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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Excerpt: Odd Voices An Anthology of Not So Normal Narrators+ giveaway

Jack Bumby Interview – Author of ‘Imago.' 

1. The themes of illness, hallucinations and uncertainty play a huge part in the intrigue of reading ‘Imago’. How did those themes come about?
These sorts of things came about from the research I did around the disease. In the story, it’s an unnamed disease but was inspired by a real condition named ‘fatal familial insomnia’ (FFI). I read ‘The Family That Couldn’t Sleep’ by D.T. Max and found FFI to be just the most terrifying illness. It has a lot of symptoms, like hallucinations and delirium. A lot of the symptoms also mirror the things most of us experience in our teenage years; sexual issues, panic attacks, paranoia, stress, emotional ups and downs.

2. Are you more of a meticulous plotter, or a seat-of-your-pants style writer?
Plotting is something that can really stress me out if I focus on it! I remember reading a quote from Stephen King – in ‘On Writing’ I think – where he said that every story is a fossil. You have an initial idea, then it’s up to you to uncover, dig, and discover as you go along. Often you, the writer, don’t know where it’s going. You just keep digging and see where it takes you. That’s an idea that stuck with me.

3. Whilst there has certainly been a surge forward in the representation of young gay men in YA literature, your story takes the sexual awakening element in a more mature and compassionate direction. How important was it to you to effectively and realistically portray this?
In terms of concerns for a young adult, I think that sex and sexuality is usually at the forefront of these worries. It’d be doing a disservice to the young people currently experiencing these feelings to not treat it with respect and compassion, and to not talk about it plainly. So I wanted that to be one of the most important parts of the story. And this element was probably the part of the piece that required the most examination and redrafting. Primarily, I wanted to focus on the intimate and emotional side of his sexual experience. It’s a very human and necessary act, in the midst of all this stress and turmoil. It’s one of the few moments of light in an otherwise dark story, so it was vital that it felt real.

4. The relationship between Charlie and his father lies at the heart of this story as a grounding force whilst other elements are spinning out of control. What was your process in creating this bond between father and son?
That idea of the relationship being a ‘grounding force’ is exactly right. Charlie is dealing with a lot in the story, so I wanted that father/son relationship to initially be one of understanding and kindness. For example, his sexuality is a non-issue between them; his father just wants him to be safe.

But as the story continues, I wanted to bring in this idea of an inevitable rift between them. Despite their best intentions, there are things they can’t talk about. These are ideas society has forced on them, namely that men don’t talk about their feelings, about what they’re going through. So I wanted the relationship to have this sort of tragic side to it as well – but their relationship needed to be strong for this to hit with the full emotional weight.

5. There are a lot of different elements going on ‘Imago’ which makes it a very rich and complex read. How did you handle the balance of the plot with so much going on in Charlie’s life?
For this, redrafting came through and saved the day. I mentioned before about how I write and just let the story unfold as I go along – but this way of working makes the redrafting process all the more crucial. You have to trim and cut to get the story down to the key elements. Charlie’s illness, his burgeoning sexuality, his father. Anything outside of that had to go. K.C. Finn at Odd Voice Out was so vital to this process too. And I think it’s integral, if you’re going to have a lot of elements in a story like this, that they all mean something to the overall piece.

6. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
For me, I work best with some noise. Coffee shops are great, and there’s an excellent co-working space in Manchester called ‘Ziferblat’ that has been a godsend. Also, I know it’s considered a bit of a writing sin in some circles, but I write best to music. Some people say music influences your writing, but for me, it’s a way to keep me focused.

7. Without wishing to spoil the story for those who haven’t read it yet, the overall tone of ‘Imago’ is much darker than that of your typical YA tale. What made you choose this very effective alternative storytelling approach?
‘Imago’ covers some heavy subjects and one of my aims from the very start was to take them all seriously. Young people are dealing with some very serious things in their own lives, and in the tumultuous world around them, and I reckon we shouldn’t avoid discussing these things. I work with the idea that young people are much more attuned to these issues than people give them credit for.

But again, there was that line. It had to serve the story. The darker elements are all there for a reason.

8. What’s next for you as a writer?
Next up, I’m aiming to finish my Creative Writing MA – you always have to be studying something, I reckon! On top of that, I’ll be hopefully working my way through my first novel and submitting to as many competitions as humanly possible.

Odd Voices An Anthology of Not So Normal Narrators
February 21, 2020
192 pages
Genre: Short Story Anthology of diverse YA voices with stories by K.C. Finn, Kell Cowley, Eddie House, Mary Ball Howkins, Tonia Markou, Jack Bumby, A Rose, Colby Wren Fierek, Oceania Chee, Catherine Johnson

In every new story we pick up, we’re seeking an exciting original voice. So why are there still voices we don’t hear from nearly enough? Why are there characters that so rarely take centre stage? In this collection from Odd Voice Out press, we discover the stories of twelve teenagers who stand out from the crowd and who’ll not easily be forgotten.

