Why I wrote about 9/11

When people ask me about writing We Can be Heroes the first question they usually ask is, ‘Why did you chose to write about 9/11?’. I could start by saying that We Can be Heroes is not really about 9/11, but I don’t (more of that later) Instead, I usually start by explaining that I wrote an article for The Times in 2008 about children who lost a parent in the September 11th terrorist attacks
I included interviews with four American teenagers, all of whom had lost their mum or dad on 9/11.
‘After 9/11, I used to hate everybody around me. And I was just so – mad,’ recalled Erik who was just eleven when his father, a World Trade Centre worker, fell victim to the terrorist attacks. ‘It’s only this year that I’ve started to really come to grips with what went on and how I was affected by it.’
‘Some of my memories are fading and it scares me,’ said Brielle, whose dad was captain of the hijacked United Airlines Boeing 767 which crashed into Tower 2. ‘I remember his voice because it’s still on his voice mail: “Hi this is Victor. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can,” he says. Sometimes it bothers me that he won’t get back to me. But it’s like it’s taken me all these years to really realise that.’
It would have been impossible not to be haunted by those voices, and I continued to think of them long after the article was published.
Nearly 3,000 children lost a parent during the terrorist attacks. Some were mere babes in arms (or in the womb) when they lost a parent to terrorism that day. I interviewed Terry Sears from the organisation Tuesday’s Children www.tuesdayschildren.org who support the 9/11 kids across the US. She talked to me about the younger children – who are only now able to understand what happened, ‘This year, some kids were able to express things for the first time.’
She also talked of the new challenges the 9- 11 kids were facing as surviving parents moved on, remarried and formed step families. In some cases grief has driven families apart, and rifts with the deceased parents’ relatives have left some 9-11 kids estranged from their grandparents.
I interviewed academics carrying out studies into the psychological effects on the 9/11 kids; a grandmother who had not been allowed to speak to her grandchildren since the day her son died in the twin towers; a British mother who was pregnant with her son when his father was killed; and a British boy, Martin Hart, whose father had been one of the victims of the July 7th London terrorist attacks. ‘As a boy you are expected to be manly and crying is not a manly thing to do,’ he told me. ‘I cried a bit at my dad’s funeral but otherwise I’ve kept my feelings to myself.’
All of those people’s voices echo throughout We Can be Heroes and they are the reason I wrote it. In fact, re-reading that article now in order to write this blog, I am struck by just how much their stories are reflected in the novel.
Only like I said at the outset, We Can be Heroes is not really about 9/11. It’s like Ben says at the start of the novel:
‘My dad was killed in the 9/11 attacks in New York. But the stuff in this book is not about 9/11. It’s about the summer my mum went away; the summer that me and Jed and Priti tried to catch a suicide bomber and prevent an honour killing and started a race riot. So it’s not really about 9/11, but then again none of those things would have happened if it hadn’t been for that day. So I guess it’s all back to front. Sort of . . .’

The things is that writing the article for The Times made me extremely conscious that my own children – who were only 5 and 3 at the time – were growing up in a world shaped by the events of 9/11 and so I suppose I wanted to write a novel which explored the difficult questions that might throw up for them. So the novel is set ten years after the terrorist attacks and explores issues like Islamaphobia, extremism, zenophobia, the terrorist threat, fractured families, bereavement and racism. My hope is that the novel allows young readers to explore those issues themselves and reach their own conclusions.
I wrote the novel in a kind of frenzy, finishing barely nine months after The Times article was published (yes, the wheels of publishing do move very slowly!) And it wasn’t until after I’d finished it that I started to think about the ethics of what I had done. What made me think I had the right to fictionalise events that had played such a devastating part in real people’s lives? And what’s more, I’d tried to write a novel about 9/11 that was sort of funny – what kind of irresponsible writer did that make me?
That was when I came across Elizabeth Turner, a 9/11 widow who was pregnant with her son William when her husband was killed in the twin towers. Her amazing book The Blue Skies of Autumn is an autobiographical account about the years following the loss of her husband and the difficulties of bringing up a child who had lost his father before he was even born. The book is harrowing, beautiful and jaw-droppingly inspirational. Seriously, it’s the kind of book that changes your life.
Anyway, her life and William’s bear an uncanny similarity to that of the characters in my novel. For me, this was amazing and yet terrifying because it was as if my characters – whom I had come to love – had walked off the page and started talking to me. Except of course, so much of their experience and reaction to events differed dramatically from what happens in my novel. Which really troubled me. Did this mean I had got it ‘wrong’? Was I misrepresenting them?
And the realisation that there was a real little boy out there whose circumstances so mirrored those I had imagined really troubled me even more. How could any novel hope to do justice to the events that had shaped his life? Had any novelist the right? I felt voyeuristic, exploitative and disrespectful.
So, I contacted Elizabeth asked her to read the novel and she and I recently met for the first time. ‘I am sure that both of us were quite nervous – me reading the book and you meeting me,’ she said. She also admitted that she had put off reading my novel for ages because she was anxious about how it would affect her. ‘But then I picked it up and I couldn’t stop reading. It is very cleverly written and a very touching look at how these events impact us all in very different ways.’ And the humour? ‘Oh, yes, it made me laugh too. That bit where Priti accuses Ben of making the whole 9/11 thing up – that’s really happened to William and that made me giggle.’
So, that’s why I wrote about 9/11. I wrote it for Erik, and Brielle and Bridget and Amy, for Martin, William, Elizabeth, Patricia and all the other families affected by terrorism across the world. No novel can hope to do justice to the totality of their collective experience, but I hope We Can be Heroes will make readers think a bit, maybe make them cry and hopefully also make them laugh a bit along the way too. And I think I’m OK with that.

