#PULPstories tour Robin Talley Q&A

I am loving Robin Talley’s latest book Pulp, and was delighted to be asked to take part in the #PULPstories tour. I will be reviewing the book on the blog next week, for now, here’s a Q&A with wonderful author Robin Talley.

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What inspired you to write PULP?

I first learned about lesbian pulp fiction — a genre of books popular in the 1950s and 1960s that were published as cheap paperbacks and marketed to men, but that focused on romances between women — several years ago. When I first read one of these books, Marijane Meaker’s groundbreaking Spring Fire, published in 1952, I was mesmerized, both by the story itself and by the world it presented. It focused on the relationship between two deeply closeted lesbians living in a time when being who they were meant having to go to extreme lengths to keep their sexuality a secret, and facing horrific consequences if they slipped up (which of course they did). There was an entire wave of these novels, some of which sold millions of copies, all during a time and place when anyone who didn’t conform to expected norms faced terrible oppression. I wanted to explore that culture, and I thought it would be interesting to look at it through the lens of a teenage character in the present day — someone to whom all of this would seem like irrelevant ancient history, until she probes a little deeper and finds out it’s anything but.

 

Why do you think it’s important to feature LGBT characters in YA novels?

In the decades since young adult books became a publishing phenomenon, there have been only a small percentage of YA books published with lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender characters in central roles. That number is starting to increase at last, but we’ve still got many years’ worth of catching up to do. LGBT teenagers deserve to see characters like themselves in the books they read, and they, as well as teens who don’t fall under the LGBT umbrella, both want and need to see characters who reflect the real world they live in — a world that’s diverse in terms of sexual orientation and gender as well as race and ethnicity, religion, and disability status.

 

What do you hope readers will take away from Pulp?

That the social justice struggles of the twentieth century might seem like the distant past, but the truth is, we’re still fighting the same battles now that we confronted then. The movement for equality has been going on for many, many generations, and there’s no question that we’ve got a long way to go. We have to be mindful of what came before us so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past, and so we can fight back against the political leaders and others in power who are trying to take us there on purpose.

Check out the rest of the stops on the #PULPStories tour below:

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Blog Tour: Stand By Me by Judi Curtin

Stand By Me is Judi Curtin’s second book about time-travelling pals Molly and Beth. Check out my review of their first adventure, Time After Timehere. I think Judi Curtin writes brilliantly about friendship, and this new book is no exception. I was delighted to be asked by O’Brien Press to take part in the blog tour.

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Judi Curtin

O’Brien Press (2017)

10+

In their second time-slip adventure, Molly and Beth find themselves back in the 1960s to help Graham, their favourite great uncle, fix a broken friendship from the past. Once more they must navigate a world that seems like a whole other planet, an era in which their phones are no help and the fashion and music are weird.  On their trip they learn more about Graham and his past, but also about the enduring strength and power of friendship.

Molly and Beth are very likeable characters (even if they tend to say ‘OMG’ an awful lot!), readers will root for them on their quest.  Stand By Me is an enjoyable and entertaining read, with a lot of warmth to it. As always in Judi Curtin’s work, friendship is a strong component and it is touching to see how the girls have stuck together and supported each other in tough times. The title is certainly an appropriate one!  I found the friendship with their uncle Graham lovely too, and it reminded me of my own close relationship with my great aunt.

I love the cover design by Rachel Corcoran, and how she used different elements of the story in her artwork. The bright colours make it stand out, and work well as a pair with the Time After Time cover.

Fans of Judi Curtin will love this new offering, and hopefully there will be more Molly and Beth adventures yet to come!

Check out the rest of the stops on the Stand By Me Blog Tour this week:

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Guest Post: Tangleweed and Brine Blog Tour

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I was utterly enchanted by Tangleweed and Brine, a collection of feminist fairytale retellings by Deirdre Sullivan, illustrated by Karen Vaughan. The stories are dark and poetic, and focus strongly on the female experience, and the stunning illustrations tie the book into the rich tradition of lavish fairytale gift books recalling the work of Aubrey Beardsley and Harry Clarke.  I will be posting a full review of the book next week.

I am delighted to have a piece from the author and illustrator about the Rapunzel retelling to share with you.

Tangleweed and Brine is published by Little Island Books and will be launched tonight in Easons on O’Connell St at 6pm.

