Q&A: Melvin Burgess, writer of "Rocky" | Diary of a Nerd (2023)

We chat with award-winning children's author Melvin BurgessRocky, her first novel for adults, is a bold and witty retelling of everyone's favorite con artist.

Hello Melvin! Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

for sure! I'm British and I live in the beautiful county of Yorkshire in the Pennine Hills with its bees, wildlife gardens and...well! I have a very good life, thank you very much! I started writing professionally thirty years ago and made a name for myself with my book Trash, published in the US under the name Smack. Since then, I have written many books for teenagers and children. LOKI is my first adult book and I can tell you it is truly liberating! I had a great time writing it.

When did you first discover your love for writing and stories?

From an early age I fell in love with books and stories. My parents used to read to me every night and I think that was a huge boost to a child's love of reading. The love of writing came after that, which I guess usually does. I was not a good student at school, I was very dreamy, I was always lost in my own thoughts. I have a hard time focusing on things that don't interest me (I still have that problem!) but I love reading and writing, everything about it: how the story unfolds, the rhythm of the words, the way the meaning meanders. phrases like this permission. In a charming way.

In the past when we graduated from primary school in the UK we had 11+ exams. When you were 11 years old, if you failed the exam, it determined if you were a smart kid and went to high school. Or a stupid kid who goes to a modern high school. I am a silly child. I remember writing a paper for a teacher at my modern high school. It takes the form of a diary and the story unfolds with each day's entries. I thought I was clever and I'm sure it gets 10/10. but no. He even refused to point it out because I didn't respond to the abstract in my paper. It showed us the speech marks, while my journals had no speech marks at all. She was not at all interested in the Conservative Party itself, for how it was calculated. All he wanted was a job that suited him. Not much cheering there!

Fortunately, we moved, where I found a more enthusiastic teacher who appreciated my work. I think it was at that moment that I secretly (and I dare not tell anyone!) thought for the first time that one day I might write my own book.

Lightning rounds! Tell us about the first book you remember reading!

Willow Leaf Wind, there is no doubt about it. My parents read it to me at home and I read it to myself. Then I took it to school and the teacher read it to the class. only meworshipThis book!

your latest novelRocky, now available! If you could only describe it in five words, what would they be?

Are you telling the truth?

What can readers expect?

A lot has been written about Loki, which is not surprising, as he is a very attractive character, even though he is clearly a shy person who cannot be trusted. Could we call him a populist...? In real life, who wants that? But in fiction, it's a great combination.

Basically, Loki believes he's been misrepresented in ancient myths and legends, and takes the opportunity to retell them from his own perspective. You can expect Loki to exaggerate himself, laugh at the other gods and do worse things, he says the other gods blame him for all his misfortunes and mistakes and accept all the good things he does. Loki is irreverent and often outrageous. He has no respect for money or people in any way. Their language is often terrible and their boasting shameless. But he's full of energy, knows how to tell a good story, is often funny, and most of all, he's a god. You can look forward to a truly magical journey with Loki into the heights and darkest mysteries.

What inspired you to explore Norse mythology and specifically Loki?

I've always loved mythology, and Norse mythology is what speaks to me the most. I first saw them in a book called Tales of the Norse Gods and Heroes by Barbara Leonnie Picard, I read that book over and over again. I used to fall in love. Ever since then, I wanted to use these stories in my writing. I wrote a couple of books a few years ago, Bloodtide and Bloodsong, based on the Volsunga Saga, which in my opinion is the best Viking saga. These stories tell of the fate and fortune of the Volsung family, loved by the god Odin. But the gods themselves were another matter, and I've been thinking about how to portray them ever since.

Why Loki? I think I explained some of the above. You have to like a funny guy, a good talker, the back legs of a donkey, a guy who always makes people laugh and a guy who is always funny. It always has a dark and wise side, smiling at you from the shadows. A good liar will always convince you that he is lying about you, for your benefit. He's always surprised when people realize he's been cheating on them too. Loki is someone who is willing to risk everything to get what he wants...or is that what he thinks? You can never tell the difference between someone like him.

Is there a favorite moment or character that you really enjoy writing or exploring?

The difference between myth and legend is that myth comes from religion. I think we forget that. We generally treat myths in the same way as folktales, but they carry much more than that. Myths, of course, must be good stories, but more than that they must have something of the glory and mystery of religious experience, something ecstatic and terrifying. They should give us a taste of the supernatural. In one or two of Loki's areas, I try to get close to this, when Odin is sacrificed and hanged from a tree, and when Loki transforms into a mare to woo the magnificent stallion Svaðilfari. Maybe when they were in a relationship. I try to show that side of him too.

Overall, this is a very interesting book - Loki is a very interesting character. I wish I had done him justice.

See also

This is your first published adult novel! Is there a particular reason for this change?

I have written many books for teenagers. I always thought YA wroteaboutat that age instead ofForPeople of this age, it is even more true and true to its subject. But after reading so many books, I feel like I have nothing to say. I've covered many different aspects of adolescence... drugs, sex, body image, friendships, education. I can't see anything else I want to cover. Plus, I'm 69 now. I haven't had a teenager in fifty years! It's been a long time... so now I think it's time to write something else, leaving the teenagers to people who are still surprisingly far from that time.

you'Over the past 30 years, I have published many books. What are the key lessons learned?'Have I learned to write?

Don't Stop will be the first. Generally, it's the ones who keep working rather than the ones who seem to have the most talent. Writing is a difficult thing and you have to practice it to get any benefit, no matter how talented you are in the beginning. But if you put in the time, there's a good chance you'll get there. So put in the hours!

This applies not only to entire series, but also to individual books. Books can and do occasionally slip through your fingers and end up as perfect cherubs with minimal rewriting, but it usually takes a lot of work to get it right. Learning to approach your work from different angles so you can always engage with it through multiple rewrites is something we all need to learn. Be patient!

That being said, sometimes no matter how hard you try something, no matter how many times you rewrite it, it will never be right and the project has to fall. Writing is hard. In this game you need skin like a rhinoceros!

Finally, have fun. Try it and be surprised. Be ready to experiment and break the rules. When it works, it really is like flying.

That'Near you?

Well, now I have another Norse with my agent, the one voiced by the blacksmith Walsen, who becomes a god in my version anyway. I had one I wanted to do for children, this time for toddlers, and then I went back to a long and very difficult piece I did based on a famous Dickens character. I won't say anything else!

Will you come get meRocky? Tell us in the comments below!

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