Monday, 10 November 2014

25 Years after the fall of the Berlin Wall

It was a shock to discover that yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It brought back lots of memories because I stopped off to witness it on my way home from Romania. Some of the inspiration for my debut novel TORN draws on experiences I had back then in the winter of 1989-1990.

Like this image of an East German guard talking with a young West German lad through a hole in the wall. He was off somewhere on his bike and took the opportunity to do what young people do so well. To build bridges.

I took the photo near Checkpoint Charlie, the scene of many a spy movie... and came away from that trip with a deep sense of how war (even Cold War) separates people in a completely arbitrary way. After all is said and done we are just people with differences that could be resolved with words instead of guns.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

TAKEN makes the 2015 CILIP Carnegie medal nominations!

25th July 2006 Mr Leo on his birthday with unbelievable clouds
How cool is this? My second novel has found its way onto one of the biggest literary awards in the world - the Carnegie CILIP award! I am well chuffed, especially as all of those people who know about such things tell me that second novels don't do awards.

It's a wonderful surprise, especially as TAKEN is one of my favorite stories. I explore lots of themes and feel really close to my characters. One thing that worries me though is the LEO reference. Apparently one of the criteria the judges will be looking at is believability. None of the judges will believe that Izzy could experience something so weird! The thing is - it happened to me. Cue the X File music.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Reviews of TAKEN and TORN in the same week!

Over the last week or so I have had some great emails from readers in Illinois:

A review of TAKEN by Mekenzie Wheeler on 17th Oct 2014

I am an 8th grade student from a smalltown in southern IL. I particpate in many sports and I love to hunt, fish, anything outdoors. I don't have much time for reading. However, in my English class we were told we are starting a book project.

For my book, I selected TAKEN. I started reading it and just couldn't put it down! I love the story between Ash and Rio. How they fell in love. You made it to where I felt like i knew these charecters personally. I was in disbelief when I read Izzy passed on. I didn't want this book to end.

My mom was very suprised to see me reading. I think it made her happy. Thank you for creating such a powerful and detailed story.

Yours Truly,
Mekenzie Wheeler


 And this review of TORN by Jack Rumer on 15th Oct 2014

Mr. David Massey:

Hi, my name is Jack Rumer and I go to Pella High School. In English we are doing book reports and I wanted to send you a business letter telling you how much I enjoyed reading Torn. Your book caught me by surprise with its action and suspense.

When the British Army was told that the Navy Seals were coming to the base, Heidi said, 'There are plenty of other bases the Americans could use.' I understood that she didn't like the Americans, or didn't like someone in the American forces. I enjoy reading and your book was very enjoyable to read. I especially enjoyed the intense fight scenes and how the Navy Seals came into the story to find Aroush for General Macallum.

I also liked how you included the Young Martyrs in the last battle scene when they were all fighting the terrorists. In total, yo ur book was the best book I have read all year. You have inspired me to become a writer and to find inspiration in all things, good and bad. I was wondering, is there a second book to this series? I would really enjoy reading a second part of this story.

Jack C. Rumer

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Vicarious Adventures

As I plumbed in the new washing machine this morning it struck me that this is not what I signed up for as a writer. I should be in some French Gite downing wine, smoking a cigar and thinking of the next novel while I am waiting for the baguette to be delivered. Instead I'm up to my knees in old drain water and doing battle with a hose.

Doing practical stuff does give you time to muse though. I found myself entering alternative worlds in my imagination just so that I could escape this one. It's not a bad strategy, used I think by the majority of 11 year olds in maths lessons. I'm thinking of doing something similar next time I'm stuck for an idea...

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

About Writing

Well, unless you are JK or Stephen King, I think this boils down to how much writing can you fit around your day job? The answer for me is little or nothing. I've tried the 1000 words a day thingy and never have the time or the space to commit. If Harvey isn't whining for his food something else will be cracking off. Then (as a published author) there is Twitter, FB, Blogging and the like which seem to be custom built to stop writers from getting on with the task of well, writing stories and such.

So - for me the only option is Christmas... I am a Christmas writer. A regular 'Father Write-mas'. Both TORN and TAKEN were birthed in the festive season. When the world slows down just enough for me to jump off and hide in some cubby-hole, then I can get down to it. It would be so much easier if I had a few elves to delegate to.

