Curator of Yay!YA+ and punk-rock-not-disco, weirdo YA author Kirkland Ciccone says that he felt for a while most YA books were similar. Boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, girl meets vampire, and so on. He wasn’t up for that: North of Porter, his latest, is more: boy with handbag fights serial killer. You know, the norm.
“I’m the most punk rock author in Cumbernauld,” he says. “…or the only punk rock author in Cumbernauld.”
He talks through his childhood with photos, a lethal fireplace, exploding house, a lamppost that foiled a robbing brother. But then he discovered a game changer, the building that would change his life forever: the library. “I love libraries. Everyone is equal. They have the same access to books.”
“Books are the most punk rock props and accessory ever,” he continues, launching into books that inspired him over the years. Cooking With Pooh comes first, mainly as inspiration on how not to name a book. Then came The Witches and Roald Dahl – he loves Roald Dahl, he taught him so much about humanity (including that pensioners with a wig and gloves are trying to kill you). Matilda was basically him as a girl.
Through Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High, and what he learned by this point was that no matter how many cheerleaders are murdered, there’s always someone happy to take their place. By the time he got to high school, he moved onto Stephen King, who he hails among the greats: he wrote about ordinary people. Horror is more frightening if you recognise it, and that’s what King does best. Also, he taught him that not all stories have to have a happy ending.
He talks about the tropes in YA, the love triangles, and despite largely nothing happening in Twilight, he became obsessed with it because it was so readable. He had to know the nothing that happened next. And all these books and more became open to him through libraries.
To close, he turns to cover design. And what better way to tackle the subject than with the ultimate don’ts? So, here’s some that stand out for… some interesting reasons: