I rarely go to book events for authors that are unknown to me (but I’m working on changing that!) but after reading the blurb for Sal by Mick Kitson I knew I had to not only buy the book, but had to go to the event that Waterstones Edinburgh West End was hosting featuring the author!
As usual I turned up too early, and I took my front row, centre seat (I’m not shy!) and excitedly waited for the evening to begin.
The evening followed a standard ‘An Evening With’ format: the author speaks about the book via prompted questions from a representative, then does a reading, talks a bit more and then there’s a book signing.
I fully enjoyed the evening; this was Mick’s first book and he spoke with such passion about it and was genuinely funny throughout.
I do feel like I have to mention one tiny thing that bothered me though. I’m gonna give a spoiler warning here for Sal that I wish I’d have had on the evening, as well as one for Game of Thrones (for those who have no idea about anything to do with it). So, yeah, SPOILER WARNING! The representative said at one point in the evening that Sal kills Robert then she said it wasn’t really a spoiler. Now, for me it was. Yes , this happens near the beginning of the book so we know about it super early, but there was no immediate hint in the opening pages that this was going to happen and it would have been far more impactful for me to have discovered that through reading the story, rather than have it spoiled at an event. I mean, Ned Stark gets killed in Season 1 of Game of Thrones which is relatively early in the Game of Thrones storyline, but I’d have been pissed if someone told me that and justified it by saying “oh yeah, but it happens in the beginning of the story”.
Anyway, huff over.
So here’s the part where I’d like to share a few of the questions and answers from the night (all paraphrased) – enjoy!:
You were frustrated with the novels you used to have to teach when you were an English teacher and you wrote Sal to be the kind of book you wish you could have taught. What was bad about the books you had to teach?
I either really love a book and become obsessed about it or I have a savage hatred of books I don’t like and I usually know if I’ll like something within 40 pages. I’ve read a lot of books and I found a lot of things I didn’t like and I just wanted to write a book that had none of those things in it – remember this is just my own personal opinion and not a logical critique of literature! I hate novels that are set in London and big urban, sophisticated centres. I hate novels that are about the sort of privileged middle-classes. I also really don’t like the present tense as the overall narrative form – I find it really annoying and it’s become incredibly fashionable in the last few years.
I like the past tense because, when I read, I still have this thing about going into another world. Somehow when it’s in the past tense I find it’s easier to go there.
How does the internet change the modern adventure/survival story?
Sal is someone of her generation where her major point of contact is digital – through her phone or a screen. She has a different way of accessing a huge amount of culture, just not in the same way as previous generations would have had access.
Sal’s one of those kids who has to be old before her time – is that something you saw a lot of when you were teaching?
Yeah, I saw a lot of kids who came from that type of background. Those sorts of children have a sort of hyper-vigilance where they notice everything. They pay attention to details; their survival often depends on them noticing things like, for example, if mother is in a certain type of mood when she’s been drinking – that will affect their day to day life.
Sal is 13 years old in the novel; she also has her first period during the novel. Obviously that was deliberate – what did you want to tell the reader by including this sort of transitional time for Sal?
One thing I knew when I decided to write the book was that I knew my narrator would be 12 or 13 years old- partly because nearly all great narrators in literature start off at that age. What is it about that age? I suppose it’s kind of looking two ways – back to childhood and forward to adult. It’s an age where your vision suddenly widens.
Here’s the blurb from Sal so you can understand why I wanted to read it so much and go to the event!
This is a story of something like survival. Sal planned it for almost a year before they ran.
She nicked an Ordnance Survey map from the school library. She bought a compass, a Bear Grylls knife, waterproofs and a first aid kit from Amazon using stolen credit cards. She read the SAS Survival Handbook and watched loads of YouTube videos.
And now Sal knows a lot of stuff. Like how to build a shelter and start a fire. How to estimate distances, snare rabbits and shoot an airgun. And how to protect her sister, Peppa. Because Peppa is ten, which is how old Sal was when Robert started on her.
Told in Sal’s distinctive voice, and filled with the silent, dizzying beauty of rural Scotland, Sal is a disturbing, uplifting story of survival, of the kindness of strangers, and the irrepressible power of sisterly love; a love that can lead us to do extraordinary and unimaginable things.
You can buy Sal here and get free worldwide delivery!
Look out for my review of Sal – coming soon!
As always, I would like to extend my personal thanks to Waterstones for hosting this event.
[PLEASE NOTE]: I was not paid or sponsored to write this event review (although Waterstones, if you’re reading this – I’m up for it!) All opinions are honest and my own