This is the WASTED BLOG. For my main author website, click this link.

Awards: WASTED won the Read it or Else category in the Coventry Award and was runner-up in the North East Book Award. It is longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Manchester, Grampian, Angus, and RED Awards.


Friday, 23 April 2010

THE BEGINNING - and CHAPTER ONE

Let the blogging begin!

I am so pleased to welcome you to the first day of the Wasted launch. Whatever your age - and there'll be teenagers and adults of all ages here - I hope you find things to fascinate, challenge and argue about.

I will bring you something new every day: snippets, behind the scenes facts, things to make you think, prizes to win, chances to test your own writing skills. Some of it will be light-hearted, some will be incredible science which I only half understand. I hope you will get to know me, be interested in Wasted, want to talk about it. There are so many ideas behind it, ideas I've been thinking about ever since I was a teenager and that I've never fully found answers to. In Wasted, my characters showed me something which comes as close to answers as I think I can manage. My answers, anyway. Maybe you'll have some better ones.

I hope I will get to know you, too. Please leave comments and questions. I will answer them all - though I'm away doing events on some days, so sometimes I may be slower. 

You can write reviews and have them published here. You can add them beneath the post over here. Or email them to me.

If you want to contact me off the blog instead of commenting, email talkaboutwasted@hotmail.co.uk - my assistant will pick up emails if I'm away and she'll pass them to me. 

Would you like a poster for your school or library? Email rebecca.harper@walker.co.uk  Also, a link for a free downloadable poster is coming here soon.

Press enquiries should go to ruth.maurice@walker .co.uk
In the last few weeks, some people have read Wasted - librarians, teenagers, teachers, general readers, booksellers - and I've had an amazing response. I've never had a buzz like this about any of my books and I'm very excited. But nervous, too. Wasted is more me than anything I've written - it has my heart and soul etched deep. If you like it, please say so - here, or by reviewing it on Amazon, or telling my publishers. Or all three! I will be grateful for ever. (Actually, I mean that.) And, as Wasted shows, you never know what effect your small actions may have. Small actions can change everything. I really, really need your help.

I'm visiting loads of great blogs on a tour in the next few weeks and there'll be links to all of them here. Thanks to all the bloggers who welcomed me. If you want to see where I'm going, there's a list in the righthand menu bar.

If you click on the pages near the top, you'll find stuff to give you an idea about the book

NOTE: those of you who have already voted in the polls on the right will need to do it again because I had a tech problem and had to delete all but one. Sorry! 

I think what I should do now is let you read the first chapter. So, here it is.  Are you sitting comfortably?

(Reproduced by kind permission of Walker Books Ltd.)

WASTED - CHAPTER ONE

Jess is spinning a coin. Not actually playing Jack’s Game yet, because if you’re going to play you have to be very sure. Heads or tails, win or lose, life or death: playing the game changes things and you can’t escape its rules.

She thinks – because she has thought about this quite a lot in the last day and a bit – that if there’s a God, He must play Jack’s Game. There’s not really any other explanation she can think of.

Jess is sitting in a horrible waiting room the colour of old white socks. Waiting. The waiting is awful. It numbs her. Though perhaps waiting for ever would be better than knowing. She wants her guitar, but it wouldn’t exactly be appropriate. You can’t sing in a place like this.

On the floor is a grubby doll with no clothes and one leg. It lies there with blue eyes open. It looks shocked, or dead. There is pen scribbled on its stomach and someone has tried to cut its hair. Jess remembers doing that to a doll once, convinced that it would grow again.

Jess is seventeen years old. Her dad’s a genetic scientist, apparently. Her mum’s an alcoholic. If you tossed a coin, chances are she could take after either or both of them. Trouble is, her dad lives 4,000 miles away and her mum lives next door to her bedroom. This probably alters her chances.

A flash of anger crosses Jess’s mind. She thinks that if she saw the Kelly Gang now she’d want to… But no, best not to think like that. Jess is not prone to violent  thoughts. But she is in a state of shock, and strange feelings are stirring. She tries to think about anything else.

The bracelet she’s wearing. A birthday present from her best friend, Chloe. That was a good day: her mum remembered to rustle up a cake – all the way from Mrs Beaton’s Tea Shoppe – and they ate it on the beach, digging their bare heels into the shingle and breathing the seashell air. Her dad phoned and sent the usual money.

