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Nick Lake is 29 years old and a children's book editor at HarperCollins. He lives in London with his English teacher wife, Hannah.
Nick Lake Q&A:
Student, and then book editor. Which I still am.
Being a book editor. No one told me at school that there was a job where you got paid for being a fan of writers and writing.
High school and/or college:
I went to High School in Luxembourg, and I went to Oxford University after that for a degree and then a fairly pointless masters. In phonetics, of all things.
Name of your favourite composer or music artist?
I usually lie and go for something clever like Vertigo. But really it's True Romance.
How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
I would use the word "busy" eight times.
What is your motto or maxim?
To paraphrase the existentialists - life is what you make it. Which amounts to a practical kind of karma, I suppose.
How would you describe perfect happiness?
A fire, a good chair and a new Stephen King book. Or the moment the soundchecks finish and the band take to the stage. Or sunset on the mountains, with weary feet, and the lights of a pub ahead. Or the sound of a breakbeat. Or a very sweet tea, anywhere in the Middle East, at any time of day.
What’s your greatest fear?
Not being good.
Which living person do you most admire?
Haruki Murakami. Stephen King. Anyone who works for Medecins sans Frontieres or Amnesty International.
What are your most overused words or phrases?
If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
The abillity to play a musical instrument well. Also, the ability to speak all languages fluently.
What is your greatest achievement?
Meeting my wife.
If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
I wouldn't mind being Simon Cowell. I could make The X-Factor go away. Not to mention R&B flavoured pop music.
What trait is most noticeable about you?
I have no idea. My hair? It's usually quite big, because I keep forgetting to have it cut. I look like the freakish son of Tom Hanks and David Hasselhoff.
Who is your favourite fictional hero?
Who is your favourite fictional villain?
Steerpike. (Also hero.)
If you could meet any historical character, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
I'd like to meet Shakespeare and I'd ask him how to write better.
What is your favourite occupation, when you’re not writing?
Reading? Actually probably sleeping, to be honest.
What’s your fantasy profession?
Bestselling and universally admired author.
What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
Compassion. Empathy. Humour.
If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
Chocolate, in any form.
What are your 5 favourite songs?
Hmmm. "Beat It"; "Here, There and Everywhere" by the Beatles; "U-Mass" by the Pixies; "Heartbeat" by Annie and "Etched Headplate" by Burial
On Books and Writing:
Who are your favourite authors?
Haruki Murakami. Stephen King. Neil Gaiman. Margaret Atwood. Joan Didion. Ismail Kadare. Philip Reeve. Philip Pullman. Meg Rosoff.
What are your 5 favourite books of all time?
Tough one. I guess... Middlemarch; Coraline; For Whom the Bell Tolls; the collected works of Shakespeare... and Little, Big, by John Crowley - the single most unfairly overlooked, beautiful, miraculous and magical book I know.
Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?
I wouldn't presume to think of myself as someone anyone might look to for advice! But I suppose I'd tell them to read as much as possible, in as many genres as possible.
What comment do you hear most often from your readers?
"You're very... imaginative aren't you." I think they mean I'm strange.
Set on a space station in the near future, this cool concept sci-fi novel with a powerful finding-your-way-in-the-world theme also has much for fans of contemporary YA. Fifteen-year-old Leo was born and raised on Moon 2 Space Station and has never set foot on earth. After being remotely parented by a team of astronauts, Leo and his companions, twins Orion and Libra, have finally been deemed strong enough to survive the perilous journey to earth. But, while they’ve been in training for this for pretty much their whole lives, reality is a very different matter. To return and survive means defying some serious odds, and finding a place to call home is anything but straightforward.This is a thought-provoking thriller, fuelled by the suspenseful space journey, and by Leo’s emotional journey. He has a unique voice, and speaks in the shortened text-type language that’s used for NASA communications. But, more than that, Leo feels like a living, breathing young adult, trying to figure out his sexuality, and his place in the world. With this foray into sci-fi, author Nick Lake confirms his status as a writer with immensely diverse talents. ~ Joanne Owen
May 2016 Book of the Month. This electrifyingly smart story of a teen girl's struggle with a tormenting voice in her head is a masterwork of contemporary YA. There's a murderer on the loose in Cassie's New Jersey hometown, the so-called Houdini Killer, which sets her quick-to-anger dad even more on edge than usual. A former Navy SEAL with untreated posttraumatic stress syndrome, he now runs the family restaurant, a site of distressing memories for them both. After finding a foot in a sneaker on the beach - one of the Houdini Killer’s victims - Cassie hears a voice telling her that she's disgusting, and it won’t let up. Convinced she's “forever doomed like Cassandra of myth - the girl who leaves a trail of violence in her wake”, the bullying voice makes Cassie promise to obey it. And she does, with near-fatal consequences, when, for example she injects herself with her Epi-Pen, which results in her being hospitalised. In the clinic she meets the irrepressible Paris. A bipolar survivor of abuse, Paris comes to play a huge part in Cassie’s life, as does one of the boys staying in her dad’s apartment for the summer. The only time the voice is really silenced is when Cassie is with him, but the voice has other plans for their burgeoning relationship. Taking the form of the “most screwed-up love letter ever” written from Cassie to the boy she falls for, this gripping, multilayered novel is an insightful exploration of grief, broken families, mental illness and the lies we tell others - and ourselves - out of fear. It’s also about losing yourself, and coming to find your true voice. Lake has a huge talent for tackling classic YA themes, but always forges his own path, cutting through clichés, stripping back the superficial, to reach the heart of his brilliantly complex characters, all delivered through spectacularly plotted storylines.