With settings that range from Scotland to Syria, Mexico to Mauritius, Africa to Russia, these stories take us to all corners of the globe and into the lives of young people with their own unique circumstances and perspectives. Characters dealing with issues of culture and class, exploring their sexuality and gender identity, or letting us into their experiences with illness, disability or neurodiversity. Their tales span all genres and can’t be reduced to labels. These are stories about bending the rules and breaking the law. Stories of fighting for survival and finding your place in the world. Stories of family solidarity, unlikely friendships and aching first love told by teenagers who don’t always fit in and aren’t often heard.

With a foreword by award winning YA author Catherine Johnson, this anthology brings together the top ten stories of Odd Voice Out’s 2019 Not So Normal Narrators contest, as well as bonus stories from in-house authors Kell Cowley and K.C. Finn.

Extract Two - Thoughts On Diverse YA Fiction from multi-award-winning author Catherine Johnson

My advice to anyone creating a different and distinctive character remains the same. When I read, I want to be swept away by the story. That’s all I ever want. Whether it’s a book that I pick up off a Waterstones shelf or an unpublished story by a mentee – that’s what I want. All stories are character and situation. Your characters have to be three dimensional, they have to have wants and needs. And the best way to get to know them is by seeing them in action. If you were making a friend, then you wouldn’t present them with a list of statistics or ask what they have in their pockets. Let’s see what they do and how they talk. That’ll tell us who they are.

I absolutely believe all our stories should be diverse – and this isn’t a stick to beat new (or old) writers with. It’s a widening of the playing field and offers more opportunities to many, many, more sorts of stories. Trust your story and trust yourself. Tell the sorts of stories you’d like to read, and more importantly than that keep writing. It’s most often not your first story that will find an audience but your fourth, your fifth, or your eleventh. Just keep going!

Teens of Tomorrow Writing Contest Information:
YA Fiction's March into the Future
Open for Entries: Friday 21st February, 2020
Deadline: Monday 31st August, 2020

Prompt: Future-Focused Diverse Teen Fiction

Prize: £200, £100, £50 (First, second and third prize respectively)

Publication: A dedicated anthology will include the top ten tales, available winter 2020/21.
Wordcount: 2000 - 5000

Internationally open to entrants aged fourteen and above.

We stand at the dawn of a new and uncertain decade. Here at Odd Voice Out press, we are calling for short stories that reflect the socio-political issues that young people are dealing with now and will continue to tackle in the coming years. Entries submitted to our Teens of Tomorrow contest can be any genre - fantastical or realistic - and they may be set in the future, the present or even the past, provided that they centre on forward-looking teenage characters grappling with the world around them, the times ahead of them and the roles they personally aspire to play. Send us your utopias, dystopias, protest stories, political thrillers, social satires, climate fiction and prophetic steampunk.

Turn the hashtags trending today into a powerful YA story of tomorrow!
Any inquiries to

The Full Details
Your short stories with ‘odd voices’ must be written for a YA audience (that’s around 12 to 19 years old), but other than that they may be set in any genre or time period. This means that relevant content which is sexual, violent or contains extreme language will be accepted, provided it is somewhat moderated for a teen audience, rather than for adults (think about movies rated 15, compared to 18).

Our contest is open to writers aged fourteen and over from all nationalities and backgrounds (you should be at least fourteen years old by the closing date for entries). Entries must be no more 5,000 words long and be a minimum of 2000 words. Your entry should not have been previously published, self-published or accepted for publication in print or online, or have won or been highly placed (e.g. shortlisted or semi-finalist) in another competition at any other time. Longlisted stories are acceptable, provided they have not been in print or online in full.

After our closing date of Monday 31st August, we will select ten finalists to feature in an anthology collection that will be made available in ebook and print editions, to be released alongside our usual book range. The winning entry will also receive a £200 cash prize, whilst second and third place will receive £100 and £50 respectively. All ten finalists will also be invited to participate in social media promotions, live events, interviews and broadcasts as per the promotion schedule for the anthology.

To cover prize fees and reading time, there is a small entry fee of £4 per story, payable via PayPal at the time of entering. Authors may enter up to five different stories, but must pay the entry fee for each one as a separate entry and transaction.

Co-authored stories are accepted, up to a maximum of two authors per story, and in the event of winning, authors would share the prize money evenly.

Odd Voice Out is an independent literary press, publishing YA and crossover stories filled with unique characters thrown into extraordinary circumstances. Our genre-bending books take contemporary social and political themes and explore them through a range of historical, futuristic, surreal and supernatural settings. Our diverse young heroes are never your typical leading guys and girls, but are flawed insecure misfits struggling with everything from racial and sexual identity, to body issues, disabilities, mental health and worst of all, being teenagers growing up in worlds gone mad. 

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  1. What a great idea. Should be a great book.

  2. Yay; I like these scifi-fantasy anthologies from a wide array of young adult authors.