Edinburgh Book Festival #edinbookfest Sarah Crossan and Abbie Rushton


Thrilled to have the opportunity to attend another talk at The Edinburgh Book Festival, this time it’s Finding The Way with authors Sarah Crossan  and Abbie Rushton,  chaired by Philippa Cochrane, head of Reader Development, Scottish Book Trust.

Philippa began the talk by introducing the authors and sharing some background information with the audience.

Sarah Crossan, is an award-winning author with five books to her name, Breathe, ResistThe Weight of Water, Apple and Rain, and One.

Abbie Rushton is a debut novelist, her book Unspeakable  is one of the amazing books you can nominate via the First Book Award.

Vote via their website: www.edbookfest.co.uk.

Voting open until 16th October so get voting!

Sarah Crossan’s new book in verse is out on August 27th, it is simply entitled One, and is set in New Jersey where Sarah lived. One is about conjoined twins, Grace and Tippi.


Sarah read an extract from One, which starts with the first verse, Sisters, and then she read from the next verse, The End of Summer.

Abbie shared next from Unspeakable, a gay love story about a mute girl. She read a section about a dog struggling to free itself from muddy water.

These two books are different in many ways but do share things in common.

Abbie Rushton wanted to write a novel that suggested a young girl’s fear of who she is and to really get this across effectively she decided to write from a mute girl’s perspective. The idea developed from Abbie’s own teenage years which had been difficult, she had repressed her feelings, been quite introverted and had always found writing easier than talking.  Ah, Abbie this sounds familiar I find it so much easier to express myself in written words rather than to talk….

Sarah came up with the idea for One after watching a documentary about conjoined twins Abigail and Brittany Hensel. Fascinated, she set about researching the topic for her book. She found that the internet was not a particularly fruitful source of information so she continued her research in the British Library. Thereafter she tried to contact a conjoined twins specialist, Ed Kiely at Ormond Street Hospital but he was difficult to talk to. So she turned to Andrew Taylor a heart specialist at Great Ormond Street who managed to get her a meeting with Ed Kiley.

Conjoined twins is obviously a difficult subject to investigate as it is shrouded in a degree of secrecy. It is difficult to intrude on this private world, with this in mind Sarah Crossan tried to be as sensitive and thoughtful as possible.

Abbie Rushton mentioned that she loathes research, so obviously this type of in-depth research would not be for her. Sarah’s research amplified what she already knew about conjoined twins, most die, therefore it is undoubtedly an extremely sad subject matter.

On a lighter note Phillipa Cochrane celebrated the strong teen voices in both of these books, and wondered what pot of writing gold these two authors draw from.

Abbie Rushton doesn’t have much contact with teenagers, but it helps that she is a teenager at heart, and her memories and experiences serve as a base for her writing. Yes, I can relate to this….

Sarah Crossan was a school teacher for ten years. Ah, now we know why she likes to engage in research so much. That explains a lot! So she’s used to the ways of teenagers, but her daughter is only three and has a way to go to get to those teenage years, hurry up my dear…. Give her a chance she’s only little!

Then Philippa passed the questioning hat over to the audience, an audience member wanted to know about the author’s reading habits.

Abbie Rushton devours teen fiction. Sarah Crossan reads teen books, of course she does, but she avoids them when she is writing. Yes, writing for teens without reading teen books is most definitely a big No, No.

Then Phillipa steered the conversation on to the topic of believable parents, or more realistically deeply flawed parents, which are a feature of both authors’ writing style in these books.

Sarah Crossan said her mum was a bit put out, she wondered where did this flawed mother come from? But to a degree it sounds as if Sarah did draw from her own experiences,  her dad left and her mum couldn’t clean. This made me laugh. Her mum couldn’t clean and this is a flaw? She sounds okay to me…..  Yes, being a parent is hard.

Abbie Rushton said that Megan’s mum is not like her mum. She wanted to write a character that was isolated from friends. She enjoys writing complex characters and this applies to her subsidiary characters too. Sounds fascinating, really looking forward to reading Unspeakable, Abbie.

