Thursday, March 6, 2014

Blog Chain!

My writing pal Sarah Naughton (author of Costa-nominated The Hanged Man Rises) has tagged me on a Blog Chain. She says I have to answer four questions and then pass them on to the next in the chain.

Sarah's answers are here, and I'll be tagging Terence Blacker, author of the bestselling Ms Wiz series and the super popular Boy2Girl next.

What am I working on?

I'm working on a novel that although isn't a sequel to Infinite Sky shares a lot of similarities. The title is Everywhere River and here is its Pinterest page, and it's about a teenaged girl called Kit, whose soldier brother, Johnny, goes missing, and her attempt to find him and bring him home. It's set mostly in the woods where Johnny is thought to be hiding out, during a time of floods.

How does it differ from others in its genre?

When I pitched the idea to my publisher, I said it was Stand By Me for girls, and that's what I'm trying to do. Growing up, I loved adventure stories, but I realised later on in life that many of my favourite ones featured only boys.

It's important to me to show girls having adventures, and do a little bit of breaking down of very boring gender stereotypes. I wanted to write about female friendship outside of the 'Mean Girls' trope too, because female friendships are usually a lot more marvellous and complex than that.


That's not to say there aren't boys in this story. Johnny plays a big part in the book, and also his intimidating best friend and nemesis, Beast.There's a bigger cast of characters than Infinite Sky, and a lot of the fun of writing (and hopefully reading) is in the way these kids relate - and fail to relate - to each other.

Why do I write what I do?

Like Sarah said in her blog, I write what I like to read, which is emotional stories with a strong focus on the outdoors, and relationships. Plot is always a struggle for me, though I give it my best shot, and so I have to try and make readers want to turn the page by making the characters engaging enough that they want to spend time with them. I hope to write lots of different types of books over my career.

How does my writing process work?

It is a cycle of super-productivity and feeling like I will never write again. There's lots of freewriting, which means lots of new words are produced, but also that lots of words get thrown away. Unfortunately, I am a very wasteful writer, and about half of what I write seems to end up being deleted.

I am trying to learn how to outline a novel before I begin, but my imagination doesn't seem to work until I am actually writing the descriptions and dialogue and character. Hopefully in a few years, when I'm more experienced, my process will be less chaotic. Or perhaps I will just be more comfortable within the chaos.

So that's it. Over to you, Terence!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Longlists and other nice things...

Lots of nice things have happened in the world of Infinite Sky lately. First of all, it has made the next stage of the Carnegie Medal judging process, and been longlisted alongside fellow Lucky 13 Stephanie Kueh's stunning debut Charm and Strange and my pal Phil Earle's wonderful Heroic, as well as other more established writers, including Anne Fine, David Almond and Geraldine McCaughrean.

It has also longlisted for the Branford Boase Award, along with lots more writing pals and colleagues, including Emma Pass (ACID), Helen Douglas (After Eden) Holly Smale (Geek Girl), and also fellow Simon and Schusterites, CJ Harper (The Disappeared) and Costa Children's shortlisted Sarah Naughton's The Hanged Man Rises.

This is an award set up to commemorate an author and editor team - Henrietta Bradford and Wendy Boase - and as such acknowledges the work of the editor of the book too, so it's especially lovely to be able to share some of the glory with more of the book's team.



There are some marvellous books on both lists, but my favourite read so far is either Rooftoppers by Kathryn Rundell or Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. I recommend everyone reads both immediately.

Also, in the last few weeks, my good friend Nathan Filer won the Costa Award, and I am incredibly proud of him. Did you see him? He was everywhere! If you haven't read The Shock of the Fall already, then, really, it's time.

In international news, this month Infinite Sky came out in Germany where it is retitled Who Do You Love If I'm Dead? which I really adore, and here is the cover.



Please let me know what you think, as I love to hear from you, even if you hate things.

Finally, in the UK, Infinite Sky is getting a new cover, and I've seen the first ideas, and it's really gorgeous. I will share it with you as soon as I am allowed...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Good News Post

Last month, Infinite Sky was nominated for the Carnegie Medal, alongside some of the biggest names in YA, including David Almond, Anne Fine and Malorie Blackman, and some of my favourites, Phil Earle and Annabel Pitcher, as well as writing friends Holly Smale, Emma Pass, Emily Murdoch and Steph Kuehn. (Terry Pratchett's on there too)

Here's the logo to add some verve to this post.


It has also been shortlisted for the Leeds Book Awards in the 14-16 category, alongside Lucy Christopher's The Killing Woods, Nick Lake's Hostage Three, Sarah Mussi's Siege, Annabel Pitcher's Ketchup Clouds and Alison Rattle's The Quietness.