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Is 9/11 a suitable topic for young readers

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at a conference about 9/11 which was run by Amnesty International and The Three Faiths Forum. At the start they showed a brilliant film of kids being asked what they knew about 9/11 and later there was a session about questions young people had asked about the terrorist attacks. Their responses ranged from blank ignorance (‘Er – dunno,’ ‘never heard of it,’ and, ‘That’s the day we start school, innit?’); via wild conspiracy theories (‘Aint that what the Queen did to kill off Prince William’s mum or summat?’); to dangerous misconstructions (‘My dad said the Hindus planned 9/11 to make the Christians hate the Muslims,’ and, ‘I read on the internet that 4,000 Jews got anonymous messages telling them not to go to work that day so I reckon the Hitler did it.’)
So when people ask me whether 9/11 is a suitable topic for readers of 11+, I tend to argue that not only is it OK for kids’ books to address topics like this, but that it’s probably quite important that they do.
The children in my novel We Can be Heroes are forced to confront racism, the terrorist threat, extremism, Islamophobia and zenophobia. The events of the novel make them ask difficult questions and confront their prejudices. It does not always offer answers because it is not the place of fiction to preach or to convert – but if it provokes debate or makes young readers think that’s surely got to be a good thing, in my opinion.
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal caused a storm in the Twitter-sphere by suggesting that contemporary teen fiction was full of, ‘images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.’ The author of the article, Meghan Cox Gurdon, appeared to argue that making teen readers confront difficult truths and come face to face with the more challenging aspects of human nature was somehow morally corrosive and spiritually damaging.
Within hours of the article’s publication, the topic became one of Twitter’s top worldwide trends after a British journalist asked YA readers to respond using the hash-tag #YAsaves. By the end of the day there were over 15,000 responses.
That Twitter trend squished Ms Cox Gurdon far more robustly than I can hope to do here. But if I can add my two-penn’orth, I’d say that teen fiction can and should be tackling challenging and troubling topics such as terrorism. Because stories can show young people that not everything is black and white, good and evil, and they do so by making them see things from new perspectives, by opening their eyes to other people’s views on the world and – to borrow a phrase from my favourite author, Harper Lee – by encouraging readers to, ‘climb into [another person’s] skin and walk around in it.’
But I’m also keenly aware of the responsibility a writer takes on if they chose to tackle topics such as terrorism, whether for young readers or old! There are some amazing YA novels which address terrorism and the aftermath of 9/11 (Guantanamo Boy – Anna Perera; An Act of Love and Caught in the Crossfire – Alan Gibbons; My sister lives on the Mantlepiece – Annabel Pitcher) but as Carnegie winner Alan Gibbons says in the foreword to his last novel, ‘only enter a dark room if you think you can light the way out.’ So what made me think I had anything to say about 9/11 that was worth hearing?
Well, I suppose it’s because We Can be Heroes is not just about 9/11; at its heart it is a story about bereavement, loss and reconciliation and when I wrote it, these were issues close to my heart, having just lost my own father to cancer (and – duh! – it only dawned on me very recently that I’d written a novel about a kid whose father had died and that this might – just might – be somehow linked to the loss of my own dad, thus proving that writers can be very observant about many things but totally clueless when it comes to reading the mysteries of their own hearts!).
Of course I’d also been researching my article for The Times about children whose parents had died in 9/11. The young people who featured in that article, as well as the experts I interviewed, the 9/11 family members I spoke to and the mountains of research I did all fed into We Can be Heroes. A lot of what the characters say and do in the novel is directly influenced by the interviews I conducted and by issues thrown up in that research. Whilst the events of the novel are entirely fictional and the act of writing a novel is ultimately about imagination, I felt, I think, throughout the process of writing it a real sense of duty to honour and reflect the experiences of those who had inspired the piece.
But I also felt a sense of the need for optimism. Not for providing simplistic solutions or unrealistic happy-ever- afters, but for leaving room for hope. And I suppose in that sense the novel is also driven by my experiences in South Africa. I lived and taught in South Africa and Namibia between 1995 – 1997 when the Truth and Reconciliation process was taking place. The TRC was not without its detractors nor its difficulties but it offered a model upon which peace and reconciliation between two warring factions could perhaps be achieved. That experience – of living in a community divided by hate but of witnessing small rays of hope breaking through the clouds of enmity – very much inspired We Can Be Heroes. I am, at heart, an optimist, and I believe optimism is essential to eradicating hate and fear. And whilst the ending of We Can Be Heroes is a lot more uneasy than you might expect from a self-confessed optimist, it is not without hope.
When I’m not writing novels or articles, I teach English part time at a local high school. And if my years of experience at the chalk-face have taught me anything, it’s that The WSJ journalist who thinks that teen readers should be fed a diet of nothing but happy-ever-afters fundamentally under-estimates the intelligence – and the needs – of young people. Teen readers are amongst the most discerning and enlightened I have ever come across. They typically respond to literature more thoughtfully and with a greater openness and willingness to embrace new ideas or have their preconceptions challenged than most older and – so-called – more sophisticated readers.
Which is why I believe that if the next generation are to tackle the problems that will beset tomorrow’s world, then fiction can play a key role in helping them understand the troubles of today’s. To quote the celebrated – albeit controversial – Austrian psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim, ‘For a story to truly hold the child’s attention, it must entertain him and arouse his curiosity. But to enrich his life, it must be attuned to his anxieties … give full recognition to his difficulties, while at the same time suggesting solutions to the problems which perturb him….. For stories speak about his severe inner pressures in a way that the child unconsciously understands, and – without belittling the most serious inner struggles which growing up entails.’
But if you ask me, all of the above applies equally well to adult readers, which is why We Can be Heroes is aimed at readers from 11 to 111, all of whom I hope will enjoy it and maybe go away thinking about a few of the questions it raises. Mind you, that suddenly sounds like far too great a claim to make about one’s own book, so perhaps I’d better leave it for you to decide! I’d love to know your thoughts on YASaves, writing about 9/11, We Can be Heroes or any of the other issues I’ve raised so feel free to let rip and give it to me with both barrels. Because I am a teacher, after all, and everyone knows that teachers talk a lot of nonsense half the time. So put me in my place – pop me in detention, make me write out my corrections three times…. I’d love to know what you’ve got to say!