Philippa Cochrane was quick to point out that often roles get reversed, adults start to begin to behave like teenagers and teenagers act that parents. I have heard a few examples of this myself recently particularly with older teenagers, when maybe mum goes out for a drink with her friends, and forgets to tell her daughter, and teenage daughter gets worried…… Oh, yes role reversal is on the increase….

Philippa steered the conversation in the direction of developing friendships.

Abbie Rushton’s main character Megan develops a friendship with Jasmine, a bubbling, effervescent  character that is based on a friend of Abbie’s.

One of Sarah Crossan’s secondary characters,  Yasmeen is HIV positive, “this is incidental in some ways,” but she quickly added that she didn’t want this to sound disrespectful to HIV sufferers. She wanted a character who would be “other” who would come together with Tippi and Grace.

An audience member asked if Sarah had always wanted to write in verse?

Sarah found that she couldn’t get this particular novel to sound right in prose, she  tried very hard by the sound of it (she had written a substantial amount of the manuscript in prose,) but it just didn’t work, so she experimented by writing in verse and it worked. Initially she thought due to the technical nature of the story, the scientific aspects, it would have to be in prose but she soon found this was not the case. Sarah is passionate about wanting to share poetry for a younger audience and says there is not much in the way of poetry for teens in the UK. You’ve convinced me Sarah, I can’t wait to read One, I love poetry, and I think this will be an amazing read.

Then Philippa asked when did each of these writers start to feel comfortable calling themselves a writer?

Abbie says she’s now able to call herself a writer. She has been and still is an editor, but when she saw the cover she felt that was the moment. A writer moment. She adored it. Yes, I agree it’s a great cover. I love a beautiful cover Abbie, so exciting!


Sarah started to feel comfortable in her shoes as a writer when she did her masters in writing. Very modest, Sarah.

The next audience question stole Philippa’s next line of chit-chat from the tip of her tongue, of course it was the inevitable would you have muffins for hands or squirrels for feet? This seems to be going the rounds of the YA events in the festival this year. Both opted for the more practical and fast-moving squirrels.

Philippa’s next question was about desert island provisions, no, not food, why not, I ask my greedy tummy rumbling, oh I suppose there would be ample fish to eat….

Each author was asked to take three differing choices with them.

Here’s Sarah Crossan  choices:

Book:  Jeannette Winterson’s The Passion. Great choice.

Series choice: Breaking Bad. Yes, you wouldn’t get bored, that’s for sure.

One person – this was a bit cruel would you take your husband, child or someone else entirely? I think Sarah was tempted by someone else but opted for her daughter! Oops, I think her hubby might be giving her the cold shoulder.

Here’s Abbie Rushton choices:

Album choice was London Grammar. Never heard of them, but will be investigating this band.

Her one luxury item: Porridge. Is she keeping in with the Scots, or does she really like porridge? Porridge a luxury item….. the mind boggles.

Her one website: A website with lots of books. Fair enough, I’d go with that too.

As an editor Abbie gets to see the publishing process from both sides, this must be oh so handy. Consequently Abbie is sympathetic to editors pushing her to fulfil deadlines.

An audience member asked Sarah why she didn’t write Out from Tippy’s point of view. Sarah felt that it was Grace’s story. Fair point, Sarah, looking forward to reading Grace’s story.

Then an audience member asked a question that prompted a discussion on teens moderating what they read.

Abbie suggested that teens are mature enough to make the decision whether they should put down books that they don’t feel ready for. Sarah agreed, she said that teens are self censuring, and also she added that she didn’t think it was genuine to paint life like a bed of roses. Yes, on the whole I would say that this is true, but it is interesting how shocking topics seem to capture attention and possibly tend to be more marketable. So, maybe this should be a consideration when writers write, though ultimately you have to write what moves you and what is in your heart.

Philippa agreed with Abbie and Sarah about teens moderating what they read and added that YA deals with these more challenging topics more sensitively than a lot of adult books do.

It was a wonderfully interesting talk. I am so glad I had the opportunity to go along to discover Sarah Crossan who I haven’t read before, shame on me,  and a new debut novelist who sounds as if she has considerable promise.  Looking forward to reading both of these books very, very much.

Thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoyed my write up of the talk. Will be doing some more Edinburgh Festival posts so keep an eye out for them.