Keep your fingers crossed for me, or at the very least don't curse it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Arvon Foundation comes to Derby

At the end of November, I am going to be co-tutoring a creative writing course with Ross Raisin for the Arvon Foundation. In case you don't know Arvon, it's a charity that runs residential creative writing courses in beautiful, historic writing houses across the UK. The courses are a week long, and tutored by two writers, with another visiting mid-week.



The thing that makes Arvon so special (apart from the beautiful countryside settings in which to write, and the fact that each house has its own literary history) is that the tutors and the writers live alongside each other during the course. After a day of workshops and tutorials, everyone sits down together for dinner, and so you can chat to your writing heroes in an informal setting, as well as learning from them during workshops.

The thing that makes Arvon so special to me is that it's really had a hand in improving my fortunes as a writer. I won a free course when I couldn't afford it at all (they are pretty expensive for those earning minimum wage, though bursaries are available). In 2009 the foundation gave away 41 free courses to celebrate 41 years of Arvon, and I got to go on a Creative non-fiction course led by Terence Blacker and Andy Martin at Totleigh Barton in Devon.

Totleigh Barton


My luck continued as arriving at my cute little room in the pre-Domesday thatched manor house in Sheepwash, I found a piece of paper in my desk drawer offering the chance to win a place on the Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Scheme. This meant a year of being mentored by a leading writer, as well as a tutored cross-disciplinary 'masterclass' and a writing retreat at an Arvon house.

I applied, and was selected to be one of three mentees under Bernardine Evaristo. During the year, as well as the two Arvon weeks, I got feedback on Infinite Sky, and writing tips that continue to improve my work from Bernardine, as well as the other tutors and mentees. At the end of the year there was a champagne cocktail reception at the Free Word Centre to showcase our work.

So I am very happy to have been invited to co-tutor one of their courses myself in my home town. Arvon have branched out into non-residential courses, and this one, all about novel-writing, will take place at The Quad in Derby.

The Quad

Here are the course details:

Have you always wanted to write a novel but feel daunted by the enormity of the task?  This three day workshop from renowned creative writing charity Arvon will allow you to immerse yourself in the art and craft of novel writing, and give you the confidence and knowledge to complete your first novel. You’ll experience a powerful mix of workshops, one-to-one tutorials with highly respected authors, the support of your fellow writers and plenty of time and space to write.

This course is part of a new programme of non-residential Arvon weekend city courses taking place in cities across England. The course starts at 11am on Friday until 9pm; Saturday 10am - 9pm and Sunday 10am - 6pm. Numbers are limited to 16. A limited number of grants are available for people on a low income.

Tutors 

Ross Raisin was born in Yorkshire, and is the author of numerous short stories and two novels, God’s Own Country and Waterline.  He has been the recipient of several literary prizes and was recently named as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists.

Chelsey Flood grew up in Derbyshire and is the author of Infinite Sky. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, where she won the Curtis Brown Award. She currently lives in Bristol where she is completing her second novel
 

Course fee:  £270 (lunch and dinner included)
£60 deposit will reserve a place. Full balance payable by six weeks before course starts

Grants:
 Two grants of £135 ( half the course fee) are available. Please contact  suzie.jones@arvon.org for information on how to apply.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Worldbuilding in Infinite Sky

Worldbuilding is usually talked about in terms of science or speculative fiction, but I think it’s just as important a component in a contemporary realistic story.

My first novel, Infinite Sky, is a realistic contemporary story about thirteen-year-old Iris Dancy, who lives with her dad and her older brother in a ramshackle old farmhouse, Silverweed Farm. Her mum has left the family to go on a soul-searching expedition around North Africa, and the family, and Silverweed, have since fallen into a slightly chaotic state. Cue a family of Irish Travellers setting up camp in the Dancy’s disused paddock, and an adventure beginning that will change Iris’s and her family’s lives forever.

Infinite Sky_300


Whatever the genre, world building is key, and if your story is going to live on in people’s heads, you have to get the details of your imaginary world right. For Infinite Sky, we decided to make it timeless, and so all references to popular culture, party politics, world events and technology were removed.

There are a few different settings in the novel: the various rooms of Silverweed Farm itself, which is rickety and patched together and not entirely clean; the corn den, where Iris meets and falls in love with Trick, the young Traveller boy; the paddock, where Trick and his family live in caravans; and Iris’s best friend Matty’s tiny but pristine house. The whole story unfolds in a small village on the outskirts of the Peak District in Derbyshire (near where I grew up), an area famous for its rugged beauty and hills.