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My top ten books

Ooh! So many fab books – so hard to decide on a top ten. Number 1 is easy: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. I studied it for GCSE with Mr Scott (best English teacher ever) and then reread it again a couple of years ago and it was the reason I wrote my novel ‘We Can be Heroes’. Scout and Jem reminded me so much of my own son and daughter and it made me think about how they are growing up in a country that is plagued by a different set of racial divisions, perhaps less obvious but no less invidious. So I guess I tried to write a ‘Mockingbird’ for the 21st Century. And I can’t quite believe I just said that out loud (or blogged it out loud!) and I’m not claiming for a second that ‘We Can be Heroes’ even comes close to Lee’s novel, but I figure if you’re going to be inspired you may as well be inspired by the best. So, I nicked the structure of Lee’s novel for ‘We Can be Heroes’ and my characters Priti and Jed are very much inspired by Scout and Dill; and the themes I’m exploring – racial tensions, divided communities, broken families – are similar too. So ‘Mockingbird’ is my all time No.1.
Now to the other nine. Well, I read somewhere that you’re either a ‘Wuthering Heights’ person or a ‘Pride and Prejudice’ person but I love both so I’m not sure what that makes me. Although I think I prefer ‘Persuasion’ to ‘P and P’ because I’m a sucker for a rom-com ending and Captain Wentworth’s letter gets me every time. And I do find Cathy Earnshaw very irritating and self absorbed but then I get swept up by all that, ‘I cannot live without my life. I cannot live without my soul,’ and, ‘Nelly, I am Heathcliff!’ stuff, even though – and I’ve got my agony aunt head on here – I don’t honestly think that love should be that miserable and masochistic (seriously, girls, men like Heathcliff are bad news!) – oh, but when he jumps in that grave I’m quivering toast. Plus, I get ridiculously excited about the pre-Freudian imagery of windows and doors – but that’s probably cos I totally fancied this professor at Oxford who did lectures on Psycho-analytical post-modernism that made my head spin and my heart beat very , very fast!
Anyway, moving on. What else? I love ‘Millions’ by Frank Cottrell Boyce and ‘Spies, Dad, Big Lauren and Me’ by Joanna Nadin – both of which are hilarious and heartbreaking and magnificent. How many is that? Five? Hmm . . . ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ by Jean Rhys – which is the story of the mad woman in the attic from ‘Jane Eyre’ before she got locked in the loft and went loopy. Rhys turns Bronte’s novel on its head, makes you despise Rochester, think differently about madness, and it is written in the most luscious, dense, clotted prose that is so extraordinary it almost makes you feel like you’re losing your mind yourself.
Oh, and ‘Cry, The Beloved country’ by Alan Paton. I worked in South Africa for a couple of years and although I think Paton’s novel is hugely flawed (fervently anti- apartheid but paradoxically stereotyped in its portrayal of black characters) it was a novel that helped bring about the end of racial segregation in South Africa so it demonstrates that great stories have the power to change the world and that writers should not shy away from the most difficult topics of the day. It is also very beautiful and utterly heartbreaking and the opening paragraph is one of the most lyrical and poetical ever written.
I LOVE Harry Potter and No 3 – ‘The Prisoner of Azkhaban’ is my favourite – although No 5 ‘The Order of the Phoenix’ holds a special place in my heart because I read it whilst I was giving birth to my son. Yes, literally during labour – let’s just say Joe was in no hurry to get out because I read it cover to cover between contractions. Best pain relief in the world – thanks JK!
Oh dear, only two left. I love Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum books but I also love ‘The Great Gatsby’ – F Scott Fitzgerald; and ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ – Tennessee Williams (am I even allowed a play?); and ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck; and ‘The Family from One End Street’; and ‘Staying On’ by Paul Scott; and ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Rhoy; and ‘The Hours’ by Michael Cunningham and almost anything by Virginia Woolf and ‘In the Fourth at Malory Towers’ and ‘Adolphus Tips’ by Michael Morpurgo and – oh, I give in! I know that’s way more than ten but I’m a writer: I can’t be expected to count too! Tell you what, let’s just pretend that was only ten and move on! Too many books, too little time! And so many fab ones still left to read – hooray!