Bye for now!


Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx






Sharing Options:

Edinburgh Book Festival #edbookfest : Cat Clarke, and Kat Ellis



Being an aspiring children’s and YA author I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend the Edinburgh Book Festival talk The Disappeared by Cat Clarke and Kat Ellis on Tuesday 18th of August, as you can see I even managed to get a photo with the two of them, even though I was at the end of the signing queue! Yes, I’m a slow coach, I meandered around, had a cup of coffee, perused the books, and then joined the queue. Kat was occupied signing another book so I spoke to Cat first. Cat delighted me by asking if I’d like to be in the photo too! I was a bit concerned that I might spoil the photo, sometimes I’m not very photogenic, I pull these silly faces, but fortunately this didn’t turn out too badly.

Is this the first time that I’ve seen Cat Clarke?

No, though it is the first time I’ve spoken to her in person. I heard her speaking a year ago at YALC in London, here’s the link to that talk if you’d like to read about it: https://mjmallon.com/2014/07/18/im-too-sexy-for-this-book-yalc-panel-event/

My experience of the talk

During this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival talk I managed to get a seat fairly near the front, and was about to get my note pad out when I realised I’d lost my pen, so this write up is purely from the powers of my failing memory so if I get any details wrong, Cat/Kat don’t blame me, it’s that missing pen’s fault!

The chair person Daniel Hahn started by saying that it was bound to get confusing with a Cat/Kat in the audience, how do you differentiate? Daniel found a way round this conundrum as all good interviewers do, and the conversation flowed very freely. I was struck by Cat’s friendly disposition, and her tendency to smile and wave at the audience. She had a few members of the audience waving back! Next time I’ll be more than happy to wave back Cat, now I’ve met you in person!

The first question that Daniel posed set the tone for the talk, light and silly, which is great, I like light and silly.

It went something like this: If you had a choice of muffins for hands or squirrels for feet which would you choose? Cat C went for those squirrels, but sounds like she kind of liked the notion of regenerating muffins, (her suggestion.)  Kat E stuck with the muffins, like me she must have a sweet tooth, and a few fillings. Cat C was quick to point out that Muffins are not very practical she added that you wouldn’t be able to do the gardening with muffins for hands. True, but you wouldn’t starve either.  Oh by the way my favourite muffins are blueberry, yum…. donations on a plate, please….

Talking about squirrels just recently we had a very high fence built and squirrels have taken to running across the top of this new fence at double time, a bit like a trapeze artist balancing on a wire, except they kind of do a manic version of it, I always find it highly entertaining, it’s my own little Squirrel Circus Show what more could a girl ask for ……..

Moving on from squirrels and muffins, and back to the talk, the topic of conversation kind of gravitated towards Welsh, or to be exact writing novels in Welsh and this question was directed at Kat.  Kat is Welsh, or at least she says she is. Kat has forgotten how to write in Welsh! Maybe she’s an imposter? Can she sing? That’s normally a good way to tell, Tom Jones comes to mind, the interviewer should have asked her to sing a bar or two of Send in The Clowns. Kat’s a new breed, an author pretending to be Welsh. Only kidding Kat, I’m sure you are Welsh. Yes, I believe you, the penny dropped when you said that if your novels were written in Welsh there would be far more spelling mistakes! Lots of people can’t spell in English so that sounds plausible.

Cat Clark doesn’t write in any foreign languages at least I don’t think she does. She started her writing journey writing non-fiction, but this type of factual writing didn’t allow her an adequate platform for her squirrel like imagination, so fiction was the next obvious path to take. Cat says she thinks like a teenager, and believe me when she said this I didn’t bat an eyelid. So our teenage minded Cat decided to write Fiction, aka stories that lie to the reader, yes that’s how the interviewer sold it to us. A whole new genre: Stories That Lie, it has a certain ring to it doesn’t it? Sounds far more exciting, and interesting if you ask me, great decision Cat…

Both Cat Clarke and Kat Ellis seem to have aspects in common in their recent writing, both of these novels are about disappearing children. Moreover these two authors are drawn to the weird. Cat Clarke admitted that she was a bit of a weird kid being fascinated by child abduction, the topic for her new book, The Lost and The Found. Similiarly Kat E likes to go to circus’s with her niece and imagine what it would be like for the circus performers to befall some horrible accident. Yes, this talk ended up being a bit of a confessional for weirdness, but Cat came out with the most shocking gambit of all. She is fascinated by shark attacks, what it would be like to be attacked, and the scars you’d have. After this particular announcement silence followed, shocked audience silence, possibly Cat might have gone too far? Hope there weren’t any shark attack victims in the audience. Yes Cat, authors are a weird bunch, and by the sound of it, you’ve got this weirdness on pointe.

