James Dawson Talks YA at the Manchester Children’s Book Festival

Author James Dawson, visited Waterstones in Manchester yesterday to talk about his new novel Under My Skin and discuss his other YA non-fiction works including Being A Boy and This Book Is Gay.

Festival Director, James Draper, introducing the acclaimed YA author, said,

“We are delighted to welcome James Dawson to the Manchester Chidlren’s Book Festival. We are in the presence of royality this afternoon, as James is the reigning ‘Queen of Teen.’ James has previously worked as a teacher, specialising in PHSCE and behaviour, and his work has been translated into more than ten languages.”

His work takes a frank and funny approach to puberty, sex and relationships, and This Book is Gay, an inclusive and uncensored look at what it’s like to grow up LGBT. James took to the mic to describe how his book, This Book is Gay came about,

My publisher Hot Key Books, asked me to write a How To Be Gay.

He described being hesitant until he thought of a better title! “It was a nightmare to write,” James told us.

“I was relying on other people who I was not paying to talk about their experiences. I felt bullish but the finished product is the one I’m the most proud of.”

A comic and informative reading from This Book is Gay followed, and James discussed his experiences growing up in the 1980s. He told the audience,

“Young adults of 2015 will never have to worry about being the only gay in the village because of the internet. But the internet does have a lot of contradictory advice.”

James wanted to write the book so that teens felt less alone as they struggled with their sexuality.

James chatted about his fiction for young adults, and we were treated to some wonderful readings from Under My Skin and his new book All of the Above. To our delight, we were the first to hear James read from All of the Above! The event was concluded with a Q&A and book signing!
Check out our exclusive interview with James below:

MCBF: What inspired you to write for young adults?

James Dawson: Back in the day I was a primary school teacher. I taught year 6, and books did start appearing on tables. There was a book with an apple on the front, it was Twilight. From then on I started reading more young adult.

MCBF: You’ve written about themes such as sexuality and gender. What are the challenges of writing about those topics?

JD: I think sexuality and gender are topics people feel passionately about. I’m careful to present my opinions as my own. I was quick to round up other people’s opinions as well, because I’m aware I can’t speak on behalf of everyone. I always make sure I do my homework so I upset as few people as possible. But inevitably you will. When you’re talking about things like sexuality and gender you can’t be scared of offending people. We have to talk about it.

MCBF: You’ve also written teen thrillers. What do you think makes a good thriller?

JD: I grew up with 80s slasher horror, so that’s always going to be my favourite thing. The best thrillers are the one’s that don’t give too much away. I’ve never been a big fan of gore – I think it’s better to freak people out in a psychological way.
MCBF: Could you share some of your favourite young adult books with us?

JD: We all owe a great debt to Judy Blume! Also Philip Pullman and J.K. Rowling. I think in particular J.K. Rowling really opened the door to a whole different industry.

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