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Children’s and YA Fiction and the War on Terror

The amazing Alan Gibbons has written a brilliant article for Books for Keeps about children’s and YA Fiction and the War on Terror in which he gives a glowing review of We Can be Heroes.

‘Catherine Bruton’s We Can Be Heroes is an astonishing, inventive, almost playful treatment of a blizzard of issues: honour killing, terrorism, far right extremism, racism, forced marriage, a race riot, a child disappearance. It is a mark of the author’s skill that they never become a morass of issues. They never overwhelm the story. The protagonist Ben’s father was killed in the 9/11 attacks. He meets Priti, a Muslim girl with a Hindu name. Employing a faux naïf tone, Bruton tells a big story with astonishing gusto and control. It is structured around a series of questions posed by Ben at the end of each section, reflecting on what has happened. In a way Bruton uses some of the techniques you might expect from a Paula Danziger or a Louise Rennison to frame her responses to a frightening world. I felt there was occasional inconsistency in the narrative voice, but that is a very minor criticism. This is a book that deals with serious issues in an endearing, humorous way. It is a remarkable piece of work.’

If you want to read the whole article, check out:

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Closing Night of my Blog Tour

So this is it – the last date on my blog tour! Blog Tour makes me sound so rock and roll, doesn’t it? Like I’ve been playing to sell-out arenas, biting heads off birds live on stage, throwing TVs out of hotel windows and hanging out with groupies at wild after-show parties. But I’m telling you, this blog tour lark isn’t all sex, drugs and rock and roll, you know (actually, it’s none of the above!) – it’s flipping hard work! And since embarking on this epic tour, I have gained new respect for bloggers the world over. Blogging is no cake walk (although I have eaten a lot of cakes along the way – for inspiration purposes, you understand!). Writing blogs is an art form – like haiku, and origami and ice-dancing and hula-hooping and lots of other brilliant, clever things that I’ve always wanted to be able to do. So, bloggers of the world – I salute you!

Anyway, I was trying to think what to say in my final blog. I mean, what do all the rock-stars say on the last nights of their tours? Well, I saw The Spice Girls do their last ever gig in 2000 (Posh sang one line – bless her!). Oh, and I recently saw the closing night of the Glee UK tour at the O2 ( and OMG – The Warblers singing Teenage Dream and Kurt putting a ring on it: life don’t get much better than that!) Now I’m not sure either qualifies as strictly rock and roll but they were closing tour dates, and they both seemed to involve a lot of waving mobile phones in the air and the performers blubbing, ‘You’ve been a beautiful audience. We love you!’ and stuff like that.

So, I figured in the spirit of closing night schmaltz, I’d use my last blog to pay tribute to all the amazing people who inspired We Can be Heroes which is a bit icky and not very rock and roll, but there you have it.

So, first up have to be the three American teenagers who I featured in The Times article I wrote in 2008 about kids who had lost a parent in the 2001 Terrorist attacks http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article4706754.ece the spoke so movingly about answer phone messages, not being able to remember a parent’s face anymore, anger at the media and 9/11 fatigue, but they also offered a message of hope which seems like a good place to end on. ‘After 9/11 happened, I remember saying: How am I ever gonna be happy?’ said Bridget whose father, a security guard in the World Trade Centre ran back into the building when he heard the explosion go off. ‘But I figured it’s by making other people happy. It’s by doing good deeds for other people. That’s how—that’s what makes me happy!’