I do dream of the pipe and the fireplace or some dream shack in the Tuscan hills, which writer doesn't? Until those materialise I'm afraid that the real world has to suffice. Ho hum. or should that be Ho Ho Ho?

Sunday, 28 September 2014

My Inspiration for TAKEN

I've just done a blog post for Scholastic USA - here's the unedited version.

In 1944, neurologist Ludwig Guttmann was asked by the British government to found the National
Ludwig Guttman
Spinal Injuries Centre at the UK’s Stoke Mandeville Hospital. His brief was to rehabilitate wounded servicemen who seemed to have no hope of recovery. Guttmann knew that the odds were stacked against him, but he was also a huge believer in the power of sport to change lives, believing that sport was an excellent method of therapy for those with a physical disability - building physical strength and self-respect. So, on July 29th 1948, to universal scepticism, Guttmann organised the first sports competition for recuperating soldiers. The Stoke Mandeville Games, as they became known, soon proved their worth and it was at these Games that the Paralympic Movement was born. More recently we have seen offshoots like the Warrior Games and Prince Harry’s Invictus Games.

I was planning TAKEN as the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were under way in London. This was the first games in which a disabled athlete was to participate not only in the Paralympics but also in the Olympics. I had watched the emergence of South Africa’s ‘Blade Runner’, Oscar Pistorius for some years. In 2012, he made history by being the first double amputee to compete in the 400m against able-bodied athletes. Controversy had raged over whether or not Oscar’s blades gave him an advantage but they were proved to be no advantage at all. In fact a Blade runner is much slower out of the blocks. However, by finishing second in his heat with the very respectable time of 45.44 seconds, Pistorius proved to the watching world that disability could be overcome, that disabled athletes were indeed worthy of the world’s attention. From that moment I wanted a blade-runner in my second novel. Some months prior to the Olympics I had visited Headley Court – the place where injured UK veterans are rehabilitated and two things struck me. One is that many amputees can be on
Me with Nick Carter at Headley Court
the road to recovery in as little as six weeks and the other is how many injured veterans refuse to let depression set in, choosing instead to set about some charity challenge and do good for others. On my tour I saw how prosthetics are now so good that many lower leg amputees can walk almost as well as they did before their injuries. My host for the tour was Wing Commander Nick Carter, a chief consultant who had no idea that I was planning to write a novel about disabled veterans setting off on a round-the-world yacht trip. Imagine my surprise when, in the course of my tour, the Commander mentioned that he had just returned from a yacht trip to the Arctic with a group of severely injured veterans. When I shared my idea he was keen to tell me all about the challenges they had faced – including getting a double amputee onto an iceberg.

This was confirmation for me that TAKEN would have a resonance, that I could write a real-world novel and still incorporate a supernatural element. My novel would have real life superhumans – injured veterans who would endure the same hell as Rio and Jen but whose disabilities would just become so many different abilities.  TAKEN was born. As I write, the Invictus games have ended and the Warrior games are about to begin and I hope that TAKEN celebrates the indomitable human spirit just as vigorously. TAKEN is about never giving up, it is about finding good in the most terrible situations and it is about forging a future however dark the past.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

TAKEN versus Captain Phillips...

A reviewer suggested that TAKEN is like Captain Philips (the movie - not the bloke) and I think this stems from the scene where Rio and the others are taken. They defend themselves with flares, shooting them at the pirates. I did write this scene some years before the movie and it was based on a bit of research and pure imagination. I thought, 'What would I do if I were in that situation?' I don't think it is rocket science - if you will excuse the pun - to fight back with anything you have to hand.

I discovered the Captain Phillips scene as I was planning to deliver a school event. The TV was on in the background and a trailer for the movie aired. I was soon jumping up and down on the couch yelling 'they've nicked my scene!'. I think I went to the cinema the very next day to check it out. Of course Cap'n Phillips was loosely based on a real event so, in the end, I came to the conclusion that it was just one of those things.

On a similar note - the TV series 'Our Girl' has just begun airing on the BBC. It features a young female army medic and a mysterious Afghan girl - sound familiar? It was pitched to the Beeb two months after TORN came out in the UK...

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Just like the Warrior Games!

