5 things we learned about Patrick Ness from Authors Live

Patrick Ness with schoolchildren

Patrick Ness is the award-winning author of the Chaos Walking trilogy and his books for young adults include A Monster Calls, and more recently More Than This. He's won just about every award going including the prestigious Carnegie Medal twice. He's an avid and inspiring champion of contemporary YA fiction and he often speaks candidly about the need to not censor words. We’ve picked out five headline soundbites from his wonderful Authors Live event on 12 June. Have a peek and if you like what you read, you can watch the full event on the on demand page.

1. It’s all about the beginning and end with Patrick…

''I tend not to start my books until I know the first and last lines, because the last line especially is super important. The last line is the dismount, and it has to be right or you've messed up everything that's gone before, so no pressure. I always know the last sentence, but that's different than knowing the whole end of the book. I call it the exit feeling; it's how I want the reader to leave the book, and I often don't know how I'm going to get there.''

2. Dystopia, school life and YA fiction, there's a thread, right?

Dystopia is basically secondary school.

"A dystopia is a society that's broken down, divided into factions usually, full of rules that you will be severely punished for breaking but no one will properly explain them to you. [It's] filled with friends who are faithful and loyal but also duplicitous and will betray you. Dystopia is basically secondary school. And I think that's why it's so popular and I think that's why there's so many popular YA books. It also includes that national anxiety; what will the future hold and I can't control the future and I can't predict the future, so it's natural to be afraid of it."

3. Patrick on censorship? He likes to keep it real…

"If I tell the truth about what's difficult and what's hard, which is what I wanted to read when I was a teenager, then when I also tell the truth about what's good and what's possible - and that's things like friendship and trust and counting on somebody and learning to live with uncertainty - I think it's more believable because I haven't lied about what's dark. And I'm not going to abandon a young reader to face all that themselves. I think that's the immoral position. I think you have to engage, because you've all got the internet. Let's have a serious discussion."

4. He’s a 'desperate optimist'…

"I call myself a desperate optimist, I'm not naturally optimistic but I feel like I have to be or what's the point. We’ve always got through difficult stuff. We've gotten through changes in communication before, we've gotten through horrible wars before. I also think that we're much more aware that the world could go dystopic. I think there's lots of reasons for hope."

5. Young Adult Fiction is not just for young adults

"YA is now is so rich and so big and so full of every book you'd want, all genres, all kinds of tones, escapist and serious and realist and fantastical and dealing with all the things that [teenagers] think about. There is a recent click bait article, you can't believe anybody took it seriously, about why adults should be embarrassed to read YA. I could list 15 books in a minute that would disprove everything that had been argued about how it's not challenging, it's not ambiguous, that it's not trying to shake up the way you see the world."

We concur, Patrick!


If you would like to test out Patrick's theory that Young Adult Fiction is adult readership worthy, check out our very own book lists such as 12 Scottish books for young adults (and adults) to look forward to in 2014. If you would like to hear more about Patrick’s views on censorship and the importance of YA writing you can watch the full event on demand right here.