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Nick Lake lives near Oxford with his wife and family. He works in publishing by day and writes books in every spare moment he can find. His powerful and moving novel In Darkness, about the Haitian earthquake, won the 2013 Michael L. Printz Award and was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. His second novel for Bloombury, Hostage Three, also received great acclaim.
Nick Lake Q&A:
Student, and then book editor. Which I still am.
Being a book editor. No one told me at school that there was a job where you got paid for being a fan of writers and writing.
High school and/or college:
I went to High School in Luxembourg, and I went to Oxford University after that for a degree and then a fairly pointless masters. In phonetics, of all things.
Name of your favourite composer or music artist?
I usually lie and go for something clever like Vertigo. But really it's True Romance.
How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
I would use the word "busy" eight times.
What is your motto or maxim?
To paraphrase the existentialists - life is what you make it. Which amounts to a practical kind of karma, I suppose.
How would you describe perfect happiness?
A fire, a good chair and a new Stephen King book. Or the moment the soundchecks finish and the band take to the stage. Or sunset on the mountains, with weary feet, and the lights of a pub ahead. Or the sound of a breakbeat. Or a very sweet tea, anywhere in the Middle East, at any time of day.
What’s your greatest fear?
Not being good.
Which living person do you most admire?
Haruki Murakami. Stephen King. Anyone who works for Medecins sans Frontieres or Amnesty International.
What are your most overused words or phrases?
If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
The abillity to play a musical instrument well. Also, the ability to speak all languages fluently.
What is your greatest achievement?
Meeting my wife.
If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
I wouldn't mind being Simon Cowell. I could make The X-Factor go away. Not to mention R&B flavoured pop music.
What trait is most noticeable about you?
I have no idea. My hair? It's usually quite big, because I keep forgetting to have it cut. I look like the freakish son of Tom Hanks and David Hasselhoff.
Who is your favourite fictional hero?
Who is your favourite fictional villain?
Steerpike. (Also hero.)
If you could meet any historical character, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
I'd like to meet Shakespeare and I'd ask him how to write better.
What is your favourite occupation, when you’re not writing?
Reading? Actually probably sleeping, to be honest.
What’s your fantasy profession?
Bestselling and universally admired author.
What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
Compassion. Empathy. Humour.
If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
Chocolate, in any form.
What are your 5 favourite songs?
Hmmm. "Beat It"; "Here, There and Everywhere" by the Beatles; "U-Mass" by the Pixies; "Heartbeat" by Annie and "Etched Headplate" by Burial
On Books and Writing:
Who are your favourite authors?
Haruki Murakami. Stephen King. Neil Gaiman. Margaret Atwood. Joan Didion. Ismail Kadare. Philip Reeve. Philip Pullman. Meg Rosoff.
What are your 5 favourite books of all time?
Tough one. I guess... Middlemarch; Coraline; For Whom the Bell Tolls; the collected works of Shakespeare... and Little, Big, by John Crowley - the single most unfairly overlooked, beautiful, miraculous and magical book I know.
Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?
I wouldn't presume to think of myself as someone anyone might look to for advice! But I suppose I'd tell them to read as much as possible, in as many genres as possible.
What comment do you hear most often from your readers?
"You're very... imaginative aren't you." I think they mean I'm strange.
Nick Lake introduces There Will Be Lies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHahGI6t5Qk
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2020 | On the run with her little brother, Aidan, sixteen-year-old Emily stows away on a plane in this fast-paced thriller. When their plane crashes into the side of a snowy mountain, it’s up to Emily to ensure Aidan and their pilot, Bob, make it off the mountain alive. Lost in the Alaskan wilderness and pursued by mysterious government forces who want to capture them, the unlikely team of three trek across the freezing landscape, learning more about each other, and about life, than they ever thought possible.
