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Show #3 Extract from my Podcast JosieHenley – Interview with Sarah Mussi Author – The Door of No Return

Show #3 Extract from my Podcast JosieHenley – Interview with Sarah Mussi Author – The Door of No Return

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Published by Josie Henley-Einion
Extract from my Podcast (CastingPods) JosieHenley

The third show was an interview with Sarah Mussi, author of The Door of No Return, a teen adventure novel. We discussed race issues and slavery as these are themes of the novel, and writing in general. For more, and to listen to the full show, go to www.castingpods.co.uk
Extract from my Podcast (CastingPods) JosieHenley

The third show was an interview with Sarah Mussi, author of The Door of No Return, a teen adventure novel. We discussed race issues and slavery as these are themes of the novel, and writing in general. For more, and to listen to the full show, go to www.castingpods.co.uk

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Published by: Josie Henley-Einion on Aug 10, 2007
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04/29/2011

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Extract from my Podcast JosieHenleyShow #3 – Interview with Sarah Mussi Author – The Door of No Return
This instalment focuses on an interview with Sarah Mussi, author of the teenadventure novelDoor of No Return,published by Hodder. Sarah’s second novel Last of the Warrior Kings, is due to be published in 2008, also byHodder. Sarah is a good friend of mine and we have been writing buddiessince we met when we were both shortlisted for the BBC Talent Children’sFiction prize in 2001.I fondly remember meeting Sarah and the other finalists in the BBC studios inLondon. We ate lunch and chatted about our novels. Since then we’ve gottogether regularly to share our writing, thoughts and celebrate our successes.A couple of weeks ago, Sarah and I stayed at Caroline’s house (one of theother BBC Talent finalists). In the last instalment of Casting Pods, I includedan extract from our evening’s conversation, which was very varied. I decidedto save the interview with Sarah for a separate show.Before talking about Sarah’s own book, we chatted about writing in generaland I asked Sarah how she felt about writing courses and writing workshops,and ‘how to write’ kind of books. Whether these were worth anything orwhether it was just a matter of getting down there and writing, because this issomething that she has often said to me. And I found her answer quiteinteresting, because I hadn’t actually realised that she knew anything aboutfootball at all, or that she would compare football to writing. Have a listen tothis.J: Do you see yourself as teaching yourself to write by writing? As if that’s theonly way that you can do it?S: Yes.J: I mean, would you… Because, you know, I went on an MA in writing and Istudied it, but would you say that it’s just as good, it could be just as good, justto actually, to do it, rather than having to study it?S: No, well, how can I say? I mean obviously, oh god, that’s too manyquestions I’ll need to unpack that. I would say that all writing essentially is aself-taught art. However, like any art form there are people who’ve been therebefore and they have stories to tell. And so there are actually strands, if youlike, that have been explored before that could be learnt. But it would be a bitlike kicking a ball and then going to football school, in a way. If you went tofootball school and you just watched all the replays of all the greatest matchesand David Beckham scoring goals in all the last cup finals or whatever hedoes. It wouldn’t teach you how to kick a ball.C: Course not.
 
