BLOG TOUR – Odd Voices

 

PLEASE NOTE THE CONTEST IN THIS POST IS NOT SPONSORED NOR ENDORSED BY THIS BLOG.

 

Odd Voices
An Anthology of Not So Normal Narrators
Genre: Short Story Anthology of diverse YA voices
with stories by
K.C. Finn, Kell Cowley, Eddie House,
Mary Ball Howkins, Tonia Markou, Jack Bumby,
A Rose, Colby Wren Fierek, Oceania Chee, Catherine Johnson
In every new story we pick up, we’re seeking an exciting original voice. So why are there still voices we don’t hear from nearly enough? Why are there characters that so rarely take centre stage? In this collection from Odd Voice Out press, we discover the stories of twelve teenagers who stand out from the crowd and who’ll not easily be forgotten.
With settings that range from Scotland to Syria, Mexico to Mauritius, Africa to Russia, these stories take us to all corners of the globe and into the lives of young people with their own unique circumstances and perspectives. Characters dealing with issues of culture and class, exploring their sexuality and gender identity, or letting us into their experiences with illness, disability or neurodiversity. Their tales span all genres and can’t be reduced to labels. These are stories about bending the rules and breaking the law. Stories of fighting for survival and finding your place in the world. Stories of family solidarity, unlikely friendships and aching first love told by teenagers who don’t always fit in and aren’t often heard.
With a foreword by award winning YA author Catherine Johnson, this anthology brings together the top ten stories of Odd Voice Out’s 2019 Not So Normal Narrators contest, as well as bonus stories from in-house authors Kell Cowley and K.C. Finn.

Tonia Markou Interview – Author of ‘For Hugo’, Second Prize Winner

 

  1. One of the things that amazed us about ‘For Hugo’ was how it contained so many rich believable characters and relationships for such a short piece. What’s your process when it comes to crafting characters, both major and minor?

Thank you for the compliment! Characters are the heart and soul of every story, that’s why it’s crucial for me to get them right. I might have an usual process when it comes to creating characters. When I start writing, I kind of become my characters. It’s similar to acting, which I have always been interested in. I take on a role and go with it. I imagine what this character would say and do in a certain situation. I round it all off by giving everyone something specific to differentiate them from the others. To me, it’s important that they have interesting personalities and traits, be it humor, a vivid detail, the way they speak and see the world, or vulnerability and flaws which make them human and relatable. I love writing dialogue since characters especially come alive while interacting with each other. It’s a fantastic opportunity to show what they’re made of, and I’m glad the result was convincing.

 

  1. Are you more of a meticulous plotter, or a seat-of-your-pants style writer?

For short fiction I’m more of a pantser, as in I start writing and see where the stories and characters take me. I have a vague idea of what I want to convey, but that’s about it. I found that for flash fiction I write my best work when I don’t censor myself and just let the words flow.

As far as longer fiction is concerned, I need some kind of road map to guide me, otherwise I might get lost and write myself into a corner, which means more work during the revising phase, which I don’t enjoy as much as the drafting or writing part. So I’d say I fall into the famous plantser category.

 

  1. Your narrator, Xander, is autistic, something you convey very authentically through his way of thinking. Do you have any personal experience with autistic teenagers and did you conduct any further research prior to writing this story?

Thank you. My younger cousin in Greece has Asperger’s. He’s a sweet and very smart kid. I didn’t have any direct experience with autism before I met him for the first time eight years ago. He and his family were facing challenges due to misunderstandings in communication or misreading of emotions as well as prejudice that affected their everyday life.

He inspired me to try my hand at a story with a neurodiverse protagonist.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy to believably tackle a sensitive topic I didn’t have a lot of personal experience with. The more important it was to me to do my research, which involved reading many articles and personal accounts on the internet, and to post the draft to my online writing group for feedback.

 

  1. Your prose has a wonderful sense of humour. Is funny writing something that comes naturally for you, or do you have to work at it?

I do consider myself a funny person, and I try to include humor in all of my stories if it fits the tone of course, so yes, I believe it comes naturally, especially in dialogue. Comic relief in fiction is something I enjoy to read. I suspect adding humor reflects my outlook on life in general, that despite all the negativity in this world, there’s also plenty of hope and joy.

 

  1. What other writers out there inspire and amaze you?

Tough question, since there’s so much talent out there. I’m a big Stephen King and Joe Hill fan. Their characters are so well-rounded and Hill always comes up with such creative and imaginative plots. Other writers’ work I admire are Neal Shusterman, Brigid Kemmerer, Pierce Brown, Jandy Nelson, Lois Lowry and Laura Ruby, just to name a few.

