Lord of the Flies – audio edition – review

Lord of the Flies by William Golding was written in the 1950s – but this haunting coming-of-age story is dark, thought-provoking and unnervingly timeless.

I first read this as a child at school, I think it was on the English syllabus but it is not just a story for kids – in fact I probably got even more from it, as the cynical adult I have become, than I did all those years ago.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story – here’s a brief synospis.

After a plane crash a group of British schoolboys are left castaway on an island – the boys range from ‘littleuns’ to ‘biguns’ – approximately 4 or 5 to young teen. There are no adults let alive. At first, it’s an adventure – and the older more sensible kids begin to make plans to await rescue. Power struggles soon emerge – from the sensible Ralph, the bullied, overweight and myopic but intelligent Piggy, to the nasty Jack.

The kids are innocent, for the most part, but it doesn’t take long for this innocence to be lost, and the kids begin to reflect the darkness within humanity, within power and petty politics.

Part of the synopsis reads; ‘The boys’ struggle to find a way of existing in a community with no fixed boundaries invites readers to evaluate the concepts involved in social and political constructs and moral frameworks. Symbolism is strong throughout, revealing both the boys’ capacity for empathy and hope, as well as illuminating the darkest corners of the human spirit. Ideas of community, leadership, and the rule of law are called into question as the reader has to consider who has a right to power, why, and what the consequences of the acquisition of power may be.’

The audio edition is especially powerful, and the narrator builds the suspense, and the brewing tragedy excellently. It’s a tale which the reader (or listener) at once wants to end, and not to end – because one must find out what happens, but at the same time one fears one knows.

Awesome, awesome story, expertly written and expertly told. Highly recommended.

 

 

Guest Post – Jade Varden – on Writing and Marketing

Today YA author Jade Varden joins us – here are her tips on writing and marketing.

Jade – over to you.

Advice to newbies: Read a lot. Find out what sort of stories you like. Re-read your favorites. Read, read, read.

Your best and worst marketing tips: Market your book by giving people something they can use. What does your book offer them? What questions will it answer? Will they laugh or cry or think because of it? Think about that, and you’ll know how to market it. Don’t market your book by saying “buy this book.” Be more creative than that.

What YOU look for in a good book. I look for a strong main character that I can feel something about. Good or bad, I want to feel something for the character.

The importance of good and consistent characterisation.A character has to stay true to their established personality, but character growth is also important in books.

How to find beta readers. Use forums to find them. This is a great resource for connecting with other authors and readers.

Please tell us a little about yourself. (A couple of lines.) Lately I’ve been trying to challenge myself with my writing. I’ve been trying to branch out into new genres, and I’m really enjoying it so far.

On average how many books do you read a month?  What genres do you enjoy? I don’t really have much time to read beyond doing my own proofing. I love the YA genre, but I’m eclectic. I read mystery, horror, romance, anything that looks good.

When reviewing what are the important criteria? Editing? Plot?  Which factors do you overlook? (if any). I look for character and plot development. Pacing is also incredibly important. I don’t want it to be too slow, but not too fast either.

What are your opinions on authors commenting on a review – negative and positive? I don’t think they should do it.

Do you feel it is appropriate to discuss author behaviour in a review, is this a factor which influences your choice? No and no.

A lot of readers comment about a book with all 4 or 5 star reviews and nothing below as being suspicious? What do you think about this? I think people probably do this a lot. It’s much easier not to write any text, right?

Do you give negative reviews?  I give constructive criticism. It has been interpreted as negative in the past.

Do you mainly stick to your preferred genres, or would you consider reviewing outside your comfort zone? If the plot sounds interesting, I’ll definitely go outside my comfort zone.

Are your characters based on real people? All of them are based on real characteristics that I’ve seen in people, but only very rarely is one of my characters wholly based on a real person. I pick and choose from people I know and even strangers.

Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off? No, but that’s an amazing idea.

Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? Research is huge when it comes to writing a book, and you need to do as much as you need to do to answer all the questions your readers might have. I don’t necessarily enjoy research because it is time-consuming. I look for credible resources only. Encyclopedias, university websites, newspapers. Don’t use Wikipedia.

Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? I absolutely do. Indie authors have taken an alternative path, and anything different is suspect.

Do you read work by self-published authors? Absolutely!

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers? Read. Connect with readers. Edit.

What are your views on authors offering free books? It’s a great way to promote.

Do you have a favourite movie? Gone With the Wind

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? I’m afraid of the shower.

What medium do you prefer – e-books, audiobooks or paper books? Would you care to expand on this? I love, love, love ebooks. It’s just so easy.

