Archive | December 2015

Hello Hermione – Discussing ‘Cursed Child’ and its new Cast

So the casting news for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play in London was released on Sunday night. I gave myself a day to mull it over before putting words to screen about what I really think, especially the new Hermione who has caused a lot of discussion in the last 48 hours.

Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni and Paul Thornley will lead the cast as Harry, Hermione and Ron in Cursed Child.

Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni and Paul Thornley.

And there you have it. Hermione is black. It’s something that has kind of shaken the whole of the HP fandom and even those outside the fandom, because, let’s not lie, we weren’t expecting this.

It definitely took me about a day to get used to these new representations of my favourite characters. Because when I first read the casting announcement it wasn’t Noma that I saw first, it was Paul as Ron and I physically recoiled. He doesn’t look anything like Rupert Grint! Ron has always been my favourite of the trio and Paul looks nothing like how I’ve imagined him, Rupert or no. I mean, I’m sure the hair can be fixed and dyed (because that is a defining feature of Ron, like Harry’s glasses and Hermione’s hair) and if you look at Paul, he actually has the long nose that J.K. Rowling describes Ron as having, and Rupert doesn’t.

I think what for me made me always believe that Hermione was white is that J.K. Rowling was always specific enough in her descriptions of black characters. Dean Thomas, Blaise Zabini and Kingsley Shacklebolt were always specified as black, so if Hermione wasn’t defined as such, she just wasn’t. But that’s not saying that she can’t be, because as J.K said in her tweets yesterday, she doesn’t specify either way.

I don’t think it’s acknowledging that Hermione can be black or that Paul has a long face, I think the real issue is accepting that these three are just not Dan, Rupert and Emma, and we have to deal with that. The Harry Potter films came out when I was 8, my whole childhood was Dan, Rupert and Emma, but fundamentally, they aren’t Harry, Ron and Hermione any more than Jamie, Noma and Paul are. Harry, Ron and Hermione are characters, fictional characters and they can be whoever we choose them to be. John Green says ‘books belong to their readers’ and we, as readers, have a right to imagine the characters in whichever way we want, whether that’s as white Emma or black Noma or even Asian, Jewish, etc. etc.

I think we also need to accept that although the narrative and the canon are all in the HP universe, ultimately Jamie, Noma and Paul belong to the book canon not the movie canon that Dan, Rupert and Emma belong to. I mean, we’re not trying to say here that 19 years later, after the end of DH Part 2, Hermione magically changed race. That’s ridiculous. It’s not an argument of continuity as such, it’s an argument of differentiation. Fantastic Beasts belongs to the movie canon universe, whilst Cursed Child is part of the book canon universe, and when you separate the two it becomes far easier to accept that Jamie, Noma and Paul are separate from Dan, Rupert and Emma.

And we can all argue that the movies weren’t exactly perfect anyway. I mean, my biggest gripe is and has always been how different Ginny is personality wise in the films from the books – what a destruction of one of my favourite book characters. So really, as long as Jamie, Noma and Paul nail the personality qualities that we love: Harry’s bravery, Hermione’s brilliantness and Ron’s humour and loyalty, and bring them to life in an authentic and honest way, does it actually matter what they look like?? (Having said all of this, I think Jamie is physically perfect for Harry, but still, not sure why.)

Honestly? I will miss Dan, Rupert and Emma – they were the Harry, Ron and Hermione I grew up with. But time moves on and ultimately it’s better to have some Harry Potter than no Harry Potter at all…

Congratulations to Jamie, Noma and Paul, and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter in Harry’s story is.

Just need to get tickets now.

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Shtum – Jem Lester

I must start this review by thanking the wonderful Sam Eades for sending me a proof of Shtumalong with The Versions of Us by Laura Barnet, which has been added to my expanding ‘To Read’ list, as part of a Secret Santa giveaway.

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I had heard so much about this book: on THE Book Club on Facebook, on Twitter, and in the general book world. Since diving into the book world myself on my unwavering hunt for a job in a publishing house, I have become more eager than ever to read proofs before the book is publishing so that I too can rave about them upon publication. Therefore, I knew I had to get my hands on Shtum, if not to see what all the fuss is about really.

And it’s completely worth the fuss.

Shtum tells the story of Ben and his autistic ten-year-old son Jonah, who are forced to move in with Ben’s father Georg in order to further Jonah’s case in an upcoming tribunal. Thus, three generations of Jewells are thrown together and a tale of family, history, identity and crisis unfolds.

