This event featured Julia Donaldson, Samantha Shannon and John Marsden.
Chaired by Kate Mosse.
Kate describes herself as a adventure writer and writes fiction which has female heroes, they are the protagonist of the story and they don’t want to be rescued.
Julia kicked off the discussion by asking if one thinks of gender issues when writing. Most writers will tell you no, they write what they want to write. The Gruffalo is a traditional tale so all the main characters are male. However in later books The Gruffalo has a daughter and this was a conscious decision to introduce a female character into the books. However in some countries when the book has been translated the daughter has been made a son. In the world of traditional children publishing, female characters are usually feisty but are politically correct. In fact there are a lot of men campaigning to be portrayed better in children’s literature. Stereotypes have changed over times, the granny no longer knits, she rides a motorcycle.
John put across the point of how adolescents are given a low social status within our society. For example the Garden of Eden and Camelot are given an idol status and a lot of people construct childhood on the same principle. Childhood can be a place of purity and innocence. It is important as a writer to educate people to see children how they actually are, by idolising children we are ultimately setting them up for a fall from grace and this tends to happen at adolescent. Teenagers are seen as a danger to society and this is how they are portrayed in the media. John started writing for adolescents with an agenda he wanted to raise the status of them within society. Young people are excited to see themselves portrayed as heroes. When writing emotion, John feels it easier to do when writing in a female characters voice, this is mainly due to his own psychology.
Samantha mentioned how they first thing that came to her was her main characters voice, it seemed to make her female as Samantha feels she would have had to do research to write in a male voice. Through out The Bone Season the main female character is dominated by men, this was done on purpose as it is going to be a series of novels. In this age the literary scene is a lot more aware of feminism. The idea of labelling characters are “strong female character” gives the impression that by default women are not strong and this is an unusual characteristic. We need to get to the stage were it does not surprise us that the female character is strong.
Kate added that we need to be free to write the characters we want to write.
Julia does not feel any pressure from her publisher when writing. However there are certain thing you are not allowed to have in children’s books but they exist in real life. There is more pressure on authors that write books for younger children. For example in the USA you are not allowed to have nudity in a picture book, in one of Julia’s books a goat had it’s udders removed.
John added the fact that so much about writing is giving the reader what they want. Samantha added that often characters are more settled in adult books and in Young Adult fiction they are just figuring themselves out.
Kate added that even in the digital age we are in the book still exists, they still matter to us as we see ourselves reflected in the characters within the novel.
With that a very interesting hour discussion was brought to an end.