I used my dad’s house, and the land around it as the template for the sets in Infinite Sky, and so worldbuilding for me was easy in some ways. Still, I used this template of my childhood home to create a version of these places that doesn’t exist. I allowed my childhood perception of my dad’s house to mix with with imagined details to achieve an effect, to create a place all its own.

brook farm
My dad's house

Most of the settings in the book were written from memory. I trawled through childhood adventures in the fields surrounding the house, and run ins with the local tough guys, and my relationships with my parents and brother and friends, and I got a first draft of the novel. Then, due to changed circumstances, I moved back to my dad’s house for a period. This was purely coincidental, but it was invaluable for the book. For weeks, I wandered the fields, and played with the dog, and remembered how it felt to run wild in this beloved place. I added in details and feelings and senses to the manuscript. I considered scenes from Iris’s perspective in the places that inspired them, and improved the sentences in the book.

Finishing the book in the place that inspired it was a very special thing, and I don’t expect to have the experience again. In the finished draft, I have shrunk my home town to a village, moved it closer to the countryside, and demolished the extra houses that have sprung up in recent years. I have rearranged the landscape, changed crops (corn never grew in the fields by us, alas), and inserted boats, swans and azure damselfies. And with all of these small decisions about what to include or omit or exaggerate, I built Iris’s and Trick’s world.

Do you agree that worldbuilding is as important an element in realistic fiction as science fiction? Or do you think I’m talking nonsense? What other contemporary novels have excellent worldbuilding in them? I would love to hear from you.



C. J. Flood is a novelist who lives in Bristol, where she is finishing up her second novel, The Drowning Machine, which is out next year. Her debut novel, Infinite Sky, is out now in paperback and hardback. Buy it! Or just say hello at her blog, add the book on Goodreads or talk to her on Twitter.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Running my first creative writing course for adults...

On October 5th I'm going to be running my first creative writing course for adults in Derby. The idea is that using freewriting exercises, I'll help adults uncover their inner teen, so that they can begin/develop their writing for young adults, or creating of convincing teen characters. I've learnt so many things over the years, and am really keen to share some of them.

Putting together the workshop has made me think about what it is that makes me want to write fiction about young adults myself. Because while I didn't always intend to write fiction for young adults, I quickly knew I wanted to write with a teen protagonist -  a thirteen year old female protagonist, to be precise.

I always say this is because it's such an interesting point in a life. Thirteen was the cusp of adulthood for me. It's when you have one foot in childhood and one foot in adulthood, and the foot that's in adulthood is being pulled quite hard, and without your permission, and the foot in childhood has suddenly started to look a bit embarrassing, like maybe you should just cut it off. Inner conflict, so essential in fiction, is rife.

But really considering it, I'm not sure it's the real reason I like to write about teens. The real reason, I think, is because of the diminished responsibility of that period. The boring administrative realities and responsibilities of adulthood are unknown. For me as a teen, most boredom came from having too little to do, or not being allowed to do what I wanted, rather than from having to repeatedly do things that I didn't want to (though this happened too). I wasn't expected to run my life like a small business. I didn't even have my own passport. I had never bought toilet roll!

Plus, there was a fun side-product of not being allowed to do the things you wanted to do: rebellion. Such a simple way to have fun. Just find ways to do the things you're not allowed to. Rebelling as an adult is something different altogether. It might feature adultery or crime or weird leather clothing, and the consequences will generally be sadder and further reaching than your mum looking at you with a sad face, and telling you she's disappointed.

Anyway, if you're interested in learning more about writing for/about teens, then please sign up for my course, here:

Course details:


This workshop is all about discovering and channeling our inner teen in order to create authentic stories that will appeal to a Young Adult audience. Let writing exercises that access imagination and memory unlock the wealth of creativity within you, and discussion about narrative, character and voice give you insight about how to progress your stories. Prepare to be surprised by what you uncover and create during this dynamic workshop.

C J Flood's first novel for Young Adults, 'Infinite Sky', came out this year. It sold at auction in the UK, Germany and the United States, and has received glowing reviews from the Guardian, Telegraph and Times. C J studied for an MA in Creative Writing at UEA, where she won the Curtis Brown Award for her writing. She was selected as a mentee on the Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Scheme, and received funding from the Arts Council to finish 'Infinite Sky'. She is currently working on her second novel.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Overlooked pieces of Bristol Graffiti

Bristol has some world class graffiti. It also has this stuff.

Don't Know What It's ALL About But It's Wond[e]rful! (Underpass near M32)
LOVE THOSE SPIDERS BABE (Weston, not Bristol.)
RICHMOND TURD (Richmond Rd.)
What do you think? Which is your favourite?

Let me know if you have seen anything that deserves a wider audience, and I will go photograph it.