But Jess is scared and it’s hard to keep her mind on such things as cake, though she must try. So: it was a fantastic cake; she and her mum used their fingers to scrape the chocolate icing off the wrapping; they have the best cakes in Mrs Beaton’s Tea Shoppe.

If she saw the Kelly Gang now she’d want to kill them. To be honest. Not very nice, but then why should Jess feel nice?

Keep spinning the coin, Jess. It will help. Focus on that coin. Don’t drop it. That’s better.

Jess is trying to make a decision. Does she dare play the game? The sensible part of her knows she shouldn’t. After all, she managed to stop Jack taking it so seriously. But Jack’s Game is serious, and perhaps it’s all she can do now. Maybe all the spirits and gods and everything else that has a say in the world watch when you play Jack’s Game. Maybe that’s what gives it its power. It’s like ancient magic, but with science. According to Jack. Now she is confused and alone and needing him to take the decision away, but when she thinks back to the newspaper stories on his bedroom wall, she knows what he would do. She just can’t decide whether he’s right.

Jess is more than confused and alone. She is barely holding herself together. If she breathes too hard she may shatter into a million pieces.

She glances at the clock. Still spinning the coin. With remarkable skill, considering that she’s only been practising for two weeks. It almost ripples across her fingers, weaving in and out, a life of its own. Left hand as good as the right. That’ll be the piano-playing, and guitar. Someone comes through the door. A woman. Her eyes are puffy. She grips the hand of a bewildered child with chocolate on its face. Jess doesn’t want to look at her, but she’s drawn by her grief. The woman picks up the dead doll and gives it to the child, who grins and grabs it by its remaining leg. Jess thinks that if she was the child’s mother she’d make her daughter clean and dress it and learn how to love it in more ways than just holding on. The door clunks shut and the air settles again.

Jess rummages in her bag and gets out her iPod, plugs her ear-things in and retreats into her music. Their music. The colours wash over her and her senses merge. She closes her eyes, keeps the outside out: the Kelly Gang, the smell, the being really scared. Yesterday. Saturday. Everything. Her mum should be here. Her dad. Someone. A girl shouldn’t be in such a place on her own. But then Jess didn’t tell anyone she was coming so early, so you can hardly blame them.

She opens her eyes suddenly, rips out the ear-things. Breathe slowly, Jess. Almost lost it there. Maybe music is not such a good idea right now, or at least not this particular song. Maybe you should read a magazine. Something shallow, something that won’t slice its way deeper than skin.

Actually, apart from the old sock colour, the room’s not that bad. Soft chairs. Tea and coffee. Free. Plants. A fish tank. They’ve made an effort, just to stop you thinking. Box of tissues. Cushions. You can’t hear sounds from outside, except when the door opens, though there’s a buzzing of air-con. It’s designed to help you forget where you are. So there’s a magazine on sailing and one on houses. And some children’s books and toys. She picks up a board book for babies or toddlers or whatever and looks at pictures of diggers and cranes and just does not allow herself to think of what’s past that door and what will happen when she is told to walk through it.

Probably she will spin the coin soon and play Jack’s Game. After all, a fifty-fifty chance is not that bad. The truth could be a whole lot worse.


******

Would you like to know something about that scene? When I first wrote it, I had no idea what Jess was waiting for. Clearly, she's in some kind of hospital or clinic. But I had no idea why. That's what I love about being a writer - I never know what's going to happen.

I don't believe in God but if I did I'd imagine him being like a writer: supposedly in control and arguably in control, but actually at the mercy of the characters and what they do and what happens to them. In a nutshell, that's the whole idea behind Wasted: prediction and control are limited to the present. The future is another world and nothing is until it is.

Tomorrow, I bring you a true story that influenced Wasted hugely.  

And finally (don't worry, posts won't usually be this long!) my editor has just emailed this lovely contribution. Chris and I have worked together for a long time and before I ever met her she told me she was "an old bat". What that actually means is that she's very honest, sometimes painfully so. So, when she says nice things, I know she means them.