Set on a space station in the near future, this cool concept sci-fi novel with a powerful finding-your-way-in-the-world theme also has much for fans of contemporary YA. Fifteen-year-old Leo was born and raised on Moon 2 Space Station and has never set foot on earth. After being remotely parented by a team of astronauts, Leo and his companions, twins Orion and Libra, have finally been deemed strong enough to survive the perilous journey to earth. But, while they’ve been in training for this for pretty much their whole lives, reality is a very different matter. To return and survive means defying some serious odds, and finding a place to call home is anything but straightforward.This is a thought-provoking thriller, fuelled by the suspenseful space journey, and by Leo’s emotional journey. He has a unique voice, and speaks in the shortened text-type language that’s used for NASA communications. But, more than that, Leo feels like a living, breathing young adult, trying to figure out his sexuality, and his place in the world. With this foray into sci-fi, author Nick Lake confirms his status as a writer with immensely diverse talents. ~ Joanne Owen
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | May 2016 Book of the Month This electrifyingly smart story of a teen girl's struggle with a tormenting voice in her head is a masterwork of contemporary YA. There's a murderer on the loose in Cassie's New Jersey hometown, the so-called Houdini Killer, which sets her quick-to-anger dad even more on edge than usual. A former Navy SEAL with untreated posttraumatic stress syndrome, he now runs the family restaurant, a site of distressing memories for them both. After finding a foot in a sneaker on the beach - one of the Houdini Killer’s victims - Cassie hears a voice telling her that she's disgusting, and it won’t let up. Convinced she's “forever doomed like Cassandra of myth - the girl who leaves a trail of violence in her wake”, the bullying voice makes Cassie promise to obey it. And she does, with near-fatal consequences, when, for example she injects herself with her Epi-Pen, which results in her being hospitalised. In the clinic she meets the irrepressible Paris. A bipolar survivor of abuse, Paris comes to play a huge part in Cassie’s life, as does one of the boys staying in her dad’s apartment for the summer. The only time the voice is really silenced is when Cassie is with him, but the voice has other plans for their burgeoning relationship. Taking the form of the “most screwed-up love letter ever” written from Cassie to the boy she falls for, this gripping, multilayered novel is an insightful exploration of grief, broken families, mental illness and the lies we tell others - and ourselves - out of fear. It’s also about losing yourself, and coming to find your true voice. Lake has a huge talent for tackling classic YA themes, but always forges his own path, cutting through clichés, stripping back the superficial, to reach the heart of his brilliantly complex characters, all delivered through spectacularly plotted storylines. ~ Joanne Owen
Shortlisted for the UKLA 2016 Book Award in the 12 - 16 year old category. Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2016. | Award-winning Nick Lake tells a complex story fusing two strands of narrative into a richly woven single thread. Seventeen-year-old Shelby Cooper has always been very protected by her mother; she guesses it is partly because she is deaf, partly because her dad is dead and partly she had a terrible accident when she was a baby. But when she is knocked over by a car, her life takes a whole new turn. Suddenly she and her Mom are on the run and everything that she has known about her life before is suddenly questioned. What is the truth? And will she ever discover it? As her life unravels, Shelby retreats into a fantasy world of the Dreaming a place infused with old, old Mythology. Part-adventure, part-mystery and part a teenager’s journey of self-discovery, There Will Be Liesis dramatic and unexpected in equal measure.
Shortlisted for the UKLA 2016 Book Award in the 12 - 16 year old category. Joanne Owen's Pick of the Year 2015 - January 2015 Book of the Month Award-winning Nick Lake tells a complex story fusing two strands of narrative into a richly woven single thread. Seventeen-year-old Shelby Cooper has always been very protected by her mother; she guesses it is partly because she is deaf, partly because her dad is dead and partly she had a terrible accident when she was a baby. But when she is knocked over by a car, her life takes a whole new turn. Suddenly she and her Mom are on the run and everything that she has known about her life before is suddenly questioned. What is the truth? And will she ever discover it? As her life unravels, Shelby retreats into a fantasy world of the Dreaming a place infused with old, old Mythology. Part-adventure, part-mystery and part a teenager’s journey of self-discovery, There Will Be Lies is dramatic and unexpected in equal measure. ~ Julia Eccleshare
Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal 2014 - January 2014 Book of the Month - Shortlisted for the Leeds Book Awards 2014, 14-16 age category A menacing chill is never far below the surface in this gripping young adult novel. Amy is dealing with a host of problems when her father suddenly springs a trip of a lifetime on her. Having no choice, she unwillingly agrees to accompany her father and step mother sailing across the world on a luxury yacht. Slowly Amy relaxes into the life at sea. Maybe this will be an experience that will change them all? But then the boat is captured by pirates. Now nothing is certain and all the normal rules are broken. Nick Lake tells Amy’s story brilliantly. He is sympathetic and insightful about a girl trying to find out what really matters to her in a situation that is fraught with very real danger. ****NOTE Suitable for 15+ only as some strong content ------------------------------ The winners of the Leeds Book Awards are chosen by you! Read the books, talk about them with your friends & teachers and decide which one is your favourite. You can vote in your local library or at www.leedsbookawards.co.uk. Voting closes on Friday 25th April and the winners will be announced on Tuesday 20th May. See below for the entire shortlist.
****NOTE Suitable for 15+ only as some strong content A menacing chill is never far below the surface in this gripping young adult novel. Amy is dealing with a host of problems when her father suddenly springs a trip of a lifetime on her. Having no choice, she unwillingly agrees to accompany her father and step mother sailing across the world on a luxury yacht. Slowly Amy relaxes into the life at sea. Maybe this will be an experience that will change them all? But then the boat is captured by pirates. Now nothing is certain and all the normal rules are broken. Nick Lake tells Amy’s story brilliantly. He is sympathetic and insightful about a girl trying to find out what really matters to her in a situation that is fraught with very real danger.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013 January 2013 Debut of the Month Survival is at the heart of the criss-crossing stories in this powerful time slip novel set in Haiti. Shorty, fifteen and living in desperate poverty in Site Solay, is trapped in rubble after the collapse of everything he knows in the Haitian earthquake. Dreaming and hallucinating as hunger and thirst take a grip, Shorty relives his own life and also travels back to a previous violent period in Haitian history when Toussaint l’Ouverture, the visionary real slave turned revolutionary led a revolt against the French occupying forces gaining control and freedom for the Haitians. Both stories are stirring and Nick Lake keeps the tension taut while also allowing his characters enough room to be convincing and moving.
Hugely dramatic, this is a fast-paced fantasy thriller based on stories from Inuit folklore. After her explorer father disappears in the Arctic, Light finds herself in serious danger as she is drawn into folk stories of her forbears. Supported by Tupilak, her new strange new friend with a shark’s head, Light shows her courage by bravely stepping into the unknown world both to find her father and to play her role in the power struggle between Setna, the ruler of the sea and Frost, the cruel hearted King of the cold.