Then there’s Martin Hart, the British boy whose father was killed in the 7 July London bombings and who I interviewed for the same article. ‘I still really struggle to forgive the people who killed my dad,’ he told me. ‘But those of us who have suffered at the hands of terrorists can play a really important role in shaping the future of the world and helping to overcome terrorism. We have to be better than the terrorists – it’s as simple as that.’

Those kids really inspired me and I had them in my mind the whole time I wrote We Can be Heroes. No novel could hope to do justice to the terrible events that have shaped their lives and sometimes I am troubled and wonder if any novelist even has the right to use real-life events as a springboard for fiction. But We Can be Heroes is intended as a tribute to the strength, fortitude and honesty of those kids and I really hope they might read it one day and maybe even tell me what they think.

But, like Ben says at the start of the book, We Can be Heroes is not just a story about 9/11, and a couple of other articles I wrote also fed into it. I wrote another piece for The Times on mothers who were separated from their children http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article4052406.ece
It’s also about kids suffering from I interviewed some incredibly brave women who told heartbreaking stories of estrangement from their kids and Parental Alienation Syndrome (which is a controversial term but basically means that one parent brainwashes a child until they believe they hate the other parent.. They inspired Jed’s storyline in the book and my heart goes out to them every day because I can imagine nothing worse than losing my children (rascally monkey-nuts that they are!) – nothing in the world.

Oh, and to the Grandparents Association. Cos I wrote another article on why grandparents are so important for a child’s psychological well-being which also inspired the novel http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article4098822.ece We can be Heroes is kind of a novel about grannies and granddads (and Gobbas, Gramps, Poppas and Nanas, Nannies, Oumas and the rest) and how fab they are! Lord love you all!

And finally to the amazing people from the Childhood Bereavement Trust and Winston’s wish who helped me with another article on grieving children, and to the families who I interviewed in the course of writing it.

Then it’s thanks to Chadders – Ollie Chadwick – a pesky home-work shy Year 11 who once told me, ‘You know, Miss, after 9/11 I used to draw cartoons of planes flying into towers’. Right there and then I had a classic light-bulb moment (I swear if you’d looked closely you’d have seen a little surge on the national grid just above my forehead). Chadders is the reason why my main character Ben doodles his way through the novel, seeing everything in terms of cartoon narrative, making comic strip versions of himself and his pals and dramatising their story-line in a manga cartoon strip that appears at the back of the book. So, Chadders, you are forgiven for all those late homeworks and may henceforth consider yourself an inspiration!!!

And while I’m at it, ta very much to the Year 9 manga boys who spent their time doodling in the back of my class last year and to 7J (promised I’d mention you, didn’t I, guys!) – muses, each and every one of you!

Big thanks too to the original Priti who was a little girl in my first ever form group. I was only 22 – a mere whippersnapper of a teacher – and Upper 4A were the sweetest bunch of mad little bonkers girls ever known and they took me to their hearts. The character of Priti is a mixture of all of you – Kezia, Apekshah, Miriam, Priti and the rest, in fond memory of Shaun the sheep and magic pebbles. She’s also inspired by numerous other weird, wonderful and wacky little girls I’ve had the very great pleasure of teaching over the years; and my childhood pal Kit, who was Priti in Disney socks; and my little girl Elsie who is only six but is already more bling than Beyonce and could take on Kurt from ‘Glee’ in a jazz hands/spirit fingers contest –and trounce him!

Now that’s enough of all the schmaltzy nonsense! My final thank yous go to Alex Rider (I know he’s not real but Alex Pettyfer is and in my fantasy – you know the one when I lose 20 years and 10lbs and marry Robert Pattenden? – yeah, well in that Alex Pettyfer is my spare rainy-day lover!) And We Can be Heroes is massively influenced by the whole teen spy genre (Young Bond, Alex Rider, Cherub etc) which my eight year old son has introduced me to and to which I am now totally addicted.

And while I’m at it I guess I’d better thank High School Musical and Hannah Montana and Glee and Dawson’s Creek and all the other cheesy American High School movie/ mini series which I love unashamedly and irredeemably. Especially Veronica Mars whose ghost echoes through my novel – or so I like to think! I love you, Logan!

And to Sally Nicholls from whose brilliant book Ways to Live Forever I shamelessly stole the idea of the lists. And Son of Rambow and Juno – films that do in celluloid what I am trying do in print (and on the big screen if anybody fancies optioning my novel!!!) And to the Muhammed family of Elm Grove who took me and baby Joe in during the power cut, taught me that Islam is an act of love and proved it when they invited all the neighbours (even the crack den dwellers, the ladies-of-the-night, the stoned squatters and the tramp who slept in Holly Grove park) to their street party wedding.

