The Soul Shadows Tour – Guest Blog by Alex woolf

The Soul Shadows Tour

I’ve had a fantastic time recently, promoting my new book Soul Shadows. I visited four schools in all and spoke to over four hundred students…

CITY OF LONDON SCHOOL
My first visit was to this magnificent boys’ school in the heart of the city, overlooked by St Pauls Cathedral and just across the river from the Globe Theatre. I was a little overawed at first by the size and imposing atmosphere of the school, but David Rose, the school librarian, made me feel very welcome. To my great relief, the tiny memory stick containing my powerpoint file did not fail me, and the slides duly appeared on the screen at the touch of a button. This was something of a revelation to me as I’ve never given a talk using powerpoint before. I spoke to three classes in all, and got some magnificent questions. My talk really seemed to fire their imaginations. One boy asked if multiple soul shadows from the same person was possible. Another asked if shadows themselves could generate shadows. I said these suggestions were brilliant, and I may well save them up for a sequel!

FORTISMERE SCHOOL
The following day I visited three schools in Haringey in the company of the tireless and magnificent Sean Edwards, the borough’s Children’s & Youth Libraries Manager. We got to our first school, Fortismere in Muswell Hill, at the improbably early hour of 8.45 and I was expecting to have a little time to set up, perhaps have a coffee. But as we walked into the library, it was already filled to the brim with eager students looking expectantly towards me! They then had to wait patiently while I fiddled around with my memory stick and located my reading glasses. However, as it turned out, they were a joy to speak to. The session ended with a great Q&A – always my favourite part of any talk, as it can lead into all sorts of unexpected territory. The toughest question came from a teacher: what is my favourite YA book? Gosh, I have so many, but why is it that whenever anyone asks that question, my mind always goes blank! I would like to thank Gill Ward, the school librarian, for setting everything up, including a lovely display of my previous books.

Fortismere School

Alex Woolf meets pupils at the Fortismere School

HIGHGATE WOOD SCHOOL
There was no parking available at our next school and we had to park at the local library. Kudos to the heroic Sean Edwards, who had to lug a heavy box of books up a very long, steep hill. I spoke to well over a hundred children at Highgate Wood – the entire Year 8, I believe – in a huge hall. The book cover of Soul Shadows has never looked so big or scary as it did on the humungous screen that filled the stage. Richard Lamb, the Learning Resources Centre Manager, said I must feel like a rock star today. I resisted performing my air guitar routine to the crowd, and instead focused on the book. Once again, I was really impressed with how attentive the students were, and the questions they asked, such as what inspired me to start writing and why do I like horror. Fortunately, no one asked me the questions that apparently a lot of authors have to face: how old are you, and how much do you earn?! A big thanks to Richard Lamb for organising things and taking photos.

Highgate School

Alex Woolf talking to pupils at Highgate School

HEARTLANDS SCHOOL
The final stop on this leg of the Soul Shadows tour was Heartlands School in Wood Green. After a quick tour of this impressive new school, I spoke to a class of bright and enthusiastic students. By this time I was feeling a little like a theatre actor reciting lines I’d said so often before. But the interest evident in the eyes of the audience reminded me that to them this is all brand new, and that helped me to keep my talk fresh and lively. Again, the questions were unpredictable and thoughtful. One student was intrigued by the interactive genesis of Soul Shadows (an earlier version of the book was published by Fiction Express, and at the end of each chapter readers were given a chance to vote on how the plot should continue). She asked what happened if I disagreed with a vote! I must thank Learning Resources Centre Manager Helen Swinyard for her help on the day, and for her enthusiastic tweeting about my visit.

All in all, it was an exhilarating couple of days. As a YA author I found it valuable and fascinating to meet with and talk to so many young readers. Their enthusiasm has filled me with hope for the future of books and reading, and given me a whole new lease of energy.

The Soterion Mission by Stewart Ross: an editor’s perspective

By Vaarunika Dharmapala

When I think about editing a new manuscript, I picture a very tiny me getting tangled up in super-sized black type. Hanging off the tail of a “g” perhaps, peering about, trying to see between the looming words into the mind of a virtual stranger, the author.

Stewart Ross is no longer a stranger to me. We’ve had many conversations, as many laughs and have become just a little more familiar with each other’s thoughts. I’ve spent hours rambling amongst his words, and have emerged from the process with a head full of new ideas, places and people. I’ve become his biggest fan and most eager advocate.

The Soterion Mission is set in a harsh future world, where the inhabitants must cram all of life’s experiences into less than nineteen years. After their eighteenth ‘winter’ they age rapidly, then die. But it is not a wholly bleak world. There is hope – in the form of the mysterious Soterion that holds the key to life, learning and death.

One of the most interesting aspects of this novel is the way in which Stewart has chosen to give the experience of young people all the validity of adulthood. In this view, adolescence is not a waiting room in which we bide our time until real life begins. Within those short years, we already encounter the best and worst in human nature. We have our hearts broken and mended, we are betrayed and rescued, we are fearful and brave. Many of us are lucky enough to experience these extremes in the relative safety of home and school. The characters in this novel, however, are fighting for their lives.

From kind and clever Roxanne to fiendish Timur to anarchic young Sammy – Stewart’s characters leapt into life as I read and re-read. They forced their way out from between the big black type and straight into my head. In fact, they refuse to leave! I know that any reader who picks up this book will feel the same way. That is why I am pleased and proud, as is Curious Fox, to publish this outstanding new novel.

Vaarunika Dharmapala