With my publisher Thornberry signing new authors every week, I’m delighted that one of them is my writing-friend Nina Milton with her children’s novel Tough Luck. Nina writes for children and adults and since visiting here around a year ago has also found a publisher for her Sabby Dare novels. Great year, Nina! Do tell us more about Tough Luck.
Has Tough Luck always been the title?
It was originally called Bad Luck Dimesy, but everyone told me that this wasn’t urgent or specific enough; it didn’t tell the buyer anything about the story. So now it is called Tough Luck, which is emphasized right at the start of the first chapter…
“Do you believe in luck? Coincidence, fate, any of that stuff? Before I knew Jake, I only believed in my own bad luck. The world and its mates were out to get me and mostly they succeeded.”
Where did the idea come from?
An article in a Sunday supplement about people who have black ancestry and yet have, in the following generations, lost any physical trait of that side of themselves. They look white, or maybe tan easily. Some didn’t even know they had African or Afro-Caribbean ancestors. I thought this would be a fascinating subject for a novel; at that point I didn’t really think about using it for a children’s novel at all.
What age-group is the book aimed at? What’s the genre?
It’s a book for children who are already confident in their reading, sometimes called 8+ (or 9+ in Waterstones). It’s a personal drama with historic aspects. My last novel for this age group, Sweet’n’Sour (HarperCollins) was a ‘time slip’ – the character finds himself ‘out of his own body and/or in some other place’. This is used in novels such as Stig of the Dump and Tom’s MidnightGarden and Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution. I wanted to do something a little different this time, but still use a historical aspect; in this story, the children discover things via a school project.
Which actors would you like to see play your main characters in the movie of your book?
Well, clearly they will be 13 year olds…an ideal opportunity for the acting profession to discover a new generation of Emmas, Ruperts and Daniels…
What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?
Brandon’s in deep with tough luck trouble – all because a conker fell on his head; there’s a gang out to get him and a mystery to solve, and Constable Webb is on his case, catching him out whatever he does…but getting to know Jake Silver reveals just what tough luck can really mean…
How long did it take you to write the first draft?
I did a lot of research for this story, mostly (and some of it was extremely difficult to read) the history of slavery in the Caribbean. It took me about 2 years, I think.
What other books would you compare yours to?
Keren David’s books in the first person are as gritty and realistic as well as being informative, although about different subjects.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Racism just doesn’t seem to go away. When I was younger, a bit older than Brandon, some of my friends were attacked in the way he is in the story, and I can remember at that time thinking that one day we would all live in peace in this country, but that just doesn’t seem to be happening, not completely, anyway.
What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest?
Tough Luck is a modern adventure story, which allows its characters freedom to have exploits in the ‘real world’, to follow a ‘quest’, and to learn about the history of slavery. Brandon, a year 8 Bristolian boy of Afro-Caribbean extraction, tells this story. He’s a bit of a maverick, and likes to be thought of as a joker, so the narrative style is upbeat and easy to read, even for children who are still struggling. The action begins quickly and builds into several peaks. The themes of the story are hard-hitting and effect children’s lives today. But most importantly, Brandon and his class mate Helen are feisty and energetic children, who come over on the page as kids you might want to get to know. During the book they grow through the discoveries they make within their story. Brandon is no lover of school work – he’s easily influenced by his friends and has trouble staying out of trouble. But despite his insistence that he is dogged by bad luck, telling us that us the reason he likes his friend Helen is because ‘she knows who she is’, the paradox is that as their adventures unfold, it is Brandon discovers how to be himself with growing confidence, while Helen has to rediscover her place in the world all over again.
How does it feel to be e-published?
I’m delighted that Tough Luck is the first children’s book to be signed by Thornberry and hoping we’ll be really good for each other.
Sounds to me like this is a great read for the age-group , and should also attract lots of Bristol kids. I notice there’s an excerpt on Kit Domino’s blog for those who are interested.
Nina is tucked away in West Wales where t’internet isn’t all it night be, but hoping she’ll be able to pop back soon. Meanwhile here are some useful links.
Tough Luck on Kindle from Amazon
Nina’s writing and teaching website