By Jamie Ryder
The Manchester Children’s Book Festival partnered with the Manchester Centre of Gothic Studies and hosted it’s final event on Sunday with the Gothic Manchester Presents: Danny Weston and Sally Green showcase at Waterstones, Deansgate.
The event saw both authors in discussion with Manchester Metropolitan University Lecturer Dr Sorcha Ni Fhlainn.
Sally is the author of the international best-selling Half-Bad trilogy about a witch named Nathan who must come to terms with his own identity. She read an extract from Half-Bad and talked about how she grew up being influenced by books like Wuthering Heights and was inspired by characters like Heathcliffe when writing the trilogy.
Sally explained her writing process comes from sticking to deadlines and being able to travel to pick up ideas from her environment. For example, she came across an ancient amulet in the John Rylands Library and it helped her to move forward with her story.
Danny Weston is the pen-name of Philip Caveney who is the author of the best selling Sebastian Darke YA series. The books recount the adventures of a failed jester called Sebastian Darke and his companions. Philip talked about how his sense of the gothic was ingrained since childhood and his writing has no alignment in terms of geographical location. One of the locales in his book is Romney Marsh in Kent and Philip mentioned it was one of the scariest places he’d ever been to.
The audience was given the opportunity to ask questions and a man asked about whether creative writing courses were useful for improving stories. Sally admitted she found the courses she did online were helpful because she was able to get constructive feedback after writing Half-Bad in 2010. Philip spoke about the writer’s workshop he ran in Manchester and how feedback is essential for finding out what works and what doesn’t in a novel.
Audience members asked about what direction did the authors think the YA genre would go in future. Philip thought it was impossible to predict and ideas from the past had a tendency to come around again in popular culture. Another question came from a young man who wanted to know how the authors represented real teenage issues within their genres. Sally said the themes of her book concentrate on bullying, with Nathan trying to get over the labels that have been placed on him. Philip mentioned he liked to put his characters through the ringer and that conflict is the driving force of his novels.
The event ended with a round of applause and Festival Director Kaye Tew summed up the event saying, “This has been an interesting discussion about YA fiction and it highlights the boundaries between YA and adult literature. Hopefully, the event will encourage more young people to read.”