Thursday 20 September 2012

We sat down for a chat...with Martyn Bedford (part 1)

For the first time on this blog, we really did sit down for a chat! Little M, M and Martyn Bedford all together in  a coffee shop.

Martyn is the author of the acclaimed teen novel, Flip. You can read our review of it here. With three of us there, there was a lot to talk about. And Martyn is very funny. Today, is Martyn Bedford part 1 and focuses on questions about his novel, Flip. Part 2 is about Martyn the author on writing. Watch out for the spoiler alert warnings towards the end.

So, let's flip to it.....

Why did you want to write this book?

Martyn: I wrote five novels for adults before I wrote Flip. But I knew this was going to be a teenage novel, not just because the central character is fourteen, but because the ideas and themes in it were the ones that mattered to me when I was fourteen. And I thought these might still be relevant to teenagers today. I think the emotional stuff about being a teenager – friendships, relationships, getting on with parents and teachers – they don’t disappear from one generation to the next. What I was exploring was my experiences of being Alex’s age and how difficult I found that: not being sure who I was, looking for a sense of identity. I wasn’t quite a child anymore but I also wasn’t quite an adult. That’s what I wanted to write about.

When I was writing the book, I got interested in this idea of if we looked different – if you knew that when you walked into a room everyone would fancy you - would that make you different inside? Would you be more arrogant, more conceited, more confident?

Did any real towns influence the settings in Flip?

Martyn: Yes. Litchbury is based on Ilkley but it is fictionalised. The reason I didn’t call it Ilkley was because I wanted to make little changes to the geography in the book and play around with the reality of it. The rocks in the book are based on Otley Chevin. And if I based it on a real school, there’d be risks of libelling teachers! The bench that Alex sits on when he rifles through his rucksack is real though.

The setting that inspired a turning point in Flip
Is psyche evacuation a real phenomenon?

Martyn: No, it’s not. I did do a lot of research but I couldn’t find anything that says psyche evacuation exists. Or, at least, no-one believes it exists. Scientifically, I don’t believe it’s possible and I couldn’t find anyone out there who does. But the websites that Alex comes across in the novel are real ones that I came across – but not the psyche evacuation one. Some readers are quite cross about that!

Somebody asked me if I was a psychic evacuee and I thought, “Well, if I was, do you think I’d come back looking like this?”

Did you feel sorry for Alex of Philip?

Martyn: My sympathies are mainly with Alex. I imagine that’s really obvious. He’s the main hero. I started off not feeling very sympathetic towards Philip but as the summer wore on, I became more sympathetic towards him.

I wanted Alex to be traumatised by being Philip but also seeing that were some advantages as well. It’s not just a straightforward choice for him then – about going back. I wanted it to be a real choice that Alex had to make. How desperately does he want to live his own life?

If the book’s got a message at all, it’s to try and be who you are rather than be something you’re not. But I don’t want to make that too obvious because I hate books where the author’s trying to tell me what to think.


Come back for Martyn Beford Part 2 where Martyn talks to us more about himself and writing - Friday 21 September 2012

Spoiler alert!!! Spoiler Ahead!!!
Stop reading now if you don’t like any kind of spoilers!

What happened to Flip?
(We know that the answer to this would be a big spoiler for people who haven’t read the book yet so we’re not including that answer! But it was a great discussion and we all had slightly different ideas about what happened or where the story went once the novel was finished. You can e-mail us if you want to know more detail!)

Why did Beagle the dog die?  This seems to be a recurrent event in books for children and teens that deal with death?

Martyn: That’s a good question. I’ve been told off by quite a few people for killing Beagle. There are a number of reasons for doing it. Partly, it triggers thoughts for Alex about bodies and souls, and it also triggers a degree of sympathy for Philip not being there. But I also wanted it there to be a certain element of stress for Alex. I didn’t want his life to be straightforward as Philip. I wanted there to be problems and difficulties along the way.

Until tomorrow.......

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