Tales Q&A with Kerr Thomson
I am super excited to be a part of the UKYACX Extravaganza Blog Tour again and today I have been paired up with the brilliant Kerr Thomson winner of the Times Children’s Fiction Prize 2014!
This time around the UKYACX Extravaganza is taking place in Newcastle on the 17th September 2016 and is featuring all of these amazing authors and illustrators!
Today I have been lucky enough to have put some questions to Kerr and he was kind enough to answer them all…..
Three children are spending their summer on a wild Scottish island. Fraser is desperate for adventure; Hayley is fed up she’s even there; while Dunny spends his days staring out to sea. He hasn’t said a word in years. But everything changes with the discovery of two bodies on the beach: a whale and a man. Fraser and Hayley see a mystery-adventure to be solved, but Dunny is inconsolable. And in the end, it will take someone who listens to the sea to put it right.
You can read an extract from the book here
Hi Kerr. It’s so wonderful to have you here today!
Can you tell us a little about your debut that was released last year, The Sound of Whales?
The Sound of Whales is an adventure story set on the Scottish island of Nin. Fraser and Dunny are island brothers, the younger one Dunny doesn’t speak. On to their island comes Hayley, an American girl who at first despises everything to do with the place, especially Fraser. Together they discover dead bodies and castaways in caves and whales and the special gift that only Dunny possesses.
You won the Times Children’s Fiction Prize 2014? How was that?
That was amazing! I entered with no expectation of winning and it was the first place I ever sent The Sound of Whales. There is no large pile of rejection letters from agents and publishers and I am very aware of how lucky I am. That is the wonder of the competition – unknown writers like myself are given the most fantastic opportunity to be published. And it can happen to anyone!
Can you tell us a little about the main characters in The Sound of Whales, Fraser, Hayley & Dunny?
Fraser is an island boy looking for adventure and not realising he is living it every day. Dunny is his younger brother who is autistic and mysterious and remarkable in many ways. Hayley is an American girl dragged by her mom to the island and determined to hate every minute of the experience. None of them can resist the adventures that come their way and the friendships that develop.
How important was the setting to you? Why did you choose the setting of a Wild Scottish Island?
The island is almost a character in itself. Certainly the landscape plays a very important role in the story. There is something inherently dramatic and enigmatic about that place where the ocean meets the shore. And of course, the best and worst thing about an island is, you can’t get off!
What was your favourite scene to write?
The second last chapter began life as the last chapter and I always had that scene in my head. It is an ending of sorts though I don’t want to spoil it for anyone yet to read the book (You know who you are!). Writing it, having brought the story all the way there, was such a satisfying feeling. It ended as I had hoped it would end. That may seem a strange thing to say as its writer, but sometimes the words take on a life of their own and head in a different direction from anticipated and so I was glad the story finished as I hoped it would!
Do you see yourself in any of the characters in The Sound of Whales or have you used any of your own experiences in the story?
They do say every author writes themselves into their first book so I suppose there is a wee bit of me in every character….although maybe not the orcas – don’t have that killer instinct!
As for using my own experiences in the story, well I’ve never swam with whales or sailed a boat or discovered a dead body but I have been frightened and I have been excited and I have been lonely and I have been angry and I have been brave and I have been flabbergasted and I have experienced all these important feelings that the young people in the book experience. So I guess that counts.
If you could cast your characters from The Sound of Whales in a big Hollywood film adaptation who would you choose?
If I told you that then readers would have that image in their head and I would rather people created their own visual image of the characters as they read. So no mention of Ewan McGregor and Idris Elba…ah, darn!
What would you like your reader to take from The Sound of Whales?
I would like young people to believe in the possibility of adventure. I fear that no-one goes exploring anymore. Young people of today have this fantastic resource to enrich their lives which is sadly completely neglected. It’s called ‘outside’!
What do you think makes a good story?
It’s a simple formula – believable characters doing exciting things in an interesting place. Works every time.
We would love to know a little bit more about you! Can you give us 5 random facts we don’t know about Kerr Thomson?
No-one who answers this question ever gives random facts. They carefully craft five pieces of highly exaggerated if not downright fanciful snippets that make the person seem incredibly interesting, slightly mysterious but also modest and charming! I’m dull. I’ll pass.
