If you loved Craig Silvery's Jasper Jones you will be hooked on Bill Condon's latest novel.
It's 1967. The world is rocking, and Neil is growing up fast.
Neil Bridges attends a Catholic boy's school in which teachers rule with iron fists and thick leather straps. Some crumble under the pressure but Neil toughs it out, just as his Vietnam-bound older brother has done before him. He has to be a man, after all. But at sixteen, how can he be sure of himself when he's not sure of anything else?
He loses a friend and finds another, falls in love and unwittingly treads a path that leads to revenge and possibly murder…
Condon's tale of a schoolboy attending a strict Catholic school was an opportunity to exorcise some old ghosts that have been with him for more than forty years and in the process, tell an interesting story. Although this novel is a mixture of fact and imagination, Condon can attest to the heavy usage of the strap featured in the novel. He says, 'We did have a teacher who strapped the whole class on his very first day- we hadn't done anything to provoke him. He just walked in the door and started whacking us. I guess this was his way of letting us know he wasn't to be toyed with. The same teacher strapped me for an entire lesson- about forty-five minutes- as depicted in the book. Over the years I've spent a fair bit of time looking for him- wasn't sure what I would have done if I ever found him- but in writing about him id did confront him in a way, and I think his ghost has at last been banished from my mind'.
In this novel, the shadow of violence in the classroom, on the playground and in war hangs over the minds of Neil and his friends. In the vein of novels such as Breathe, Jasper Jones and Catcher in the Rye, Condon reveals the journey of teenager who is no longer a boy, but not quite a man. His writing is powerful, tight and evocative and what results is a brilliant novel for kids, adults, boys, girls- whoever loves a good novel.
Bill Condon has a young adult novels, Dogs (2001) and No Worries (2005) both were Honopr Books in the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Awards. No Worries was also short-listed for the Ethel Turner Prize in the 2005 NSW Premier's Literary Awards. Daredevils made the long-list in the inaugural Inky Awards, Australia's first teenage choice awards. Give Me Truth is Bill's most recent young adult novel for Woolshed Press. Before devoting himself to novels, Bill had a long and successful career as a writer of short stories, plays and poetry for young people. His work encompasses many genres and he has close to one hundred titles to his credit.
He lives on the south coast of New South Wales with his wife, the well-known children's author Di (Dianne) Bates.
Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God
Author: Bill Condon
Woolshed Press, an imprint of Random House Australia, is delighted to announce that Bill Condon's remarkable Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God has won the Young Adult Fiction section of the Prime Minister's Literary Award. Question: How does it feel to win the Young Adult Fiction section of the Prime Minister's Literary Award?
Bill Condon: It feels wonderful! This award is a terrific boon to writers, and I feel honoured to be the first recipient. I'm also happy for my publisher at Woolshed Books, Leonie Tyle. Leonie has had a brilliant career in publishing and has been the driving force behind many writers. I've been lucky and privileged to have her support and guidance, and I'll always be grateful.
My book had contested about ten other awards, without success, so I didn't think I had any chance of winning. I didn't prepare a speech - very nearly didn't even go to the award presentation. Winning something this big after all these years is amazing. I had my first children's book published in 1983. Until 2000 I wrote mainly for the education market; lots of plays, poetry, short stories and non-fiction - close to 100 titles. I didn't write my first young adult book until I was 50. I'd always put it off because writing a novel seemed too daunting - and I found out that it is. But if you keep going, no matter how slowly, and write as well as you can, good things happen. This is the best thing ever.
Question: You received a great deal of praise for Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God how does this help you in all of your writing?
Bill Condon: It's gratifying when the work pays off. For a 40,000 word book I often write well over 100,000 words. This happens because I'm not good at plotting and I often write vast tracts before working out that I'm heading in the wrong direction. So I hit the delete button and start again. And when I do finally stumble on to the right track I try to make the writing as tight as possible, cutting it back so it reads easily and gets to the point, and so there's no ambiguity. This is an extremely slow process and often there are weeks when it seems impossible that I'll ever reach the finish line. So yes, I am very happy and appreciative whenever someone likes my books.
The one downside to the praise I received from the judges is that since the award I've had a lot of trouble sleeping. My doctor ran a battery of tests and discovered that my head is too big for the pillow.
Question: What originally inspired you to write Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God?
Bill Condon: Someone once said the best break a writer can get is to have a difficult childhood - it gives you something to write about. My parents were fantastic so I couldn't write about them, but I could write about my school days. I went to a Catholic school back in the days when corporal punishment was commonplace. The Brothers were strict disciplinarians, and I was frequently strapped. I vividly remembered one boy who was punched and kicked by the principal, in full view of the whole school. I kept thinking about that incident and realised I had never known why he had been attacked. Eventually I got a phone number for him - we hadn't spoken for about forty years - and I asked if he remembered the fight. He certainly did. In fact, he was still angry about it. He told me he'd been wrongly accused of stealing some money. When he denied it he was punched. In our school no one stood up to the Brothers, but this boy had fought back. I thought that would make a great start to a novel; looking at what happens to the boy and how he feels. My only hesitation in writing it was a concern that today's teenager wouldn't be interested in events from the 1960s. However, I knew the best writing came from the truth and from the things that really mattered to the writer. The bottom line was that I believed this was a story that should be told.
Question: Can you talk about the difficulties of writing a book set in 1967?
Bill Condon: There were no difficulties regarding the actual time. If I'd been a younger person I would have had to research it, but I had lived it and I knew it intricately. As well, it wasn't really about the era; the fashions, the music, etc. It was about people and their struggles; their joy and sadness, love and hatred. That kind of thing doesn't date. We can still relate to characters in plays that are hundreds of years old, as long as they have been written honestly. The only problem I experienced came in revisiting some of the tough days that I had at the hands of the teachers. There was one lay teacher in particular who was sadistic. I've thought of him often over the years, even trying to find him through the phone book and the internet. I was never sure what I'd do if I ever confronted him. Maybe I just wanted him to be aware of how much trauma he'd inflicted on me and others. I'm glad to say that writing about him was cathartic. I don't feel the need to pursue him any longer. I made him the villain of a book - payback!
Question: What are you working on, at the moment, in regards to writing?
Bill Condon: I've just finished another novel. It's called Let It Be and I'm hopeful that it will be published late next year. I've also been asked to write a story for Get Reading! (Formerly known as Books Alive). I'm excited about that as only ten writers have been invited and 170,000 copies will be printed. The stories will go into a booklet which will be free to anyone who buys a book from the Get Reading! guide, called 50 Books You can't Put Down. Now all I have to do is write the story - help!