Interview with David White

An interview with David White, author of YA series ‘The River Exiles’.

David has kindly offered to interview with me to promote the first book in this series – Columbia. You can find its 5 star reviews (and purchase it) on Take it away David!

What books did you enjoy reading as a teenager?

I used to love the Willard Price series of books about brothers Hal and Roger, who travel the world trying to capture animals for the world’s zoos. It sounds slightly exploitative when it’s written down like that, but actually the books have a very strong environmental conservation message, especially for a series published mostly in the 60s and 70s. They were ahead of their time, in many ways; but of course a teenager wouldn’t necessarily have cared about that, only whether the brothers would be successful in their latest adventure.

What made you write this particular book?

First and foremost, I wanted to write an adventure book for young adults that could also be enjoyed by adult readers. I think that’s something that is true of the best YA books – the Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent (linked to Rose’s reviews) and so on – but obviously it’s quite a difficult feat to pull off. I made sure that at the heart of my story was a basic tale about a sister and brother who are forced to leave their parents and taken to a new land, because I hope that’s something that readers will want to find out more about. But in imagining the dystopian world in which they live, there are big questions in the book about reproduction, about class, and also about the environment – which I appreciate can be a somewhat dry (no pun intended) subject, but which I think can come to life when an author imagines the reality of how we might live in the future. Hopefully readers of varying ages will take and enjoy different elements from the book.

How do you plan writing a series of books such as this?

I already know what is going to happen in Books Two and Three. I think you have to know this, in order to have a proper narrative structure that works throughout the whole series. I realise that some authors say they just start writing and everything falls into place as they go along, but I couldn’t work like that. And frankly I’m a little sceptical that many authors actually do. For a series to work, there have to be proper hints and clues in the early books; and proper solutions and resolutions in the later ones.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external hard drive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I’ve abandoned it for good. The back of the drawer is the best place for it. That doesn’t mean it was a waste of time, far from it; it taught me what not to do, apart from anything else. But I don’t think it can be revived, nor should it be!

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I resisted ebooks for quite a long time. I felt that reading a proper book was a more immersive experience, and also I think some of the early e-readers weren’t that user-friendly. But I came round in the end (in much the same way that I did when I eventually gave up on LPs in favour of CDs, a while after friends had made the switch). I still buy physical books, but I’m probably about 50-50 now between physical and ebooks. My bookshelves are full, for one thing. But also ebooks are just a bit more usable in certain situations – notably on holiday, and in bed with a partner who is trying to get to sleep!

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

My tastes are quite broad, and I think they have broadened over time. I used to stick mainly to classics and to what people call, for want of a better term, ‘literary fiction’. I think that covers a huge range of books, really, but people generally understand what it means. Everything from Isabel Allende to Ian McEwan and from Milan Kundera to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, with most things in between. I always end up going back to Hardy and Austen, too. But in recent years I’ve certainly found myself reading a lot more thrillers; Linwood Barclay, Lee Child, Sophie Hannah. There’s as much craft that goes into those books as into any more ‘literary’ works. The only genres I really steer clear of are romance and historical fiction. I tried Wolf Hall and found it pretty much unreadable.

Do you worry about the future of books and reading, given how much screen time the average teenager has every day?

I think it takes more effort to get into reading than it does into other forms of entertainment like music and films, and I do think there’s an issue with young people not making that effort in the way they did previously. Of course, they don’t have to, because so much else is at their fingertips and easily accessible. But I do think that, ultimately, reading is still the most satisfying form of entertainment. So it’s up to authors to write lively, engaging, intelligent books for teenagers to make sure they’re not missing out.

Thanks David for this interview. Folks, I think you’ll enjoy his novel, so go pick up a copy!

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