Award-winning Nick Lake tells a complex story fusing two strands of narrative into a richly woven single thread. Seventeen-year-old Shelby Cooper has always been very protected by her mother; she guesses it is partly because she is deaf, partly because her dad is dead and partly she had a terrible accident when she was a baby. But when she is knocked over by a car, her life takes a whole new turn. Suddenly she and her Mom are on the run and everything that she has known about her life before is suddenly questioned. What is the truth? And will she ever discover it? As her life unravels, Shelby retreats into a fantasy world of the Dreaming a place infused with old, old Mythology. Part-adventure, part-mystery and part a teenager’s journey of self-discovery, There Will Be Liesis dramatic and unexpected in equal measure. ~ Julia Eccleshare Nick Lake will be appearing alongside Steven Camden at Hay Fever. Keeping it Real. Steven Camden is also known as Polarbear, one of the UK’s foremost Spoken Word artists. His debut YA novel,Tape, was one of the biggest debuts of 2014. He will talk about It’s About Love, his latest book, with Nick Lake, who is his editor as well as a brilliant and Printz Award-winning YA novelist himself with highly acclaimed novels such as the bold and brilliant In Darkness and his latest book, There Will Be Lies. Find out how they work together and if they ever steal each other’s ideas. YA Thursday 28th May 5.30pm, Starlight Stage Find out more www.hayfestival.com/wales/hayfever
Truth and lies collide in a superbly twisty, heart-in-mouth thriller. Nick Lake's masterful storytelling and narrative trickery gives There Will Be Lies genuine crossover appeal and will appeal to anyone who wants to be surprised as they read. Julia Eccleshare's comment: Award-winning Nick Lake tells a complex story fusing two strands of narrative into a richly woven single thread. Seventeen-year-old Shelby Cooper has always been very protected by her mother; she guesses it is partly because she is deaf, partly because her dad is dead and partly she had a terrible accident when she was a baby. But when she is knocked over by a car, her life takes a whole new turn. Suddenly she and her Mom are on the run and everything that she has known about her life before is suddenly questioned. What is the truth? And will she ever discover it? As her life unravels, Shelby retreats into a fantasy world of the Dreaming a place infused with old, old Mythology. Part-adventure, part-mystery and part a teenager’s journey of self-discovery, There Will Be Lies is dramatic and unexpected in equal measure.
Shortlisted for the Leeds Book Awards 2014, 14-16 age category A menacing chill is never far below the surface in this gripping young adult novel. Amy is dealing with a host of problems when her father suddenly springs a trip of a lifetime on her. Having no choice, she unwillingly agrees to accompany her father and step mother sailing across the world on a luxury yacht. Slowly Amy relaxes into the life at sea. Maybe this will be an experience that will change them all? But then the boat is captured by pirates. Now nothing is certain and all the normal rules are broken. Nick Lake tells Amy’s story brilliantly. He is sympathetic and insightful about a girl trying to find out what really matters to her in a situation that is fraught with very real danger. ~ Julia Eccleshare
A menacing chill is never far below the surface in this gripping young adult novel. Amy is dealing with a host of problems when her father suddenly springs a trip of a lifetime on her. Having no choice, she unwillingly agrees to accompany her father and step mother sailing across the world on a luxury yacht. Slowly Amy relaxes into the life at sea. Maybe this will be an experience that will change them all? But then the boat is captured by pirates. Now nothing is certain and all the normal rules are broken. Nick Lake tells Amy’s story brilliantly. He is sympathetic and insightful about a girl trying to find out what really matters to her in a situation that is fraught with very real danger.
Survival is at the heart of the criss-crossing stories in this powerful time slip novel set in Haiti. Shorty, fifteen and living in desperate poverty in Site Solay, is trapped in rubble after the collapse of everything he knows in the Haitian earthquake. Dreaming and hallucinating as hunger and thirst take a grip, Shorty relives his own life and also travels back to a previous violent period in Haitian history when Toussaint l’Ouverture, the visionary real slave turned revolutionary led a revolt against the French occupying forces gaining control and freedom for the Haitians. Both stories are stirring and Nick Lake keeps the tension taut while also allowing his characters enough room to be convincing and moving.
In darkness I count my blessings like Manman taught me. One. I am alive. Two. There is no two. Haiti 2010: in the aftermath of the earthquake a boy lies trapped beneath the rubble: terrified, thirsty and alone. Shorty is a child of the slums, a teenager who has seen enough violence to last a lifetime and who has been inexorably drawn into the world of the gangsters who rule his broken city: men who dole out money with one hand and death with the other. But Shorty has a secret: a flame of revenge that burns inside him, fuelling his determination to find his beloved twin sister, stolen from him five years ago. In the darkness the lines between the present and the past begin to blur and, as Shorty fights for life, his struggle becomes part of a two-hundred-year-old story - a story of courage and betrayal, of freedom and of hope. Shorty may not be quite as alone as he believes...
An exciting read with a really lovely premise, that the extraordinary skill and speed of ninjas come from the fact that they are all vampires. This blending of genres really works. It’s officially a young adult’s read but it has great cross-over appeal. Fast, fun, full of fights, thrills and highly likeable characters, I can’t wait for the next one. Comparison: Ursula Le Guin, James Patterson (Maximum Ride series), Lian Hearn (Across the Nightingale Floor series).