Flipping ‘eck! It’s turning into an Oscar acceptance speech. I’ll be blubbing like Gwynnie next – and whilst I’m fond of the Gwn-ster as Holly Holliday, I don’t want to catch that holier-than-thou hippiness and naming-my-kids-after-fruits disease – plus, I don’t have a thing to wear on the red carpet – so best stop there, methinks.

So that’s it – the end of my blog-fest. Might actually have to go off and write another novel now! Oh, yes – must mention next novel or publishers will never forgive me. It’s called Pop! tagline: ‘Never mess with the rules of Talent TV’ (or something like that) and it’s about these kids from oop North (like me) who decide to enter a TV talent contest as a way to escape the from credit-crunch crapness, picket-lines, walkabout mams, pushy parents with Olympic dreams and a celeb-gossip obsession. It’s Billy Elliot meets Slumdog Millionaire via Britain’s got Talent and it comes out next summer (if I ever get round to finishing it!).

So final thanks to all of you who’ve followed me on my blog tour. I still can’t believe anybody would be remotely interested in anything I’ve got to say and am therefore terribly touched. If you want to keep hearing me wittering on then you can follow me on Twitter @catherinebruton or at my website www.catherinebruton.com where I will be spouting a whole lot more nonsense and will keep you up to date with all the latest news and reviews.

So, that’s it. You’ve been a beautiful audience. I love you all! I’ll always be grateful for the kindness of strangers (sorry, Blanche!) Thank you and goodnight!

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It’s publication Day!!!!

Publication day!

O! M! Golly! Gosh! My book is out today. Actually, factually today! On real shelves, in real bookshops. Beautiful shiny copies of ‘We Can be Heroes’ with nice foily bits on the covers and the most fabulous manga cartoon artwork inside and lots and lots of words written by me.
I’m on holiday, in deepest darkest Cornwall but I am going to drag the family off the beach and over to Truro later so I can stare at the foil-covered beauteousness of it in Waterstones. I contemplated camping outside last night like they do when Harry Potter comes out, but decided it was too cold and I don’t do cold – or camping really.
So instead I’ve been training my kids to do a spot of improv’ ankle-biter publicity. Child no. 1 (aged six, code name Moozle) has been practising saying loudly, ‘Mummy, isn’t that your book?’ and pointing in wide-eyed wonder at the amazing techni-colour loveliness that is my masterpiece on the shelves, whilst Child no 2 (aged eight, code named Pookin but if you call him that he’ll have to kill you) declares in his loudest (but cutest) voice, ‘Yes, and didn’t it get described as an ‘outstanding debut’ in ‘The Bookseller’? And didn’t that nice man, Alan Gibbons, say it was a ‘remarkable, important book’ in ‘Books for Keeps’?’
Meanwhile long-suffering hubbie (who wishes to be code-named Golden Eagle for reasons unknown but probably related to James Bond/Alex Rider obsession) hums the tune to David Bowie’s ‘We Can be Heroes’ in a subliminal way so that shoppers find themselves magnetically drawn towards masterpiece on the shelves. I’ve negotiated a Hello Kitty Pez and a packet of Pokemon Level X Inferno cards as bribes, which is a total bargain, I reckon. Oh and Golden Eagle can have a lie-in and a packet of M and S hankies! Sorted.
Oh, and the book is buying them pressies. Did you know books could do that? You know like new baby brothers and sisters do, when they bring pressies from the womb for their elder siblings (how do they do that? are there shopping malls in there?). My baby brother bought me a copy of ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ when he was born. I was too young to be offended at the time but I’m getting the hump in retrospect – and how did he source that, huh? Amniotic Amazon? I tell you, it’s a fix and I’m onto it!
Anyway, ‘We Can be Heroes’ has robbed my kiddywinkles of any semblance of decent mothering for the last few months, so I figure it owes them big time. So the masterpiece is buying Moozle a pair of wheelie shoes – because they are the footwear of choice of my main character Priti whose mad-bonkers dress sense was inspired by the Moozle herself (she once went out with a pair of tights on her head but not on her legs, ‘Because that would have looked weird, Mummy!’) Meanwhile, Pookin (sorry, Joe – baby names are so not cool when you are eight) is getting a proper artist’s sketch book for drawing his cartoons in cos he’s a bit of a manga fan, just like Ben my other main character who doodles his way through the book and whose cartoon actually appears in the back (and is my absolute favourite ever bit of the whole thing!).
Just had a horrible thought. Book has not bought gift for the Golden Eagle who has been v supportive spouse and pedantic proof-reader (lawyers really are very pernickety, it turns out!) and is already less than delighted at being the inspiration for the main character’s dad who died in the 9/11 attacks ten years before the story starts. ‘How could you kill me off in print?’ he wailed when he found out. ‘Why couldn’t I be the hero and do a car chase and kill some baddies and stuff?’ I tried to explain that Ben spends most of the book trying to connect with the father he never knew – and that there are baddies, and bomb-plots and kidnapping and stuff and they are all sort of a result of his character dying. But Golden Eagle is unconvinced and still sulking about literary husbicide (is that the word for killing your husband? If not, what is? Please help). And choice of gift is proving a little tricky in light of his character’s untimely demise. Will have to go for garden vouchers and hope for the best!
So, publicity is covered, the book has nearly finished its publication day gift shopping, book gazing is scheduled and then what? I guess then I just have to sit around twiddling my thumbs waiting for people to read it and tell me what they think of it…..Which is the only bad thing about this whole publication day extravaganza! ….. People might actually read it!!! I mean, this should be a good thing, right? But when you’ve stolen bits of family legend (like the pooing in the bath incident – sorry Tricksy!) and the odd clearly recognisable character trait (Nuffty, Jed may have borrowed your wardrobe and your passion for The Reds but you are way nicer than he is – honestly, promisedly!) Basically, I figure half my family and friends might not be be talking to me after they’ve read it.
And then what if people don’t like it? It could be like when you tell people what your new baby is called and you can tell right away that they hate the name cos they put on this expression of polite horror and then come out with loads of euphemisms, like, ‘Oh! What an unusual choice!’ (believe me, I know, I plumped for an old lady name for my daughter – sorry, kid!). What if it’s like that? What if everyone hates it. No, wait, the nice lady from Chicklish said ‘Bruton is brilliant’ and that lovely man from the Bookbag called it, ‘ An important book: brave, honest, funny and very tense…’ so if everyone else hates it and my family disown me, I figure they can be my new BFFs.
OK. I’ve got all my ducks in a row (I have ALWAYS wanted to say that cos my management consultant bro in law says it and I’ve never really known what it meant!) the kids are drilled, the pressies are wrapped and the sparkling grape juice is on ice (can’t do real shampoo – might get too giddy and do cartwheels in Cornish Waterstones and nobody wants to see me doing gymnastics – not at my age) So all that remains is for me to deliver my closing line.
So, when I’m standing in Waterstones later and Moozle declares in finely drilled prose ‘Mummy, isn’t that your novel? The one that was described by the reviewers as a ‘big brave book’ and ‘a remarkable debut’?’ I shall simply blush modestly and declare with touching humility (and a nod to Andy McDowell in ‘Four Weddings’), ‘Is it? I hadn’t noticed!’
And then break out into Riverdance/break-dance routine up and down the aisle!