The month after the USA release of my second novel, Taken, London was host to the amazing Invictus Games. The Games were the brainchild of Prince Harry who has served in Afghanistan and the competitors injured veterans just like the protagonists in my novel. TAKEN was inspired primarily by the Paralympics and by blade runner Oscar Pistorious (Before his notorious fall from grace, of course) but it was also inspired by seeing how amputees at Headley Court recovered from their injuries.

I was surprised at how quickly some amputees are rehabilitated and by the spirit of veterans who don't wallow in self pity but get up and on with there lives. This is the fighting spirit that inhabits the pages of TAKEN and which provides the contrast to what could otherwise have been quite a dark storyline. Soon, on September 29th, America will host the games that inspired HRH Prince Harry - the Warrior Games - an event where US veterans will compete as part of their rehabilitation and recovery. These people are my heroes.

Monday, 2 June 2014

The "My Writing Process" blog tour

It’s a great honour to be invited to contribute to the ‘My Writing Process’ blog tour. My thanks to the awesome explorer, writer and film maker Matt Dickinson for inviting me to take part. Check out his website for more information...

If you haven’t checked out his excellent new book ‘Everest Files’ yet then now would be a great time to take a look. Also thanks to Safie Maken Finlay for kicking the whole thing off! She’s the author of ‘The Galian Spear’—a dark and thrilling fantasy trilogy. You can follow Safie here on twitter.

So - On with the questions... 

What am I working on?

I have several projects on the go at the moment. Fancying myself as a bit of a Neil Gaiman I'm trying to work some amazing childhood memories into a fantasy novel with the working title The Imagining of Benjamin Green. It is loosely based on Homers Odyssey. Alongside that, I've got a huge number of YA ideas and I'm trying to figure out which one to spend time on next. Not easy..

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The light outweighs the shade, I think. I hope people will read my novels and see that the human spirit is very nearly indestructible, that there is life and love and hope in the most challenging and darkest places. I also like to see things from the antagonist's point of view because bad people have a story too.

Why do I write what I do?

The straight answer is because it got published! Once you are in print, readers have certain expectations of you as an author. I care passionately about the characters and subjects of my novels and the stories I have in me clamor away at the back of my head until I give them a voice. It is a strange process, writing. I am determined to write in other genres though because I have a lot to say and I love variety.

How does my writing process work?

 Aha! Come to one of my presentations and you will find out in detail! In a nutshell I start out with a strong scene that haunts me for days until I write it down. Then My mind starts to make connections and a story begins to grow like a little tree, branching off into all sorts of directions until I begin to see a recognisable shape.

Finally here are three teen/ya writers and friends who are worth exploring. 
CJ is the author of PRETTY BAD THINGS and ROCKAHOLIC. If you want a good laugh CJ is one of those writers who has the gift of being able to craft a fantastic story and fill it with situations that will have you holding your sides.
Rachel's NUMBERS series have won accolades all over the world and her new book THE DROWNING is a tense, classic thriller.
Sophia Bennett's THE LOOK is a fantastic, humorous and touching story about the vacuous fashion world.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Malvern Workshop

Well that went well! 23 students all buzzing about character and how the choices they make define them. We chose two characters - an illegal immigrant and a concert pianist and threw all sorts of moral dilemmas at them, lit the blue touch paper and watched the fireworks. The mini improvisations were... different... but a great laugh. Finally the students sat down to form their own characters and now I have to choose who is going to win the coveted TAKEN mug. All in a days work...

Friday, 9 May 2014

Malvern College Writing workshop

Spent the day turning an anecdote from Robert McKee's 'STORY' into a class activity for a creative writing workshop that I will be taking in a week's time. All about character and choices and great fun - like playing God in your own imagined world. Made me understand Simon Cowell a little more!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014


Still get a buzz seeing my writing in print and knowing that people are reading it all over the world.

Loved doing a Skype visit to a school in Minnesota last year.

Make up your mind...

One in, one out. Got to invest in a dog sized cat flap...

So.. My new book TAKEN is out

David Massey Author of Torn and TakenIt’s strange this book publishing lark. Now that TAKEN has hit the shelves across the country and in the US I’m sitting here in my kitchen scheduling tweets and writing blogs when what I really want to be doing is writing the next masterpiece...

Speaking of which – I began working on a number of new ideas at the weekend involving childhood memories, vivid imaginations and unopened daisies.  

David Massey

Chicken House/Scholastic author