So the discussion progressed to differences between these two authors. Cat Clarke kind of summed it up when she mentioned the weathervane at the beginning of Kat’s book, she’s in awe of the fantasy world that Kat has created. Me too.  Daniel Hahn was quick to point out that Cat’s non fantasy based writing rocks too.

Blackfin Sky (great title by the way,) is Kat Ellis’s debut novel. During the course of the interview it transpired that Kat E did indeed have other manuscripts tucked away, apparently Blackfin Sky leapfrogged past the others, to claim the first spot in the hall of fame of first novels and is one of the nominees for ….  Drumroll……..

First Book Award, vote for your favourite here, voting closes at 5pm on Friday 16th October: www.edbookfest.co.uk 

There were readings, as there always are at these talks, hey we’re talking books, who wants to come to an author’s event and not hear the author/s talk? Cat C leapfrogged past the first chapter and read from her second chapter and Kat Ellis kept fantasy simple and read from her first chapter.

Here’s some short snippets:

Kat Ellis, Blackfin Sky, 1st Chapter

Silas’ spirit had inhabited the rusting weathervane for many years. From his perch on the school roof he watched the townsfolk of Blackfin through his empty eye socket as they buzzed through their lives beneath him, no more significant than the grains of sand piling up against the shoreline, clinging to the struts of Blackfin pier.

Doesn’t that just grab your attention? It certainly did for me!


Cat Clarke The Lost and The Found,  Chapter 2

I don’t believe it. I won’t allow myself to believe it. Mum’s trying to stay calm too, but I can see it in her face – something I haven’t seen for years hope. She thinks it’s different this time. They wouldn’t have called her otherwise. They think this is it. After hundreds, maybe even thousands, of crank calls and false sightings and psychics claiming Laurel was living with goat-herds in the mountains of Uzbekistan.

Again, another wonderful snippet that draws the reader in, so looking forward to reading both of these books.

Same topic two very different approaches fascinating isn’t it? That’s why I love books so much, stir a little pot of words, add a dash of magic and just see where those magical words will take you.

There were tips for writers from debut novelist Kat Ellis, her advice is to learn all you can about publishing through social media platforms such as twitter, follow those agents, (she is with the Bent Agency,) and editors.  Excellent advice from Kat, yes stalk those agents and editors, don’t let them get a day’s rest.

Neither Cat or Kat  write with a particular audience in mind. Apparently Kat didn’t do any research for her novel, sounds like it just evolved, albeit slowly, yes this writing lark takes oodles of energy and time. They tend to write what they themselves would like to read and nowadays YA is read by older people too like …… yours truly and the thoroughly accomplished and entertaining interviewer Daniel Hahn who confessed to being in his forties and reading YA. Ah, this is very relatable, us older YA readers should stick together we should have a convention or something….

So, wonderful talk, enjoyed it immensely, love being at the Book Festival, spent so much time there it began to feel like a home for home. Maybe I should pitch a tent, would have saved on bus fares.

TIP: It’s a great spot for people watching, and generally being nosy – one of my favourite pastimes, a must if you have any aspirations to be a writer……

Take a look at these photos lots of potential for imagined stories:





Maybe you’d like to use one of these photographs as a story prompt and write a story? Please feel free to do so if you’d like by linking back to this post. Thanks.






Thanks for stopping by.

Have you been to this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival?  If you have I’d love to hear about your experiences  do leave a comment. Or if you’d prefer to talk about squirrels, muffins and sharks that’s okay, happy to chat about that too!

Bye for now!


Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx


Sharing Options:

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