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I’m going on a Blog tour!

I’m going on tour! It sounds so rock ‘n’ roll, doesn’t it? Which anyone who knows me will know I’m not – not even remotely! But from July 29th – August 6th I’ll be flitting from one wonderful books website to another, waffling on about all sorts of stuff – silly, serious and sensational (well, maybe not sensational – but interesting or at least entertaining, I hope!)

I was a blog virgin a fortnight ago so I’ve had a steep blogging curve to climb. The main thing I have learned from the journey is that it aint easy this blogging lark so I now have immense respect for the bloggers of the world. I’m also in awe of the amazing folks who run all the incredible book sites which are little gems of wonder, each and every one! I was so chuffed to be asked to do this tour so thank you, one and all! You guys are the best!

You can check out the banner for my schedule but here’s a sneak peak of what I’m going to be talking about at each of my lovely destinations.

29th July Wondrous Reads www.wondrousreads.com – My first ever blog. Seriously, this is the first blog what I ever wrote. Online car crash or first time blog-tastic? You decide!

30th July I Want to Read That www.Iwanttoreadthat.com – An interview with me! Everything you ever wanted to know about me and my writing and a lot more waffle besides.

31st July Fluttering Butterflies www.flutteringbutterflies.com – My top ten books. It says a lot about a person, their all time literary top ten, you know! What does mine say about me, I wonder?

1st August A Dream of Books http://adreamofbooks.blogspot.com/ – 5 top childhood memories. Zombie grannies, ear-piercing with fish-fingers and incarcerated teachers: turns out I wasn’t such a good girl as I liked to think!

2nd August Heaven, Hell and Purgatory Book Reviews http://www.heavenhellandpurgatory-bookreviews.com/ PUBLICATION DAY SQUEE! This is the day We Can be Heroes comes out, so I’ll be squeaking about that mostly! Possibly incoherently!

3rd August Daisy Chain Books http://daisychainbookreviews.blogspot.com – Top 10 female book characters. Ooh! This was a good one. Got me thinking – and tweeting – reckon it will test your grey cells too.

4th August Readraptor http://www.readaraptor.co.uk – Why I wrote about 9/11. Getting a bit more serious now. This is about the article that started it all and other sources of inspiration.

