Patrick Ness started the night by admitting that he was perfectly happy with just one novel in his name. Imagine that! All those contributions to the literary landscape pulled away from us, all those stories to be represented to be turned into thoughts without a word count. And Ness is one of my favorite authors.
But then again, here we were sitting in the events room of Manchester Central Library in honor of his 10th novel, ‘Release’.
Release is about an 18-year-old boy called Adam Thorne who is having one of those days where everything seems to be going wrong. It spans over the course of 24 hours, taking Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf, as it’s inspiration- the idea behind it is that in the eyes of a teenager, every day feels like forever.
But why take such a risk?
Patrick Ness believes that, “Complacency is a writers death”
In Release Ness kicks away some of the safety nets he puts in place when he writes. With a sort of authorly-curiosity, he told us how he tried something far from the usual novel checklist, something that he had never done before. It must have worked (and that too worked well) because he now has an average of a 4-star rating on Goodreads, as well as praising reviews from top newspapers like the Guardian and the Times.
Patrick Ness then went on to explain that Release is very much about discovering one’s sexuality. Though highlighted not to be autobiographical, it does involve a conservative family and a gay main character- which is pretty similar to Ness’ own past (a gay boy raised in a Christian household in the US). Release, to me, seems like a very brave and thoughtful response to something that is obviously very close to home. And as he said himself, this was a book for all those who are like him today, to help them on the path of understanding that other people’s opinions of you aren’t always that important. Through this, the author explores a teenager’s self-worth in a time where you’ve been told you are wrong and a sin from day one.
“But this isn’t a book about coming to terms with sexuality. Now that term’s driven me nuts for decades.”
However, it’s very important to remember that Release is about other people coming to terms with the idea of the main character being gay, because, as Ness highlighted, Adam has never really had a problem with the idea. This book is about Adam overcoming that and about him learning to look past that.
Now that sounds like a heavy topic but to Patrick Ness, it is necessary to explore in Young Adult fiction and I couldn’t agree more. The darkness is a necessary part to include in YA that shouldn’t be pushed away from a teenager’s reading list because people feel like it will ‘protect’ them from it. This is because books do this very special thing of helping us in our very own ‘dark’ times. It isn’t much use to society to censor teenagers because (one day) they will meet the big bad world and they won’t have a clue as to what to do and what kind places from which to find help.
The audience questions then diverted Patrick Ness from Release and all the way to the often difficult process being an author. He told us everything from reassuring us that editing a project never does get any easier (how very lovely); that screenwriting is a ‘piece of piss’, on the topic of Doctor Who spinoff series ‘Class’; or that he can successfully hide in a book (as an author) without any of the readers remembering that all the main characters are actually him; and (of course) a lovely analogy comparing a book to a song commenting it is the performance of the song that people enjoy, not the actual music. These all resonated with me, as someone who loves to write as much as she loves to read.
Since we were seated at the front during the talk, because of the excited fangirl I am at heart, during the signing we ended up at the end of a very long queue. Patrick Ness, being the nice man that he is, ignored the comments that there would be no posed photographs, only to spend the extra time to talk to each and every one of his audience and write a personalized sentence with his signature. Not that I minded.
We had a lot of fun.. balancing books.
When the time finally came to sign my copy of A Monster Calls, I’d (for once) worked out what to say and I surprisingly said it without sounding like a bumbling fool.
He seemed like a genuinely nice guy and was well worth the wait for the signing, sparking some interesting ideas through his event.
If Patrick Ness ever pops by your home, make sure to pen it into your diary.
Thank you to Waterstones Deansgate for hosting the event and providing us with two tickets