When choosing a book what makes you stop and give it a second look?  What makes you turn away? The blurb. I’ll always flip a cover over to get to the blurb. If I see any errors in the blurb, I’m out.

Do you read reviews by others and if so do they influence your choice?I don’t, because I want to avoid spoilers. However, I will look at general ratings and if a book has a ton of really low ratings I might think twice.

Do you “judge a book by its cover?” I do up to a point. I’ll only turn away from a book if the cover is really poorly done.

Does the behaviour of an author affect your choice to read one of their books? I usually don’t know much about the author personally when I go to read one of their books.

If you had to pick three favourite books to take to a desert island what would they be? Gone With the Wind, Flowers in the Attic, Valley of Horses.

Do you think bricks and mortar bookshops are in decline? I don’t think there’s any question that they are.

Some readers believe all 4 and 5 star reviews on a book must be fake. What are your thoughts on this? I think that sounds ridiculous.

About the Author

 

Jade Varden writes young adult novels for teen readers. When she’s not crafting mysteries in her books, Jade also blogs practical writing tips for authors who self-publish. Jade currently makes her home in Louisville, Kentucky, where she enjoys reading and reviewing indie books by other self-published authors. Follow her on Twitter @JadeVarden. Visit Jade’s blog at http://jadevarden.blogspot.com/ for reviews, writing tips, self-publishing advice and everything else you ever wanted to know about reading and writing books.

 

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JadeVarden

At Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Jade-Varden/e/B006QD4LUA/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

 

Author Interview Number Seventy-One – Ellen Allen YA/Thriller

The Sham_ cover

When love leads to death, be careful who you trust…

Eighteen-year-old Emily Heath would love to leave her dead-end town, known locally as “The Sham”, with her boyfriend, Jack, but he’s very, very sick; his body is failing and his brain is shutting down. He’s also in hiding, under suspicion of murder. Six months’ ago, strange signs were painted across town in a dialect no one has spoken for decades and one of Emily’s classmates washed up in the local floods. 

Emily has never trusted her instincts and now they’re pulling her towards Jack, who the police think is a sham himself, someone else entirely. As the town wakes to discover new signs plastered across its walls, Emily must decide who and what she trusts, and fast: local vigilantes are hunting Jack; the floods, the police, and her parents are blocking her path; and the town doesn’t need another dead body.

WARNING: THIS BOOK IS UNSUITABLE FOR YOUNGER TEENAGE READERS. IT DEPICTS ADULT SITUATIONS, MURDER SCENES, CONVERSATIONS ABOUT SEX AND PROFANITY.

Welcome to Ellen Allen

Where are you from and where do you live now?

Three years’ ago I quit my job in London and moved with my small daughter to the south of France. The plan was to stay for a few months – to fulfil a lifelong dream of lollygagging in rosé wine vineyards, writing a book, getting the hang of French grammar, etc. – but we haven’t been able to leave!

We’ve built a new life here, complete with jobs, schools, and French subjunctive tenses – as well as the vineyards and writing – and the best part is that we’re only a few hours away by train from our family in London. It’s also sunny here, roughly 300 days a year…

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc.

I didn’t intend to write YA thrillers but the genre found me. The idea for The Sham came to me in a nightmare. I dreamed that I was 17 again, back in school, with the same group of 4 friends, involved in a murder of one of them. It was so vivid that I couldn’t get back to sleep and the only way I could get it out of my head was to write it all down. I’m not sure it’s an easy genre to market; too old for younger YA readers, too YA for adult readers but it’s one I’m keen on pursuing. I’ve just started my second YA thriller. It seems to fit me.

Where do you find inspiration?

Anywhere and everywhere! I write down all the interesting and macabre things that I hear: stories about people’s lives; the way people love; the way they die; and random things in the news. At the moment I’m trying to work on my characters and how they act/react in different situations. I have a little note book that I carry in my bag and I’m busy writing down how people look when they eat, drink, talk… especially when they think no one is looking. I just hope that no one is watching me!

Are your characters based on real people?

It’s a well known saying that every book is autobiographical and of course that’s true; everything you write is a summation of things you’ve experienced and each one contains a little bit of you and your life. But you can’t be lazy and just transfer people from real life onto the page; besides anything else, they’d never forgive you!

Conversely, it’s also true that whilst “all fiction may be autobiography, all autobiography is of course fiction[1]” We bend the truth all the time and nowhere more so than in our writing. It’s all a composite; a jigsaw that we build in our heads.

Sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order? (Yes I know they all are important…)

Some authors are technically perfect but I can find some of their work a little, well, boring. As for world-building, I think it depends on the kind of book. I need more for some genres – science fiction, for example – than I do for a contemporary romance. In general, I’m not a huge fan of tons of backstory or great paragraphs on detail. I like to make that up for myself. Part of the joy of reading for me is to use my imagination.

If I have to generalise, then the two most important things to make a great book are a cracking plot (I want stuff to actually happen, unless this is sublime literary fiction and even then…) as well as brilliant characters that think and feel as people do in real life. I want to vicariously experience what other people are feeling (the good and bad) or one better, I want to actually be them.

What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews?

Everyone has an opinion on this one, don’t they? My book has only been out for six weeks and it’s my first one. As a newly self-published author, reviews are the only feedback that I’ll get on my writing and I’m really enjoying reading it (even if it is painful at times!). I think it’s the only way that authors like me will improve their work (identifying writing ticks, or plot holes, for instance).

That said, I don’t think it’s right for an author to comment on a review. Not at all. I think you just have to look from afar and remember to say “thank you”. From a reviewer’s perspective, a person has taken a lot of time and energy reading the book and writing a review and they’re entitled to their opinion. From my perspective, if one person has said something, it might or might not be true. When I read a hundred reviewers all saying the same thing, offering the same critique, then I’ll know it’s definitely true. It’s that feedback that I’ll be taking with me to the next book.

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?

I’m new to this so I don’t really feel qualified to offer advice to anyone. Instead, I’ll offer up the advice that I’m following religiously:

 

  • As Stephen King most famously says, “reading is writing”. You need to be reading widely and voraciously to write well. I have a small daughter and a non-writing job, so I find it hard to find the time to read as much as I should. The 2014 reading challenge on Goodreads has been great for helping me keep track of how many books I’m getting through and what’s next on my list.

 

  • Lionel Shriver – one of my favourite authors – was asked what the best advice was for new authors and she put it well: “Don’t turn it into a mystical process. Just get on with it!” You have to be disciplined, dogmatic, stubborn and organised to be a jobbing writer. I try not to think about the rest – the doubts about talent, whether anyone will read it – and I just get on with it. I want it to be my career, so I treat it as if it is.

 

  • There is tons of writing advice out there that isn’t very good – the irony in reading writing advice that isn’t well written! You can spend hours trawling through it, but it’s distracting and time wasting. Find a few blogs that you rate, a few sites that you trust, follow a few similar writers, watch how they progress and then – you guessed it – get on with it!

Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it?

I’m at my happiest when I have three or four books on the go, so I can choose to read according to how I feel. I’ve just finished reading a few things but I haven’t absolutely loved any of them.

My favourite YA books of the year are The 5th Wave (which I came to really late but just in time for the sequel), We Were Liars, Ender’s Game and my favourite literary book that I read this year is The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

What are your views on authors offering free books?

My book isn’t free but I have given away review copies and run giveaways on blogs. I think it’s a great way of getting my book to people who have never heard of me at all. I’ve heard that free books are great for authors who have other works for sale, which they can offer as a lead in to their work. 

Can you name your worst job? Do you think you learned anything from the position that you now use in your writing?

I’ve had hundreds of terrible temporary jobs to pay my way through school and university, all of them very varied.  I’m really grateful for all these experiences now (not so much at the time!) because of all of the people I’ve met and surreal situations I’ve encountered. I use it all in my writing.

Real life can be kind of bizarre: I’ve stood in greenhouses in searing heat, sucking pansies out of bedding trays with hoovers for hours on end; I’ve huddled in freezer compartments in minus 30 degree temperatures packing Angel cakes into boxes; I spent four very long weeks sticking stamps continuously for the BBC; I’ve sold plastic pens door-to-door in what felt like all the suburbs in Sydney; and I’ve been a receptionist at a company where the phone never rang (I swear it was a front for some other kind of activity). Sometimes, it’s only the people you’re with in these situations that keep you sane. You spend weeks mining their brains, working them out.

My worst jobs have always been as a chambermaid. When I was 18, I worked one whole winter wiping other people’s sick off the floor every morning at a really cheap skiing hotel in the French Alps. People behave in hotels in a way they never would in their own homes; you always see the worst of them when you’re cleaning up their rooms.

 

Book links, website/blog and author links:

Amazon author page:

http://www.amazon.com/Ellen-Allen/e/B00NBSMRYK?ref_=pe_584750_33951330

 

The Sham on goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22879003-the-sham

 

Ellen Allen Twitter:

https://twitter.com/EllenWritesAll

 

Ellen Allen Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/EllenWritesAll

Ellen Allen’s writing blog:

www.writingright.net

[1] http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Autobiography