 

  1. I loved Xander’s obsession with reptiles and the animal imagery you wove through his narration. What was your approach to the importance of pets in this piece?

Animals are adorable, and the way characters, or people in general for that matter, treat their pets reveals a lot about their personalities. I wanted to explore different sides of Xander. We can see that he cares deeply for Hugo, we sense his affection for his pet lizard, but at the same time he struggles a little when it comes to social interaction with others. It was a nice contrast, showing that there are more sides to autism, that it’s not just black and white, but multifaceted and complex. Moreover, pets don’t discriminate. They accept you for who you are and love you unconditionally. At the end, Hugo brings Xander and his stepdad together, and he even succeeds in transforming an embittered Mr. Sakoulis.

 

  1. Being a polygot, how many different languages do you speak and how many languages do you use for creative writing?

English is my third language. I was born to Greek parents in Germany, so I speak Greek, German and a little bit of Spanish and French. I used to write in German, especially poems as a teenager, and I have an unfinished fantasy novel I’d love to come back to at some point, but in my opinion English is a more flexible, more imaginative language, that’s why I chose to stick with it for my stories, even though writing in a foreign language definitely has its challenges.

 

  1. What’s next for you in the writing world?

I’m currently editing my first YA novel. I want to get it ready for beta readers soon, then I can start the exciting and daunting querying process this year. In the meantime, I love distracting myself with flash and short fiction in various genres.

Teens of Tomorrow Writing Contest Information:
YA Fiction’s March into the Future
Open for Entries: Friday 21st February, 2020
Deadline: Monday 31st August, 2020
Prompt: Future-Focused Diverse Teen Fiction
Prize: £200, £100, £50 (First, second and third prize respectively)
Publication: A dedicated anthology will include the top ten tales, available winter 2020/21.
Wordcount: 2000 – 5000
Internationally open to entrants aged fourteen and above.
We stand at the dawn of a new and uncertain decade. Here at Odd Voice Out press we are calling for short stories that reflect the socio-political issues that young people are dealing with now and will continue to tackle in the coming years. Entries submitted to our Teens of Tomorrow contest can be any genre – fantastical or realistic – and they may be set in the future, the present or even the past, provided that they centre on forward-looking teenage characters grappling with the world around them, the times ahead of them and the roles they personally aspire to play. Send us your utopias, dystopias, protest stories, political thrillers, social satires, climate fiction and prophetic steampunk.
Turn the hashtags trending today into a powerful YA story of tomorrow!
Any inquiries to oddvoiceout@gmail.com
The Full Details
Your short stories with ‘odd voices’ must be written for a YA audience (that’s around 12 to 19 years old), but other than that they may be set in any genre or time period. This means that relevant content which is sexual, violent or contains extreme language will be accepted, provided it is somewhat moderated for a teen audience, rather than for adults (think about movies rated 15, compared to 18).
Our contest is open to writers aged fourteen and over from all nationalities and backgrounds (you should be at least fourteen years old by the closing date for entries). Entries must be no more 5,000 words long and be a minimum of 2000 words. Your entry should not have been previously published, self-published or accepted for publication in print or online, or have won or been highly placed (e.g. shortlisted or semi-finalist) in another competition at any other time. Longlisted stories are acceptable, provided they have not been in print or online in full.
After our closing date of Monday 31st August, we will select ten finalists to feature in an anthology collection that will be made available in ebook and print editions, to be released alongside our usual book range. The winning entry will also receive a £200 cash prize, whilst second and third place will receive £100 and £50 respectively. All ten finalists will also be invited to participate in social media promotions, live events, interviews and broadcasts as per the promotion schedule for the anthology.
To cover prize fees and reading time, there is a small entry fee of £4 per story, payable via PayPal at the time of entering. Authors may enter up to five different stories, but must pay the entry fee for each one as a separate entry and transaction.
Co-authored stories are accepted, up to a maximum of two authors per story, and in the event of winning, authors would share the prize money evenly.
Odd Voice Out is an independent literary press, publishing YA and crossover stories filled with unique characters thrown into extraordinary circumstances. Our genre-bending books take contemporary social and political themes and explore them through a range of historical, futuristic, surreal and supernatural settings. Our diverse young heroes are never your typical leading guys and girls, but are flawed insecure misfits struggling with everything from racial and sexual identity, to body issues, disabilities, mental health and worst of all, being teenagers growing up in worlds gone mad.
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