I found the novel initially, not so much challenging, but challenging in its simplicity, in that I kept waiting for the bomb to drop and for it to to become the incredible novel I had read about. I did however, enjoy the opening sections for Lester’s writing similarities with Jonathan Tropper. I found his depiction of Ben to be quite similar to Tropper’s Judd from This Is Where I Leave You, though the two characters are on paper rather different. The way Lester plays with family dynamics and the meaning of family – in that family does not necessarily have to be blood – is incredibly reminiscent of Tropper’s writing, and Lester achieves that same casual elegance in his development of character and character relationships as does Tropper.

The wit and humour in Ben and his father Georg in times of hardship is what keeps the novel afloat and really makes up the heart and the emotion of the novel. The way the three generations interact and share their lives is simply charming and effervescent,

However, once the bomb dropped, and the bombs continued to drop, with more and more punches and twists to the tale that strike right at the heart, I realised just how fantastic this book would really be, and how it exceeds Tropper in so many ways. There is an emotional depth and an authentic sentiment to the closing chapters that really makes you root for the Jewells, despite their, at times, negative qualities, such as Ben and Emma’s dissolving relationship and their own individual demons.

The very end of the novel packs a serious emotional punch, that I was not expecting and really shook me as I read it. I don’t wish to spoil it here, but I will say that I felt it was slightly rushed, and though there were hints of it throughout the novel, I would have preferred a different narrative style, perhaps interweaving the close of the story throughout the novel in a dual narrative style.

I have seen much success with this kind of narrative in the past, though at the same time as it is a common narrative move, I can understand why Lester would choose not to write his story as such. But I really do feel that as impactful as the final note of the story is, it would benefit from more attention throughout.

I have no doubt that this will be a huge seller in 2016, and the success of it is truly down to Lester’s incredible ability to write compelling but relatable characters that really tug on your heartstrings, as well as packing a punch at the end of the narrative. I read it in approximately four hours, and have no doubt that with the right amount of hours in a day, you could too.

 

Shtum is published by Orion books on 7th April 2016 and again, all thanks go to Sam Eades for sending me a copy of this much desired first novel. 

FutureBook ’15

*flexes fingers in preparation for a long, detailed blog*

I was lucky enough to volunteer at FutureBook ’15 yesterday and help out The Bookseller with their biggest conference of the year and the largest digital publishing conference in Europe. I want to start off by saying how grateful I am for the opportunity; I got to work with a great team who all took the time to remember my name and get to know me. In the midst of a conference so hectic and busy, with so many important people, it can be easy for a volunteer to get lost in the crowd but the team at The Bookseller did not let that happen.

I went down to the office on Thursday to help with some preliminary work for the conference, and spent a few hours organising name badges – and name spotting people I was excited to see and hear speak from the industry  – and packing up the last few bits into the FutureBook tote bags. As we all know, everyone in publishing loves a tote bag filled with free stuff.

FREE TOTE!!

FREE TOTE!!

Friday was an early start at the venue, The Mermaid in Blackfriars, where I arrived at 7.30 to help with set up of organising the name badges that I had lovingly alphabetised and putting the tote bags out on display. When all the other volunteers arrived, I felt a bit like a fish out of water – everyone else seemed to be an MA Publishing student, whereas I’m still an undergrad. But they were all so friendly and willing to have a chat. It was great to hear that there were so many different areas of publishing that people were interested in, including rights, sales, academic and education, and from such different routes to getting to where they are today.

We also had various discussions throughout the day about what we’d heard in the talks or read on Twitter. A particular point of note was our discussion on e-books, following the statistic that 63% of 16-24 year olds have never bought an e-book. I find this shocking in a technological age where we live on our mobile devices. I certainly know that I find my Kindle a life-saver when travelling. However, when I thought about it more, it is true that I much prefer a print book for studying and academic material. Perhaps the discussion is not that pure statistic but considering exactly why 16-24 year olds don’t buy e-books – does purpose (i.e pleasure or education) make a difference?

The early part of my day was taken up with handing out lanyards to the delegates and being a general assistant to The Bookseller team as they were all rushed off their feet. Luckily, I was able to sit in two amazing sessions before lunch: Face out: strategies that work and why, and, Writing the future: author-centric publishing.

This was especially important for me because of my interest in publicity and marketing, which really revolves around successful strategies and keeping the author in the picture. I was tweeting furiously throughout the sessions, trying to note down as much as I could.

