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The Good Book Appreciation Society

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Archive for the ‘Youth’ Category

Liesl Jobson interviews Alex Smith

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Morning and welcome to another Sunday morning Pajama Flash Festival on The Good Book Appreciation Society. Today Liesl Jobson is interviewing Alex Smith on her highly anticipated new novel, Devilskein & Dearlove.Over to you Liesl…

‪Liesl Jobson What a delight to be here, talking to an author I greatly admire. Despite finishing Devilskein & Dearlove at three this morning, I am wide awake with this fantastic and fabulous narrative. In the fullest sense of both those words it is a fable of the fantasy genre and it is buzzing wildly in my head. It’s a book you simply can’t quit until the last remarkable page. Doors open into doors, ever darker worlds open up, a cast of quirky and fully realised characters have their say, and, most courageously, the heroine gazes upon impossible and unimaginable faces of evil without flinching.

The feisty Erin Dearlove is just 13. She’s instantly recognisable as the archetypal prickly adolescent. Anyone who is intimately involved with teens might have seen her sort! She is short to the point of rudeness, intolerant of others, and smart as a whip. Her curiosity and willingness to suspend belief means that an improbable encounter with a demon is teased into reality.

Erin is, significantly, a survivor. She defends herself from the anguish of her new life by re-imagining the hideous attack that left her orphaned. Her vibrant imagination is aided by her rare command of the English language. And her refusal to go to school, which leads to a hilarious encounter with a school psychologist! Erin is brighter than most of the adults she interacts with and has a way of projecting herself into and onto the world so that nobody knows what she most cares about. I’m curious about the liberties that writing YA fiction affords you. How did the voice of Erin come to you?

‪Alex Smith Thank you Liesl, for that – you put it so beautifully even so early on a Sunday morning. First the names came – Devilskein and Dearlove. I knew they’d be opposites in some way and like the ‘D’ they share, they’d be similar too. I have teenagers in my family, nieces and nephews and I think Erin Dearlove’s voice grew out of their collective vulnerability, their wisdom, their many moments of grumpiness and at times their uncanny abilities to be hurtful (which shows how much insight they have into the souls of adults… in fact, sometimes I’m not sure there is such a distinction between adults and young adults (teenagers), apart from the legal things … maybe my head is blurry from late dinner party last night, but even my two-year-old son has an extraordinary understanding of how to get his way in the world. I think adults think they are wiser than they are and adults underestimate the wisdom of children and young adults.

‪Liesl Jobson I’m with you all the way, Alex, which is why I’m never entirely convinced that the designation “YA” is necessarily apt. The crossover between childhood and adulthood is a liminal space that I’m not sure we ever properly exit. Your narrative also touches on issues that affect adults and children alike. The experience of evil, the way we make sense of it, the possibilities of enduring through trauma.

‪Alex Smith In terms of liberties, I think YA (although I’m not such a fan of categories, though they’re essential for marketing I know) allows a particular kind of fantastical, not fantasty, but it makes space for being playing with fantastical possibilities. So instead of YA I like to think of my genre as Fantastical Real.

‪Liesl Jobson Snap!

‪Alex Smith Haha, yes, I agree completely. The issue of evil was a hard one to grapple with.

‪Alex Smith You know in some philosophies there’s the idea that there is no real evil and since I’m an atheist, in some ways I go along with that, But then things you see in the news…sheesh, they make evil seem very real.

‪Liesl Jobson Recently, at Lauren Beukes’s launch of Broken Monsters, she said, “We’re all broken… we’re all monsters.” That resonated. Your Erin Dearlove has a sense of her own power, for good and for craziness. She walks such a fine line. Grappling with evil is our daily reality in South Africa. Actually, it’s a global reality. Not peculiarly homegrown. I’m interesting in the way you allow the reader to wonder if she is telling the truth, when she clearly isn’t. It’s paradoxical.

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