Please join me today to welcome author Polly Ho-Yen on my Blog talking about writing, for National Story Telling Week.
ABOUT THE BOOK
When they first arrived, they came quietly and stealthily as if they tip-toed into the world when we were all looking the other way.
Ade loves living at the top of a tower block. From his window, he feels like he can see the whole world stretching out beneath him.
His mum doesn’t really like looking outside – but it’s going outside that she hates. She prefers to sleep all day inside their tower, where it’s safe.
Except it isn’t any more. Strange plants have started to take over and tower blocks are falling down around them.
Now Ade and his mum are trapped and there’s no way out ……………
BOY IN THE TOWER:
PLEASE JOIN ME IN A QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION WITH AUTHOR POLLY HO-YEN
1. When did you first realise that you were a storyteller?
I think it was the day when I wrote a story in class when I was about seven (it was a ghost story but the ghosts all had these really funny, larger than life personalities) and at break time I couldn’t stop telling my best friend everything that happened in it. I had a really lovely, patient best friend who listened to me witter on for ages. I really couldn’t stop myself. It all felt so real and huge to me, so much bigger than the words that were on the page. I was completely buzzing from the experience of creating it and then sharing that with someone else.
2. Do you remember when you came up with the first story idea that would ultimately go on to be published as a novel? How did you know this was the idea that was worth telling?
I remember it exactly! I was sitting doodling any random thoughts that came into my head hoping that one of them might develop into a story when I drew a tower block that was completely surrounded by a maze of plants. That was the beginning of my debut BOY IN THE TOWER which ended up being about alien plants taking over South London and a young boy becoming trapped in the tower block that he lives in. To be honest I didn’t know it was worth telling but what I was certain of was that I was interested in it and wanted to know where it was going.
3. Do you have a story of yours that you are most proud of?
I think I feel proud of different stories I’ve written for different reasons but I suppose if I had to choose one, it would be BOY IN THE TOWER because writing that made me believe that I could be a writer.
4. Why did you decide to write novels, as opposed to telling stories in another format?
I often talk to kids I work with in writing workshops about reading and the differences between reading a story to watching a story on a screen or playing a story in a video game. What we always come back to is how active our imaginations are when we read – there is no other medium that activates our brain in quite the same way. From just reading or hearing words, our brain has to engage and imagine in order to experience the story. It’s a kind of magic when you think about it. That’s what I love about reading novels and what I’ve discovered is writing novels is a similar experience, although you have to times it by about a billion in terms of engagement, imagination and connection.
5. Why do you think stories are important?
Because stories are essentially us, making sense of the world.
6. National Storytelling Week is all about the oral tradition of storytelling. Do you think it’s important to keep this tradition alive, when we have so many other ways of consuming and telling stories these days?
Absolutely – even though my work is written, I spend a huge amount of my time reading my work aloud and it’s only then that I feel confident that I’m onto something good. Hearing the words flow aloud is one of the bigger, personal tests of whether a story’s working or not. Aside from that, for me, it’s all about connection. And telling a story orally is one the most accessible ways that we can communicate a story to another person.
7. What do you think is different about writing a story down on paper as opposed to telling it out loud?
When we write a story down it’s for ourselves but when we tell it aloud, it’s for ourselves and anyone who would like to listen.
8. How do you like to consume your stories? (Reading, listening, watching, etc.)
Nothing beats reading in my opinion but I do like watching too.
9. What is your favourite story of all time?
An impossible question. Because it’s always changing. A kid once said to me that she’d been waiting for her favourite story to come to her and was so happy that she’d read my book because she felt she’d found it. I loved to picture that – I imagine stories like bubbles floating in the air and landing on us readers. If we keep reading, they come to us. We are always reading on, trying to discover our favourites.
10. What do you hope readers will take away from your novels?
I don’t presume readers will take away anything from my novels – although I do hope that they feel transported and engaged by the read.
11. If you had one piece of advice for someone wanting to tell a story of their own, what would it be?
To do it. We all have the gift of creating our own stories – so why not use it?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Polly Ho-Yen was born in Northampton and brought up in Buckinghamshire. She studied English at Birmingham University before working in publishing for several years. Polly used to be a primary school teacher in London and while she was teaching there she used to get up very early in the morning to write stories. The first of those stories is Boy In The Tower. She lives in Bristol with her husband and daughter. In her adult debut, Dark Lullaby, she turns her focus to parenthood, exploring a dystopian future in which women have to undergo invasive fertility treatment and aggressive state monitoring of their parenting. “Following the story of one woman’s fight to keep her daughter safe, Ho-Yen fuses together speculative SF with thriller elements in a compulsive and page-turning read,” said Titan Books.
Thanks for all the images via ©Andy Lo Po/ The Novelry