5th August Serendipity – www.serendipityreviews.co.uk/endipityreviews.co.uk/ Terrorism and kids lit. My response to ‘that’ WSJ article I guess. And musings on whether certain topics aren’t suitable for teen fiction. This is my masterpiece!

6th August Amaterusreads http://amaterasureads.blogspot.com/ – Farewell gig ! This is the last date on my blog tour so I figure it’ll be a bit like the last night of the proms. Actually, no, not like that at all. Think last night of the Glee tour (I was there! It rocked and I love you, Blane Warbler!) Tears, tantrums and tiaras, waving lighters in the air, epic farewell speeches (think Gwynnie at the Oscars!) and much, much more!

So, there you have it – my blog tour in a nutshell! Hope you’ll be coming along for the ride – and check out those amazing sites while you are there. They are little bits of bookish paradise!

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Debut Summer

OK, it’s confession time…. technically We Can be Heroes is NOT my debut novel – cue *sharp intake of breath*. In fact I had an adult novel published a couple of years ago called Of Silence and Slow Time, but because Heroes is my first YA novel, the critics keep calling it a debut – ‘a remarkable debut’ ‘a big brave debut’ and ‘an important debut’ no less (thank you, reviewers!) – and so the lovely Miss Brown from Mostly Reading YA http://mostlyreadingya.blogspot.com l has kindly agreed to overlook my dubious debutante status and invited me to take part in her Debut Summer event. http://mostlyreadingya.blogspot.com/search/label/Summer%20Giveaway

This is a fab event and I have loved reading about all the other great YA debuts who have featured so far so I was thrilled to be asked to take part. Not to mention the fact that I’ve always wanted to be a deb – I think it’s the white dresses and walking with books on your head that appeals to be honest!

Anyway, on 8th August I’ll be doing a interview on the site and if you are sick to death of the sound of my voice having followed my blog tour, I can promise you that there will be a few little exclusives on there too! And there are free copies of my book to win too! Plus you can check out all the other summer debuts while you are there too. I promise you, it’s a great site and definitely worth a visit. Hope to see you there!

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Take a peek into my drawers (sorry, bookshelves)

What can you learn about a writer by checking out their bookshelves? Quite a lot, I’ve decided. So when the lovely Kirsty at www.overflowinglibrary.com invited me to take part in her Bookcase Showcase feature I leapt at the chance … and then I panicked! First of all, I was terrified: what would my shelves reveal about me? What secrets lurked on my dusty bookcases? It suddenly all felt very intimate – like exposing the contents of one’s underwear drawer ( which is mostly full of holey socks looking sadly for their long lost partners in my case!) My second thought was – I have to tidy up! I can’t let anyone see the muddle that lurks beneath the perfectly crafted prose of my novels (wait, I’m not sure my novels are so perfectly crafted. In fact I think my writing might be about as madcap and chaotic as my bookcases – but, ho hum!)

Anyway, eventually I swallowed my inhibitions and laid my bookshelves bare for scrutiny. It still felt a bit like an episode of Gok Wan’s ‘How to look good naked’ cos a girl’s book choices – and how she organises them – will reveal the inner working of her soul (but at least I didn’t have to show my my wibbly-wobbly post-baby jelly belly!!). Or maybe it was like a session on the therapist’s couch – only way cheaper! Seriously, it’s all there on your bookshelves, you know! And if you don’t believe me, go visit http://www.overflowinglibrary.com/p/bookcase-showcase.html on 6th August and see what you can find out about the secret workings of my heart from the contents of my home library.

And then go and look at your own book collection and see what it says about you! Ooh, and then write and tell me! I’d love to hear what your shelves reveal!

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Hello World

So – um – hello! I’m new at this blogging lark but am very excited today cos my new website it up and running. And I think it looks fab although I can take no credit for this at all. The site was designed by the wonderful Gilbert and James (thank you, brilliant boys) and the manga artwork was done by the amazing David Shephard http://www.daveshephard.com . If you want to read the whole comic strip, you can find it at the back of my new novel We Can be Heroes which comes out very, very, very soon! On August 1st to be precise.

AND if you can’t wait that long you can read an extract on The Guardian Books website at http://gu.com/p/3vhk7 Yes, The Guardian – I can’t quite believe this either but there you have it!

So, what else do I need to tell you? Oh, I’m doing a blog tour soon. I was really chuffed to be asked to do blogs from some fab YA book sites so check out the blog tour banner for dates. I’ll be talking about writing about 9/11, terrorism in kids’s books, my favourite reads, top 5 childhood memories and lots more.

Right, that’s it for now. I’ll keep you posted on all my comings and goings. In the meantime, I feel I should mark the launch of this little website in some way. You know, like they do with ships. Smash a bottle of champagne smashed against it and stuff? No, not going to work is it? So I guess I’ll just name this website www.catherinebruton.com and may the god of t’interweb bless her and all who sail in her!

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