Category Archives: 2013 Festival

Derek Landy at Hay Festival 2013 by Cameron Roberts

Cameron Roberts with Derek Landy

Cameron Roberts with Derek Landy

Cameron Roberts, 11 years, is a member of Hay Festival young writers club The Scribblers.

As many of you know, the bestselling author of the Skulduggery Pleasant series, Derek Landy, visited the festival site this week. As a fan of these books, I was thrilled when given a chance to meet him in person before his event took place, and immediately accepted. It was a real pleasure to meet Derek as he was friendly and welcoming. When meeting him, there were many questions I wished to ask. I have listed them here, along with a summary of Derek’s answers.

Q. What was your favourite book as a child?                            

A. The Three Investigators, a series of books centered around three teenage boys who solved mysteries. Similar to the Famous Five, but American.

Q. If you were a sorcerer what class would you fall into?

A. I originally would have said necromancer as they look cool, wear black, stay in the shadows and control a very powerful weapon. After Book Four I decided on elemental as I gave them cool powers such as flying (who wouldn’t want to fly?). However in the end I decided on a teleporter, which trumps everything else.  A teleporter with Skulduggery’s fighting skills could appear all around Skulduggery whilst fighting him.

Q. How do you get inspiration for your writing?

A. Immerse yourself in books and stories. All sorts of experiences make you who you are. The books you read, the movies you watch, the music you listen to, everything that happens to you. Take inspiration; think about it, own it completely.

I also asked Derek if he had any news of a screen adaptation of Skulduggery Pleasant as there have been rumours concerning this subject. I am pleased to say Derek confirmed that there will be an important announcement about this in a few weeks’ time…

After my meeting with Derek it was time for him to do his talk, concerning his new Skulduggery Pleasant book. This took place in Google’s Big Tent, and the room was full of fans. Once on the stage Derek read us an excerpt from his new book, Last Stand of The Dead Men, which will be on sale this August. It was very humourous and left us all wanting more. Derek then spent the rest of the event answering various questions, and it was obvious that the audience appreciated his entertaining qualities. There were three particular questions asked by people in the event I would like to list, along with Derek’s answers.

Q. Why do you keep killing off main characters?

A. It’s important to kill off important characters to stop the audience feeling safe and complacent. As a child I loved a film called West World where the main character is killed off right at the beginning.

Q. What brought you into books?

A. My family were all big readers. I started off with comics, and they taught me how to read. At school I was always going to be a writer or an artist. I got easily distracted at school. I wasn’t cheeky or disruptive, just not ‘really there’. I went to art college, got kicked out, and my career as an artist was over. I was determined not to mess up as a writer.

Q. What do you do if you get writer’s block?

A. I sit back, relax and take the day off. I once had writer’s block for about seven months, which I finally broke through on a New Year’s Eve.

What Blew My Mind About Hay by children’s author Sarah Webb


Sarah Webb with Black Leg the lamb

I’m a Hay newbie so the sheer size of the festival made me dizzy – 444 adult events and 114 children’s and teen events in eleven days – astounding. (Or ‘shut that door’ as Laura Dockrill would say – more on her below.)

2) Magnificent Events

I managed to catch eight Hay Fever events: Cathy Cassidy – as charming and warm as always; Sarah Lean – with her adorable animal quizzes; the legend that is Judith Kerr in conversation with Michael Morpurgo. I must admit I shed a few tears at that event, it was wonderful – we all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Judith, who will be ninety very soon, and gave her a standing ovation after her adorable joint reading (with Michael Morpurgo) of A Tiger Who Came to Tea.

Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell’s years of experience shone through; Geekhood and Geek Girl was a highly entertaining look at the world of geeks and nerds and everything in between including a very spirited discussion of ‘nerd’ television show The Big Bang Theory with Andy Robb and Holly Smale; CJ Skuse and Matt Whyman made teenage grave robbing and cannibalism sound rather jolly, and Jonathan, their chairperson, had a delightfully light yet informed touch.

Sally Gardner, Nick Lake and Alexia Casale all spoke eloquently about writing YA fiction, violence on the page and also naming characters.

But for me another Hay newbie, Laura Dockrill, stole the show with her high-energy dramatisation of Darcy Burdock (a book I love) and her sense of fun. I’d never heard Laura speak before and it was quite the experience. Of course, I’d bumped into her in the loo beforehand where we’d bonded over matching pink bits in our hair (you always meet the best people in the loo, don’t you?) Definitely a writer to watch out for.

My favourite audience question came from a young Welsh boy at Laura’s event. He asked: ‘What spicy toothpaste do you use, Laura? Chilli or jalapeno peppers and cheese?’

‘I love the way you think,’ Laura told him, before sitting down on the edge of the stage to hear more.

Which brings me to:

3) Wondrous Audience Participation

I have rarely encountered such a responsive, enthusiastic, booked-up audience at a festival. The atmosphere at each of the events can only be described as joyful and electric – hundreds of readers, young and old, gathered together to celebrate books and reading.

It was a real thrill to meet keen readers from all over Wales and the UK after my own event – It’s A Girl Thing with Sophia Bennett and Luisa Plaja.

And finally:

4) Welsh Sheep And In Particular Black Leg The Lamb

During the festival I stayed with my relatives on their sheep farm (thanks, Jerry and Sue!) and met Black Leg, a motherless lamb. I even got to feed him, with a warm bottle – what a thrill! Sorry, I know, city girl to the core.

Thanks to all the Hay team for their hospitality and roll on 2014!

Sarah Webb writes the Ask Amy Green series for young readers. She is based in Dublin.