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GUEST BLOG: The good, the bad and the author

23rd August 2012 - 12 Midnight Moira Young

Moira YoungBlood Red Road, the first book in the Dustlands trilogy by Moira Young, was the winner of the 2011 Costa Children's Book Award. To mark publication of the sequel, Rebel Heart, she's taking a blog tour of some of Britain's young adult blogs and today she stops off at Foyles.

Here she talks about how young adult fiction can pay a part in teaching readers that it's rarely possible to divide characters, and people, into 'goodies' and 'baddies'.

Click here to read about Moira's top ten books, compiled exclusively for Foyles


A requirement of every hero's journey is that the hero gains allies (goodies) along her road of trials and is challenged by and conquers her enemies (baddies).

Good. Bad. Right. Wrong. Small words, but these are our earliest life lessons. They're black and white words. Opposites. Moral absolutes. As we get older and move out into the wider world, most of us begin to realize that life and people are, in fact, more nuanced.

Blood red Road by Moira YoungIn Blood Red Road, Saba has just turned 18. She's lived in isolation at Silverlake with only her family for company, so it's not surprising that she's a black-and-white kind of thinker. I was much the same at her age, despite my greater experience. It took me a long time to develop a more finely shaded view of myself and the world.

Saba's certainty, her simple worldview and single-minded quest are undoubtedly powerful. They keep her moving and acting and reacting as she races in a straight line towards her goal: to rescue Lugh, her kidnapped twin brother.

But as the consequences of her actions start to roll out in Rebel Heart, Saba's certainties are challenged, over and over again. She begins to learn that life and people - including herself - are far more complicated than she could ever have imagined. Many of those lessons are painful and some will change her life.

Saba is the hero of this story, a goodie. But in Blood Red Road, she's mean to her younger sister, Emmi, and quite brutally unsympathetic at times. She can be brusque to the point of rudeness, she's short-tempered, stubborn and suffers an occasional empathy deficit. She injures people. She kills. Bad! Wrong! At the same time, she has the heart of a lion and many admirable, heroic qualities. She's courageous, self-sacrificing, resourceful, loyal, loving and even, from time to time, humorous. Good! Right! Saba is multi-layered and contradictory, just like a real person. She's an entire symphony, not just one note, and that's what makes a believable hero.

As I don't want to give anything away, I'm constrained in what I can say about the antagonist of Rebel Heart, DeMalo. But, just as Saba is a goodie with shadows, DeMalo is a baddie who shines a strong light.

In developing the characters and functions of my main players, particularly these two, I like to dip into the deep well of fairy tales, myths and psychology to explore archetypes, dreams, and the unconscious.

Goodies and baddies. It's a short, snappy phrase - much catchier than protagonists and antagonists - but I never think about any of my characters in such a reductive way. I try to make them much more complex than that.




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