S: It would teach you how other people have kicked a ball, it would teach yougreat moments in football, it might teach you the rules of football. It mightteach you about how fans respond to football, it might teach you about howteamplay is important, it might teach you about capitalising on the moment, itmight teach you about the pitch and about, you know, combinations andteamplay. It might teach you loads of stuff which would be incredibly valuable,but it won’t teach you how to kick a ball. You have to get down with the balland kick it. That’s how you have to learn to do it. And I think that writing is thesame, you can go on courses, you can read books, and all that is likewatching replays of the best matches and listening to all the coaches, andlistening to people telling you, you know, the theory of football, but until youget out there with the ball, you are not a writer. Until you get out there with thewords you are not a writer. And when you do that, then you start learning.That was Sarah’s philosophy on the David Beckham school of writing.Then I asked Sarah to tell me what is the title of your newly published book?S: The Door of No Return.J: By Sarah Mussi.S: Yeah, by Sarah Mussi.J: Available on Amazon. Tell me about your book, is there a genre that thatfits into or would you say that you’re writing into a new genre?S: No, I wouldn’t really say it’s a new genre, no. It’s a kind of adaptation, asall, I suppose like, you know, post-modernist cross-genre kinds of, um,creations. But really it’s essentially a kind of thriller with a bit of a whodunittwist, mm, action-adventure. I mean, I suppose the things that makes itslightly crossover is because it is the first-person narrative as opposed to, in athriller you would normally expect it to be a third-person multiple viewpoint.Then it’s a first-person narrative so it then has this growing up tale, or thischaracter that starts at a certain position and then has to go through life. Lifeis similar a sort of, a series of lessons and he learns through those lessons,something, and arrives essentially at the same position but different. So it hasthat kind of element to it, so yes it has some kind of crossover strands in it, Ithink. But I think, for me the thing that makes it different, or original, if there’sanything that could be termed original, is the fact that it’s actually targeting ablack hero.J: Yeah.S: And now this is like, uncharted territory, well as far as I’m concernedanyway. There aren’t really models to follow. Oh, well there are, there are thekind of Camero like The African Child type. Which are also kind of a genre oftheir own, you know, this very ethnic growing up story of a child from Africa,told in an African voice. Even to a certain extent I would say BenjamineZephinia’s Refugee Boy is of that ilk. It’s appealing in a sense to a minority, a
 
minority audience. Although probably with his, it’s trying to appeal to a more ofa majority audience, but it doesn’t essentially because it doesn’t crack themould of that genre. So I’m trying to crack that mould, and I’m trying to say,‘Hey, we can write with black heroes that do and have the same kinds ofexperience that white heroes have.’ But, but with a difference, because theycan never be the white heroes. So they can never be mainstream society, sothey have to come in at a tangent.J: But it could be read by mainstream.S: And it’s intended for mainstream, or yeah absolutely mainstream, and amainstream audience. But they’re coming in at a tangent.So you couldn’t really have a black hero like Alex Rider being recruited by aspy team to go off and do missions that required a white hero to do them. Soessentially, by the very nature that you’re choosing a black hero, you kind ofhave to construct a series of adventures that, that it would be possible for thathero to have.J: So that’s why they’re based on, sort of, African conspiracy-type…S: Well not really, no no no, not really, no. That comes because, that’s leftoverfrom the other bit of the genre. There was this kind of whole idea that youcould only have, black heroes could only be involved in like, black issuenovels. And so that you appealed to this minority audience really, that wantedblack issue novels, which had black protagonists. How can I tweak this, andhow can I play around with this, and how can I deliver that, and yet delivermore than that? So I was thinking, okay, fine, you have a black hero, you takea black hero, and then you, you send them out to do a kind of mainstreamadventure, action-adventure, thriller plotline, okay. With things that affecteverybody, whether they’re white or black, whether they’re coming from theWest or the underdeveloped, or less developed countries. But then, how canyou also deliver a kind of issue, a black issue inside that? And so, yeah, that’swhat I tried to do, I just sort of tried to thread in… It’s not a black issueactually, slavery isn’t a black issue. Slavery, for example with Door, it affectedAfrican people, because they were the people who were taken as slaves, butit was run by the West, by white people. The slaves benefited the societies inAmerica and in the West. So it’s not just a black issue, it’s a black and whiteissue. So I’ve tried to kind of take black and white issues, that have two sides,two facets. And then have a backstory that shows one angle and a front storythat shows another angle, and then, so you kind of deliver something forevery audience. Is that clear?J: Yeah, that makes sense. I remember a few years ago having aconversation with you and you said that you wanted to write a book that youwould have wanted your children to be able to read. That when your childrenwere of the age that they were reading children’s books, especially your son,that there wasn’t really anything available, in terms of having a boy hero in abook, who was black, that would appeal, where he could see himself andidentify with the… and that that’s why you wanted to write this sort of book.

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