Wednesday, 18 November 2015

How I Became Kirkland Ciccone - Guest post - By Kirkland Ciccone

Today  we have a guest post by Kirkland Ciccone who burst onto the Scottish YA writing scene only last year and has already made quite an impression with his exuberant, enthusiastic and very distinctive style. His third YA novel North of Porter has just been published.  Kirkland also spent a lot of time and energy setting up Yay! YA! (I blogged about it last April), an exciting and very successful festival of  Scottish YA books and authors, and generously gave up his own spot so that other YA authors could take the stage.  He is now working on Yay! YA!  for 2016.   - Linda Strachan

I spent years preparing to be an author of amazing YA fiction; and if not amazing, then at least interesting.

 Entire schooldays were wasted daydreaming about all the questions I would answer during interviews. I was too geeky to do well in PE, so I would get my mum to sign me off and head, instead, to the library. This became a pattern in my life. If I ever feel a certain way, I’ll escape to a library and write. I practically grew up in my town library: it was cheaper for my mother than hiring a babysitter, and in those days libraries opened until late. “Son,” she would say to me, “I’m off to the bingo. If I win I’ll get us a fish supper.” As a result I never tasted fish supper ever until the day I bought it for myself. 

 But sitting alone, amongst the shelves, it didn't really matter. I read until my eyes smouldered. Whispers In The Graveyard by Theresa Breslin, anything by Robert Cormier, Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan, Doctor Who books by Terrance Dicks, The Three Investigators and much more. The only thing I ever wanted was to be on those shelves. It hurt because I wanted it so badly. 

But living where I did...such a thing seemed unlikely. I remember telling my career advisor at school this dream in one neat sentence: “I want to be the most fabulous not drabulous punk rock author of cool juvenile fiction!”
 (In those days “YA went under the umbrella of ‘Juvenile Fiction’.) 
She responded by giving me pamphlets for a local plastics factory in Cumbernauld. Ah yes, Cumbernauld, a town so strange that it won the Worst Town in Britain Award. 
The day I told my family that I wanted to be a writer was akin to admitting that I wanted to be a serial killer, that’s how upset they were with me. Mum demanded I get a normal job. But I knew what I wanted...I just didn't know how to get there. When you have no money or prospects in a town full of warped architecture and poverty, you quickly learn to use your imagination. How different would I be had I not come from Cumbernauld? That’s why I love libraries so much: you can be rich or poor but everyone is equal in a library. All those books are there for you to take out. 

Entire worlds you can access for free! I lived in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I investigated mysteries in River Heights with Nancy Drew. Rocky Beach in California became my ideal vacation spot with The Three Investigators. All those books were mine for three weeks. But I didn't need that long to read them. I was at the library every single day. 

Eventually I wrote one-man shows for theatres and created opportunities for myself. My first major gig was a show about the history of Cumbernauld. I made the whole lot up on the spot! By the time I got to the part of the story where Boy George invented Pritt-Stick, the audience were in on the joke. Terry Wogan name checked me on his radio show too. 

 When I was finally ready to join my favourites on the bookshelves, I headed to the one place that felt more like home than my actual home: the library. I made up a list of publishers I wanted to sign me by looking at the books I admired. Strident Publishing, publisher of edgy YA fiction from Gillian Philip, Linda Strachan, and Janne Teller found and snapped me up. Strident Publishing is based in Coatbridge, a few miles away from Cumbernauld. How ironic that the first publisher to notice me were just a bus trip away! 

Fast forward two years and “The Kult of Kirkland” is spreading fast and I'm now on the shelves where I belong, alongside the authors I worshipped. Those people were my footballers/superheroes/popstars. That’s what I want to be to a new generation of YA readers. 
I won the Catalyst Book Award for Conjuring The Infinite, a weird supernatural murder mystery that was published at the height of the big dystopian teen fiction boom. 
Timing is important, in hindsight, but I didn't know that at first. My new book – North Of Porter – is heavily inspired by Cumbernauld except with aliens, murderers, and food banks.
I think it’s the closest I’ll get to an actual autobiography, even if the main character is a teenage boy with a handbag! 

 I've also put my background in alternative theatre to good use, and my live events have resulted in school librarians passing me around their colleagues in other areas; yet another example of libraries helping me. Bless them all. They really know more about books and authors than anyone else and to replace them would create an amateurish service. could Buffy The Vampire Slayer save the world without the help of a librarian and school library? 

Tired of libraries, tired of life I say. 

All of life can be found in your library. And one of the best things about my local library is...there’s a fish and chip shop just down the street from it. 

 Kirkland Ciccone is a performer and author of quirky YA novels including the award winning Conjuring The Infinite, and Endless Empress. His new novel North Of Porter is out now.



Pippa Goodhart said...

A great story, and with libraries as the hero of the piece! I shall seek out your books, Kirkland.

Penny Dolan said...

Obviously a boy well brought up by libraries! (And librarians?)
Wishing you even more success with your books.

Emma Barnes said...

Love this, Kirkland! And glad that I've shared those shelves with you - not as a YA author but as a Strident author.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much folks. I'm glad you enjoyed my cameo on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure!x

Sue Purkiss said...

Great piece, Kirkland!

Linda Strachan said...

Welocme to ABBA, Kirkland. great post!