Which of your characters would you most like to spend the day with?
Well Ben would take me for a boat trip to find whales and then we would have to fight our way through a storm to get back to harbour so that sounds like a day to remember.
Growing up who inspired you into writing? Are there any Authors or books that inspired you?
Reading is the thing that inspired me to write. Every writer of books starts off as a reader of books. The earliest books that I loved were the Hardy Boys and Willard Price’s Adventure books. American kids foiling spy rings and wrestling crocodiles and flying biplanes. I doubt the books have aged well but at the time I devoured them and craved adventures of my own. Eventually I started writing the adventures instead of just imagining them.
Are there any recent works or authors that you admire or books you wish you had written?
Every time I read a good book I wish I had written it. Wizards, vampires, survival in dystopian worlds…..every sub-genre that arises you say to yourself, why didn’t I think of that?!
What are you currently reading?
Strangely I am reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. My eight year old son, Samuel, has just discovered the joys of Hogwarts and now wants intricate conversations about the minutiae of wizardry. I can’t remember any of it so I am starting again.
What is your favourite book of 2016 so far?
It is not a new book. A reviewer likened The Sound of Whales to something written by Eva Ibbotson and I hadn’t read any of her books so I thought I would. I really enjoyed Journey to the River Sea.
Are there any authors you would like to collaborate with? Who?
I have never tried it but I am not sure how a collaboration would work. I’m a bit of a lone wolf when it comes to writing.
When starting a new book or idea what does your writing process look like?
I sketch out a rough plan of a story but all pretty vague and then I just start writing. I usually have a detailed ending worked out, the ending is the most important bit of a book, but I don’t like to be too fixed in the story. New ideas will inevitably come as the plot develops.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
I really don’t. I sit in front of my laptop and press the keys. I would love to have a Dahlesque shed but I just sit in the dining room with the door shut. I do get some of my best ideas when I am out running.
Recently I asked some lovely authors their thoughts about does music influence their books or their characters. Did music have any influence the story of The Sound of Whales?
I like to have a movie soundtrack or smooth classics on Classic FM playing in the background but not too intrusive. Mood music I suppose. How much influence it has on my writing is probably minimal.
Are there any exciting plans for the rest of 2016 or 2017 I saw you’re writing your second novel The Rise of Wolves? Can you tell us a little about it?
The Rise of Wolves is set on the same island of Nin but a different group of young people having an adventure of their own. No whales this time but there are wolves. Wolves on a Scottish island? Unlikely, I hear you cry. Ah, but now you’re intrigued!
Also in 2017 the American version of The Sound of Whales is published. Change of title, however. I believe it is now going to be called Washed Ashore. It’s a little strange to have a different title but apparently it is not unusual. I am not going to be precious about it.
And finally…are you excited about the UKYACX Extravaganza?
Anything that is an Extravaganza must be exciting! It will be so cool to hang out with all these authors and meet all the readers and book lovers who attend. Slightly intimidating as well. I keep thinking I am going to be found out!
You can buy a copy of The Sound Of Whales here
About Kerr Thomson
Kerr Thomson is a teacher of geography at Cathkin High School in Glasgow, and is the father of a six-year-old son and three-year-old daughter.
After studying geography at universities in Glasgow and Arkansas he worked at various jobs in various places including hospitals, sports centres and country parks, but eventually could resist no longer and entered the teaching profession, which is something of a family business. He has taught in several schools in Manchester and the west of Scotland.
He enjoys cycling and runs an occasional half-marathon. In every place and at every time he has always written stories.
You can follow Kerr on twitter – @kerrthomson
You can catch up or follow the rest of this fab blog tour at the following stops!
And don’t forget to buy tickets for this fab event!
You can find out more about the UKYACX Extravaganza in Newcastle on the website here
Or follow them on twitter using @UKYACX
Or find out what we got up to at the Birmingham UKYA Extravaganza here
A huge thank you to Kerr for being fab and answering all of my questions!
Also a huge thank you to Kerry Drewery and Emma Pass for organising the UKYACX Extravaganza and having me on the blog tour!
See you there!