Come Live Here and Be Loved

DEIRDRE SULLIVAN:

I wrote this story while thinking a lot about growth and earth and babies. Many of my friends had recently become mothers, and I admired them hugely but did not feel ready to take that step myself. It seemed so huge. To grow a life inside you. It still does. I’m nervous meeting new people at the best of times. In Ireland, our abortion laws are extremely restrictive, and many women are forced to carry babies, who will not survive outside the womb, to term. Carrying a wanted, loved baby inside you, but knowing you will never get to raise them, I can’t imagine how it breaks the heart.

Reading the stories from brave women who have shared their experience to advocate for others, combined with the physical and emotional miracle of seeing people I knew and loved make brand new people, was the seed that this Rapunzel grew from.

When I saw this illustration for the first time, it was a sketch. And I gasped. The witches mouth was a little more open and Karen had put the double row of teeth in. The cultivated wilderness of her magic garden, the husband helpfully gathering Campanula Rapunculus while the women sort things out amongst themselves, it was amazing to see what Karen saw when she read Come Live Here and Be Loved, and it was so similar to what I had envisioned myself, filtered through Karen’s aesthetic, that reminds me of Harry Clarke or Aubrey Beardsley, but is also all her own.

The fat blooming flowers surrounding the witch and the woman reflect the possibility. New life is growing, but not human life. The woman’s face is so tired and resigned. The witch’s is tender and inquiring. They both want the same thing, in the end.

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KAREN VAUGHAN:

This story was a joy to illustrate. The image came out almost fully formed on the first attempt which hardly ever happens. I wanted to show that moment of understanding and agreement between the two women while the husband busies himself with the task of harvesting the flowers.

There was a minor change made at the end that I think made a huge difference. In the rough sketch, the witch’s mouth was open and smiling, showing her double row of teeth. The more I looked at it, the more I felt it gave her a predatory look which was out of step with the character in the book. She seemed almost joyful in the face of the woman’s misfortune which didn’t feel quite right. The witch is very much of the natural world which isn’t cruel for pleasure or any other vindictive reason, it just is. There’s happiness in her face for sure, but it’s tempered with compassion for the woman who has to give up on her dream of bearing her own child.

Blog Tour Review: Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Thanks to Harper Teen for inviting me to take part in the Things We Know by Heart Blog Tour and for sending me a copy of the book to review! The full schedule for the blog tour can be seen beneath my review.

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Things We Know by Heart

Jessi Kirby

Harper Teen (2016)

YA Contemporary

Quinn Sullivan lost the love of her life when her boyfriend Trent was killed in an accident. It has been 400 days, and Trent’s loss is as painful as ever. She thinks that if she can find the recipient of Trent’s donated heart she might find some closure. Recipients of his other organs responded to her letters, but not the boy who received his heart. She only wants to see Colton Thomas; she never intended to meet him, and she certainly never intended to fall for him. But can she ever be with him, when he reminds her so much of her loss?

This is a poignant story about grief and learning to live again. Both Quinn and Colton have their struggles and secrets, and both characters are nuanced and well drawn. Quinn goes on a real journey in this book, learning about herself and learning to love life again.  She embarks on a tentative relationship with Colton, taking it one good day at a time. Their relationship can be summed up by this Emerson quote referenced in the book: ‘Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.’Kirby writes places beautifully, the locations Quinn and Colton visit sparkle off the page.

Sunlight streams in through the opening at the mist that hangs in the air aglow, illuminating each tiny water droplet. All around us the water catches the sunlight and throws it against the walls of the cavern, waving and dancing.

The Things We Know by Heart is as much about family as it is about romance. I loved Quinn’s outspoken grandmother, and her feisty sister. These secondary characters had stories of their own, and were interesting and believable. The relationships within the family are well developed throughout the book. We how the tragedy has impacted upon the rest of the family, and how they all support each other. However, Kirby also explores how Quinn and Colton need independence from their families, how all the support can become smothering. The family dynamics were my favourite part of the book.

This love story is not a conventional one, and there are some ethical questions around it. However I will not deny that it was very cute, and I was rooting for them. The end was a bit rushed for my liking, but this is certainly an enjoyable summer romance.

I love the cover design by Erin Fitzsimmons, with the pattern of hearts in the background, and the scribbly black loveheart in the title.

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