May 27, 2015

Alex Pearl in conversation about his teen novel

What inspired you to write your first book?
"I wanted to write a story for my own kids to show them that not all children had it as easy as they did. But I also wanted to show them that people behave in certain ways for a reason, and that, as Anne Frank once said, ‘everyone is essentially good at heart.’ This said, I also wanted to make the story amusing and entertaining. I wanted to engage with the reader, and intrigue them enough to keep them wanting to turn the page."

Do you have a specific writing style?
"I deliberately set out to write the story in an old-fashioned, whimsical style, even though it’s set in the modern world of high technology and the internet. I suppose I just feel that there just isn’t enough colourful and engaging language in most contemporary teen novels these days."

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
"Life is never as it may outwardly appear. And you can’t judge people from their actions alone. We’re all complicated, have our own backstories, and can be hugely influenced and moulded by our environments and personal circumstances. It’s an important, fundamental life lesson we all have to learn.

How much of the book is realistic?
"Parts of the story are believable, while other parts are larger than life. Added into the mix is a hefty dose of magic realism in the form of anthropomorphic birds. I believe that combining the real with the fantastical makes for a more compelling narrative."

Who designed the book cover?
"The cover was photographed by a good friend – the very talented advertising and fashion photographer, John Mac. In fact, John also designed it and briefed the typographer, Lyndon Povey to hand draw the typography. I think he did an excellent job in capturing the spirit of the book."

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
"There are some elements in my story that are based on real people and events. For example, the character based on the old gardener who inspires Roy our protagonist to write his essay, is based on a real old gardener who used to keep my parents garden in good shape. He too had physical difficulties and used his bicycle and tools to lean on for support. And he too used to be an ARP man during the war. And Roy’s account of getting locked into a record shop on Christmas Eve is based on a real incident. Yes, you’ve guessed it – it happened to me."

Which books have most influenced your life?
"In relation to this book, many other books have had an influence including Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, the books of Roald Dahl, Clive King’s Stig of the Dump and Richmal Crompton’s Just William. The last four being books that occupied an important place in my childhood. In terms of adult books, I love the works of countless authors. Margaret Attwood, Ian McEwan, John Irving, Sebastian Faulks, Marcus Zuzak, Marina Lewycka, Natasha Solomons and Carlos Ruiz Zafon to name just a handful."

What books are you reading now?
"I recently finished reading ‘The Taliban Cricket Club’ by Timeri N. Murari – a love story set amid the brutal regime of the Taliban in war-torn Kabul, which I enjoyed enormously. And previous to this I read ‘First Light’ by Geoffrey Wellam – an extraordinary account of the writer’s experience in the RAF, flying Spitfires during the Battle of Britain at the tender age of 18. Besides being beautifully written and incredibly detailed, Wellum knows how to tell a captivating yarn and hold his reader on the edge of his seat."

What are your current projects?
"I’ve just had a short story (‘Scared to Death’) published by Mardibooks in an anthology of short stories entitled ‘The Clock Struck War’ to mark the centenary of World War I. You can read mine on my blog here:

My next project is a story that will combine two genres: crime and the supernatural. That’s the objective at any rate. It’s still in the early stages of plotting. I can’t really tell you any more than that, as it may very well change shape and evolve."

Do you have any advice for other writers starting out?
"Don’t stop writing. Don’t be put off by criticism and rejection. Take it on board and consider it. But never let it get you down. We’ve all received countless rejection letters from agents. Even J K Rowling has piles of them. At the end of the day, writing is a subjective activity. Most important of all, enjoy your writing. Because if you don’t, nobody else will."

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