BGS pupils with Sally Green

An interview with Sally Green

The Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival, 28 September, a glorious Sunday afternoon. A posse of Lower Sixth girls at the packed-out, BGS-sponsored event, keen to hear established novelists Marcus Sedgwick and Sally Green who burst on to the scene in March.

Upbeat music welcomes Sally on stage: presenter Gill McLay explains that Marcus is stuck on a ’plane somewhere. Sighs of disappointment … until Gill delves into the main themes of Green’s debut, Half Bad. Sally wanted to ‘turn good and bad stereotypes on their heads’. Racism and prejudice are rife as her protagonist Nathan is persecuted by white witches because of his black witch father, the evil Marcus (‘Not this Marcus,’ Sally jokes, referring to the absent Sedgwick). Nathan wasn’t easy to write, Sally explains. ‘He’s the good guy who does bad things. He swears a lot for one.’ Laughter from the audience: Nathan’s foul language helps make him lovable.

Suddenly a remarkably cool, non-evil Marcus Sedgwick runs in, joining in with incredible ease. ‘Do you write characters opposite to yourself, as a deliberate challenge?’ he’s asked. ‘There’s always an element of challenge,’ he replies. ‘That’s the point of being a writer.’ ‘Half Bad and Ghosts of Heaven (Sedgwick’s new title) are both quite violent,’ Gill observes, wondering if novelists feel the need to censor themselves. ‘Not at all,’ says Marcus, and Sally agrees. He refers to a rape scene from his novel Revolver: ‘Young people may not understand what’s going on; adults probably do. Somewhere in the middle, teens realise: then it’s their choice – whether to keep reading or not.’ Murmurs of interested agreement from the audience.

Smiling, Gill turns to research: ‘Sally, Half Bad takes place in this world, but how did you research the witches and other supernatural things?’ Green cringes. ‘I hate research. I think I did about ten minutes: apart from that I made it all up. With Half Wild now I’m doing a lot more, interviews about soldiers coming home from Afghanistan and what they go through. Nathan’s mind changes a lot through the new book: I wanted to develop that.’ Half Wild is her second novel, out in March. ‘Now I need to start the third one in the series, but I keep putting it off. It’s just that first blank page that stares at you. But after that I can just write, the story just pours out of me. Then I’m fine.’

By Guest Blogger, Olivia Clements from Bristol Grammar School

Read a full interview by the pupils of Bristol Grammar School with Sally Green here

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