Author Roadshow: Fleur Ferris and Robert Newton

There were too many exciting books from the recent Penguin Random House roadshow in Sydney to outline in one post so here is Part 2. As well as many standout titles, we were privileged to hear from two YA authors, Fleur Ferris and Robert Newton.

Robert Newton spoke from the heart about his new novel Mr Romanov’s Garden in the Sky. It is an outstanding work, exceeding his Prime Minister’s Literary Award winning When We Were Two. It follows the sad and dangerous existence of Lexie in a Housing Commission Tower who lies to protect her drug-addicted mother. She saves old Mr Romanov from death after thugs throw his dog off the building. The story then becomes an original tale of friendship and hope.

Fleur Ferris is one of Australia’s best selling YA novelists and she is also a most delightful person. Her first novel Risk, a cautionary tale about online predators, is essential reading. It is wildly popular with teens and I reviewed it for the Weekend Australian here. I’ve also interviewed Fleur about Risk here for Boomerang Blog.

Fleur’s second novel Black was Australia’s best-selling ‘new release’ Oz YA book of the year for 2016. It is another a thriller, and incorporates a cult and unexpected ending. I reviewed it briefly for Boomerang Blog here.

Fleur’s third novel Wreck (note Fleur’s one word, one syllable titles, each ending in the letter ‘k’) will be published in July. It is also a thriller but has dual narrators and is set in two different time periods. It sounds like her best work yet and we will hear much more about it.

Other upcoming YA novels include Geekeralla by Ashley Poston from the U.S. (April), billed as a ‘fandom-fuelled twist on the classic fairytale’. Danielle encounters cos-play and her godmother works in a vegan food truck. I’ve read the beginning and can’t wait for the rest.

One of Us is Lying by debut novelist Karen M. McManus (June) is a U.K. title. There’s an omniscient narrator and one teen is murdered in detention with four others without anyone leaving the room.

Darren Groth returns after his triumph with Are You Seeing Me? in Exchange of Heart. Endearing character, Perry from the first novel returns and Down Syndrome is addressed.

Krystal Sutherland’s second novel appears quickly after Our Chemical Hearts. I’ve interviewed Krystal for the blog here. A Semi-definitive List of Worst Nightmares (September) explores phobias, particularly when Esther’s list of possible phobias is stolen, with strange results.

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index (July) by U.K. author Julie Israel revolves around Juniper’s file cards of happy and unhappy experiences. But one card goes missing, the one thing that people can’t know about.

What reading extravagances we have in store.

(Author photo at top courtesy Fleur Ferris. From left to right, standing: Fleur Ferris, Belinda Murrell, Felice Arena, Robert Newton)

Black YA

Three YA novels delve into the dark side:

BlackIn Black by Fleur Ferris (Penguin Randomhouse Australia), new student Aiden invites protagonist, Black, to the Year 12 formal. She thinks it’s a set-up because no one would invite her to the formal. Of course we are then hooked and want to discover why. Black is attractive. What has happened to make her untouchable? We do discover that three of her friends, Jess, Louis and Oscar have died. She is haunted by Father Ratchet, leader of the Pure Apostles cult, who has recruited Black’s former best friend and now enemy, Ged.

Black’s father is working in Antarctica and the local water plant and dams he normally oversees are being supervised by young man, Ed. Black works with him after school and this aspect of the story adds an interesting and suspenseful dimension. We learn some of the science (in an interesting way) and about the risk of poisoning the town’s water supply.

Fleur Ferris is an exciting new Australian talent. Her first published novel Risk recently co-won the YA category of the Sisters in Crime Davitt award. See Fleur’s interview here. Black is a fast paced, gripping read.