"The moment I read the first draft chapters for Wasted I knew that this was something special, even by the standards of a writer as accomplished as Nicola. I have had the pleasure of editing a good handful of Nicola’s novels, but none of them has given me quite the same ‘hairs-tingling-on-the-neck’ feeling as this one. I think it has to do with the originality of the tone and voice, as well as the deft treatment of the subject matter. Chance and choice may seem unlikely driving forces beneath a book for teenagers which is essentially a passionate and potentially tragic story of first love; but the author handles these themes cleverly, so that the reader is completely drawn into alternative scenarios and what-ifs, and is invited to consider the roles that luck and free will may play in their life.
 

"A wonderful, unforgettable read."

Thanks, Chris!


By the way everyone, you don't need to buy Wasted  - order it from your public library. It's free. (But your very own copy would, of course, be much lovelier...)

See you tomorrow and THANK YOU for joining me.
 


8 comments:

Catherine Hughes said...

Oooh, and so here we are - I am almost as excited as you are.

I love Wasted. I think it would make a wonderful play, with the audience having to vote 'heads' or 'tails' as they spin their coins and the cast having to perform whichever ending is 'chosen'.

I can also vouch for the effect the book has on teenagers - my eleven year old is reading it at present, but my thirteen year old devoured it at impossible speed and is a tad peeved that there isn't a sequel to be anticipated. (She reads a lot of my fantasy stuff which tends to come in piles of three! So she's spoilt like that!)

Finally, because I've been helping to organise it, I can tell you that there are a great many varied and interesting stops on Nicola's blog tour.

I'm looking forward to seeing the 'Wasted' community grow and to getting to know everyone who comes along to join in the fun!

Cat

fairyhedgehog said...

This is a powerful first chapter and now I'm desperate to know what's happening.

I've ordered from my local library partly to show them it's popular! I often buy books I've read from the library if I think I'll want to re-read them.

Marshall Buckley said...

I think Chris the editor has it spot on when she refers to "the originality of the tone and voice". The way the narrative weaves you into the minds of the characters and then takes you back outside, teasing you with possibilities is, frankly, quite brilliant.

I've been looking forward to WASTED for weeks, ever since I found out about the unusual approach Nicola had chosen to take, and so I was delighted when it arrived yesterday, much earlier than expected.

I've not finished it yet - sleep and work are, inconveniently, getting in the way - but I will say this: it's a clever, original, thought-provoking book.

I almost wondered if it was too clever for its target audience - but I think it's a little like that cereal advert where the parents try to convince the kids that they won't like it, because they want to keep it for themselves!

Hugely recommended (so far)!

Jo Treggiari said...

Congratulations Nicola! I am lucky (!) enough to have read the book already and thought it was amazingly well-written and tautly plotted with real characters I cared deeply about. Even the unpleasant ones.
And it was unique with hooks and twists which got me personally involved. I read the last three chapters in one breath because I absolutely could not rest before I found out what happened. And afterwards I found myself thinking about the main characters as if they really existed out in the world.
The book wouldn't let me go. It's just that good.

Nicola Morgan said...

Thanks, all - lovely to see familiar "faces" here!

Marshall - flattered by your praise, as I sense you'd be very honest! "Too clever for its target" - ouch, I hope no teenagers are listening to that! Thing is, I have the hugest respect for the depth of so many teenage readers. I know that lots of people of all ages won't like/get it, but you know how on my other blog I bang on about "knowing your reader" and writing it for them? Well, I took big risks this time by really narrowing down the target and writing with a really tight readership in mind. So far, it seems to have been enjoyed by lots of readers outside that target (including you!) and that's hugely important for me, too - because if lots of people (adults) don't like it it will never reach the teenagers. So, thank you massively for your kinds words - it really helps. (And later I will go back to teasing you on Twitter, don't worry...)

Clare said...

Just dropping by to wish success to you, your book and this new blog.
You already know how brilliant I think "Wasted" is (I agree 100% with your editor's excellent review) - I really hope it meets with the success it truly deserves.

kathryn evans said...

Oh god oh god - I SO want to read this...it's making my arms itch inside!

catdownunder said...

Oh, I wish I had not read the first chapter! I want Jess to have Spike-the-cat there sitting on her lap and comforting her!