorgeous but capricious girl sorceress,
he thinks maybe the witch thing might not be such a bad idea…

But what cost will Danny pay as, with his community on the brink of war, he
finds that love and sorcery are more dangerous than he ever imagined?

Interview:
Lots of authors are now choosing to self-publish,
and many readers are choosing ebooks over physical copies. Where do you see the
future of writing and publishing heading in the future?

I
think the possibilities for publishing will continue to expand as digital
capability gives us ever more open ways to share work, but traditional
publishing will remain important. I think now it’s about harnessing everything
at your command – a print item, a podcast series, publicity via animated GIFs
and social networking as well as posters and adverts, speaking at events and to
people, vlogging, whatever. I love also that projects like An Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer was crowdfunded and
made so much more money than they needed that they produced a lovely CD of the
show you can now buy.

That said,
lots of very successful writers do none of that. The print book is working
really well for them still.

With
self publishing, there are ever better options too – print on demand, online
publishing services that are low cost and effective like Amazon and services
like Reedsy, a new platform which links self publishing writers with high
quality designers, PRs etc, so you can get the same level of support you get
from a traditional publisher. Obviously you have to pay people for their
services still, but given the content of one of my favourite ever tumblrs http://kindlecoverdisasters.tumblr.com/ there’s clearly a need. (But…You’re a Horse is one of the best
ever titles, ever. And the cover is also genuinely awesome.)
What inspires you to write?

Lots
of things, things in the news, things I’m passionate about, my own interests,
people I know, people I wish I knew. It’s good to always keep learning
something new, a new skill, new ways of seeing the world. And reading as widely
as you can is good, nonfiction, I like biographies and books that are
accessible but teach me about things I don’t know about, like science and
geography and stuff. And you always need to read your contemporaries’ writing I
think, mostly so you can think oh, that’s
really good, I wouldn’t have thought of doing that, dammit
and try
different approaches yourself.
How important is culture and society in your
writing?

Very –
I mean, it is to pretty much all writers in one way or another, because you’re
either writing an outright social issues book, or you’re writing a direct
comparison of the way life is for you now, or an extrapolation, like a
dystopia, but your beginning point of reference is usually how you find things
now. Or, you’re not writing an “issues” story but invariably your characters
are experiencing something related to contemporary culture. Even if you’re
writing something historical you’re talking about the culture and society of
that time, and often with a contemporary analysis on top, like a filter. And in
children’s and YA writing (in my view) it’s very much about making sense of the
world and coming into contact with some aspects of society for the first time –
maybe discrimination, poverty, family breakdown, death, spirituality, the flaws
of the adults around you. Even in lovely fantasy and adventures and funny books
it’s there in some way, some sense of the oddness of the world and how we can
understand it a bit better.
How important is it to use personal experience
in writing? Do you think it has an impact on the voice of the book?

There’s
the classic advice write what you know,
and that’s useful and unavoidable. Even if you never write ostensibly about your
own actual experiences, you are writing about them through the filter (filter,
again, I’m drinking coffee as I write this) of your fiction, I think. I’ve
never thought that advice means, necessarily, you’re a vet – write books about being a vet (worked for James
Herriot, obvs), and you can only do that convincingly. That’s limiting. Because
the other side of the coin is that you have an imagination, and you’re a
writer, so it’s your job to IMAGINE things. So voice of characters, for
instance, are often completely constructed, cleverly, by people that are really
really bright and observant and thoughtful and skilled at writing. But also
they might be informed or influenced by experiences the writer has had, people
they’ve known etc. So to me write what you
know
MIGHT mean you’re a pagan; write a book about witches doing pagan-y
things, TICK!! But it also means write your version and your visioning of
anything, because you are you and your view of the world is your own. And you
should have good enough technical skills to pull that off.

Do you
think that human rights are an important element to explore in fiction aimed at
young adults?

Yes,
certainly. It’s a complex issue and very much the kind of thing that as you get
older you need to start thinking about and understanding. Ironically there are
so many issues that are so well addressed in children’s and YA fiction now (I
think) that a lot of pretty ignorant adults could do with a reading list.
How
important are role models in young adult fiction for both boys and girls?

Again,
that’s very important. It’s essential to see yourself reflected back at you in
some way from the cultural products you consume (what a technical description),
or the way that you identify at that time anyway. So it’s important for a range
of representations of gender, ways of acting, sexuality, confidence and
shyness, culture, religion and race and everything really, which is why it’s so
good that diversity is a prominent topic especially in YA right now.

I also
think that YA needs to include young characters (and old!) making poor
decisions and being unpleasant or less than perfect, and for the writer to show
why they are being that way. Role modelling is as much about understanding it’s
okay to make mistakes and not do everything right, and seeing why people do the
things they do, and seeing how they maybe try and make amends – or seeing that
they don’t. I loved Eve Ainsworth’s 7
Days
for that reason, because it alternates chapters between a bully and
the girl she’s bullying, and you see that both of them are having an awful time
at home, and though the bully does some terrible things, she’s also the victim
of a bully at home, and she desperately needs help too.

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