For me the two highlights of the sessions were Asi Sharabi from LostMy.Name and Judith Curr, president and publisher of Simon and Schuster’s Atria imprint.

LostMy.Name is a fantastic concept of the personalised book, that takes tech and imagination and creates magic. I know I certainly had a personalised book as a child but not to this scale and genius: one that uses algorithms and other clever ways to really specialise each individual book, to the point where they can even use satellites to pinpoint an image of the child in question’s house and include it in the book.

Basically.

Basically.

I know I wasn’t the only one in awe of LostMy.Name; there were plenty of people buzzing on Twitter about it, especially as Christmas present ideas!

Judith Curr spoke about author-centric publishing and highlighted the three types of author and three types of reader: Traditional, Indie and Digital. A Traditional author/reader is one who really connects with each other in a more ‘traditional’ way through print books and dedicated readership. Indie or Hybrid authors build a readership through social media and online engagement, driving sales through word of mouth and an existing fan base. Their readers are largely Gen-Y, who invest not only in the author but deeply in the characters and often purchase books based on their love for the character – which spurned the highly entertaining term ‘book boyfriend’.

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Now, you may scoff at such an idea, but just think how popular characters like Augustus Waters and Edward Cullen are, irrespective of their authors.

The final type is Digital Influencers: those who already have a large following through digital media like YouTube or Vine. Their readers are mainly Millenials who read fiction, memoirs and humour, finding books via social media on their mobile devices.

What was really interesting though was Judith’s introduction of the Crave app, which was just released the other day. Crave is a subscription service app that sends books in bite-sized pieces to your phone or device every 24 hours, with other exclusive content such as messages from authors and characters, making reading even more engaging.

I mean... wouldn't you be?

I mean… wouldn’t you be?

Judith was concise and precise, making her talk (for me) one of the most successful of the day.

After Writing the future: author-centric publishing, we broke for an incredible lunch overlooking the Thames, with a great view of the South Bank. Lunch also gave me an opportunity to catch up with people in the industry that I know from previous experience, like Steph, Poppy and Julia from Penguin General, with whom I did work experience in summer.

After lunch I sat back behind the front desk, giving the other volunteers a chance to sit in on the talks. There wasn’t that much to do by the afternoon so it gave us time to have a nice cup of tea!

The last talk of the day that I attended was The social room: using Twitter and audio for books, with Abi Fenton from HarperCollins and Georgina Moore from Headline, chaired by Jo Ellis. Maria asked me to handle the timings, and it was great to be given that kind of responsibility, even if she did end up handling most of it herself! I especially enjoyed her little sigh as Georgina spoke about have two Twitter handles, which we all know from her personal OnceUponTheBook and the ever-wonderful, JobsInBooks.

It also meant I got to sit on the front row for the session; I loved hearing Georgina speak, especially as I had been so keen to hear her at Hachette’s Insight into Publishing day, which I unfortunately didn’t get onto (though speaking to other students, it seemed like lots of us didn’t!)

Georgina spoke about the importance of having a strong Twitter presence and connect with influencers on Twitter, which can power sales through word of mouth. She also spoke about balancing personal Twitter activity with corporate professionalism, or creating a persona on Twitter. Most importantly, however, it’s necessary to make your visual recognisable including using a smart handle, a recognisable photograph and a great biography. It was such a fantastic, detailed and useful talk, that I felt so privileged to hear because I think that as a publicist (or someone who wants to be a publicist) it’s important to have a social media presence that you feel proud of and that can really drive sales.

She also put up this helpful pic of all the important personal Twitter handles you need to know!

She also put up this helpful pic of all the important personal Twitter handles you need to know!

It was also incredible to go up to her at the end and have her say to me ‘Are you Chloë?’ – proof having a Twitter presence (and constantly live-tweeting) is a valuable way to communicate and brand yourself, making your name known.

Abi’s talk on Audiobooks was also fascinating, illustrating that audio can go places text simply can’t and using the author’s voice can bridge a gap between the reader and the author.

I also loved this idea on Instagram of creating audio clips with images that make up the book cover for Lindsey Kelk’s What a Girl Wants!

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And after that, my day was over and it was time to leave with my bag of goodies and get the train back to Birmingham. I’m especially excited by the notebook from BookBub and the pen/screen-cleaner hybrid from Nielsen, which caused a bit of a commotion!

It is, indeed, a screen cleaner.

It is, indeed, a screen cleaner.

Thanks, and congratulations to Blake for organising such an amazing event and thank you so much for letting me be part of it!

Onto the next event!