I’m a huge fan of Maggie Harcourt’s wonderful UKYA romance Unconventional, published by Usborne, so it’s great to have the chance to get her to do a 5-4-3-2-1 post today!
5 – songs that sum up the last novel you wrote perfectly.
I had the radio on quite a lot while I was planning “Unconventional”, and one morning, quite early on, these first three songs played back to back while I was sitting at the kitchen table, surrounded by notes and old convention programmes… and they were exactly how the book felt in my head. I think it might have been fate.
Stitches – Shawn Mendes
Shut Up and Dance – Walk the Moon
Let it Happen – Tame Impala
These two tracks – to me, at least – sum up a lot about Lexi and Aidan, from different points of view. (It probably doesn’t hurt that the Sia song is one of my all-time favourites anyway!)
Fire Meet Gasoline – Sia
Hole in My Soul – Kaiser Chiefs
4 – authors you’d want with you if you were stranded on a desert island.
Miranda Dickinson (because I love her storytelling, and her lovely, generous positivity).
Bruce Springsteen (because technically he’s an author now; anyway, isn’t this my desert island shut up).
Will Hill (because I’ve known him years, but mostly because if I were to get stranded on a desert island with Bruce Springsteen and he missed it, I think he might never forgive me).
JK Rowling (because she’s JK ROWLING. And because if we’ve got her with us, Melinda Salisbury will mount a rescue mission. Or will at least arrive with supplies).
3 – books you would save from a burning bookshelf.
Treating this as “books as objects” rather than as “books” (because I’d want to save them all!) there are three on my shelves I’d try to grab:
My mum’s 1968 Puffin edition of Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince”, illustrated by Lars Bo. It’s unbelievably precious to me.
My copy of Hilary Mantel’s “A Place of Greater Safety”. There’s nothing particularly special about the edition I have, but I read it over the summer a couple of years ago and fell in love with it. Mine is stuffed with tickets and postcards from everywhere I went over that summer – which was literally from Scotland down to Cornwall. Most precious of all is the tiny piece of paper, tucked into the front pages, with Hilary Mantel’s signature on, dating from the time she came to give a talk at my university and I found myself chatting away to her in a corridor. It’s a reminder and a touchstone and quite possibly enchanted.
My first edition (white-jacketed) hardback of “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clark because I bought it the day it was published, and it was the first book I felt a proper fandom-deep connection with – which is why “Unconventional” is full of Strange & Norrell in-jokes. And I happen to like the footnotes.
2 – classics you wish more people were reading today
“Hotel du Lac” by Anita Brookner, because the writing is glorious. It’s not a long book, but it’s perfect. I remember my mum reading it at some point when I was young – I can picture the cover sitting on her bedside table – but I only picked it up after it was covered on the (brilliant) Backlisted podcast. It’s so good.
“Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo. I obviously have a thing about the French Revolution, but mostly I wish more people would read it so I could have someone to obsessively compare Book-Javert to Mu