The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Roving Reporter PolkaDot Steph talks Star Author Patrick Ness at EIBF 2013

I'm not entirely sure what we could say about Patrick Ness that we haven't already said on The Mountains of Instead (see the links at the bottom of the page) but in the words of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where Ness talked on Saturday, Patrick Ness is "the greatest young adult fiction writer of his generation who has now written a stunning novel for adults. The Crane Wife, inspired both by an old Japanese fable and the songs of US folk band The Decemberists, is hauntingly simple and deliciously surreal". That all seems pretty accurate to us. This year, roving reporter, PolkaDot Steph headed down to Charlotte Square to see the man in person. Here's what she had to say: 

I was equally excited and apprehensive to see Patrick Ness opening the adult programme at this year’s EIBF – was this a successful author moving from one type of work to another or, more worryingly, was this the high-brow literary world claiming Mr Ness as their own with disregard for his previous work? I really needn’t have been worried. 

 The topic of the morning was The Crane Wife, Patrick Ness’s newest work for adults based around the Japanese folk tale of the same name. A story fondly remembered from the author's childhood, it follows a man who encounters a gravely injured but beautiful crane. Upon nursing it back to health and releasing it, the man meets and falls in love with a beautiful yet mysteriously familiar woman. Ness treated the audience to a reading from the book, a beautiful passage describing the protagonist’s discovery of the injured crane, and then went on to discuss his attitude towards writing both humorously and candidly. 

“Asking for permission is a terrible thing” said Ness of his move from young adult to adult fiction. “I write whatever I want … I decide. I have no snobbery”. Even in promoting an adult work, he continued to be a fantastic advocate of young adult fiction, often referring back to both A Monster Calls and the Chaos Walking trilogy, leaving the audience feeling that his previous work was given the attention that it deserved. 

Throughout, Ness described what he felt the role of an author should be - that, no matter how fanciful a subject matter, the reader should feel completely trusting of the author to take them on a journey from A to B. When questioned on the harrowing final scene of A Monster Calls, he admitted to feeling equally sad writing it as most of the audience did reading it. "How arrogant of me to ask you to feel something that I didn't feel when I was writing. If you're writing a sad book and you're not sad, you're doing it wrong." In under an hour, Patrick Ness cemented himself in my mind as a readers' writer, his focus always on taking his audience by the hand and leading them on a fantastic journey. An interesting and inspiring man, I could have happily listened to him all day. And I will definitely be reading The Crane Wife

If that's not enough to have inspired you to read everything Patrick has ever written, then please check out our interview with him here, as well as our reviews of A Monster Calls, The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and The Answer and Monsters of Men. The Crane Wife was published by Canongate earlier this year and is everything they say it is here (or you could ask Splendibird, who is still trying to figure out how to talk about it). Additionally, Patrick has a new YA book out this September, More Than This which you can find more about here. NOW go and them.

back to top