MaliceWith Malice by Eileen Cook (Hot Key Books) begins with Jill waking up in hospital. She has lost her memory of recent weeks and has serious injuries. Even worse, she is accused of deliberately killing her best friend Simone in a car accident. The two girls were part of a group travelling around Italy (there are some similarities with Melina Marchetta’s adult novel Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil  here). As well as hearing Jill’s point of view we are also given different perspectives by reading texts between Jill and Simone, police interview statements and forensic psychology reports. The ‘Justice for Simone’ blog shrilly asserts Jill’s guilt, dredging up old photos, rumours and comments out of context. The case against Jill accelerates until she faces extradition to Italy. It’s a superb psychological thriller: addictive and terrifying.

DarkenLike the other two books, I was transfixed by And I Darkenfirst in a new trilogy by Kiersten White (Corgi Books, Penguin Randomhouse). Lada is the unwanted daughter of Vlad Dracul. Born in 1434 in Transylvania she is the antithesis of the usual princess, using strength, brutality and intelligence to keep her younger brother and herself alive despite the conspiracies of court and kingdom. This is an original historical fantasy for older readers set mainly in the Sultan-ruled Ottoman Empire with references to exotic Constantinople and Byzantium, now Istanbul.

Risk, Meet Fleur Ferris

Thanks for speaking to Boomerang Books Blog, Fleur.

Thanks you for having me on the blog Joy.

RiskYour new YA novel, Risk (Random House Australia) is creating a buzz in Australian YA circles. I believe that it has a very important message, told as an engaging story. Is it your first published work? Have you met any other YA authors?

Risk is my first novel to be published. I’ve met a few YA writers in person, and many more online. It is great to be a part of the Australian YA community, everyone is very friendly and supportive. I hope to catch up with a few YA authors (in person) at the Bendigo Writers’ Festival in August.

Why did you write Risk?

A number of incidents involving predators meeting and grooming girls online and then luring them away occurred in my local area. I’m a family friend to one of the girls and was shocked that she was almost a victim to this type of predator. This girl (then 14 years old) is a smart, well-adjusted girl who doesn’t go looking for trouble. It frightened me that trouble found her. I started looking into cases and researching how predators use social media to find victims. I found out that anyone can use a proxy box to hide their identity, even from the police. During the process an idea for a book came to me.

Your character Taylor comments that the guy she meets online doesn’t seem like a stalker. What does an online stalker seem like?

Great question! I wish I had a great answer. Taylor, the fifteen-year-old character in Risk, thought that an online stalker would be outwardly creepy, or have other obvious, indicative traits. But once Taylor got chatting to one particular guy online she didn’t question him because he was so nice. It is impossible to know if people you meet online really are as they seem.Fleur Ferris

Apart from encouraging young people to read Risk how can we protect them?

I believe education is the key. Discussing online dangers and possible strategies to adopt will help people (of any age) avoid falling victim to online predators. Increasing awareness of online dangers will hopefully lead to a person making better, and more cautious, decisions about information they give out as well as meeting online friends in the real world. As long as there are online places to meet people, online predators will exist and education about this needs to start early.

Who have you modelled the two protagonists, Taylor and Sierra on?

Initially, Taylor and Sierra were modelled on my nieces who were fifteen and sixteen years of age at the time Risk was written.

Sierra likes Taylor Swift. Do you like her too or have you featured her for another reason?

I do like Taylor Swift and her music. Over the years I have enjoyed learning about her journey to stardom and I admire her. She is strong, intelligent, funny and artistic. Taylor (and her music) inspires me.

Pieces of SkyWhat have you enjoyed reading recently or in the past?

The neighbour by Julie Proudfoot is incredible. The pause by John Larkin, Cooper Bartholomew is dead by Rebecca James, Pieces of sky by Trinity Doyle and All the bright places (audiobook) by Jennifer Niven are all brilliant YA books. I’m also reading Jacqueline Harvey’s Clementine Rose Series with my kids and I am enjoying these books as much as my kids are.

Are you writing something else at the moment? If so, could you tell us about it?

I have just signed a contract with Random House for my next YA novel. The title is unconfirmed at this stage, but I can say it is another contemporary stand-alone and sits well alongside Risk. It will be out mid next year.

Neighbour

That’s fantastic news. All the very best with it, Fleur.