Saturday, 1 May 2010

Nicola Morgan's May Day guest post

This is a picture of fabulous YA novelist and uber-blogger Nicola Morgan looking very relaxed, which currently she is not. Not content with these roles, Nicola decided to move house - twice - within weeks and, oh yes, do a blog tour to launch her new book Wasted. And while she was about it, set up a new website to go with it for good measure.

You can read about both below but it I'm thinking it will be a long time before our guest blogger looks this relaxed again. Good luck with it all, Nicola, and welcome

Huge thanks to Mary for inviting me over to her esteemed blog. I’m trying to write something different for each stop-over on my blog tour and since today is May 1st I have a special May Day inspired thought.

Actually, it’s a Walpurgis Night / Beltane thought, because last night, April 30th, was Walpurgis Night. The only reason I know anything at all about this is that I was doing an after-dinner talk at the Scottish Arts Club and therefore had to look it up. Clearly, I am writing this post in advance of that event but, since Walp Night is characterised by noise and alcohol, I predict a headache this morning. From the noise, of course. Also, by chance (because most of our lives are ruled by chance), I recently moved house to Calton Hill in Edinburgh, not realising that Walpurgis Night is marked on Calton Hill by the Beltane all-night shenanigans, which involve a lot of noise, bonfires and alcohol, apparently. So, what with my talk and the Beltane bedlam, I won’t have had much sleep at all. *nurses head*

Anyway, back to the point. Walpurgis Night is, in case you know as little as I did, the dancing partner to Halloween. Diametrically opposite end of the year and signifying the last chance for evil spirits and witches to do their worst before May Day heralds light, warmth and summer. Because I’m a writer who loves the dark side, I like to think of this night as nastier, scarier and more potently evil than Halloween: the spirits have been gorging themselves on dark power all winter, and are fat on it, strong, huge and monstrous, and Walpurgis Night is their final chance to cause mayhem. So, May Day is celebrated to contrast this darkness – it heralds the triumph of good over evil, light over dark, warmth over cold. The Winter Queen dies, icicles melt, cold hearts thaw, shadows are swept back. And of course, summer begins. (Despite the fact that we’ll probably have rain…)

But I want to relate this to the power of fiction. All this about ghosts, demons and forces of evil, witches, spells and incantations, the idea that spirits can slip through the cracks between two worlds: we don’t believe this now, do we? We’re rational, scientific minds, who know that the laws of nature rule us, not spirits. And yet…  And yet, even the most rational people (and I am one) can’t help feeling that there just could be something else. Or even if we don’t really think that, we are capable of doing the “what if?” thought-experiment.

So, writers have the power to stop rational people being fully rational. We try to make our readers fly with us, be transported, hearts and minds, into a world they know does not “really” exist. That word “transported” is interesting, too. I’m fascinated by the theory of narrative transportation – the phrase used by psychologists to describe the state that readers of fiction enter when they take on the emotions, fears and desires of the fictional character and are transported into the fictional world. (There’s a great article here, if you’re interested:

It doesn’t always happen, but it’s what we aim for as writers. The full suspension of disbelief, but a whole load more, something more mysterious than that.

In Wasted, the book I’m supposed to be talking about on this tour  - slapped wrist for author not mentioning her own book at every opportunity! – there’s a scene where the characters are forced to suspend their own disbelief in supernatural powers. Jack and Jess, while escaping from a knife-wielding boy, take refuge in a fortune-teller’s tent and pretend they want a reading. Fantastic Farantella is not very convincing and her “crystal ball” is a cheapo, plastic, battery-operated one from a bargain shop. And Jack and Jess are not silly enough to believe in this stuff anyway. But something happens and suddenly the mood changes, very suddenly. The characters, the reader, and the writer are suddenly not sure what’s real.

“And into this unlikely setting a sinister spirit enters.” It stops Jack and Jess laughing. It’s how I could feel in an old house in the middle of the night – I don’t believe in ghosts, and yet something has made my neck crawl and make me wish I was anywhere but there. You can refuse to believe in spirits but you still feel their eyes on your back.

Shortly afterwards: “A small noise slips from [Farantella’s] mouth. Or the noise could come from somewhere else – it is hard to say. It is the noise a spirit would make. If such things existed. It is the noise the future would make, if it squeezed through a gap in the skin of time.”

I love this about us: readers and writer are all in it together, our minds meeting in the pages of a book, in a made-up world. The conflict between knowledge and intuition, mind and heart, cortex and limbic system. The suspension of disbelief. The horrible power of the one small question, “Yes, but, what if?”

Wasted asks that question. And tries to offer some answers. You may have different answers – do tell!

Please visit the Wasted blog at  Today I’m talking about Schrödinger’s Cat and, honestly, if you think novelists must have wild imaginations that’s nothing compared to scientists who can try to make you believe that a cat can be alive and dead simultaneously … Now that is unbelievable.

Copyright © Nicola Morgan 2010

A bit about the Book Maven's guest

Nicola Morgan is an award-winning author for teenagers, with successful titles such as Fleshmarket, Deathwatch, Blame My Brain and Sleepwalking. She prefers to forget that she also used to write Thomas the Tank Engine Books... When she's not writing, she loves speaking in schools, and at festivals and conferences in the UK and Europe,  She also enjoys messing around on Twitter or her blogs. Nicola blogs for writers at


Unknown said...

Great post and thanks Mary, our host! Hope you're not too Wasted this morning Nichola. Good luck with your blog tour!

Unknown said...

Nicola - I should say!

Nicola Morgan said...

Thanks, Sue - and no, not at all wasted! That's the thing about being the speaker - very little drink taken beforehand and afterwards not much left!

Thanks so much Mary. Hope lots of people are interested. Nx

Talli Roland said...

Great post; thanks Nicola and Mary! I keep hearing so many good things about this book that I may need to break down and buy it, even though I generally prefer fluffier reads. I'm curious now, though!

Anonymous said...

I like fluffy, too, but it looks good. It's sort of on top of the TBR pile.